My neighbour across the street complained to me that his wife's computer ran really slow, and that Outlook crashed a lot. Well, I don't use Outlook, but unfortunates who do, tell me that it crashes when it has too many messages and too many attachments. I offered to have a look.
After he brought over the computer, I promptly felt an uncomfortable feeling: this really was a personal computer, with pics of the kids, Skype running, links to favorite Web sites. I tried as much as possible to avoid looking at the personal stuff.
Anyhoo, here's some of the things I tackled to get the computer's speed up to an acceptable level.
First thing, I ran the Windows Experience Index, for it gives me an idea of which part of the hardware is slow. (WEI is in Windows Vista, 7, and 8, but has been pulled from 8.1 -- another reason to not upgrade.) This computer was pretty depressing, as the hard drive was the fastest element:
- Hard drive: 5.6/7.9
- RAM: 5.5
- Gaming graphics: 5.1
- CPU 4.9
- Aero graphics: 3.9
I am not too concerned about the slow speed of graphics, and there is not much that can be done about the slow CPU. So, the solution was to make the CPU work less and so appear to speed up.
First thing I did was add a spare 8GB micro USB thumbdrive, and set up ReadyBoost. Next thing was to find out what was making the CPU run slowly, the sluggish response, and the fan roaring away.
To see what was consuming CPU cycles, I opened the Resource Monitor. Get to it like this:
- Press Ctrl+Alt+Del
- Click Start Task Manager
- Select the Performance tab
- Click the Resource Monitor button
- Choose the CPU tab.
- Click the Average CPUheading so that the processes that consume the most CPU cycles over time are at the top of the list. See figure below (which shows my computer, not the one I was working on).
In the case of the problem computer, two processes were consuming 70% of the CPU cycle: one related to a piece of Apple software (about 40%), the other a drive monitor from Western Digital (about 30%).
I shut them down (right-click the name, and then choose End Process Tree), because they were not important. After a few minutes, the fan shut off, an audible indication the CPU was no longer labouring.
Next I used MsConfig to see what was being loaded during startup. Many applications today think they are so important that they have to be loaded first. To access MsConfig, click Start button, click Run, enter msconfig, and then press Enter. Click the Startup tab. (See figure below.)
I looked through the list, and deselected nearly 2/3s of the applications wanting to load at boot time. I picked things that just weren't that important, like all of the Apple software, that WD drive monitor, Adobe Reader, and Google Search Bar. Utility software that came with the computer was important, like support for the graphics board, well as crucial software like Dropbox.
In the list, I noticed no fewer than three anti-virus programs. Those would also slow down the CPU! I dechecked them, and then headed over to Control Panel | Uninstall a Program. I got rid of the three anti-virus programs; one was so cheeky that it insisted on emailing me a code number to uninstall it. I replaced them all with Microsoft's anti-virus, which (a) is free and (b) is pretty good (better than Avast, I have found). Download it from http://windows.microsoft.com/en-ca/windows/security-essentials-download
The last thing was to check the Outlook software. There I found the Trash had nearly 1000 emails. I recommended that she erase all that, as well as see what other emails she could remove from the Inbox.
With all this done, the computer now purred, instead of laboured.