It's not your imagination. That computer you bought a few years ago really is slower. Programs take longer to open and so do Web pages. Booting your machine takes an eternity. This doesn't necessarily mean it's time for a new computer. You just need to bring it back up to speed. I'll tell you how to do just that. Links to programs and sites I mention are at www.komando.com/news.
Check for malware
Spyware, adware and viruses slow your machine. Malware shouldn't be a problem if you use up-to-date security software. Still, scan your machine for viruses and spyware and remove any problems found. If you need security software, visit my site for free programs.
Clean your hard drive
A full hard drive slows down your computer. It will take longer to access files. So, clean it up. Windows and programs you install often create temporary and setup files. Use Disk Cleanup to remove them. Access Disk Cleanup by clicking Start, then All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and Disk Cleanup.
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After the program scans your drive, you'll see a list of file categories. Clear Temporary files, Temporary Internet Files and the Recycle Bin. Make your selections and click OK. It may take a few minutes to delete the files.
Remove unwanted programs
You probably have plenty of programs that you no longer use. They're probably slowing you down.
Remove unwanted programs via Windows' Control Panel. Click Start, then Control Panel. In Windows Vista, double-click Programs and Features. In Windows XP, double-click Add or Remove Programs. Select a program to uninstall and click Uninstall in Vista. In XP, click Change/Remove. Follow the prompts.
Clean restore points
System Restore lets you roll back your Windows settings to an earlier time. It's a handy feature. But too many restore points can slow down certain processes. Clearing old restore points can speed up your PC.
Click Start, then All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and System Restore. In XP, click System Restore Settings. Select "Turn off System Restore." Click Apply and then Yes to confirm. Restart System Restore. When prompted, click Yes to re-enable System Restore.
In Vista, click "open System Protection." Deselect your Drive and confirm your choice. Click OK. Close and reopen System Restore. Click "open System Protection." Click OK. Close System Restore. Reboot your machine to create a new restore point.
Defragment your drive
Windows often splits files, storing parts in separate areas of the hard drive. This file fragmentation makes your computer work harder to access files. Overcome this problem by defragmenting the drive. Data is rearranged for more efficient access. Read and write times will improve.
Click Start, then All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and Disk Defragmenter. Select your C: drive and click Analyze. Then, click Defragment. Don't use your computer or leave programs running while using Disk Defragmenter. It will cause errors.
Check for errors
Errors may also be slowing your hard drive down. Error Checking finds and fixes them for you. It also checks the integrity of your files.
Open My Computer and right-click the C: drive. Select Properties. Click Check Now in the Error-checking section of the Tools tab. Select "Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors." Click Start. Allow Windows to fix any bad sectors that are found.
Switch to OpenDNS
You can speed up Web browsing by using a different DNS server. A DNS server helps your browser locate pages online. Your DNS requests may be going through several, distant servers. Instead, use OpenDNS.
OpenDNS sends requests to the closest server. Once you sign up for an account, you have to make a few simple changes on your machine. The service's site walks you through the process.
Clean your hardware
The outside of your computer needs to be cleaned, too. Your keyboard may be filthy, and your monitor may be covered with dust. The fan vents are magnets for dust, pet hair and other things that don't belong inside your computer.
Start by wiping down your monitor. Turn it off and unplug it from the power socket. Use a soft, lint-free cloth that is slightly damp. Avoid paper towels and window cleaners; they can scratch and cloud the display.
If you have a standard, no-frills keyboard, run it through the dishwasher. Allow it to dry completely before using. Otherwise, unplug the keyboard and wipe it down with a damp cloth. Canned air can remove debris between keys. Likewise, use canned air to clear your computer's vents.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about computers and the Internet. To get the podcast or find the station nearest you, visit: www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim's free e-mail newsletters, sign up at: www.komando.com/newsletters. Contact her at email@example.com.