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Maintaining Your Computer The Right Way

May 17th, 2012 No comments

There are many reasons why a computer can breakdown and make you lose all the data you have stored in it for years. These include fried motherboard because of a dirty fan, hard drive crash, or virus attacks. When these things happen, you should learn how valuable it is to maintain your computer at all times.

Prevention is still better than cure and this is also applicable in today’s technological devices.   If you want to keep your PC running in its most optimum performance at all times, below are just some preventive measures that you can do on it.

Back up your data every now and then

One of the most important things that you need to do is to consistently make a back up of all the files in your hard drive. Although hardware devices will keep the computer running and working, all the data stored in the hard drive is the real investment when it comes to computer usage. This is especially true if you are the type of person who spends money on digital files and effort on authoring different documents. If you fail to backup all your data, then you might end up with a lot of regrets.

Make sure you update regularly

One of the most important things that a lot of us fail to do is to keep our computers updated. Since a lot of people can now access the internet, viruses, junk mail, worms, security breaches, software conflicts, and hardware incompatibilities are now a part of our daily lives.  If you do not want to damage your OS with these things, you can always update the latest fixes, patches, and device drivers that you can find on the internet.

Always keep your computer clean

The computer runs a bit faster if you keep it clean. As much as possible, uninstall programs that you seldom or never use, so that your computer will have no problems in running other programs. It is also important that you keep all your files and folders organized, to prevent the build up of ‘dust and grime’ inside your computer’s software and help it run smooth every time you use it.

How to Install SATA Drivers After Windows has been Already Installed?

October 24th, 2011 No comments

Many people don’t know that they can install and use SATA drivers on their Windows XP computers, even after Windows XP has been already installed and working. Most people think that it’s only possible to install SATA drivers when XP is being installed, and that too only with a floppy.

New computers nowadays never have a floppy drive, and floppies are now obsolete. But when you install Windows XP, it gives an option to insert a floppy to install third party drivers. Even though Windows XP supports USB, there seems to be no way to tell the XP setup to look for third party drivers in locations other than A drive.

So, what do you do in such a case when your computer has a SATA hard drive but you don’t want to install latest Windows versions like Vista or 7?

If you enable the SATA native support in the computer’s BIOS without installing the SATA drivers in Windows XP, you’ll get a blue screen of death (also called BSOD). This is because XP doesn’t have the correct hard disk drivers installed.

One option, which most people use, is to disable the native SATA support in the computer’s BIOS, in turn, making the system think that there’s no SATA hard drive, but an IDE hard drive. This works well in most cases, but enabling SATA support can slightly increase performance and battery life in case of laptops.

So, how nice would it be if there was a way to install the SATA drivers even in an already installed Windows XP system? Luckily, there is a way, but most people are  unaware of it.

Below, you’ll find a step-by-step procedure to install the SATA drivers in an already installed XP system.

1. First, you need to know the exact hard drive controller model no. of your computer. If you know it and are sure, you can skip to step 3.

2. Download, install and run Belarc Advisor from here. Read this post if you don’t know how to download and install Belarc Advisor. The information we are interested in Belarc’s output is the controllers section as shown below.

Belarc_Advisor_Controllers

3. Once you’ve identified the hard disk controller of your computer, download the latest controller drivers from your computer manufacturer’s website.

4. Extract the zipped driver file to a suitable folder on your hard drive. For example: C:\HDDriver.

F6_Floppy_Driver_Zip_File   F6_Floppy_Extracted_Folder

5. Now, open the Device Manager by typing devmgmt.msc into the Run dialog box and hitting Enter on your keyboard.

Run_Dialog_Box_devmgmt.msc

6. Under IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers, you should see something like Intel 82801GBM (ICH7-M Family) Serial ATA Storage Controller, as shown in the below image.

Intel_HDD_Controller_in_DeviceManager

7. Right-click on the above driver in Device Manager and click on ‘Update Driver’ in the menu that pops up.

Intel_HDD_Controller_in_DeviceManager_Update_Driver

8. Select “no, not this time”, when asked to connect to Windows Update.

Update_Driver1

9. Select “Install from a list or specific location (Advanced)” and click ‘Next’.

Update_Driver2

10. Select “Don’t search, I will choose the driver to install” and click ‘Next’.

Update_Driver3

11. Click on "Have Disk” and browse to the location where you extracted the SATA drivers you just downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.

Update_Driver4   Update_Driver5

12. Select the iaAHCI.inf driver file and click ‘Open’ and then click OK on the “Install from Disk” dialog box, to confirm. You’d get a list of SATA AHCI controller drivers.

Update_Driver6   Update_Driver7

Warning: Selecting the wrong controller for your system will cause it not to boot and will give you a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)! Make sure to select the correct controller for your system. If you are still unsure, click cancel and do not update your hard disk controller driver.

13. When you’ve selected the right controller, click on ‘Next’. You’d get a warning that installing the device driver is not recommended. Just click on ‘Yes’ to continue installing the driver.

14. Click on ‘Finish’. When asked to restart your computer, click ‘Yes’. When the computer restarts, go into the BIOS setup by pressing the required key (mostly F1, F2, Del or F10).

To know more about how to enter the BIOS/CMOS setup, view this YouTube video.

15. Once you’re inside the BIOS setup, enable the setting which says something like SATA Native Mode. Save the changes and exit the BIOS setup.

16. Once Windows starts up, it will find the new SATA hard drive. Wait until it tells you to restart the computer. Click ‘Yes’ when it asks to restart. After the restart, you should be done and can use your computer normally.

Manual and Automatic Device Driver Updating

June 16th, 2011 No comments

Getting a new piece of computer hardware can be one of the most exciting things we can experience in the modern age. It might be a snazzy new printer you’ve picked out to showcase your creative skills, or maybe it’s a brand new video card that will let you play the latest games at the highest graphical detail and frame rates possible. However, more often than not, our expectations hit a brick wall when it actually comes time to install your device and getting it working properly.

A Software Problem

These days, when hardware refuses to work, the weak link isn’t so much the components but rather the software that drives them, which are called drivers. Almost every new piece of computer hardware ships with an install CD of some kind, usually containing the required drivers plus maybe some bundled application or two as a bonus. Back then, it was a simple, straightforward task to simply install what was on the CD and then simply have your device work the first time you tried it.

These days however, the devices have become so much more complex, and so has the software required to run it properly. These more complex drivers are more prone to be buggy, especially during initial release, which means that at one point in any device’s life, you will have to update your hardware’s drivers.

Updated is Better

Most manufacturers will usually release several driver upgrades throughout the life of a product. These updates gradually get rid of all the bugs, add extra features, or might even improve device functionality beyond its original specifications. Surprisingly, few people know about such updates when they become available, leaving many stuck with hardware that either doesn’t work or is severely hampered in functionality.

How to Update Your Drivers

You can update your Windows drivers in two ways: manually or automatically. The process of manually updating your drivers entails that you first identify exactly what model of device you own. Go to the manufacturer’s website, and then locate their downloads or support page. Look for the section which lists the drivers for the specific model of the device that you have. Download the driver version that suits both your device and your operating system. Take note whether or not you’re running a 32-bit or 64-bit OS. Install the driver, and you should be a simple system restart away from getting your device up and running.

Automatic updates, by their definition, are faster and require less work. A program detects whether or not your device driver is compatible or out of date, and then searches the internet on its own, selects the right driver, downloads it, and in some cases, even installs it for you. While most people are quick to opt for the automatic solution, the manual method does allow you more control when it comes to what you install on your PC, and might be the preferred method of more advanced computer users.

Whatever method you choose, you can pick up all the latest device drivers from this website, which lists drivers for all types of devices, saving you the trouble of a prolonged online search. Click here to use a Driver Scan Tool that will make it fast and easy for you to update all your drivers.

Realtek Sound Technology – Best Known Sound Device

June 15th, 2011 No comments

We all know that sound quality is a very crucial to every PC user.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a hardcore music enthusiast, gamer or just a regular user.  Great sound makes a whole lot of difference in the PC experience.

There are a lot of sound drivers available in the market.  But one of the most widely used ones is Realtek audio drivers because it is believed by a lot of PC users to give the best sound quality as compared to others.

Proud Beginnings

Realtek takes pride in being one of the leading names in Windows XP drivers.  The company, Realtek, has been delivering high quality products and services since its establishment.  In Oct 1995, the company became the first IC design house in Taiwan to achieve ISO-9001 certification.

Realtek is committed to developing innovative products and services that exceed customers’ expectations.  To date, Realtek is top of mind when it comes to sound hardware technology.  The ease of use and accessibility of Realtek drivers has made it a popular Windows driver choice among users and industry players alike.

Product Development

These audio drivers are produced by a team that has extensive systems knowledge and integration expertise.  Realtek ensures that its audio drivers are produced with quality and reliability in mind.  They allot time and budget for research and product development so they can come up with products that are more powerful and seamless.

Realtek is also keen on developing new line of products that will seamlessly integrate key components such as micro controllers, DSP, RISC, PLL, RFIC, and embedded memories.  Users can expect better quality sound hardware they can use for their PCs.

This means users will get to experience a system-on-a-chip driver that is more efficient than ever before.  Realtek audio drivers feature more powerful and advanced core technologies such as analogue and mixed signal design; circuit design and process expertise; and system knowledge and IP.

Commitment to Quality

These audio drivers are also included in more than 900 worldwide patents of the company, a clear sign of the brand’s continuing commitment to technological innovations and breakthroughs. Realtek is also in the process of enhancing its application capabilities to integrate audio, video, and communication system technology into system-on-a-chip solutions.

Product quality is not the only great thing about Realtek audio drivers.  It also offers customer support for hardware and software, development tools and technical services.  They won’t have to worry.  If their sound hardware will bog down at the middle of the night, there is a customer support ready to assist them right away.

To check if your sound card is working properly, you can download our Driver Scan Tool and it will search your PC for all the hardware installed, including their audio driver.  By using this driver scan tool, they can make sure that their audio driver is working well or is updated, without any hassle.

 

Download ATI Catalyst Display Driver 11.3

April 13th, 2011 1 comment

ATI Catalyst Display Drive (presently called as AMD catalyst) is a driver for all Radeon family products that allows the latest update of AMD display driver. This unified driver has been improved in terms of power, performance and reliability.

What to expect with this new version:

Crysis 2 – Enhances CrossFire performance
Dungeons – Enhances CrossFire performance with forced on Anti-Aliasing
Crasher – Disabled forced on Anti-liaising through the Catalyst Control Center
Shogun 2 (DX9 version) – Enhances Crossfire performance
America’s Army 3 – Enhances CrossFire performance
Flatout: Ultimate Carnage – Enhances CrossFire performance
Performance enhancements and bug fixes

Download file name: 11-3_xp32_dd_ccc_enu.exe

Date Released: March 29, 2011

Operating systems specifications: Windows XP 32-bit

Install available here.

Click here to download a tool that will determine if your drivers are up-to-date.

Download Realtek HD Audio Codec Driver 2.5

April 5th, 2011 No comments

Realtek recently released the High Definition (HD) Audio driver. The product package includes: Driver setup program, WDM driver, Realtek Soundman, Realtek Sound Effect Manager.

Some if its features:

1. Compatible with direct 3d sound
2. Compatible with a3d
3. Compatible with i3dl2
4. HRTF 3d positional audio
5. 26 emulation environment sounds to improve the experience when playing games
6. Software 10 band equalizer
7. Cancellation of voice and key to change in karaoke mode
8. Realtek media player
9. Panel and assistant set for improved detection device for improved user experience
10. Dolby digital alc882d live
11. ALC882H software with Dolby home theater
12. ALC882M software with Dolby master studio

Download file name: WDM_R258.exe

Date Released: March 24, 2011

Operating systems specifications: Windows 2003 32-bit, Windows 2003 64-bit, Windows XP 64-bit, Windows 2000, Windows XP 32-bit
Devices supported: Microsoft UAA (Universal Audio Architecture)

Installation guide

1. Click here: http://www.realtek.com.tw/DOWNLOADS/
2. Click run to start the installation process
3. Click next to continue.

4. Click yes to continue
5. Select to restart the system. This step is important for the driver to work properly
6. Click finish to complete the installation.

If you use the integrated HD audio, you made the right decision to download this audio driver. This audio driver is essential to improve your computer’s performance to play music and run games.

Click here to download a product that will make sure you have the right drivers installed.

All About Backups

November 22nd, 2010 1 comment

What is a Backup?

A backup is a copy of your data, which can later be restored when the original data is lost or corrupted for any reason.

Why to Backup?

Everyone has experienced data loss at one time or the other. When data is lost,  you may be in need of some important files from that data. If you compare the time and money that goes into trying to get the data back, to spending a little time regularly to backup your data, you’ll start backing up your data too. Just a little time spent regularly for backing up, pays off when you lose data.

One of the reasons why people don’t backup is that they think nothing will happen to their computer. But, every computer and hard drive will die or become corrupted someday in the future. It cannot be said when that will happen.

Another reason why people don’t backup is that they are just lazy. They don’t want to backup at the end of a tiring day. They also tend to think that when they come back the next day, their data would be safe.

Another reason for not backing up is spending on expensive backup devices. Even if one wants to buy a backup device, which device should one buy or which one is the best is a question for them which confuses them.

And there’s one more reason why people don’t want to backup – what type of backup to use? People are confused when they hear that there are many types of backups. They aren’t clear as to which type of backup is suitable for them. And they don’t want to sit and learn about something, just to be able to backup!

These reasons make people tend not to backup at all. But, sooner or later, they are bound to repent and after losing some valuable data, they’ll spend on some kind of backup device. Whatever your backup device is, or whatever the backup type, some kind of backup is better than no backup at all.

What are the Causes of Data Loss?

There can be one or more of the following that can cause data loss:

  • Hardware Failure, including hard drive failure
  • Software Problems
  • File or Folder Corruption
  • Accidental File Deletion
  • Accidental Hard Drive Formatting
  • Viruses
  • Theft
  • Disasters

When to Backup?

The time to backup is now, not tomorrow or later. When you aren’t sure that your computer would be functional tomorrow, is it safe to leave it without backing up your valuable data, for which you have spent a lot many hours? So, better backup now than repent later. Another good time to backup your data is when you are about to make some changes to the operating system, install or uninstall new hardware or a software program, or do anything that may affect the computer.

How often to Backup?

You should backup up important files as often as possible. In the past, creating a backup was a time-consuming and tedious task. But today, there are many good backup solutions available. Good backup programs provide automating the backups. You don’t have to spend time on manually backing up daily. The programs do that for you, every hour or every day – whatever you set them to, once.

It also depends on what amount of data you create and how often. If you create new data daily, then doing a daily backup is a good idea. If you are creating lots of data every hour, then it would be better to choose an hourly backup plan.

How to Backup?

  • Manual backup You manually select the files and folders to backup and copy them to the destination device like a CD/DVD or to a USB Flash drive. Manual backups are time-consuming and a task which most people like to avoid doing daily. Manual backups can be useful in case of doing a full backup of your hard disk, using an imaging software program like Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image. But this is not required frequently, and you can do it once in a while, if you are using an automated backup program.
  • Semi-automated backup Backup programs do the backup automatically, but you have to remember and run the program manually to do the backup. If you forget to run the program someday, your data won’t be backed up on that day and there’s a possibility of losing this data the next day.
  • Automated backup Automated backups are created regularly and automatically, without your interaction with the backup program. The backup program does everything regularly and efficiently, in the background, once it is configured to do so. This is set once and forget it type of backup, and you don’t have to worry about your data, once you’ve configured it.

What to Backup?

You can backup only the important files. Any files that cannot be replaced and you can’t afford to lose, should be backed up. This includes your typed documents, emails, photos, recorded videos and any such thing that you cannot afford to lose.

Before you configure your backup program, you should go through all the folders on your hard drive and make a list of the ones that you want to include in the backup. This may include folders and files with any personal data, important software and music files that you don’t want to lose, documents, email, address books, bookmarks or favorites, etc.

When you lose data, due to reasons like a corrupt hard drive or an operating system corruption, you have to spend precious time to reinstall the operating system, the drivers, software programs and then restoring the already backed up data. This may even take up a whole day or more.

Using some disc imaging programs like Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image, you can create an image of the hard drive or of different partitions, and keep them on the backup media. Then, when you need to restore your operating system and data, you only have to restore the image from the backup. This is much faster than manually installing the OS and restoring your data.

Difference between Full, Differential, Incremental and Mirror Backups

  • Full Backup A full backup is a complete backup. It includes everything that you want to backup. Restoring a full backup is fast because you have to restore only from one set of backup. The drawback is that the full backup itself takes time and is slower than other types of backup. Another drawback of a full backup is, it takes more space on the target device to store full backups. Since your backup program will usually store multiple backups on the target device, there will be many full backups, taking up a high amount of storage space.
  • Differential Backup A differential backup is a backup of only those files that have changed since the last full backup. The files which are not changed after the last full backup will not be backed up.If you do a differential backup more than once, each time, it will backup all the files, which were changed since the last full backup. It will take backup of those files even if those changed files were backed up in a previous differential backup.Backups are faster than a full backup, since only a few changed files are backed up. Also, it takes little space even for multiple differential backups on the target device. For restoring all the data, you need the last full backup plus the last differential backup. Differential backups are a little slower to restore, than restoring from a full backup, but faster and less confusing than incremental backups. But, a the time taken for a differential backup is a little more than an incremental backup.
  • Incremental Backup An incremental backup is a backup of only those files that have changed since the last backup of any type (full, differential or incremental).For example, if you took a full backup on Sunday and an incremental backup on Monday, the incremental backup would contain any files changed after the Sunday’s full backup. If you took another incremental backup on Tuesday, it would only contain the files changed after the Monday’s incremental backup.Incremental backups are the fastest and take the least amount of storage on the target device. But, restoring is the slowest because you have to restore from the full backup plus from all the incremental backups. It may also be confusing when doing a restore, for some people.
  • Mirror Backup Some backup programs provide another option than the above three. This is nothing but a mirror copy of the folder or directory that you specify to backup. After whatever time you specify, the program will copy any files that were changed since the last time, to this mirror backup folder on the target device.A mirror backup is similar to a full backup, except that the files are not compressed, so you can access the backup folder anytime by opening Windows Explorer.  Because the files aren’t compressed, this is the fastest backup method. Restoring is also the fastest, because you only have to copy the folder back to the original location. The drawback is that the storage space needed is more than all other backup types.

Where to Store Backups?

  • On-Site Storage This is the most easiest and common place of storing your backups. In simple words, this means to keep your backups in your home or office, at a safe place. This may be fine for normal users, but if your backups contain extremely sensitive and valuable data, disasters like floods or fire in your area can make your backups useless.
  • Offsite Storage This method of storing is very good for protecting your data. If there is any kind of disaster in your area, you can still get your data back, if it is lost.
  • Online Storage This is also a kind of offsite storage, and very good for protecting your data. But you don’t have to spend on any extra devices for storage. You can also access your backup immediately using an Internet connection. There are free online backup services available, and provide space from 1 – 2 GB. This much is enough for backing up normal documents and images. You can buy more space, if needed.

Two examples of free online backup services are: http://mozy.com and http://www.idrive.com/

To know more about online storage and online backup, view this page.

Where to Backup?

  • Floppy Disk A few years ago, when someone mentioned about data backup for personal computers, all that people would think was the 3.5” floppy disk. Nowadays the floppy drive itself is obsolete and you can’t even find it on new computers. Even old computer users have removed it, since floppies are very less reliable and have very low storage space.
  • CDs/DVDs Blank writable CDs can hold up to 700 MB of data. These are very cheap. You can also get re-writable CDs which cost just a little more and data on them can be erased many times.On the other hand, you can also use DVDs or re-writable DVDs which hold about 4.7 GB of data. New type of double-sided DVDs can hold much more data. These re-writable discs can be used multiple times for backing up your data.
  • A Second Hard Drive You can use an additional hard drive for saving backups. You can also get external or portable hard drives which connect via USB to backup your data. These are very easy to carry around.
  • USB/Pen/Flash Drives These are extremely cheap these days, replace the old floppies, hold large amount of data, are much more reliable than floppies and can be carried around extremely easily. There are even mini-sized versions called as thumb drives. They are readily available up to 64 GB and 256 GB versions are expected sometime later this year.If you use them for data backup, make sure that you use two instead of one. Even the ones that have lifetime warranty can fail soon. If you want a better backup option, spend a little more and buy an external/portable hard drive.
  • Network This is similar to backing up your data to another hard drive. It’s fast and reliable. If the other computer has a high-capacity hard drive, you can store a large amount of backup data on this networked computer. Also, you don’t have to spend on backup devices. The drawback is that you should know how to network computers and use network resources. If there are any network problems, you may not be able to backup.
  • Magnetic Tapes These are normally used by organizations to store large amount of data. You won’t find them with normal computer users, and most users don’t even know what they are. The cost of the device is quite high. They are slower than other devices, when you want to retrieve particular data files, because data is accessed sequentially. They also have a shorter life-span than other devices. They were the only backup medium at one time, for large organizations. But now there are other devices available. Normal computer users won’t want to select this as the backup medium.

Which is the best, free software program to use for backup?

If you search Google with the keywords “free backup software”, you’d get more than 71,000,000 hits. There are many good backup programs and they widely vary in features and ease of use. Many people, however have found Cobian Backup from CobianSoft to be a nice, feature-rich and easy to use backup program. It can backup to local backup devices as well as online / ftp accounts.

If you want help in installing Cobian Backup, click here.

If you want to know how to configure Cobian for local backup, click here.

If you want to know how to configure Cobian for online/FTP backup, click here.

If you want to know how to restore data from a backup made by Cobian backup, click here.

How to speed up a slow or sluggish computer?

May 12th, 2010 7 comments

My computer has become slow/sluggish. What should I do?

The following are some of the ways to improve the performance of your Windows computer:

1. Disable unneeded services

Click Start and then click Run (or Search, in Vista and 7), then type the following command and press the Enter key: services.msc

services.msc

services.msc

If you have a standalone desktop computer at home (i.e., not networked to other computers and not an office desktop), you can safely set the following services to “manual” or “disabled”, as mentioned below. Depending on whether you have a Windows service pack installed, you may or may not see all of these services listed. Ignore the ones that you don’t see in the services list.

For each of the following services, right click it and then click Properties. In the Startup drop down menu, click “manual” and then click “OK.”

Services Control Panel

Services Control Panel Applet

Disable a Service

Disable a Service

a. Set the following services to manual:

  • Fast User Switching Compatibility Service
  • Application Layer Gateway Service
  • Background Intelligent Transfer Service
  • COM+ Event System Service
  • COM+ System Application Service
  • Cryptographic Services Service
  • Distributed Link Tracking Client Service
  • Indexing Service
  • IPSEC Services Service
  • Network Location Awareness (NLA)
  • Service Portable Media Serial Number
  • Service Print Spooler Service (You may set it to automatic, if you have a printer attached and print frequently.)
  • TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper Service
  • Telephony Service
  • Terminal Services Service
  • WebClient Service

b. Set the following services to disabled:

  • Alerter Service
  • ClipBook Service
  • Distributed Transaction Coordinator Service
  • DNS Client Service
  • Error Reporting Service
  • Messenger Service
  • MS Software Shadow Copy Provider Service (Set it to manual, if you use the MS Backup utility)
  • Net Logon Service
  • NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing Service
  • Network DDE Service
  • Network DDE DSDM Service
  • NT LM Security Support Provider Service
  • Performance Logs and Alerts Service
  • QoS RSVP Service
  • Remote Desktop Help Session Manager Service (Set this to manual, if you use remote desktop)
  • Remote Registry Service
  • Routing and Remote Access Service
  • Server Service (If you’re on a network, don’t disable it )
  • Smart Card Service
  • Smart Card Helper Service
  • SSDP Discovery Service
  • Telnet Service
  • Upload Manager Service
  • Volume Shadow Copy Service
  • Wireless Zero Configuration Service (Don’t disable it, if using a laptop and a wireless router)

2. Free up Disk Space

Click Start and then click Run. Type cleanmgr and press the Enter key.

Start, Run, cleanmgr

Click Start > Run, then type cleanmgr

Select the Windows drive (usually C) and then click “OK“.

Select Drive to Cleanup

Select Drive to Cleanup

Select the files you don’t want, and click OK to delete them.

Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup

You can free up more disk space by clicking on the More Options tab.

Disk Cleanup "More Options" Tab

Disk Cleanup "More Options" Tab

You’ll have to run the cleanmgr command, once again, to go to the More Options tab. These are the three options on the More Options tab, which would free up more disk space. You should use each of these:

  • Uninstall Windows components
  • Uninstall unused or rarely used programs
  • Delete old restore points except the last one.

In addition to the above, you should delete unneeded files or move them to another partition, drive, or back them up to CD/DVD or USB flash drives. Check your My Documents folder and see how much space it takes!

3. Disable some startup items in MSConfig

Run the command msconfig and click the “startup” tab.

msconfig > Disable Startup Items

msconfig > Disable Startup Items

Uncheck any items that you don’t need at startup. Some apps run their services, which enable them to start fast (like MSOffice, Acrobat Reader, etc). Expand the heading named ‘Command‘ so that you can see what command is being executed for each startup item. To expand the Command heading, hover the cursor near the right end of the Command column. When the cursor becomes a double arrow, double click with the left mouse button to expand it.

This will help you understand which items are not needed at startup.

After clicking OK, if msconfig asks to restart, you may restart, or just click ‘Exit without restart‘, if you are doing some other work. After you reboot, msconfig will show this dialog box. Just check the “Don’t show this message …” checkbox and click on “OK“.

4. Remove some items from the Windows Startup group

Check the startup folder under Start -> All Programs. Remove any items that are not needed or not used often. They are just taking up system memory, because they are running all the time in the background. You can run these programs as and when needed.

5. Clean up your Registry

Clean up your registry regularly.  Use a free program like ccleaner. It also has an option to optimize (compress) the registry, but NT Registry Optimizer is better at compressing and optimizing the registry. You may also download and use the Emergency Recovery Utility from the NT Registry Optimizer page, for backing up your registry regularly and automatically, from the NT Optimizer page.

6. Remove unneeded/unused fonts

Remove unneeded or unused fonts from the Control Panel -> Fonts. Many software applications install their own fonts in addition to the standard Windows fonts. There are too many unused fonts sitting in the fonts folder, which never get used. Each of these fonts takes valuable system memory and Windows loads all the fonts from the \Windows\Fonts folder into the RAM, when it starts.

You can safely remove many of these fonts. When in the Fonts folder, click on the View menu and click ‘Details‘. You can double-click each font to view it, before clicking delete. If you think you might need these fonts in the future, you can move the unneeded fonts  to another folder on your hard drive instead of deleting them.

7. Enable Cleartype for LCD Monitors

If you have an LCD monitor or a laptop, click Start -> Run. Then, type the command, desk.cpl and press the Enter key. Click the Appearance tab on the Display Properties. Click Effects and check to enable the second option (select ClearType if it isn’t already selected).

Enable ClearType

Enable ClearType

You can uncheck the ‘Show shadows under menus‘ and ‘Show menu contents while dragging‘. You may also want to download the cleartype tuner from Microsoft.

8. Defrag the Windows drive

In “My Computer” or Windows Explorer,

  1. Right click Drive C (or whichever drive, Windows is installed on),
  2. Select Properties
  3. Select the Tools Tab.
  4. Click ‘Defragment Now‘.
  5. Then, click the ‘Analyze‘ button.
Defrag Analyze Results

Defrag Analyze Results

If defrag recommends that you defragment the drive, proceed with it. This would make Windows and applications load a little bit faster. You may want to run a disk error check from the same “Tools” tab, before you defrag the drive.

Check Disc

Check Disc

9. Disable short file names to speed up Windows

By default, Windows XP and Vista create 8.3 format filenames for all files. This is done to maintain compatibility with 16-bit (old DOS based) programs. These programs need the old filename format. If you don’t use any such DOS-based programs, you can safely turn this feature off. This will speed up Windows to some extent. Run this from a command prompt, by running the command – cmd from the Run box.

The command is:

fsutil behavior set disable8dot3 1

Note: Windows XP environment variables %TEMP% and %TMP% use short filenames. Some programs use these variables. If disabling short filenames causes problems, restore the short name function with the command:

fsutil behavior set disable8dot3 0 

10. Disable timestamp for last access to a file to speed up Windows

Disabling the timestamp for last access time of a file can speed up Windows too, because Windows doesn’t have to keep track of the last access time for each file. Again, run this from the command prompt:

fsutil behavior set disablelastaccess 1 

Some backup programs need to access timestamp. To restore it, use the command:

fsutil behavior set disablelastaccess 0 

11. Disable DLL caching

(NOTE: Use this only if you know how to edit the Registry)

Windows Explorer caches DLLs (Dynamic-Link Libraries) in memory for some time, even after the application using them was closed. This is a waste of memory. To stop Windows XP from always caching DLL files, create a new registry key as detailed below.

Click Start and then click Run. Type regedit and press the Enter key. In the Registry Editor, navigate to the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer

Create a new sub-key named ‘AlwaysUnloadDLL‘ and set the default value to ’1′.

This would disable Windows, caching the DLLs in memory. The change would happen only after you restart Windows.

12. For Windows Vista, disable superfetch

Run the following command from the Search box:

sc config Superfetch start= disabled

(The space after the = sign is intentional)

13. Disable the Windows’ built-in zip feature

It’s common to have many zipped or compressed files in today’s computer world. Windows XP and later have a built-in zip feature, which allows you to view zip files as normal folders, from within Windows Explorer. This can take quite an amount of CPU time in uncompressing the files on the fly. So, you should disable this feature and use a program like Winzip, to open zip files. Since Windows treats zip files as folders, they are also searched, when you search for a file, making the searching extremely slow.

To disable this feature, in the Run box, type the following command and hit the Enter key:

regsvr32 /u %windir%\system32\zipfldr.dll

The above command, without the ” /u ” would again enable the zip feature, if it’s disabled. A reboot is required for the changes to take effect. These commands may not work in Windows 7 or Vista. If you are new to Windows, you may like this feature, and may not want to disable it.

14. Optimize VGA settings

In Display Properties, click the settings tab and then click the ‘Advanced‘ button. Click the ‘Troubleshoot‘ tab and check that the hardware acceleration is set to full.

15. Disable Extra Visual Effects

Right click My Computer and then click Properties. Click the Advanced tab, then click “Settings” under Performance, then select the Visual Effects tab.

Disable Visual Effects

Disable Visual Effects

Uncheck all the settings except for the following:

  • Show shadows under menus
  • Show shadows under mouse pointer
  • Show translucent selection rectangle
  • Smooth edges of screen fonts
  • Use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop
  • Use visual styles on windows and buttons

16. Adjust Paging File size

Adjust Paging File Size

Adjust Paging File Size

In My Computer Properties page, click the Advanced tab and under Virtual Memory, make sure that the initial size is at least 1.5 times your computer’s physical memory (RAM). For example, if your computer has 512 MB of RAM, set the initial paging file size to 768 MB. If you are confused, don’t play with the settings and let Windows manage the page file size.

For optimal performance, read Bill’s and Petri’s pages about paging file and Windows performance. You can then use Doug Knox’s page file monitor utility and set the initial page file size accordingly. If you want the best performance, you can buy 2 GB or more RAM, then set the minimum paging file size to 2 MB and maximum, to 50 MB. This can dramatically improve performance.

17. Install good AntiSpyware and Antivirus programs, then run them periodically

Install Malwarebytes’ Antimalware and SuperAntiSpyware. Both are free. Note that Malwarebytes’ Antimalware doesn’t always keep running and you can manually scan files or drives when needed. But SuperAntiSpyware keeps running in the background, scans each file whenever you or the computer accesses it, and sits in the system tray. This slows the computer down, so you should remove it from the startup by using the MSCONFIG utility and then run it manually, whenever needed.

You may also want to install a free antivirus program like AVG or Avast. Both are light on resources and free too. Never install two Antivirus programs on the same computer, although you can install two AntiSpyware programs. You can, however, keep another Antivirus bootable CD or a Virus removal tool, to use once in a while. Any Antivirus program takes away a little of your computer speed because of the on-access and background scans. It’s best to leave the on-access scan enabled.

Kaspersky is one of the best Antivirus programs and even though it is not free, they offer their Kaspersky Virus Removal Tool for free here. Here’s a Kaspersky Bootable Rescue Disk ISO image, which you can download and burn on to a CD and boot the computer from it. After booting, if an Internet connection is available, you can update it online and then scan the computer.

18. Enable DMA / UDMA in Device Manager for each drive

Enable DMA / UDMA for each Drive

Enable DMA / UDMA for each Drive

Click Start -> Run. Then, type devmgmt.msc and hit the Enter key. In Device Manager, expand the IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers. For each device under this category, double click the item and click the Advanced Settings tab. Make sure that DMA if available is selected for each device.

19. Install Microsoft Tweakui Powertoy

Download and install the Microsoft TweakUI Powertoy. It has many Windows tweaks and options that you can enable or disable with a simple mouse click. There are surely some that you’d like to use. To  know more, what it can do for you, click here.

From the Microsoft TweakUI page: “This PowerToy gives you access to system settings that are not exposed in the Windows XP default user interface, including mouse settings, Explorer settings, taskbar settings, and more.”

20. Periodically, reinstall Windows

It’s a good practice to periodically reinstall Windows. Don’t forget to backup your data files before the reinstall. If your system is infected with too many viruses or malware it may be better to format the hard drive and then reinstall Windows.

Here are some Youtube videos about installing Windows:

For installing/reinstalling Windows XP:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_932T4FAAY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSJTgvet9QY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0cop_am1WM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf2Ffm33DhA

For installing/reinstalling Windows Vista:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeBjxHm19pk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puY4vRhAKYo

It can be quite time consuming and a big hassle backing up your data, re-installing Windows, then re-installing the proper drivers and software programs and then restoring the data. You can use a professional disk imaging program like Acronis True Image or Norton‘s Ghost to  “image” your already installed and working copy of Windows, along with drivers and software programs.

These programs are very nice, but not free. However, here’s a link to a similar free disk imaging program from Easeus. Using these programs takes 10 minutes or less to restore the whole Windows partition, with everything installed. There are a dozen such freeware programs listed and detailed here.

21. Upgrade the RAM

The more the amount of RAM, the more the number of simultaneous applications you can run. Nowadays, 1 GB and 2 GB RAM is pretty common.

Here is a youtube video on how to properly install the RAM, if you want to upgrade or add more RAM.

Click here to search for RAM prices.

BIOSAgentPlus Driver Update

April 27th, 2010 No comments

Every computer system contains a program called the BIOS, or the basic input-output system. This is basically like a foundation of a structure on which all other software, such as the OS, rely on. Of course, like the structure’s foundation, it is advised to keep the BIOS in good working condition in order for the computer system to stay strong.

Modern PCs can do a lot of complicated tasks. But once as you turn them on, they are not as powerful as everyone thinks. What the computer’s central processing unit, or the CPU, only does is access a certain chip to find a certain set of instructions that tells what to do after. That set of instructions refers to the BIOS. This program guides the CPU to perform basic operations, like read computer peripherals and turn on the display.

The BIOS is called out in order to be ready for use. This process is called “bootstrapping,” taken from the phrase “pulling oneself by their bootstraps.” The BIOS starts the system hardware and directs the CPU how to use it. It will then let the PC test its hardware to check if it’s fully functional and tells the PC where and how to look for a special boot program on the disk drive. With the disk boot program, the computer learns how to find files on the disk in order to load and run the operating system.

Bootstrapping is not just the BIOS’s role. The BIOS must understand the PC’s hardware and settings and interact directly with that hardware. The BIOS, therefore, serves as operating system’s guide, interpreter, and foreman for communicating with the hardware.

While the BIOS plays these important roles in both the PC’s startup and ongoing operation, it can affect the PC’s performance and operational stability as well as the speed of graphics and other signal channels. Making sure that the computer is updated is vital to keep it functional. It is also important to give the PC access to new hardware controls. These include CPU upgrades, updates and repairs as well as system power control.

The best source for updates and maintenance for the computer’s BIOS is the BIOS developer. A BIOS developer has a stake in keeping their BIOS updated, strong and operating at utmost efficiency.

Phoenix Technologies is the leading BIOS developer that offers tools, such as BIOSAgentPlus to ease BIOS maintenance virtually for any PC. These utilities can keep the PC’s foundation strong so that the rest can still work well.

BIOSAgentPlus is an effective, easy-to-use tool to help you find what makes your computer tick. BIOS Agent is a light freeware program with a clean and well-designed interface that allows users to get the information you need with only a few button clicks.

BIOSAgentPlus 2.2010.1.8 was added on this site on April 27, 2010 and it is free to download. It can be installed on any computer systems working on Windows 98/Me/2000/XP/2003/Server 2008/NT/Vista/ 7. It pays to keep computer systems updated in order to maintain smooth operations.

 

Categories: Performance Tags:

Installing the wrong driver

September 3rd, 2009 No comments

Hardware drivers are a very important part of Windows. If drivers are installed correctly and frequently updated, your hardware device will work at its full capacity. Windows will run smoothly and no errors should occur. However, things can quickly change when you install the wrong hardware driver. Sometimes Windows can even install the wrong driver.

To make an idea regarding the gravity of the situation, take a look at some of the problems people experienced:

  • “Every startup gets an error window: Cannot load the dll CnxtSdk.dll”
  • “Windows installed a driver that it thought was right for my network card. Yet it isn’t right. It installed a 3com driver instead of a Realtek driver. Now, when I go to change the driver I choose to select it from a location. I choose the correct inf file, and Windows gives me an error.”
  • “I accidentally installed a wrong VIA audio driver. Now the PC keeps restarting! I try to uninstall the drivers but, after reboot, Windows XP installs them again. Although I managed to install the correct driver, I receive errors caused by the wrong old VIA drivers.”

If you install the wrong driver, your computer will act crazy. You will probably see errors, it will reboot on it’s own or even worse, it will not even turn on. If your problem is that severe, you might need to reinstall Windows. Hopefully your problem isn’t that severe and you can find and uninstall the wrong driver and install the correct one. This should take care of the problem.

There are some cases in which the errors will continue to appear. You can try to talk to Microsoft – maybe they can help you. Send them an error report including the error code and error text. Although this may seem an easy way to solve the problem, don’t put too much hope in Microsoft. They receive thousands of error reports daily, so their response will be generic, copy pasted, or even automated. So this might not work at all. You can also contact the manufacturer of your device. Some drivers are poorly written or have bugs. This is one of the reasons you’ll see driver updates from time to time on the manufacturer’s website.

Be careful when you are installing drivers onto your machine. Take the time to make sure it is the correct driver for your device/operating system. You’ll save yourself a huge headache in the future!

Categories: Performance Tags: