Give Your Slow Computer a PC Tuneup

It happens to virtually every PC owner. When you first bought your computer it was lightning-fast, efficient and responsive. Then over time programs take longer to start, and downloads that used to take just seconds now take minutes. You experience mysterious freezes and irritating crashes. And gaming or watching movies - forget about it. If you're like most people, you probably blame three culprits: spyware, insufficient RAM, or your aging PC.

Are you correct? Well, yes and no. Spyware can certainly contribute to PC slowdowns, but it's rarely the sole, or even the primary cause of sluggish performance. You may have plenty of RAM for your needs, but your PC may be utilizing it inefficiently.

And as for blaming old equipment, sorry - there's no reason a PC has to run any slower than the day you bought it. So what's really causing those annoying PC slowdowns, freezes and crashes? A 2007 - 2008 sample of over 500,000 computers worldwide shows the top PC speed killers are: REGISTRY ERRORS, CLUTTER, AND FRAGMENTATION Your PC Registry contains the settings used by your Windows operating system. It stores key data, including user profiles and settings for software and hardware.

An error-free Registry is vital to your computer's ability to run efficiently. But over time, as you install and uninstall programs, printers and more, clutter and errors build up. Even after you stop using a printer or a software application, the information needed to run that driver or app remains in the Registry, creating needless obstacles during startup.

One expert user likens the process to trying to find a phone number in a chaotic address book. "Suppose you put the names, numbers and addresses of every person you've ever known in your address book. But instead of removing no-longer-current entries, you just keep adding pages and pages of new data. It would take forever to find the number you need, as you wade through huge amounts of useless, out-of-date information." In addition, as your Registry grows it become increasingly fragmented. Since every time you start your PC the Registry has to be loaded into memory from your hard drive, the more bloated and fragmented your Registry, the longer you have to wait for your PC to start HOGGING THE STARTER'S POSITION During installation many computer programs position themselves to be partially loaded every time you start your PC.

It's a smart strategy, as it makes the individual program's startup time appear much snappier than it really is. But with so many programs all trying to start at once, and vying for limited bandwidth, what happens is a bottleneck that drastically slows the boot-up process. You may actually want one or two frequently-used programs to load at startup, but there's no need to take a severe hit on your startup speed for apps you use once or twice a week, or less. BAD INTERNET SETTINGS Over 90 of PCs surveyed had hard drive problems - a PC disaster waiting to happen. Hard drive damage can prevent you from saving and retrieving data, and can indicate an impending mechanical failure that imperils all your data.

LIKE YOUR CAR, YOUR PC NEEDS A TUNE-UP If you're like most non-experts, you may be wondering how all these PC problems can be fixed without running up a "geek" bill higher than the national debt. The answer is software that's been well-known for years in PC enthusiast circles (in fact, professional PC repair services rely on it to do their job). The category is called PC tune-up,and,like any software product category, from antivirus to firewalls, it's become more affordable and much easier to use in recent years, due to the fact that the fast-growing PC market is overwhelmingly made up of non-expert users. Since most computer users today don't have the expertise for, or frankly, any interest in, highly technical, time-consuming PC repair products, this next generation of PC tune-ups lets users opt for automated repair and maintenance, including Registry repair, defragmentation, clutter removal, spyware and malware removal, and other routine tasks. While a quality tune-up product generally offers an "expert" mode option so more technical users can custom-tweak a variety of settings, the preset maintenance and tune-up options offer non-experts comprehensive care and preventative maintenance that let PCs maintain their like-new performance.

Jeri Bleeker is a writer and editor for iolo technologies, maker of System Mechanic PC Tune-up software. Ms. Bleeker has over 15 years of experience in advertising and marketing, and for the past 10 years has worked exclusively in the software and technology sector.

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