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10 Easy Steps to Speed Up Your Computer - Without Upgrading
By  Jim Shutes | Published  06/23/2005 | Software | Rating:

10 Easy Steps to Speed Up Your Computer Without Upgrading

By Jim Shutes

It seems that the longer you own your computer, the slower it gets! A lot of people will keep their computer until it gets so slow that they feel they need a newer, faster model. Some feel like the reason it is getting slower is because it is getting older, when that is just not the case. Your computer should run just as fast as the day you brought it home – if you follow these 10 Easy Steps to Speed Up Your Computer.

1. Empty the Temp directory regularly. Every time you launch a program, it creates a temporary file, until you either save or close the file. The reason it does this is in case your system crashes or gets turned off (before saving the file), it will be possible to recover the unsaved file you were working on. This is a good idea, but rarely works. Every time your system crashes, locks up, or gets turned off while you have open files, these temp files get created and just sit there in the Temp directory. Then, every time you launch a program, it looks through all of the temp files (to see if one needs to be recovered) and slows the open process, and in some rare cases, even locks up when trying to launch. In any event, the launch process is slowed.

Other ways of getting unneeded temp files is by installing programs. Most programs that get installed extract temp files (needed during the installation) to the temp directory, but a lot of times don’t get deleted when the installation is complete.

Windows also uses the temp directory for its temp files, for recovery purposes and ongoing use.

After a short while, the temp directory fills up with hundreds (and I have even seen thousands) of temp files that always get scanned over when Windows starts up and when programs launch. This slows everything down immensely.

Rule of thumb for Temp Files: If you don’t have any programs open (and nothing minimized in the bar below), then you shouldn’t have ANY temp files in your temp directory. If you do, delete them.

To delete Temp files, make sure NO programs are open, and…

a. In Windows 95, 98 or Me, go to C:WindowsTemp and delete everything inside the Temp folder.

b. In Windows 2000 or XP, it is a little trickier. First, make sure that you can see hidden folders. Double-click My Computer. Click on the Tools pull-down menu, and then on Folder Options. Click on the View tab. Scroll down and click on Show Hidden Files and Folders. Click Ok. Now you can go to the C:Documents and SettingsAdministratorLocal SettingsTemp folder. Delete everything here. Also, look in the C:Windows(or Winnt)Temp or Tmp folders. Delete everything here, as well.

Note: this assumes that your logon ID is Administrator. If the main account is not Administrator, or if there are more than one account, substitute “Administrator” for the account names, and delete the temp files from all of the C:Documents and Settings(account name)Local SettingsTemp folders.

2. Empty the Temporary Internet Files regularly. This is similar to the Temp directory, but for images and cookies while browsing websites. Every time you go to a website, your browser will look through your list of temporary Internet files, to see if you have all of the images needed to view your requested web page. If it is a very long list, it will delay your view time. However, if you have a dial-up, this is the lesser of two evils. If you already have the needed images, it is quicker (for a dial-up) to look through your temporary Internet files, than to download new images every time you visit a website.

On the other hand, if you have a broadband Internet connection (highspeed CableModem, DSL, Wireless, etc.), and you want a little more snap in your surfing, then you should delete your Temporary Internet Files on a regular basis, and choose to Check for Newer Images on Every Visit to a web page.

To empty Temporary Internet Files, go to your Control Panel, by click on the StartSettingsControl Panel (or in Windows XP, just StartControl Panel) and double-click the Internet Options icon. Choose to Delete Cookies, and to Delete Files. This will clear all of your Temporary Internet Files.

To have Internet Explorer always check for new images and content on every visit to a web page, to the right of the Delete Files button, is the Settings button. Click this button and choose Every Visit to the Web Page. This option never has Internet Explorer look through your Temporary Internet Files to see if you already have the images needed. This way, Internet Explorer will just automatically download every image, every time, without looking through a list. If you have a good Internet connection, this is the better way to go. Don’t forget to delete your Temporary Internet Files every once in a while (see above).

3. Check your hard disks for problems. There are two different types of disk checks: one is a file check, which checks the state of your operating system, checks all of your files, your file structure, and other software checks. If there are software problems (such as a corrupt FAT (file allocation table), etc., this check will attempt to fix it. The other is a physical hardware disk check. This checks the surface of your hard disks, to see if there are bad sectors (sections) of your hard drive, to see if your drive is physically experiencing problems. This disk check will attempt to repair the bad sectors, but if it can’t, it will mark the sector as bad and attempt to move the file(s) or file “pieces” to a good sector(s) of the disk. By marking the sector as bad, it knows not to write any future files to this section of the hard drive.

To run a disk check (or scan disk), here are the steps:

a. For Windows 95, 98, or Me, double-click My Computer. Right-click the C-drive and click on Properties. Click on the Tools tab and choose to check the computer for problems. If you choose to do a Thorough Scan, this will do the hardware check for physical disk damage or sector damage. Otherwise, the Standard Scan does the software file check. In either case, you can choose to have the scan automatically fix any errors it finds. The Thorough Scan does take quite a bit longer. You may want to let this run over night. Only do the Thorough Scan when you think there may be a problem with your drive itself, or if you haven’t run it in a few months, otherwise, run the Standard Scan once a week or so.

b. For Windows 2000 and XP, double-click My Computer. Right-click the C-drive and click Properties. Click on the Tools tab and choose to check the computer for problems. Click on Check Now. You will then have two check boxes. The top option is for the file check, and the second option is for the hardware (physical disk) check. Check either one, or both. At least check the top one. Again, if you think you may be having problems with the hard disk itself, then check the second one, as well. And just like the Windows 98 Thorough Scan, this will take quite a bit longer to run, so let it run over night. One thing, though: For Windows 2000 and XP, you won’t be able to run the check right then. After clicking the Start button (once the check boxes are checked), you will need to reboot to run the disk check. It will ask you if you want the system to run the CHKDSK on reboot. Choose Yes and reboot. Just before getting back into Windows, the system will do its CHKDSK, and depending on which options you chose, will take either a few minutes, and sometimes up to an hour or so, to run. Let it run.

4. An even more thorough disk check (and tune-up), would be to use a 3rd party utility (a stand-alone program outside of Windows) to check everything for you, automatically. One of my favorites is TuneUp Utilities 2004. It costs $39.99, but they do offer a FREE download trial of 15 days, to check it out to see if it speeds up your computer and/or fixes any problems. This program does a really good job of not only checking your computer’s file structure, master boot record, file allocation table, and files, but also an extremely good job of detecting and fixing bad sectors of your physical disk drives. And not only that, it also tunes up your system for increased speed, checks and cleans your registry, adjusts memory for you, tweaks your Internet settings for faster downloads and browsing (whether you use a dial-up or broadband), and streamlines your operating system for peak performance. I highly recommend this program. If you don’t have it, you can download it HERE.

5. If you don’t want to get the TuneUp Utilities 2004, you can do a few of the performance tweaks yourself, if you have Windows XP. By default, EVERYTHING is turned on in Windows XP. It isn’t very streamlined for performance, but rather for appearance. You can turn off a few of the unnecessary features, and Windows will still work just fine, and maybe a little faster.

To do this, right-click on My Computer and click on Properties. Click on the Advanced tab. Under the Performance section, click on the Settings button. On the Visual Effects tab, you will see a list of check boxes. By default, these are all on. You really don’t need any of them. If you choose one of the radio buttons at the top, say, Adjust for Best Performance, then all of the check boxes will turn off. This will noticeably speed up your computer. You can go through the check boxes one by one, and determine which ones you can and can’t live without. The one that will make the biggest effect is the very last one in the list. This is the Themes. If you turn it off, it will free up a lot of system resources and give you quite a bit more memory to work with, but Windows XP will look more like Windows 2000. For most people, this isn’t a problem. It is all eye-candy, anyway. Your pretty green pasture picture will disappear; your pretty green and blue buttons and task bar will go to a gray. If you can live with these things, then you will have much more performance. You will find that menus open up much more quickly and everything responds more immediately.


Jim Shutes
I have worked in the IT field since 1989 and hold several Microsoft certifications. I am a network administrator and owner and operator of Lapeer Tech Group located in Columbiaville Michigan (just outside of Lapeer). During these years I have supported both Macs and PCs am an accomplished graphic and web designer and have had the opportunity to support 2nd and 3rd level enterprise networks for GM EDS Delphi and Delco. 

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