What you do and don’t need to do if you run Windows: keeping your computer healthy

Recently, my main Windows 7 machine seemed rather sluggish. While the machine is a few years old, it is no slouch either.  So, I got to poking around to figure out what was slowing it down.  I did the usual, clearing out caches, checking the hard drive, uninstalling needless software, updating drivers, etc.  I was doing a lot, but, as it turns out, if you run Vista or Windows 7, most of the ‘usual’ stuff just isn’t necessary. And the problem I was having?  Well, as it turns out, there are several things that have been impacting my machine:  Zune Marketplace downloading podcasts and music subscription tracks, Firefox (yes, even version five seems to have a memory leak or some process that, after a time, start to hang and slow it and the computer down) and a USB external drive.

What you don’t need to do if you run Vista or Windows 7

 

Re-Install Windows:

There was a time when re-installing Windows, especially XP, was necessary every six months to a year.  Windows XP was a magnet for cruft.  Uninstall something here, install something there and, after just  a few months, your machine had lots of crap hanging around.  Windows XP would just kind of give up and you’d have to re-install. No more.  The latest versions of Windows do a much better job of keeping things straight. They aren’t perfect, but they have come a long way.  Rules that govern where apps can put things are enforced and Windows just does a better job of cleaning up now. Which leads me to…

Registry Cleaners.

You do not really need to mess around with the registry.  Going through and cleaning out unused settings is just a waste of time and will do little, if anything, to speed your computer. Ignore those silly ads, they are just trying to get your money.

 

Defrag your disk:

  Again, unless you are on Windows XP or earlier, you do not need to do this.  Windows Vista and 7 do it on a regular basis and do a fairly good job too.

What you should do if you run Windows Vista or 7 (or XP too)

Download and install Microsoft Security Essentials.

If you have not already done so, you need to go to the Security Essentials website and download and install this software.  It is probably the best solution for keeping most malware off your computer.

Use a decent, modern browser.

Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 5, Chrome or Safari are all decent and modern browser (I suppose Opera whatever is OK too.) Each has their own issues (Firefox seems to get bogged down after a time, Safari doesn’t always render correctly, Chrome also has rendering issues) Each of these browsers does a much better job with providing a safer browsing experience.

Clean up the junk.

Even though they are far better than any previous version of  Windows, they still aren’t perfect and you will still need to do some periodic housecleaning.  Just not nearly as much or as often as you once did.  Use the usual tools, CC Cleaner or any similar tools you like.  CC Cleaner does a nice job.

Keep Windows up to date.

Make sure Windows Update is on and you have it scheduled. Microsoft releases updates generally once a month, but will also offer ‘out of band’ patches and updates as needed. 

Keep your drivers updated.

Nothing affects performance more than out of date drivers.  What was once a blazing fast video driver can actually degrade your system if Windows or other software are updated but not your drivers.  System improvements like a newer version of DirectX (the underlying graphics system in Windows) may not be completely compatible with an old driver and could slow you down. Likewise, drivers for disk drives, external devices, etc. could also slow you down.  Windows Update will only notify you of drivers supplied by Microsoft or vendors who submit their drivers to Microsoft.  Make sure you check these when diagnosing slow downs.

Reboot.

This is probably the first thing you should try. Sometimes a process just gets ‘hung’ and can really affect your computer.  This may be all you need to do. Do it the right way, if possible.  That is, click the Windows Orb, click the right arrow next to ‘Shutdown’ and then select Restart.  Of course, selecting Shut Down is fine too and could give you even better results, especially if you’ve been on the computer a long time. In this case, click the Orb, select Shut Down and then go outside and get some fresh air.  That always helps me.

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