The Windows Speed Up Guide – Part 2

As discussed in Part 1, there is no question that your PC using the Windows OS will slow down over time. Part 1 covered steps to reduce uninstall “bloatware” and other programs you are no longer using, and clean up your registry. In addition we reminded you of the need to ensure your system is not infected with malwarespyware or viruses. In The Windows Speed Up Guide Part 2, we will examine a few other simple steps you can take to speed up and maintain your PC.

Step 1: Limit Disk Fragmentation ( Rotational Drives Only)

NOTE:  Do not perform disk fragmentation on SSD Drives. SSD Drives are designed to scatter the data to maximize SSD life. Disk fragmentation causes no speed degradation, but rather serves to increase the life of your SSD Drive. If you have an SSD drive here are a few other HotPCTips for your SSD drive.

In a perfect world, when writing to a rotational hard disk, each file is written in one contiguous area, with no free space in front of or behind the data being written. As it becomes necessary, your hard drive break up the data being written, into chunks that can not be read in one pass. As the drive fills up, this becomes more common and will ultimately degrade, or slows the time it takes your hard drive to perform read and writes.

Hot PC Tips - DefragmentationThis extra time is very small, but since reading and writing data to your hard drive is usually the speed limiting step on your computer, it is worth your time and effort to defragment your hard drive periodically to minimize this time delay.

To correct this, you can use the windows defragmentation software built into windows, or purchase a 3rd party defragmentation software package. My favorite software for this purpose is the PerfectDisk software by Raxco. If you prefer you can use the Windows built in defragmentation utility. This utility will do a good job for you.

You will find the Windows Disk Defragmenter utility under the Accessories, System folder or simply search for it using Windows search. Once you have the utility running, simply select the drive you wish to defragment and click on the Defragment disk button.

While here, you may want to turn on the scheduling feature to automatically defragment your hard drive on a regular basis. Weekly is usually sufficient to ensure you drive is running at peak performance from a fragmentation standpoint.

Step 2: Set Virtual Memory to a Static Value

Within reason, you should limit the number of programs that are running simultaneously on your PC. When your PC’s runs out of Random Access Memory (RAM),  the Virtual Memory Manager (VMM) scans the RAM for sections that are not in use and writes them to a swap file on the hard disk.

You can adjust these settings by accessing the the Virtual Memory Manager.  Launch the ‘Advanced System Settings’, Click on the Advanced tab and then again on ‘Settings’.

Hot PC Tips - Advanced System Settings

Once the Performance Options dialog is open, click the Advanced tab and then the Change button in the Virtual Memory portion of the Performance Options.

Hot PC Tips - VMM

There are two basic options to improve your systems use of the Virtual Memory Manager and the paging swap file:

  1. BEST: Install adequate memory so that you can turn off the paging file altogether. If you have 16 GB or more of system ram you can turn off the paging file and force the system to manage all the running programs within hardware RAM.
  2. GOOD: Set a large enough paging file for all your needs, which will set it to be a fixed size. The Virtual Memory Manager Utility will guide you through this process. In this way, the entire paging file will be stored in one continuous file and will never be subject to fragmentation.

NOTE: Step 2 above assumes that you have adequate space on your hard drive. If you do not, you should strongly consider installing a larger hard drive so that you can follow Step 2 above.

Step 3: Hardware Issues

This is a difficult topic to address since there are many hardware issues that can affect system performance. There are two quick and easy areas you should examine:

1: Overheating

Most computers use one or more fans to maintain air flow to keep hardware components such as the CPU (Central Processing Unit), power supply, and graphics chips or card from overheating. Your computer performance can decrease significantly if your processor is overheating. Many CPU’s will throttle the processor clock speed to force the CPU to run at a slower clock speed to ensure it does not overheat. Many CPU’s will shut down completely if they over heat to prevent damage.

Three steps you can take to improve the cooling of your system:

1: Remove the cover of your computer and blow out all dust that may have accumulated on the CPU Fins and on all other components, including the power supply. Excessive dust will prevent the fans from cooling your computer components as the manufacture has intended. Excess heat will reduce the life of your computer and as noted above, will eventually result in throttling.

2: You may want to consider installing additional cooling fans. Most desktop PC’s will have the ability to install and utilize additional cooling fans. These can be purchased on line, or at your favorite computer store

3: Modify the location of your computer to ensure an adequate supply of air can cool your system. Try not to locate your computer in a closed cabinet without an adequate supply of outside cool air.

2: Graphics Card

Inexpensive graphics cards or graphic chips on the mother board are designed to use shared system memory (RAM). This means that rather than use their own memory they ‘share memory’ with your system. To avoid this, install a dedicated graphics card with ‘dedicated memory’. The amount of memory your graphics card needs will vary widely depending on how you use your system, including the resolution of your monitor(s). For the average home user,  512K is usually sufficient. If you are a gamer, you may want to install a high end graphics card with 2 GB or more of dedicated memory.

With just a little effort, you can maximize and maintain the performance of your PC.  Click here for part 1