Treat the cause to cure your slow PC

Many is the letter or email I've read from a PC Advisor reader in despair over how to fix a PC that used to run like (very fast) clockwork and now chugs along like an old banger on its last legs. The crucial line has often been 'even after I reinstalled Windows'.

Wiping the disk clean can certainly make all the difference to how your PC runs. It's just that, unless you truly know what you're doing and take suitable precautions beforehand, it can make things far worse. You absolutely must make comprehensive backups and get hold of essentials such as the recovery disc.

Most times, it's better to address the cause rather than the symptoms.

A sluggish system is being hindered by something, whether it's simply laden down with far too heavy a burden of assorted files, held back by the onslaught of multiple autostarting applications or having to chase files and applications from pillar to post across a multitude of drives. If Windows is juddering along but continues to operate, it probably needs an overhaul rather than a full operating system makeover.

Finding out what's at the root of the problem can be a lengthy process, but it's worth going through and tracking down the cause.

Some things are easily fixed, such as adding a touch more RAM or archiving old files to DVD. In other cases, rogue files may be clogging up the system or conflicting with different programs. At this point, a deep breath may be required before you start a systematic inventory process in which anything that can't be readily accounted for gets the old heave-ho.

It may sound like a less efficient way of fixing an uncooperative PC, but it will give you a much better idea of what's actually going on inside and should make you aware much sooner the next time things start to slide.

BOOST SPEED BY DITCHING UNWANTED STARTUPS


1. One of the most obvious problems that can slow down Windows performance is having too many programs running at the same time. try switching off applications using the System configuration utility. Go to Start, Run, and type 'msconfig'. Then hit <Enter>.


2. Many programs load at bootup and run in the background, using resources. Some conflict with other programs and not all are shown in the system tray. Fortunately, it's easy to switch them off. Once you've opened the Systems configurations utility, select Startup. Untick items to stop them launching automatically.


3. Little needs to autoload, with the obvious exception of your antivirus and firewall. Windows Task Scheduler needs SchedulingAgent to run. Check whether anything is using it under Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Scheduled Tasks. We had nothing listed. For Windows Me, you need to keep StateMgr.


4. If you turn off Microsoft Messenger by unticking 'msmsgs', it can cause problems with programs such as Outlook and Internet Explorer. Of Windows 98 and Me's autoloading apps, keep selected LoadPowerProfile, SystemTray, ScanRegistry, PCHealth and TaskMonitor (include both instances of the former if it's present).


5. Consult the Startup tab's Command column to work out what application put an entry in your Startup list -- many will be stored in the parent folder for the program they relate to. Search engines can help you track down such information. If Windows gives you trouble, consider disabling such a program -- at least temporarily.


6. Some programs may continue to autoload even after you've specified they shouldn't. This is because the autoloading program sees what you've done and 'corrects' your mistake. In this case, launch the application and explore its menus, looking for a 'load at startup' option. When you find it, deselect it.


TIPS & TRICKS

RESTORATION JOB

Cleaning out the Registry can make a material difference. First, it's vital you back it up. Go to Start-All Programs-Accessories-System Restore in Windows Me and XP and create a Restore Point. To back up the Windows 98 Registry, select Start-Run and type scanreg and press <Enter>.

Once no more errors come up, click Yes and then OK. Windows 2000 offers no reliable way to back up your Registry, so you have to use third party software. Try the free Emergency Recovery Utility NT at www.larshederer.homepage.t-online.de/erunt


HELPFUL DOWNLOADS

VIEW WINDOWS 2000 STARTUPS Windows 2000 does not have a built-in tool to see what loads when your machine is waking up. Grab a copy of Startup Control Panel (www.mlin.net/StartupCPL.shtml) to fi nd out what's going on when your Windows 2000 PC boots.

PART OF THE PROCESS Users of PCs running all versions of Windows will find it helpful to consult the repository - the WinTasks Process Library - when foxed by an unknown autostart application. This is a great resource for anyone who wants to know the purpose of every process (www.liutilities.com/products/wintaskspro/processlibrary).

FERRET OUT SPYWARE You need to regularly scan for spyware. No single app does a perfect job but Lavasoft's Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy are effective. Get the latest updates before you scan your PC. At SpywareGuide you'll find information on more than 800 spyware programs, too (www.spywareguide.com).


Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Rosemary Haworth

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?