First things first, some notes and disclaimers:
- The order in which I discuss the following optimizations, maintenance operations, etc. in this tutorial is not required. It is simply the order that I recommend.
- All steps in this tutorial are optional.
- I try to indicate when a particular optimization is a little more advanced, and leave it to you to decide whether you want to venture down that path.
- I will sometimes use the term “mechanical hard drive” (as opposed to an SSD, or solid state drive). If you don’t know what a solid state drive is, you probably don’t have one.
- These optimizations are intended for Windows XP up through Windows 7, though some of them will work with older versions of Windows.
- If you run into any technical issues during this tutorial (you really shouldn’t), Google is your best friend for troubleshooting them. I simply cannot cover every possible issue you may encounter on your particular computer.
- It is highly recommended that you perform a thorough backup of all important files before beginning this tutorial.
- If you follow this tutorial incorrectly, I am not liable for any damages.
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Remove Malware, Spyware, and Adware
Download it here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/security-essentials-download
Now install it, and run the Quick or Full Scan (recommended). Quarantine or remove any issues it finds.
For advanced users: I also recommend installing Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. It helps you take fighting malware to the next level.
You can download it here: http://www.malwarebytes.org/products/malwarebytes_free/
Step 2: Run Error Checking
To access the error checking utility, open up My Computer, right-click a drive icon, and select "Properties" and then “Tools". Now press “Check now” in the “Error-checking” section. The utility will then scan the drive. This process can take several minutes to complete.
I recommend running the error check periodically (every few months) on any mechanical drives that are in use regularly.
Step 3: Clean Up Unnecessary Files
Download it here: http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner/download
Once downloaded and installed, launch the application. You should be on the "Cleaner" tab. Press the "Analyze" button. After a few minutes, CCleaner will display a list of files (Temporary Internet Files, Cookies, Windows Log Files, etc.) that it can remove to free up disk space. Now press "Run Cleaner". When the cleaning is finished, close the application.
For advanced users: CCleaner also has a built-in registry cleaner (on the Registry tab), and the ability to control which applications are launched automatically when Windows is started (Tools | Startup), both of which can speed up the boot time of your computer. This is not recommended for beginners.
Step 4: Uninstall Unused Programs
Uninstall any applications that you know for sure you don’t use/need. For beginners, I recommend you play it safe. If you’re not absolutely sure what a specific program is/does, do not uninstall it. Uninstalling some programs may require a reboot.
Step 5: Disable Visual Effects
Windows XP - Right click on “My Computer”, select “Properties”, then select the “Advanced” tab. Now click the “Settings” button under the “Performance” section. In the “Performance Options” window, go to the “Visual Effects” tab, choose "Adjust for best performance", then press OK.
Windows Vista - Click the Start button, and then select “Control Panel”. Now select “System and Maintenance” and then “Performance Information and Tools”. Now click “Adjust visual effects”. Finally, click the “Visual Effects” tab, and then choose "Adjust for best performance".
Windows 7 - Click the Start button, and then select “Control Panel”. Now select “System” (or “System and Security”), and then “Advanced system settings” on the left. On the Advanced tab, click on “Settings” under the “Performance” section. Now choose “Adjust for best performance” and press OK.
Note: You can also select the "Custom" option and try turning on/off the different settings to see which visual/performance options you can live without, and which ones seem to improve your Windows experience in terms of speed and responsiveness.
Step 6: Set Energy Settings to High Performance
Step 7: Make Sure Windows Is Up to Date
As for other software applications you use regularly, you have at least two basic options:
* Some applications have a built-in feature to update themselves. If so, use this feature.
* Periodically, download and install the latest version of the application from the developer’s official website.
Step 8: Disk Defragmenter
To open the Disk Defragmenter, go to “My Computer”, right-click a drive icon, and select "Properties". On the “Tools” tab, press “Defragment now”.
The utility will then clean up fragmented files and free up some space on the drive. This process could take several hours depending on the size of the drive and number of files on the drive, so I recommend starting this process before you go to bed or plan to be away from the computer for a while.
Step 9: Consider Using Open-Source Software
Commercial Open-source alternative
Microsoft Office OpenOffice
Microsoft Outlook Thunderbird
Adobe Illustrator Inkscape
Adobe Acrobat PDFCreator
Adobe Photoshop GIMP
McAfee VirusScan ClamWin
Switching to open-source software is easy. Simply bring up Google.com in your favorite browser and search for “open source alternatives”. You will find thousands of websites that provide information about open-source alternatives as well as links to download them.
Step 10: Clean Install
If you’re open to the idea of reinstalling Windows, here is how it’s typically done:
1. Back up all of your important files (documents, images, music, etc.). This is important.
2. Insert your Windows disk (Restore CD or Full Installation disk) into the CD/DVD drive of your computer, reboot your computer, and then follow the prompts to create a new partition and install a fresh copy of Windows. If you don’t know where your Windows disk is, you should contact the person or company that sold you the computer.
3. Once Windows is installed, reinstall any additional software that you plan to use, and restore the files from your backup.
Step 11: Consider More Memory (RAM) or a Solid State Drive (SSD)
Swapping out your mechanical primary drive for an SSD (solid state drive) can also boost performance significantly because data can be read and written to your hard disk much faster.
If you decide you want to purchase more RAM or upgrade to an SSD, I recommend consulting with a PC specialist before purchasing and installing the parts. New parts need to be compatible with your computer, and installed properly.