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Improving the Performance of Your System. Grant Fleming Lake Monticello Computer Users Group January 10 th, 2008. What We’ll Cover…. Clean Ups and Updates Performance Tuning (Tune Ups) Upgrades Reinstalls Utilities. Getting Started - Clean Ups and Updates.

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improving the performance of your system

Improving the Performance of Your System

Grant Fleming

Lake Monticello Computer Users Group January 10th, 2008

what we ll cover
What We’ll Cover…
  • Clean Ups and Updates
  • Performance Tuning (Tune Ups)
  • Upgrades
  • Reinstalls
  • Utilities
getting started clean ups and updates
Getting Started - Clean Ups and Updates

Always start with a clean and stable system.


  • Update your Anti-Virus Software and scan the machine thoroughly.
  • Use a secondary Anti-Virus check like Trend Micro’s FREE Online Housecall.
  • DO NOT install more than one Anti-Virus program on your machine. They can conflict with each other and severely impact your systems performance and stability.

clean ups and updates cont
Clean Ups and Updates (cont.)

Windows Updates

  • Windows Update is a web-based software update service for downloading critical system updates, security fixes, patches, drivers and service packs.
  • In Most Cases, using Automatic Updates is recommended.
  • Make Sure to install the latest Service Packs
  • Install Critical Updates.
  • Check other updates and for patches, etc for other products like Microsoft Office

clean ups and updates cont5
Clean Ups and Updates (cont.)

Driver Updates

  • Windows Update may provide new drivers for your hardware.
  • If you have a PC produced by a major manufacturer (HP, Dell, etc) you can often find updated drivers and patches on their website.
  • The best source for the latest drivers is the website of the actual manufacturer. You’ll need to know the exact device and model you are upgrading, but these latest “cutting edge” patches can resolve many issues. (


clean ups and updates cont6
Clean Ups and Updates (cont.)

Malware and Spyware

  • Update your Anti-Spyware/Malware Software and scan the machine at least twice. Make sure you get no results at least twice before considering the machine clean.
  • It is a good practice to use more than one kind of Anti-Spyware/Malware product. They do not conflict the way Anti-Virus products do.


Windows Defender:


clean ups and updates cont7
Clean Ups and Updates (cont.)

Increase Free Disk Space

Unnecessary data files and programs waste space and reduce performance.

The most common ways of increasing free disk space are:

  • Run the Disk Cleanup utility.

In XP, click start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup, and select a drive to clean. Disk Cleanup will show a list of of files that can be deleted. The More Options tab offers you several more cleanup choices. The System Restore cleanup option, in particular, can clear lots of disk space by erasing old restore points. In Vista, you can just type Disk Cleanup in the search window and it will locate the application for you.

  • Reduce the Recycle Bin size

The default Recycle Bin size is 10% of hard drive capacity, a waste of space that should be reduced. To adjust the Maximum Recycle Bin Size, right-click the Recycle Bin, click Properties, and set the Maximum size of Recycle Bin (percent of drive). One or two percent is adequate on larger drives.

  • You may also want to look at your System Restore and (on laptops) Hibernation settings.
clean ups and updates cont8
Clean Ups and Updates (cont.)

Remove Unwanted Software and Programs

Whether it’s the result of malware, forgetting to uncheck a box when installing an application, trying out applications, or bundled packages, all kinds of programs get installed on your system – and often there are many that are unneeded or even unwanted.

  • In XP, go to your Control Panel and select Add/Remove Programs. XP will analyze your files and show a list of which ones can be removed. Check the boxes next to the categories you want to discard.
  • In Vista, go to the Control Panel and select Programs and Features.

BE CAREFUL – Only remove software you do not need or want.

IF YOU ARE NOT SURE - Look up the program online or ask someone for help and advice.

clean ups and updates cont9
Clean Ups and Updates (cont.)

Disk Defragmenation

  • Run Defrag. Files are are divided into smaller units on the hard drive that can become scattered through normal use. This file fragmentation can increase the time required to read and write drive data.

Close all running applications, disable any screen saver and click start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. Select the drive to defragment and click Defragment.

You may need to run Defrag more than once to get optimal results. In many cases, the best idea is to set Defrag to run as a scheduled task. Microsoft describes how to automate the process here:;en-us;555098

completing clean ups and updates
Completing Clean Ups and Updates

At this point, your machine should be clean, updated and already running better.

Consider making a backup or creating a restore point. Then you can begin tuning and tweaking for greater performance.

performance tuning
Performance Tuning

Getting the most out of your system

This is one of the more complicated aspects of working on your computer and it takes a lot of study and knowledge to excel at this. There are many books and websites devoted to the subject matter and what is presented here, is simply a basic introduction.

This is often the IT Pro’s favorite part of a System Tuning and all have their own tips, tricks and preferred methods…

performance tuning cont
Performance Tuning (cont.)

Eliminate Unnecessary Startup Applications

  • Unnecessary startup applications can reduce system performance and stability. Common offenders include: Adobe Gamma Loader, Fast Find, Office Startup, qttask (Quicktime), System Agent, Real Player, and AOL.
  • The number of icons in the Notification Area and the number of processes in the status line of the Windows Task Manager (Ctrl+Alt+Del) are good measures of the number of startup applications. Typically you should have less than 8 icons and process count less than 50 – but the bottom line is to


performance tuning cont13
Performance Tuning (cont.)

Ways to Disable Background Applications:

  • Go to Start > All Programs > Startup, and delete unnecessary application shortcuts.
  • Watch and evaluate each application in the Notification Area. Unnecessary applications should be removed or disabled. You may be able to right click on the icon to disable “launch on startup” or “run in System Tray”. Additionally, you may be able to prevent the application from running at startup by reviewing it’s properties or options and selecting the appropriate settings there.
  • Check the information in the System Configuration Utility. To access it, click Start > Run and type msconfig. Select the Startup tab and uncheck unnecessary Startup Items.
performance tuning cont14
Performance Tuning (cont.)

Eliminate Unnecessary Windows Services

Windows comes with a number of services enabled by default that many consider superfluous. Unnecessary services can reduce system performance, compromise security and consume memory.

Microsoft’s Services Guide for XP (and Server 2003) is here:

The Microsoft Whitepaper on Vista Services can be downloaded here:

A good Guide for handling services in Microsoft Vista can be found here:

performance tuning cont15
Performance Tuning (cont.)

These service startup types are acceptable for most systems:

  • Alerter - Disabled
  • Clipbook - Disabled
  • Computer Browser - Disabled if not networked
  • Distributed Link Tracking Client - Disabled
  • Error Reporting - Disabled
  • Fast User Switching - Manual / Disabled on single user system
  • IPSEC Services - Manual
  • Messenger - Disabled
  • Netmeeting Remote Desktop Sharing - Disabled
  • Network DDE - Disabled
  • Network DDE DSDM - Disabledd
  • Portable Media Serial Number - Manual / Disabled if DRM music devices are not used
  • Remote Desktop Help Session Manager -Manual / Disabled if RDP is never used
  • Remote Registry - Disabled
  • Routing and Remote Access - Disabled
  • Secondary Logon - Manual
  • SSDP Discovery Service - Disabled
  • TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper - Disabled if not networked
  • Telnet (xp pro) - Disabled
  • Terminal Services - Manual / Disabled on single user system
  • Uninterruptible Power Supply - Manual if no UPS
  • Upload Manager - Disabled
  • Wireless Zero Configuration - Disabled if a third-party wireless client manager is used

To change the startup type, open the Services console, start > Run… > Open: services.msc. If Started, stop, then modify the Startup Type of these services by double clicking the service, and selecting the desired Startup Type from the drop-down menu on the General tab.

performance tuning cont16
Performance Tuning (cont.)

Consider Disabling the Indexing Service

The Indexing Service creates a catalog of the contents and properties of documents on local and shared network drives. The service, Cidaemon.exe, usually generates a susbstantial increase in CPU utilization, disk read activity, and swap file use.

  • To disable the service, open the Administrative Tools Control Panel Applet, select Computer Management, expand the Services and Applications list, right click Indexing Service, select All Tasks > Tune Performance, and select Never Used to disable the service on all drives.
  • Indexing can be disabled on individual drives by unchecking the Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast drive searching checkbox on the General tab of the drive properties window.
performance tuning cont17
Performance Tuning (cont.)

Adjust Visual Effects settings

Windows provides several options to set visual effects including enabling all settings (for best appearance), or none of the settings (for best computer performance). The effects settings can be customized to improve performance while retaining the more helpful effects.

In XP, to improve system performance, click start > Control Panel > System > Advanced tab, click Settings in the Performance section, select the Visual Effects tab, click Custom: and uncheck:

  • Animate windows when minimizing or maximizing
  • Fade or slide menus into view
  • Fade or slide ToolTips into view
  • Fade out menu items after clicking
  • Show window contents while dragging
  • Slide open combo boxes
  • Slide taskbar buttons
  • Smooth-scroll list boxes

In Vista, click Start > Control Panel > System then select Advanced System Settings and then Performance.


Adding New and Improved Hardware

Sometimes simply cleaning and tuning your system still does not provide you with the performance you want. You may actually need to improve the hardware of the computer to run the applications you need or to have the speed you desire.

  • Upgrades can vary in complexity and cost, but are usually a less expensive and less involved process than purchasing a new system (including transferring all your data, configurations, settings, etc).
  • What you can upgrade depends on the system you have. While some computers from large manufacturers are “proprietary” almost all have some upgrade path. Whitebox or generic systems are usually completely upgradable.
upgrades cont
Upgrades (cont.)

Things You May Be Able To Upgrade:

  • RAM (Memory) – A very simple upgrade and by far the best “bang for the buck”. Applications and operating systems constantly demand more and more memory. Adding RAM to your system can quickly, easily and inexpensively make dramatic improvement to your system performance.
  • Hard Drive – If you are running out of drive space and cannot clear enough room, this is a very good idea. Most drives are not very expensive and adding a new one not only will provide a performance boost, but will also make it less likely you’ll face a drive crash and potential loss of data. Remember – drives fail eventually. If yours is old, make sure you have good backups. It is fairly easy to install a new drive. I prefer not to install new drives as slaves (or secondary drives) – I would rather have the operating system and my critical data on the newer, faster drive. A good idea is to install your old drive into an external USB case and use it for backups, etc.
  • Video Card – Newer games and OSes (Vista!) are becoming incredibly demanding on the Video Card. In particular, if your system comes with a video card installed on the motherboard, adding a new video card will frequently offer a tremendous boost to video performance. This can be a slightly more involved upgrade (make sure your system autodetects the new card, that you have uninstalled the old card and its drivers, etc) and the expense can be from moderate to extremely expensive depending on the card you purchase.
  • Sound Card – Many new games and audio applications add new features such as Dolby 7.1 Surround, etc. Newer audio cards offer better performance and capabilities to enhance your experience. The upgrade is fairly easy and cost is usually low to moderate.
  • Motherboard/Processor – The biggest and most complicated upgrade…close to getting a new system. You should only attempt this if you are certain your other components are worth retaining/upgrading, that your system (and power supply) and it’s components (particularly RAM) can support the upgrade and that it is cost effective. This can provide a bigger boost to performance than anything else, but should not be attempted without the appropriate knowledge and skill. Costs vary.

Additional or improved hardware such as a newer modem, faster network card, additional or faster optical (CD/DVD) drive, etc can also to many systems.


When All Else Fails…

If cleaning, tuning and upgrading your system do not provide you with adequate performance, you have one last resort before deciding to purchase a newer and more powerful computer.

Reinstalling the system sets the OS (and perhaps any bundled applications) back to the factory settings. There are many methods of doing this which all have different effects and impacts.

You should only make a backup before doing a reinstall IF YOU EVER WANT TO SEE YOUR DATA AGAIN.

Think you have a good backup? Test it to be sure – IF YOU EVER WANT TO SEE YOUR DATA AGAIN.

While in some circumstances this can be time consuming or tricky, it is a good practice.

I tend to do a complete reinstall about once a year.


Types of Reinstalls

  • A Restore Point - a saved "snapshot" of a computer's data at a specific time. Restore points are a component of the Windows System Restore utility. By creating a restore point, you can save the state of the operating system and your own data so that if future changes cause a problem, you can restore the system and your data to the way it was before the changes were made. It's a good idea to create a restore point before you make any changes to your computer that could potentially cause problems or make the system unstable. When you run the System Restore utility, it displays a calendar that lists the restore points created (every day that your computer is used will have at least one restore point and some may have several, depending on usage).
  • To create or choose a restore point in Windows XP, select Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore. From the System Restore window you can select Restore my computer to an earlier time or Create a restore point. If you choose the first option, you will be able to select a restore point that is already stored in your computer. If you choose the second option, you will be asked to give the restore point a descriptive name to help you identify it, and the utility will back up all the data and save it with the restore point's name, and the time it was created. Then, if need be, you can select this restore point in the future by following the same route, and choosing the option to restore your computer to an earlier time.
reinstalls cont
Reinstalls (cont.)

Types of Reinstalls

  • Restore Disk or Partition – Provided by the manufacturer and shipped with the system. Can completely reformat and restore or do a limited restore. May or may not remove data – check your Documentation. This is a fast and (usually) very simple method.
  • Ghost/Mirror Image – Created with 3rd party software. Resets the machine to the exact condition it was in at the time the image was created. All other data is lost. This method is frequently used on corporate PC systems – particularly when there are many of the same type of computer in the organization. Fast and powerful – but requires software and the time and knowledge to create the image.
  • Clean Install – The hardest, most time consuming and involved method – gather required OS media, application CDs or disks, any downloaded software, notes and settings and format then completely reinstall the system from scratch. Why would you do this? To set it up EXACTLY how you want it and create an image/backup/restore point so that you can get back to this “baseline” any time in future. I do this whenever I buy a new computer.


  • Sysinternals Process Explorer lets youfind out what files, registry keys and other objects processes have open, which DLLs they have loaded, and more. This uniquely powerful utility will even show you who owns each process.
  • Sysinternals Process Monitor allows you to monitor file system, Registry, process, thread and DLL activity in real-time.
  • Sysinternals Page Defrag can be used to defragment several additional system files that are not processed by Disk Defragmenter (particularly the Page File). This can significantly improve performance.
  • Sysinternals Autoruns utility lets you see what programs are configured to startup automatically when your system boots and you login. Autoruns also shows you the full list of Registry and file locations where applications can configure auto-start settings.


  • CCleaner is a freeware system optimization and privacy tool that is quick, powerful and easy to use. It removes unused files from your system - allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. But the best part is that it's fast (normally taking less than a second to run) and contains NO Spyware or Adware.