As a follow on to my previous post titled Improve performance of your Windows XP computer, here is the updated version relevant for Microsoft Windows 7 computer users.
Over time any computer, regardless of how new or old it is will begin to decrease in its performance. Many factors contribute to this degradation including how much software you have installed, how much disk space is being used, and the types of programs running. There are also factors such as potential virus or spyware infection which can decrease performance considerably.
Let’s now go through the basic steps I take when I want to improve performance of a computer running Microsoft Windows 7.
Hard disk space
This goes without saying but always check how much disk space you have available on your computer, especially if you are experiencing performance issues. If you are low on disk space you will see a significant change in performance.
To check your hard disk space, follow these steps:
- Double click the Computer icon from the desktop or press the Windows key ÿ + E on the keyboard to display the Windows Explorer window
- Ensure Computer is selected within the Navigation pane
- On the right side of the Windows Explorer window you will see the summary of your computer’s hard drives which includes the Total Size and Free Space
- If your Local Disk (C:) or equivalent has less than 1GB of free space available then you most certainly need to clear some space on your computer to improve performance
Specific Program Performance
If you are finding there are specific programs you use which have shown considerable performance, whilst others have remained unaffected, you need to look at the program specifics. A good example of this is email and the use of a locally installed email client. Microsoft Outlook is a popular choice but is also a program which should be maintained to ensure that your email files do not begin zapping performance from your overall computers performance.
Microsoft Outlook works on the premise of storing all your email, contacts, calendar, tasks, and other associated information in a file called a .PST file. The PST file is often referred to as your Personal Folders File (in Outlook 2007 and earlier) or the Outlook Data File (in Outlook 2010 and higher). If this file begins to grow considerably in size it can affect the performance of Microsoft Outlook when accessing any aspect of your email.
If you find other programs are causing you an issue, you can google for specific information on how to increase performance of the particular program you are working with or simply drop me a message and I’m more than happy to assist you.
Below are a few tips to clean up your Outlook Data File:
- Sort through your email and delete any emails which you no longer need to keep
- Any email messages you need to keep should be sorted and stored in a folder within Outlook, not all left in your Inbox
- Go through your existing folders and delete any content which is no longer required, we often store things we need in the short term and in the long term the content is no longer required and is just taking up space
- Look for any emails which include attachments. If you no longer need the email which includes an attachment, delete the entire email. If you need to keep the actual email message you can save the attachment to your computer’s hard drive and delete just the attachment, leaving the email messages behind for future reference
- Clean out any email in the Junk E-mail folder
- Sort through your Sent Items, if you still have content from 5 or even 10 years ago, I think you can probably safely delete them if no longer needed
- If you have a large amount of old data, you may find it easier to Archive content to a separate PST/Data File. This will move the content from your current PST file into a new archive file which you can open and access at any stage in the future should you need to, but will free up space in your active PST file. To archive go to File > Archive or for Outlook 2010 onwards File > Info > Cleanup Tools > Archive
- Empty the Deleted Items folder! Just because you have deleted an email doesn’t mean it’s gone. It is sitting in your Deleted Items folder still taking up space.
- Compact your PST file, depending on your version of Outlook you can do this through File > Account Settings. Select the Data Files tab and select your PST file then click Settings. Click the Compact Now button.
- The Data Files screen, as outlined above, will display the location on your computer where you PST file is stored, this allows you to navigate to this location through Windows Explorer and view the file size of your PST file. If your file is over 1.5-2GB in size, then your file is large and you should attempt to reduce the size to assist with performance.
Generally speaking most computer users have a specific set of software programs which are used on a regular basis, and for the most part users stick to these programs. If though you are a user who likes to experiment and dabble in new software programs then it is quite likely you have a large array of various programs installed on your computer which you probably haven’t used in some time. When it comes to computer performance this is the time to uninstall the programs which you no longer require.
For those new to uninstalling programs, do not be too alarmed if you suddenly find programs listed that you have no idea what they are or what they do. There are many programs which have been installed by your computer during an update or even as a program that runs in the background of your computer to allow you to watch the latest videos online. Either way, if you see a program listed and you have no idea what it is for, google the name. Google should steer you in the right direction and allow you to identify what the program is. If you aren’t sure then feel free to drop me a message and I can assist with software identification.
To uninstall software, follow these steps:
- Click Start > Control Panel
- The Control Panel will be displayed
- Double click the Programs and Features icon
- A list will be displayed of programs installed on your computer
- Select the program you wish to remove and click the Uninstall button which will appear on the toolbar
Before you uninstall any program I always suggest you write the name and any version number down. This will be of use if you later realise you need the program again, and will give you a head start to locating the program for installation.
Some programs you may see listed but don’t recall installing could be:
- Adobe Flash Player (used to view video files online, do not uninstall)
- Adobe Reader (used to open and read PDF files, do not uninstall)
- Bing Bar (the built-in search bar in Internet Explorer, do not uninstall)
- Microsoft .NET Framework (do not uninstall)
- MSXML (do not uninstall)
- QuickTime (another program to view video files online, do not uninstall)
If you are concerned and having trouble identifying a program, feel free to contact me for assistance.
Antivirus and Antispyware software
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have antivirus and/or antispyware software installed on your computer. A major cause of sudden performance loss for a computer is the presence of a virus or spyware program which is causing havoc within your system and reducing the performance of your entire system.
You can get separate programs to guard against viruses and spyware however I generally recommend going with a solution that looks after both aspects. I personally use Symantec Internet Security but I also have experience with Avast and have found both to be very reliable and catch any unwanted attempts to infect my computers.
If you do not have any antivirus/spyware protection you can purchase Symantec and Avast products from the links below and download the software straight away.
If your computer is performing slowly, ensure your antivirus/antispyware program is enabled, has up to date file definitions and then run a full system scan to ensure you do not have any infections. I have seen instances where antivirus protection has been disabled by a user, for one reason or another, and during that time a virus has snuck into the system and run wild and free.
Once you have cleaned up any software programs, uninstalled unwanted applications and checked for virus’, it’s time to perform a disk cleanup. Disk Cleanup is a utility available within Microsoft Windows and will perform a check on your computer to see the types of files it can delete safely and give you the option to pick and choose which options to remove.
Disk Cleanup will allow you to choose from temporary internet files, downloaded program files, empty the recycle bin (if you haven’t already), remove temporary windows files, remove options windows components, and remove installed programs you no longer use.
To perform a disk cleanup, follow these steps:
- Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools
- Click Disk Cleanup from the list
- If you do not have Disk Cleanup in your start menu select Start and place your cursor in the Search field
- Type Disk Cleanup
- The program will be displayed in the Start menu
- Click the program name to launch the application
- You will now be asked to identify which hard drive you wish to scan
- Select C:\ and click OK
- Once Disk Cleanup has looked at the drive it will provide a list of files it can delete
- Place a tick in the box for the ones you are happy to delete, e.g. Temporary Internet Files, Recycle Bin and Temporary files
TIP: Look through the options and see which ones will allow you to reclaim the most disk space. As you place a tick in the box the Total amount of disk space you gain will update.
- Click OK
- Allow the Disk Cleanup to complete in its own time
Next let’s perform a defragment of your computer’s hard drive. When files are installed or saved on your computer, the computer saves them to any available space on the computer and files can often become fragmented with bits and pieces placed randomly within the hard drive. Think of your hard drive like a storage cabinet, with files being placed in any draw and any location within the draw, this makes the process of retrieving these files take longer and longer over time. The process of defragmenting your computer will move these files into a more complete pattern and reconnect fragmented files meaning your computer will run faster and more efficiently.
To perform a defragment, follow these steps:
- Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools
- Click Disk Defragmenter from the list
- If you do not have Disk Defragmenter in your start menu select Start and place your cursor in the Search field
- Type Disk Defragmenter
- Select the program from the start menu list
- The Disk Defragmenter window will appear:
- Select your C:\ or Local Disk (c:\) and click Analyze disk
- Once your disk has been analysed you will see a result to identify how “fragmented” your hard drive is.
- If the hard drive shows medium to high levels of fragmentation click the Defragment disk button to proceed with the defragment process
Microsoft Windows 7 has a great function which allows you to analyse your computer and check for potential performance issues. The troubleshooter will find and fix any problems automatically to improve performance of your computer. Your computer will be checked for programs running during startup which may slow down your computer, multiple users being logged in at once, and if multiple programs are running at the same time.
To check for performance issues, follow these steps:
- Select Start > Control Panel
- Double click the Troubleshooting icon
- The Troubleshooting window will appear:
- From the System and Security heading click the link for Check for performance issues
- The Performance troubleshooter will begin
- Click Next
- You will now be presented with options on how to improve your computers performance including the ability to prevent specific programs from running when your computer starts up, select any programs you wish to prevent from opening during startup and follow the prompts until completed
You should now find an improvement in your computers performance. Like with most things technical, there are many other ways to improve the performance of your computer. All performance related functions are included in my future posts list however I hope this has been helpful in the meantime.
If you are still experiencing issues then you should consult the assistance of a computer technician to assist you further. Please feel free to send through any questions you may have in the meantime.