In the previous section, we discussed how cluttering up your hard drive reduces your PC’s performance. Besides hard drive data storage, there is another area in which computer performance may become degraded, appearing to be due to age: increasing demands on the processor and memory. We can divide this issue into two categories, though. One may be resolvable without upgrading your computer, whereas the other likely would not be.
The resolvable one is what I refer to as “Application creep.” First, your computer probably came with a bunch of free and free-trial programs installed that you’ve never used. Most of these lie dormant on your hard drive until invoked, but some, like printer drivers, malware detectors, and hardware and software updaters load into memory every time you boot your machine. On top of these, you’ve probably installed more, whether you realized it or not. If you installed Adobe Reader, there’s a little piece of code that probably loads up on every restart of your PC - it makes it quicker for you to open Acrobat files because part of the Reader is already in memory, but what about the 99% of the time that you’re not using it? Well, it still sits there, taking up resources, making other operations slower. Lots of other common applications have such pieces that automatically run when you boot your PC (aka “AutoRuns”), such as iTunes, Safari, QuickTime, Java, and more. Besides these AutoRuns, other unwanted programs sneak in, piggy-backed alongside programs you use. That collection of toolbars in your Internet Explorer window were the carefully-concealed payloads of lots of other programs you installed, and guess what – they use up resources unnecessarily every time IE is running. It’s not a big reach to realize that when unneeded things are using up resources they make desirable operations work less efficiently.
The category that’s more difficult to resolve is the result of technological advancement. You bought your computer eight years ago, before Netflix ever started streaming movies, and now you expect it to do things it wasn’t intended to do. You finished the games you were playing and bought newer games, even though they demand more RAM, more hard drive space, and faster processors. You had a film camera before, and now you’re importing your digital photos from all of your trips, and you’ve started taking short videos, too! …and even if you don’t actively update any of your software or utilization, updates may be happening behind the scenes. Microsoft Windows can update itself automatically, and in fact, many Microsoft software titles can be configured to do so. Adobe, Java, Real Player, iTunes, and Quicken prompt you for updates, and you just click “OK” without thinking about it. Bug fixes come out, updated drivers are released, and you don’t want to be left vulnerable or outdated, so you accept them. Each of these updates places additional demands on your computer’s resources.
Look, we don’t all still carry around our first, brick-sized, analog-only, battery-guzzling cellular phones – we want the latest features, so we upgrade. At some point you have to make the decision to do that with your computer, too. Ultimately, you may find that even after thinning out your data, deleting your unwanted programs, and cleaning up your AutoRun programs as far as you reasonably can that your computer is still too slow for your taste. At that point, either upgrade or replace it. Hopefully, following the advice above will at least increase the amount of time between computer upgrades, saving you money.
Many people are comfortable with defragmenting their own hard drives and removing old applications and data files, but now we’re starting to get into an area that’s beyond many typical PC end users. There are lots of different places for AutoRuns to hide in your system, and most people don’t fully understand the mysticism that is your PC’s registry. If you’d prefer to leave this part to a professional, Maverick Solutions would be happy to help. In fact, for our loyal blog readers, we’re even offering a Free PC Tune-Up.
Tune in next time when we’ll discuss what to do when you’ve taken all of our optimization advice and you still need more performance out of your PC. We’ll review choices for upgrading your PC economically and rationally.
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