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Some Windows Tips
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TOPIC: Some Windows Tips
Miss Kagura
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Some Windows Tips 7 Years, 7 Months ago Karma: 51
A lot of users come to me with questions about their internet or computer problems, and most come down to just a few things. Someone asked me to post some tips, so here they are.

As a warning, my education and profession have nothing to do with computer maintenance. I also have no experience with Windows 7.

1. Don't install crap

This is a big one. People think, 'Oh that sounds so cool!' Some of the biggest culprits come packaged in a way that make you think that you're getting something good when it's really just going to screw your computer up bigtime. Applications like SmileyCentral are at the top of the list. Just...don't. Ask yourself if you REALLY need a program, and ask if you're getting something from a reputable source. Most people ultimately use their computers to browse, use office or creative applications, and instant messaging. Before you add something to your system, ask yourself it you really need it.

2. Use the right browser for you
In days of old (aka last year and prior to that), Internet Explorer was awful. From a design standpoint, Internet Explorer 6 is a nightmare. From a security standpoint, it really is. If you want to use IE, then go for the latest version. If you're stuck on an old computer that can't handle the newer generation of browsers, I'd strongly recommend finding an old Mozilla browser.

What browser is best?

Because of web standards and the like, they're all coming to a point where the pages are going to look the same regardless of browser. There are still some sites that don't appear properly in Safari, but I've been using Safari as my primary for awhile and I RARELY come across a site that doesn't work.

I think Safari and Chrome perform best on my PC, but the new version of IE and Mozilla aren't far behind. The latest Safari has made me really love it. I used to be a pretty hardcore hater of IE because of all the design issues, but the latest version isn't bad. It's my last choice, but it's not horrible like prior versions have been.

3. Keep your browser in good shape
If you want a browser that runs fast, DON'T install excessive amounts of addins and extras. Contrary to what you feel at the moment, you probably don't need a widget running constantly that gives you weather updates every five minutes. Most of add-ons are made by third-parties, some are cleverly disguised spyware, and they rarely offer enough benefit to compensate for the resources they suck. The better your browser behaves, the faster it will load and the more resources you'll have available when you're trying to run an intensive application like Photoshop.

Back in the day, I used to put the Google toolbar on my browser, but now that all the major browsers allow you to Google from built-in search abilities, I don't do that anymore. The only plugins I recommend installing are the ones needed to run and open web media, like Adobe flashplayer/acrobat reader, quicktime, etc.,

By avoiding addons, you'll have fewer crashes as well since a crashed addon can easily cause the entire application to crash or freeze.

Another thing you can do if you want your browser to start fast is to make the home page a blank page. If you don't really care about what's on your homepage, this can make your browser load a bit faster and let you get to browsing faster.

4. Manage your startup programs

A regular PC will normally build up a list of startup programs and services that the user doesn't want or need. Especially if you frequently indulge in installing garbage. Not only do they increase boot time, but they also leech on your computer constantly and are a huge part of the reason that PCs tend to run slow after awhile.

How do you do this? There are two sets of things you have to do.

Go to your start menu, then 'All Programs' and look to see what is in the shortcut folder. This is where some of your Startup items will be.

And the other part is trickier.

1. Go to Start > Run and type 'regedit.'
2. After the window pops up, you will find everyday startup items located in two places:
-HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Software > Microsoft > Current Version > Run
-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > Software > Microsoft > Current Version > Run

Be careful in here. Right click individual entries on the right side of the screen and delete them if you decide you don't need them. Each entry shows you which file it points too.

With these two registry areas and the startup folder, you'll have some idea about what starts with your computer. What should stay? I leave my anti-virus and nothing else.

With instant messengers, if you don't want them to boot on startup, you'll probably have to go to their individual settings and uncheck this option.

5. Scan your computer for spyware
Some anti-virus clients protect you against spyware, but not all of them. If you get weird popups or your search settings or homepage change themselves, you probably have picked up something or another.

I strongly recommend Ad-Aware. They were one of the first companies in the anti-spyware game and the free version works fine. I think I've been using versions of this since I was a seventeen, and it's always been a very solid and reliable way to protect and clean out spyware.

I've tried other programs, but this is my favorite. I had issues with another program busting one of my browsers with an incomplete removal that made IE crash on boot, and I feel like it catches pretty much everything and removes it without causing issues or problems I have to deal with later.

6. Anti-Virus
The most effective strategy for keeping your computer virus-free is exercising common sense.

File sharing is probably one of the most common ways people get viruses on their PCs. I think there's a saying that when you sleep with someone, it's like sleeping with everyone else that person has slept with. File sharing is basically computer intercourse.

Viruses can also come from email, although most big companies like Yahoo have installed anti-virus to help curb this. Be careful, especially when downloading files that are compressed in zip files.

'Free' porn sites are also a place where viruses and malware are picked up by unsuspecting users. You give them your email to sign up, sign in, download what you think is a window, and the next thing you know, there are thirty pop ups of a Russian acrobat on your desktop, showing you her stretches and asking you if you want to chat for $10 a minute. Some are legit, some are not, so tread carefully if you go there.

What anti-virus is best?

Most people are not at high risk for a virus. They browse the internet, use programs from legitimate companies, and don't do things that lead to most infections. Yet, when you go into a store, you see a box for some gigantic security bundle, and by the time you're done reading the box, you're convinced you need an extra firewall, a file shredder, and a dozen other options. You end up spending $100 just to prevent the virus you weren't going to get in the first place.

The problem is that most of these packages are seriously overpriced and all that crap you didn't need in the first place bogs down your computer so much.

There are two totally free companies that offer the basic protection most people need: AVG Free ( and Ad-Aware (linked above). Since they're both free, you can experiment with both and see which you prefer.

Since I use server email that isn't automatically virus scanned by the server, and download and upload files constantly, I went with a paid version of Ad-aware that I'm pleased with. It goes a good job,and in over a year of use, it's never crashed on me, demanded I restart my computer immediately, or otherwise annoyed me. It just does its thing in the background, which is excellent.

Of the 'big' antivirus companies, I've tried Norton, McAfee, and Trend Microsystems. Trend was very good and wasn't that taxing on my computers resources, but I'd never recommend the other two. Especially Norton. That program suite is a nightmare and it's pretty common for people to be unable to remove if from their computers.

I've had such good luck with Ad-aware that if I ever get another PC, I'll be putting that on it.

7. Defrag your hard drive(s)

About a year ago, I disabled the scheduled defrag on my computer and forgot I did it for ages. When I did remember, it was because my PC was lagging a bit and that stopped as soon as I did it.

This moves the data on your hard drive so that its easier for your computer to read, thus cutting down on the work and resources required to perform tasks and read files.

To defrag, open the Windows Explorer where you can look at all your files, go to 'My Computer,' right click a hard drive, and then 'Properties' and then to the tools tab. Click 'Defragment Now.' I recommend scheduling it to go automatically at some odd hour once a week.

8. Don't pimp or hack your computer

If there is anything on this list that you don't already know, then don't go overboard with tinkering with your computer. YES, there are programs that will make Windows look like the Apple OS. YES, there are programs that will do all sorts of interesting things. YES, you may come across a list of Windows services you can disable for speed, but when something on your computer doesn't work, you're going to have an awfully hard time figuring out why when you've done a dozen things that might have caused it. You should really, really know what you're doing before you start doing this.

9. Clean your registry

This is by far the most scary portion of this guide. You CAN break your computer dealing with the registry, which is why it's important for you to backup the registry first.

If you've been screwing with your Windows install against the advisement of Step #8, this can be especially risky. Viruses and spyware play a big role in registry corruption as well, so the best thing you can do to keep your computer running smoothly and make this a neat process is to not install malware and avoid exposing your PC to risk.

How do you do clean the registry?

You need a program, and there are like a million. I've only tried a couple, so I can't say much about this. The program I've used on my PC most recently was AML's free registry cleaner ( It's free, and when you start it, it'll walk you through backing up the registry. Take a backup, then scan your computer and let it clean up the rotten registry entries.

Realistically, this doesn't need to be done very often. Uninstalls and major software changes cause registry errors, and if you're a smart PC owner, you avoid doing this very often. So, I would do it after uninstalling a major program or going through any sort of other big software change.

10. Know what to upgrade
If your computer is a couple of years old or more, and you feel like it needs to be dumped for something faster, there are some options for upgrades that are a lot more affordable and less of a hassle than moving computers. If you go to Best Buy or Circuit City where they have on-site support (there are usually lots of local tech companies that do this too), you can lug your tower in and they'll plug it in to a monitor and run diagnostics to help you select the right upgrades. I'd recommend doing this in the middle of the day, when they're more likely to be bored.

Readyboost is the first upgrade I would recommend for Vista. It's easy and relatively cheap. I think Windows 7 also has this, but I haven't worked with Windows 7 at all. The idea is pretty simple. You get a flash drive, plug it in, and let Vista use it because it's faster than a hard drive is. If you have tons and tons of RAM, this won't give you a huge benefit, but if you're on the low side, it can help. You will definitely be able to use this when you move to a new Windows-based system.

RAM is the next upgrade you might consider and can have a HUGE impact on performance. A few years ago, 'a lot' of RAM was 512MB, but it's not uncommon for computers to have many times that now. There are limits for how much you can put in your computer, based on your motherboard and processor, but chances are, you can put additional RAM in if you haven't already and it can be a really affordable upgrade for a PC, like $50 in some cases. And, when you do upgrade your PC, you may be able to take the extra RAM over to your new PC. RAM upgrades in laptops and PCs are actually pretty easy, but you may need to talk to a geek to find out the right kind and amount.

If you're using a desktop and need a boost in applications like Photoshop and games, a new video card can make a large difference as well. There are some really expensive cards, but there are also some fairly affordable ones that offer huge upgrades over what typically ships with a standard PC. This too is something you can probably carry over when you do decide to get a new system. In a PC, video card upgrades are a snap, believe it or not.

If your PC is 2-4 years old and running slow, you can go through these steps, get a newer, mid-range video-card, some RAM, and a flash drive for about $200 and give your PC a new lease on life that will also benefit your next PC. Just remember to weigh what you spend on upgrades to what a new PC costs. If you already have a display, for instance, you can actually acquire a pretty decent CPU unit for fairly cheap.

So, those are my tips.

There are a lot of ways to squeeze every ounce of performance from your Windows-based computer, but this guide really just hits the high points. These are simple things that are easy to do, free, and can improve PC performance and help cut back on crashes and freezes and generally bad performance.

I caution strongly against PC 'tune-up' programs, bloated security suites, and pretty much anything else that puts itself forward as something that will 'improve' your computer. The proliferation of crap is probably the biggest performance drain you'll run into. All a PC needs is a basic program to protect against viruses, a few basic maintenance tasks every now and then, and a wise operator.

So, for the summary:
1. Disk defragmentation - set to scheduled, once a week
2. Examine startup programs - every three months
3. Examine browser addons - every three months
4. Scan for spyware - schedule for once a week if you don't have automatic protection
5. Clean the registry - every three months

That's about thirty minutes of time four times a year to have a smoothly-running computer.
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Re:Some Windows Tips 7 Years, 7 Months ago Karma: 5
THANK YOU!!!!!!! I seriously can't thank you enough. Your tips have just made my computer run a bit faster! You're the best!
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Miss Kagura
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Re:Some Windows Tips 7 Years, 7 Months ago Karma: 51
Glad I could help!
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Re:Some Windows Tips 7 Years, 7 Months ago Karma: 20
Avast Anti-Virus is another excellent free program. I've had it on my computer for years. Also a good clean up program is Advanced System Care...also free. It cleans up registry errors, spyware,tracking cookies, and frees up space on your hardrive. You can find both programs at I would recomend both 100%
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Re:Some Windows Tips 7 Years, 7 Months ago Karma: 11
I use CCleaner as my registry cleaner, I've never had any problems with it and its free.

this is a great thread - reminded me that I haven't defraged in about three months.
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Last Edit: 2010/08/22 11:00 By janey-jane.
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Miss Kagura
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Re:Some Windows Tips 7 Years, 7 Months ago Karma: 51
I've never tried Avast, but I've read some good things about it.

CClean I used awhile back and totally forgot about. I had no problems, so I second the recommendation.

I know several people who aren't great with computers and have gone the way of paying $100 for anti-virus/firewall/etc., and $50+ on 'tune-up' programs only to still have horrible issues which were actually caused by these monstrous, overpriced 'necessities.' $150 a year adds up fast and if that money was used on something like periodic, small upgrades or putting it forward for the next machine, PC ownership would be considerably easier and more affordable.
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Last Edit: 2010/08/22 16:03 By Miss_Kagura.

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Time Traveler
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Re:Some Windows Tips 7 Years, 6 Months ago Karma: 57
Some very good tips. Though if its ok I'd like to add a few more as well.

1 - Becareful when you download free programs online. Some disreputable websites do disguise links especially for downloading free software with links to virus executable files.

2 - When upgrading your PC make sure to check if the computer is under an extended warranty. If you pop the back off your laptop or desktop to insert a new RAM/Audio/Video card etc and you aren't a registered IT Technician you could void the Warranty, even if it has more than a couple years on it.

Upgrading could also void warranties as the original one will only cover the PC in the original state you purchased it in, and not with the upgrades as well.

3 - Be very careful about what sorts of RAM/Audio/Video cards etc that you purchased to 'upgrade' your PC. Some brands are only compatible with certain Operating Systems, and technical specifications, especially Motherboards.

4 - Never mess with the Motherboard of your PC, even if you are upgrading unless you know what your doing. Motherboards can be damaged by static electricity. Once its fried your computer will be effectively dead.

5 - If you are Upgrading and adding in Audio/Video/RAM cards do not handle the cards by the 'slot' part that will slide into the Motherboard. Handle it by holding the 'sides' and keep your fingers away from the magnetic strip.

6 - Never mess with your CPU processor chip or the Power Supply. Do not EVER pull out plugs, wires, or cables that plug into the Motherboard and other devices (e.g. a DVD-ROM drive) unless you 100% know what your doing. You pull out a cable or plug and put it back in upside down and you will fry your Motherboard.

7 - Pre-built machines bought directly from an Electronics store and or a Computer Supplies store can be difficult to upgrade. Get advice from a certified IT professional before attempting to do anything. They can help you out big time.

8 - Some Motherboards will not take a new Video card, as some have a graphics chip that is built-in to the Motherboard.

9 - Regularly update your Antivirus programs, and software, especially for Windows Vista, and XP operating systems. Microsoft as a rule releases buggy Operating Systems with plenty of security flaws. Downloading the updates they release will help to protect your PC.

10 - Becareful when removing entries from your Registry. If you remove the wrong ones you'll stuff up your PC.

11 - Under no circumstances should you EVER remove a backup install drive on the hard drive of your PC, especially if it contains files that can be used to reboot, and reinstall the Operating System onto your PC. You delete that, and your PC falls over i.e you get a virus that stuffs it up, and you need to reinstall everything... you won't be able too. And you'll be very, very unhappy.
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