Improve PC Performance

Here’s one of Wuzzy’s little secrets on how to improve your PC’s performance and a great way to use “MSCONFIG”.

One of the benchmarks that I use to see how well a system is set up is to time the start-up from “Power On” to the Desktop screen, watching to be sure the hard drive light is no longer flashing. When the hard drive stops flashing, I know that all of the start-up files have completed.

It would be helpful to time this when you know that your PC is as clean as it can be. Every PC should have maintenance and cleanup … just like a car. Your PC will last longer (you know my motto “Why Buy New When Repair Will Do”) and work faster.

How long is too long for a start-up? Kinda like the length of a minute. See the Computer Humor and Wisdom section if you don’t get this! It will open in a new window for you.

Over a period of time, this measurement (how long your computer takes to start-up) will get longer and longer. And, unless you stay on top of it, you might think it would be better just to leave the damn thing on all the time so you don’t have to wait so long.

This is where MSCONFIG comes in handy.

Microsoft CONFIGuration (MSCONFIG) is a utility that lets you see the Windows Configuration files such as WIN and System INI files, Boot files, Services, and the Start-Up files.

These files are shown in a text format and have a checkbox to allow you to select or de-select individual items. Please be cautious when you use this utility. I have clicked into the wrong area and told it to not run any Services. That was a big surprise!

To run the utility, select START, RUN, and enter MSCONFIG. Locate and select the Startup tab. In “Startup” you will find a list of programs that will be started each time the system boots up. I have found that you can De-Select all of them and your system will continue to operate after it reboots – except – that it will improve PC performance; making more efficient.

Once you make a change, you will be asked to ReBoot. When you do, a window will come up saying that you have made a change (duh!!). I always check the box that says “Don’t tell me about this in the future”.

If you find that you really do need something in the startup list, you can manually select the one you need – or – just re-select all of them and reboot. The PC will be back in its slow, inefficient mode but will have the startup you need.

What is Your Computer Doing?!

What is your computer really doing?! Do you know what is running on your computer? Do you really want to know? Maybe you don’t care to know but when something is not working right, as a PC repair expert, I need to know!

Also, how do you know that it is not working right if you don’t know what it should be doing?

Just Some Basics

A computer is really a simple device that can only do one thing. It can only tell the difference between two states – a 1 or 0, On or Off, Yes or No, Go or NoGo, High or Low, etc.

The good news is that it can do this Very, Very Fast – and – it can manage many of these iterations at the same time.

This is not really earth-shattering and there will not be a test – but just keep in mind – a computer is a tool. Don’t put it on a pedestal – don’t kneel in front of it. Understand it (a little) and use it.

Today’s computer will just sit there and wait for you to tell it what to do. In order to be ready, it needs to load and run several processes. These will display the desktop you have chosen to use, look for input from the keyboard, have the AnitVirus ready to scan any file you reference (your virus files are up to date aren’t they?!), etc.

Improve PC Performance 101

To see what is running at any given time, just press “Ctrl/Alt/Del” one time. (If you press this combination more than once you may be in for a surprise.)

This will bring up the Windows Task Manager. There is a Processes tab that will list all programs that are running.

I have taken a new system right out of the box and, after setting it up, have seen this as low as 18 processes. I have also worked on systems that have had over 150 processes running. Needless to say, those were systems where we needed to improve PC performance.

It has been my experience that a Windows 2K or XP system would normally need between 28 and 35 processes active just after boot-up. Anything more than this and you may start to have performance issues.

The processes that are listed using the Task Manager are the actual program names, such as CCAPP SPOOLS, etc. These are intelligible to a technical person but can be meaningless to the uninitiated.

In order to get a description of these processes, you need a Third Party program to interpret for you. A good utility to consider is Process Explorer. Google this and download it. It gives you a graphics page of what is running at that time.

“How do extra processes get started?” – you ask. (thank you for the question)

Well, remember loading your “Free” email program (or something similar) and telling it to do a “default” installation? Guess what!! Now you may have Instant Messaging that will tell you immediately that there is an Email for you – and – every time you access the Internet you now are taken to a different home page.

These processes were installed with your Email program and are now running “In The Background”. Each time you let “Some One Out There” install something, the potential is there to add more “Stuff” to your computer’s process list.

How about when you opened that Email with an attachment and you got that message saying that you needed to download and install the latest viewer? (For example) Great potential for extra stuff! (By the way, did you know who sent you that attachment? Maybe you should not have opened it)

Just about every software package seems to think that they are the most important operation on your computer. They will install as many “Extras” as they can, and most of these extras are not necessary for efficient operation. (Do you really need that little guy popping up to see if you need help? It’s cute but it does take resources to have it available.)

You need to know what your PC was doing when it was working OK in order to tell when it is not doing so well. Check your PC weekly to see what is happening on it. If there is something you don’t understand – ask, google, query … whatever you are comfortable with until you know …
What is Your Computer Doing?!

If you need further help to improve PC performance, you can contact me.