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DOWNLOA 10 things you should know about troubleshooting a slow PC

By Bill Detwiler Editor ·
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User complaints are minimal when new PCs are rolled out. They start up quick, and programs seem to open in a snap. But over time, users begin to notice that their system is slow or that it hangs up often. While the possibilities for system slowdown are endless, this download identifies 10 common troubleshooting areas you should examine first before you suggest to management that it's time for an upgrade.

Download and review this list:

Join this ongoing discussion and let us know if this download provides helpful information and if there's anything we can do to improve the document's format or content. You can also share you favorite tips and tricks for troubleshooting a slow PC.

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Dual Swapfiles

by tl.eckels In reply to DOWNLOAD: 10 things you s ...

Another way to speed-up any windows installation is to allways create a small partition on the hard drive. This is to be used for the SwapFile, internet cache files, and windows temp folders.
I find that by doing this there are a lot less read\writes to the main partition and this greatly reduces file fragmentation. This partition can also be used as cache space for programs like CD burning software or video editing software.

Aditionally, if possible it can be a boost to performance to install a second hard drive on a seperate controller channel than the first. With this configuration windows will be able to access swapfiles on both disks simultaneuosly, doubling the speed of swapfile access.

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Reduce head travel

by cquirke In reply to Dual Swapfiles

For performance, the goal of partitioning is to reduce head travel.

I see that as keeping 95%+ of disk activity within as short a range of head travel as possible. The material most often accessed includes page file, Temp, TIF (web cache), and OS and other code that is in constant use (as it often needs to be paged back into RAM).

So I leave all of that on C:, and move everything else out - starting with Videos, Pictures, Music, pre-installation downloads, large games and other apps I don't use all the time, and so on. Then I keep C: small, so that no matter how fragmented it gets, the head travel will always be short.

There's one exception to this "keep the pagefile in C:" rule, and that is where there is a second physical hard drive of similar speed - then I might put the pagefile there, so as to unlink head travel patterns. But locating frequently-accessed material (such as pagefile) on another partition on the same drive, is to force the heads to move all the way from one partition to the other, all the time. Yuk!

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Avoid underfootware access to other partitions

by cquirke In reply to Reduce head travel

If you do adopt the strategy of moving bulky material off C: so that most traffic can be concentrated within a short range of head travel, then you should stop the system fiddling about on these other partitions - otherwise some of the benefit will be lost.

Start with System Restore. In Vista, this is smart enough to exclude additional volumes and partitions, but the duuhfault in XP is to use SR with maximal disk capacity on every volume it sees - including external hard drives.

As I don't have critical code running from my , E: amd F: hard drive volumes, I disable System Restore on these drives.

Next, make sure you don't have indexers and thumbnailers banging away on these drives.

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Messy Desk Syndrome

by MavMin2 In reply to DOWNLOAD: 10 things you s ...

People who have messy desks usually have messy desktops. My users love to put everything on their desktop and then cuss about their slow machines. I mean folders, pictures, executables, movies, ad infinitium! I have preaching the sermon against doing this for years and to little avail.

With roaming profiles back into action it becomes even worse because a 20MB or more profile does not load on the different machine so they get a temp and then whatever they put on that desktop is lost when they log off. Then the cussin' starts.

I want the System lads to make the profiles unable to save to the desktop but that has not happened yet. The only way to effect any behavorial change in this outfit is force it. If there was a Bull Headed political party most of my users would belong to it. ;-)

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Speed up virusscanner

by wwoef In reply to DOWNLOAD: 10 things you s ...

Dear Bill,
I found that changing a setting in my MacAfee virusscanner greatly improved speed. For security reasons the virusscanner was set to scann ALL files. When I changed it to scan only the default files, the speed went up dramatically! Much more than I could ever achieve with other tweaks such as BIOS settings... And it is still safe!
Tinus van de Wouw
The Netherlands

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Virus scanners and excluded file types

by cquirke In reply to Speed up virusscanner

No, it may not be "still safe" if av's assumptions on what file types pose risk are undermined by new exploits, etc. Conflicker refers, for example.

Scanning all file types can be so adverse (e.g. scanning large Access databases on every access) that you may want to drop the resident scanning to scan only the default "infectable" files, as you suggest - but this isn't risk-free.

On the other hand, if I electively scan some material, I want ALL of it scanned (although at some extra risk than material may exploit the av scanner itself). So even if I set the resident scanner to scan only some file types, as per defaults, I'd set all elective scans to scan all file types.

Final av tip; make sure the av isn't trying to "scan the whole system" while you are trying to work on it. Some scanners default to scanning the whole PC every day starting at 09:00 or so, which is certain to collide with your use of the machine.

Setting such scans to low priority (as such scanners may do) merely trades a short period of obviously slow performance to several hours of mild bleeah.

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Housekeeping Windows for the Non-Techies

by Spenda In reply to Virus scanners and exclud ...

Together with additional posts your .pdf addresses all key issues with windows, as amended.

For the benefit of the non-technical readers, I thought I might publish how I keep my ageing IBM NetVista running Windows at lightening speed, with never a system crash, never a hung page or blue screen and always fast boot up. I do it with all 'set and forget' schedules. I run high-end graphics, videos, download movies and music, play games, often with multiple applications running at same time. A Pentium M with CPU clock speed of 2.6 MHz and 3 gigs DDR. It never gets hot, never slows down. This is what I use:-

1. Anti-virus ware: Avira - rated amongst the top 5 in the world. Inexpensive. Has a freebie with no expiry date. Doesn't impact on pc performance speeds while running in background. Usual drain when doing a full scan. Auto updates and scheduled scanning.

Foget McAffee and Norton - both are memory hogging, system slowing, bloatware juggernauts and slow down your system while on in the background and not even scanning.

2. Anti-Spyware: iOBit - Inexpensive. Also has a freebie with no expiry date. No memory issues, no impact on speed. Auto updates and scheduled scanning.

Forget Windows Defender. Is memory-hogging, system-crashing bloatware and not rated all that highly against better defence software.

3. PC Maintenance Tool: iOBit - Comes with full maintenance suite and raft of tools: registry and system cleaner (very safe, does not corrupt registry), system defragger, disk checker, disc cleaner, registry defragger. Optimizes Explorer, system file checker, start-up manager, easy access to registry, to device manager, update and back-up drivers, Context menu manager, cloned file finder, shortcut fixer and more. Auto updates and scheduled maintenance. You can leave it running in background, but not necessary and uses memory as defragger works continuously then and will slow system a bit. Defrags automatically when does scheduled run, so unnecessary to keep it open. Just exit it from the system tray to shut it down.

4. AMUST-Defender 2.0 - For safe web and email browsing. Seamlesly and automatically runs whenever opening IE or email application. Switches user from Admin status to User status, to protect PC while on the net. Is free.

Only issue with AMUST is it blocks download installs which require Admin privileges to execute. Easily fixed though by either using option "Save" (not "Run") and opening the executable file manually for installation. Alternatively, can by-pass AMUST at will, by opening IE without AMUST, before download, which means not protected for that download.

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by medbiller In reply to DOWNLOAD: 10 things you s ...

When I dive into HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem, I don't see the NtfsDisableLastAccess key. I added it anyway with a value of '1' (and re-booted) but I still get the 'Last Accessed' date updated to today's date when I see the properties of files. As far as I'm concerned this date is useless and I would like to get rid of it!

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Safer ordering of items

by cquirke In reply to DOWNLOAD: 10 things you s ...

You can sort these steps in various ways, e.g. based on how slow is the PC (disabled cache being one of the slowest) or when it is slow (several causes are only in effect when connected to the Internet).

There's also "slow and stable" vs. "slow and flaky", which have chunks of stuff that don't overlap.

But IMO it's best to exclude the most dangerous items first, starting with a failing hard drive, which you should expect if the mouse pointer "sticks" and the HD activity LED is solidly on.

RAM crashes at full speed (which is why item 3 is false) but hard drives go into retry loops, as you note in 4. Don't wait for "increasing" bad sectors; just ONE is grounds enough to replace the hard drive!

Once you know the hardware's OK (HD, fans, etc.) then check the file system, then exclude malware. I would do all of those steps before attempting to run Windows at all, using boot CDRs for MemTest (RAM check), BING (partition backup) and Bart (HD disgs, data recovery and malware management platform).

Then I'd disconnect peripherals and add these back on a test-to-break basis, then do the same for startup items and non-MS services. When that's done, only then would I go online, etc.

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More things to check

by cquirke In reply to Safer ordering of items

Once you've done all of that, it may be worth looking for integrations that increase the overhead of displaying folders.

Start by clearing the desktop, so that every change to registry Classes doesn't have to force a redraw of hundreds of desktop icons. Do the same thing for "My Documents", as reportedly "too many items" can hurt there, and while you're up, hunt down and kill search and media indexers, thumbnailers, etc.

Once that's done, you can move on to shell integrations that don't show up in MSConfig, HiJackThis etc. but which can hurt shell performance.

Start by searching the registry for references to come-and-go drive letters, i.e. optical disks, USB drives, slow mapped network drives, etc. (best is to avoid mapping network shares to drive letters).

For example, you may find an icon for a file type is defined via a reference to K:\SomePlace, as a sticky side-effect of running some app from USB stick K: that populates the registry when run.

Save (as .REG) whatever you clean up - there's few things slower than a PC unavalable for days while unbootability is fixed!

Having done that, move on to Nirsoft's Shell Extension Viewer, which allows you to reversibly disable shell integrations (the things that populate right-click menus below the "cut line" or as flyouts, etc.).

I usually do this by sorting on vendor, then disabling the non-Microsoft stuff that isn't obviously things that I want. This is how I caught WinZip breaking the status line display of .ZIP file size (replacing it with a count of files within, which I find less useful).

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