Note: This article is intended for Microsoft Windows users. I have Windows ME, so the dialog boxes shown might be slightly different than yours depending on what version of Windows you are running.
If you have ever sat there and thought, "my computer is not as fast it was when I purchased it, I wonder what can I do to speed things up", then you are not alone. Computer performance will slow down over time if you do not perform a few simple things to maintain your computer.
The first thing you need to do is to delete your browser's Temporary Internet files. This should be done often, I delete these files on a daily basis, but if you choose to delete them every few days it should be adequate. Temporary Internet files are copies of everything you have viewed on the internet, including web pages, graphics, sounds, etc., so there is no danger in deleting them. The simplest way to delete the Temporary Internet files is to open your browser (this is for Internet Explorer) and click on "Tools", then "Internet Options". That will open a dialog box on the "General" tab, (Click Here To View This Dialog Box). You will see a section marked "Temporary Internet files" in the middle section with a button that says "Delete Files". Click on that button and it will prompt you with another dialog box, (Click Here To View This Dialog Box), click "OK" and that will delete your Temporary Internet files. When it's finished deleting the files, click on "OK" at the bottom of the dialog box and this task will be completed.
The second maintenance task you can perform is a "defrag" of your hard drive. Defragging will organize the data on your hard drive so it can be found quicker when called upon. Over time the data on your hard drive will become fragmented (spread out all over the hard drive), the defrag will put things back in order. This might sound like some high tech thing to do, but I can assure you anyone can do it without causing any harm to your computer.
To perform a defrag of your hard drive, first you must shut off almost everything running on your computer.
This means closing all programs you might have open, shutting off any screen saver you might have set to come on, and shutting off programs that are running in the background of your computer. To shut off any programs that might be running in the background, press these three keys on your keyboard, "Control, Alt, Delete" (Ctrl+Alt+Del), this will bring up the Close Program dialog box with a list of everything that is running on your computer. Notice: you do not want to shut of "Explorer" or "Systray", these must remain on so you can perform the defrag. Shut off programs running by highlighting a program, and then press the button "End Task". Do this step until you have closed all the programs except for "Explorer and Systray". After all of the programs have been shut down (and don't forget the screen saver) you are ready to perform the defrag. If any programs are left running, the defrag will start but will not complete it's task and just start over again. Just a note, if you know how to start your computer in the "Safe mode", you can avoid this whole process of shutting programs off using the "Control, Alt, Delete" (Ctrl+Alt+Del) method. Once your computer is running in the "Safe mode" with the screen saver disabled, you can go directly to the defrag program and defrag your hard drive.
To start the defrag click on the Windows "Start" button on the bottom left corner of your computer screen, then go up to "Programs", then to Accessories", then "System Tools", that is where you will see the "Disk Defragmenter" program. Click on "Disk Defragmenter", that will open a dialog box to select which drive you would like to defrag, (Click Here To See This Dialog Box), choose "C Drive" and click "OK". That will start the defrag program, (Click Here To See This Dialog Box). First it will perform a ScanDisk on your hard drive (if your version of Windows does not perform a ScanDisk when you run defrag, then you should manually run ScanDisk before you defrag), then it will begin to defrag your hard drive, rearranging data to where it should be placed on your hard drive. You can view this defrag process by clicking on "Show Details" in the defrag dialog box. It will open the defrag program full screen and display little boxes being moved around, this is data being rearranging and organized on your hard drive.
When the defrag is complete, reboot your computer (this is required to restart your programs again). The first time you do this defrag it can take several hours to complete, just let it run and go do something else, do not try to do "anything" on your computer or the defrag will stop and attempt to start over again. The more often you perform this defrag, the less time it will take to complete. I defrag my computer once a week, but twice a month should be just fine. You will notice after you defrag your hard drive, reboot your computer, that your computer will run a lot faster, this is the benefit of defragging your hard drive on a regular basis.
The third item to consider when your computer is running slow, is how much RAM (Random Access Memory) you have installed in your computer. The more RAM that you have installed the better your computer will perform. With today's operating systems, you should have at least 128 megs of RAM, your operating system will run on less but you won't have much left to allocate for other programs that you may be running. Go up to 256 megs of RAM if you can, RAM is cheap right now, so look into purchasing more.
You can check to see how much RAM is install on your computer by, right clicking with your mouse on "My Computer", then select "Properties", that will bring up a dialog box on the "General" tab, (Click Here To See This Dialog Box). You can read how much RAM is installed on your computer there. Also in that dialog box you can click on the tab marked "Performance", this will show you again how much RAM you have and display your System Resources, (Click Here To See This Dialog Box). The higher your System Resources are, the better your computer will perform. Leaving your computer on for long periods of time will gradually decrease your available System Resources. Rebooting the computer will restore your System Resources to the maximum available amount. Also shutting programs off from running in the background of your computer will restore your System Resources. That takes us to the next section about too many programs running in the background.
Too many programs running in the background of your computer will tap your System Resources. Many times when you install certain pieces of software it will place a file in your Startup folder. Programs in the Startup files will start software programs when the computer is turned on or rebooted. Some of these of software programs need not be running all the time and can be shut off from running in the Startup folder. Do not attempt to disable any of the Startup programs if you do not know what you are doing. Some programs need to be running in order for your computer to operate. You may want to get help from someone who knows their way around a computer to assist you in shutting off some programs that do not have to be running all the time. The less you can have running in the background of your computer the more System Resources you will have, this will enhance your computer's overall performance.