Route Traffic Intelligently
Online games, streaming-media programs, Internet phone services, and peer-to-peer applications such as BitTorrent consume a lot of network bandwidth due to the massive amounts data they transmit. To reduce the amount of strain such apps put on your router and to improve your overall network performance, manage them more efficiently with your router's port-forwarding feature.
Log in to your router's configuration screen. Search for an option that lets you specify port forwarding; it will be labeled slightly differently from one router to another. Once you've found it, type in your system's internal IP address (usually in the form of 192.*.*.*), and then input the preferred port found in your application's configuration screen (for instance, in Skype it's located under Tools, Options, Advanced, Connection). Pick both TCP and UDP protocols for forwarding, and save your settings.
To see if your chosen port actually has a clear tunnel through your network to the Internet, fire up the application and visit CanYouSeeMe.org. Input your port number and click the Check button--if you get a 'success' response, you're all set.
Choose a Fast Hard Drive
Though we live in an age of cheap, readily available storage, the sheer number of choices available can make selecting the right drive a tricky proposition. But choosing a fast drive--whether internal or external--can have a massive impact on your PC's performance, as well as on that of your network. Here are some things to consider when selecting a new drive.
Decide Between Internal and External
The big advantage to external storage is obvious: You can hide it for safekeeping or take it with you on the road. Most home users choose external storage for backups. With an external drive, though, you'll probably sacrifice speed. External attachment technologies such as USB, FireWire 400/800, and ethernet are slower than the connections for internal storage; only eSATA can match the data-transfer speeds of internal drives. If you're faced with a choice and you want maximum compatibility, choose USB. A much better option is a triple- or quad-interface box (USB/FireWire 400/eSATA, or USB/FireWire 400-800/eSATA) that allows you the fastest possible connection under any circumstance.
Use Fast Connections
For internal storage, SATA connections are the best, fastest choice--and these days, SATA is most likely the primary (or only) drive connector in your PC. Drives with the older PATA connector are still available in up to 750GB capacities, so you can replace the PATA drive in an older system. If your older system has a SATA bus, however, use it instead.
SATA drives also have the unique ability to work externally, in eSATA enclosures. eSATA is far speedier than USB or FireWire, though your PC may require an add-on card to support this type of connector.
Examine Drive Specs
Outside of a laptop or netbook, it's rare these days to find a drive that runs at less than 7200 rpm; you shouldn't even consider anything slower for a desktop PC. Windows performance will improve noticeably as the speed of the hard drive increases.
You'll find 10,000-rpm and 15,000-rpm hard drives, but they carry a premium, and you might not notice much of a performance gain. Unless you have an eSATA connection, don't bother with such drives for external use--slower buses would merely throttle the drive's speed, negating any potential for extra performance.
The amount of cache on a drive affects performance, as well, but not usually significantly. You'll also see some ecofriendly drives with as much as 32GB of cache, and high-performance drives with only 8MB. Be sure to get 8MB or more; beyond that, however, don't worry about it.