Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Worth Repeating – Top Tech Tip #2*

Some time ago I was asked by a reader what my one piece of advice for a non-techie was (Click here to read my reply). That was a good question. A challenging question. Limiting myself to one answer was what I found so difficult.

So today I am going to offer you, Dear Reader, my “Probably The Second Most Important Piece Of Geek Advice For Non-Techies“.

* Leave Registry “Cleaners” Alone *

What happens is this: older computers get slower, and so the owner enters “slow PC” (or, “my computer is slow”, or sumsuch) or “slow internet” into a search engine — where they get sold a computer “optimizer”. What this is – usually – is a “Registry Cleaner”, which promises to “find errors” and fix them.

WOT warnings on "speed up your PC" sites

WOT warnings on "speed up your PC" sites

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Here’s the real deal — there are two cases (IMHO) when you actually need a reliable Registry cleaner:
1) You’re an experimental sort and you uninstall a lot of 3rd-party (non-Microsoft) programs; like.. you try every new program that comes along. (And you forgot to use Revo to uninstall them when you’re done.)

2) You have just completed a manual malware removal.

That doesn’t describe you? Leave the Registry “cleaner” alone!

Now, my regular readers will remember my mentioning this before, but for the rest of you, here’s why you want to avoid messing with the Registry: and this happens a lot actually, it can kill your machine.

What?!

Yup. Read the user forums. The odds of this increase if you have more than one User Account on your system. Ask yourself this: do you know what the Windows Registry is? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_registry)

Even if a “cleaning” does not kill your machine, no one can convince me that any Registry cleaner – and they have been many over the years – has ever actually sped up their PC. And I am certainly not alone in this opinion.

So what should you do to speed up a machine that has slowed down over time? Well, you already have the tools you need to “optimize” and rejuvenate your PC. Please read Four Vital Tools You Already Have… But Might Not Know About. There you will find the answers! And, guess what? They’re free. (Probably why they’re not advertised, eh?)

… and if you’re the type who is not going to click the link and actually read more, and are just itching to download something, well, the safe and effective Registry cleaner CCleaner will do this for you for free. As will the free Glary Utilities, or the free Advanced Windows Care, and you won’t find user forums filled with complains of wrecked systems, if you should use one of those.
Fair enough?

[Note: BEFORE making any changes to the Registry, please read (and follow) this Microsoft article: How to back up and restore the registry in Windows]

* Orig post: 08/19/09

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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December 12, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, performance | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Revitalize Your PC With Windows’ Utilities*

my last day of ‘vacation mode’…(sigh).

Computers get slower with age. And as we add programs and updates, sometimes little ‘quirks’ develop. The older our machines get and the more we use them, the worse these things become.

Largely, this is simply due to how our machines read and write the 1’s and 0’s to our hard drives, and various “clutter” that builds up. (But some of it is our fault. We humans are curious creatures and we like to install new programs and try them out, and then we just leave them there, unused…)

Windows gives us four tools – called “utilities” – to help us keep our hard drives clean, happy, and running smoothly (sometimes called “optimized”) which you might be unaware of, (or use often enough) as you have to right-click to find them. (Out of sight, out of mind, right?)

These are:
● Disk Cleanup Tool
● Error Checker
● Tool Defragmenter
● Backup

To get started, click on Start >Computer (or, “My Computer” in XP/older).
Comptr
Now right-click on the drive you want to “optimize” (usually, that will be “Local Disk (C:)”, but each drive [“volume”] will have this. C: is your main one), and a context menu will open — click on “Properties”.

gen tab

A new window will open to display the drive properties, and by default it will open to the “General” tab.

On this tab, we’re interested in the Disk Cleanup button. Disk Cleanup is a safe way to “take out the trash” and remove clutter from your disk.

My super-ultra-deluxe article on the in’s-and-out’s of this tool is here, More than you wanted to know about the Disk Cleanup Tool, but the short version is: click the buttons, answer “yes” and let it do its job. I recommend doing this once a week.

Now we dig down one layer, and this is hard work, so you might want to put on your gardening gloves, click on the next tab over.. the “Tools” tab.

———————————————————————

disk propts

Here you find the other three utilities buttons.

The top button is the Error Checking tool. Running this tool is a good way to eliminate those odd ‘glitches’. What it does is, it examines the physical surface of your hard drive looking for “potholes” and marks those areas as “bad” so that the computer won’t try to put your files there.

It also examines your file allocation table (FAT) and makes sure that all your internal roadsigns are pointing at the right streets. Um.. maybe a card-catalog-at-the-library analogy might work better — it makes sure all the index cards are in the proper order and all the Dewey Decimals are correct.
This tool is for use as a repair, and not a maintenance, so use it as needed and not on a schedule.

Next up is the defragmenter. I remind my readers to run this once a month, and to set an automation schedule for it (Vista and Win 7 already have that) in articles like, When was the last time you “defragged”?
Keeping your disk “defragged” is the best way to keep it running like when it was new. (Be sure to run Disk Cleanup tool before the defrag.)

The last — Backup — isn’t an optimizer or age-fighter, but it is probably the most important feature in Windows. I have written probably 30 different articles on just how important making backup copies of your files, photos, records, etc., is, and why you really, really, really want to do it. See How To Use Windows Backup Tool.

I don’t really know why — for all these years — Microsoft has not put these utilities right under our noses and in plain sight as separate entries under Start >Programs… But now that you know where they are, you can use them and get that PC of yours into a more “like new” performance state. Aka, “optimized”!

Today’s free link: Free Lifetime License for SUPERAntiSpyware Professional – 20 to Give Away

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 30, 2009 Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, file system, how to, PC, performance | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Monthly maintenance for faster machine: a re-minder

Business obligations will keep me on the go for the next few days, and it is not feasible for me to construct a fresh article and post it in a timely fashion. It is a very good computing practice to defragment your hard drive once per month to keep it running well. It has been much more than a month since I have reminded my readers of this chore (and, reminded you to back-up your data). This article tells you how to set your machine to defragment itself –automatically. It first appeared 6/12/07–

I am continuously surprised at how many PC users have let a year or more pass since their last defrag, or never have defragged at all. “Why is my machine slower than it used to be?” That is a very common question. It is a question with no single, or simple answer. Yet there is a single, and simple, step you can take which will improve the speed at which your machine reads and writes data, and which, if done regularly, will keep it at near the speed it had when it was new–it’s called “defragging” (short for defragmentation). Defragmentation remedies file fragmentation, which occurs, invisibly to you, over the course of time.

Tip of the day: It is commonly suggested that you run a defrag at least once a month. I recommend that you schedule your defrags to run automatically using Windows Scheduled Tasks tool. Set it and forget it, as the old saying goes. Here are the steps to do it:

1) Start>Control Panel, click Performance and Maintenance and then click Scheduled Tasks.
2) Double-click Add Scheduled Task to open the Scheduled Task Wizard, and then click Next.
3) Follow the wizard to set a schedule for when to run the defragmentation program (I recommend running it late at night, as it can take a while to complete), and be sure to supply a password for the account on which you want the task to run, and mark the checkbox “wake the computer to perform this task.”
4) Check the box for Open advanced properties for this task when I click Finish. On the Run line, add the drive letter for the drive to be defragged (typically “c:”). For example, %SystemRoot%\System32\Defrag.exe c:

(This example is for XP, but you can do it in earlier–all the way back to Win 95–versions as well)

Another thing you can do is get rid of the files on your hard drive that you no longer need: such as emptying your Recycle bin and deleting your temp files (a quick, safe, and simple way is Windows Disk Clean Up tool) and there are some nice applications to automate and/or simplify this for you, such as today’s free link. Also, use Add/Remove Programs to remove applications you no longer use. Go to Start>Settings>Control Panel>Add/Remove Programs and wait for the list to “populate”. Click on those programs you are certain you have no more use for and click on the Remove button.

Today’s free link: CCleaner CCleaner is a freeware system optimization and privacy tool. It removes unused and temporary files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster, more efficiently and giving you more hard disk space.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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November 5, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, tech, Windows | , , , , , | Leave a comment