Improve Your PC Performance
Is your computer failing to keep pace with you? Read on to get some solutions...
TIPS TO SPEED UP YOUR PC
When your computer writes and re-writes files to the hard drive, you add and remove programs, and the operating system updates and replaces core system files, degradation of your Microsoft Windows occurs. If your computer is showing signs of age and not performing as well as it once was, you can attempt many “home remedies” before calling in a professional. In this, the first of a multi-part article, we will discuss those options along with how and when to implement them.
NOTE: if your computer has one of the newer SSD (Solid State Drives), or Hybrid Hard Drives, then you SHOULD NOT follow any of these procedures. We wrote this article with moving platter hard drives such as IDE and SATA, and if you have a newer SSD/Hybrid drive please be aware of the potential damage to your hardware that can occur by following any of the advice below.
First a little history (and this is a VERY basic description for the everyday user, not for the hard-core tech people). Hard drives store their data on small round platters (or discs) using a magnetic format. Everything is converted to binary (1’s and 0’s) and then stored as either “on” or “off” and by changing the magnetic state, the switch is flipped accordingly. Assume you have some files already on your hard drive and they take up 20 “spaces” of storage on the drive. When you delete that file, you free up those 20 spaces and the drive knows it is available for use. You then create a new file that is 15 spaces large and store it. It uses this newly acquired space to store this file and now you have five spaces free.
If you were then to create another file that required eight spaces to store, the drive would use the five remaining from the deleted file space for part of the file, and store the rest in another location. When you then go to retrieve that file, the drive locates the first portion of it, and when it reaches the end of what is stored there, it will discover that more is located at a different spot on the drive so it then seeks that portion out and retrieves it. Think of this similar to reading a newspaper, the article begins on the front page and continues elsewhere in the paper. You read as far as you can, then have to go to another page for the remainder of the article. This causes you to take a longer time to read this article than another (of the same length) that is contained all on a single page.
Defragmenting takes all these “pieces” and places them all back together so the drive only needs to find the start of the file and then read the entire item in one location, thus speeding up your overall performance. Some of the defragmenting tools have an intelligent interface that monitors your activity and places the files your computer accesses most often, closer to the start of the hard drive to allow faster access to those files, and again, faster overall system performance.
How often you defragment your computer is a complex question to answer, because of the numerous factors involved, so no single response will apply to everyone. Typically we recommend that if you only use your computer occasionally, maybe on average an hour daily, then you probably only need to defragment once a month (or possibly even less). As your average daily computer usage increases, so should the frequency of your defragmenting. Unless you are a severe power user, we do not recommend defragmenting more than about once a week as it will add some additional wear and tear, and could possibly decrease the life expectancy for the drive.
Below are a few defragmenting tools for your consideration.
– built into EVERY version of Windows is a defragmenting application. You will typically find it under Start – All Programs – Accessories – System Tools – Disk Defragmenter. If you have the option to schedule your defragmentation sessions, we highly recommend you do so, and just set a reminder for yourself to leave your computer running, if you typically turn it off (but that is a discussion for another article) on the day the defragmentation is scheduled for. If you are manually running through a scan, this program is as simple as using the Analyze Disk button, followed by the Defragment Disk button and letting the application do its thing.
– http://piriform.com/defraggler. This tool works very similar to the built in defrag tool, however, it also adds the ability to defragment specific individual files or folders. It is a little less resource intensive (meaning you won’t notice it running as much as you would Windows Defrag, but if you are running this while you are sleeping this isn’t much of an issue for you). It also has a “Quick Defrag” option that allows a fast checkup and cleanup, if you need to keep working, but realize you have not defragmented in a while. It also defragments the free or empty space of your drive, which helps to minimize future fragmentation from occurring. Overall, we highly recommend Defraggler, and the best part? It is FREE! (Of course, if you visit the Piriform website, they are more than happy to accept donations).
The following two options have very strong followings, and have their place in larger business environments, however, for the typical home user we are not able to recommend them, though we are including them in this article to allow you to research them for yourself and decide if you feel they add value above and beyond the free options listed above.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. We hope you found some value to help you maintain your computer in an improved functioning state. If you have any questions, please send them our way via our help desk.
Posted: 2013-01-21 19:45:36