5 ways to monitor the health of your computer

Frustrated with the speed and performance of your computer? Before you go running out to buy a new one, consider this wise advice from Rob Cheng, co-founder of PC Pitstop, a well-known security software and service provider. "Computers aren’t meant to get old quickly," Cheng says. "With some simple actions, they can last a long time." Cheng should know. His company has helped more than 1.3 million computers deliver extended peak performance since 1999.

According to Cheng, a computer is an investment that, like a car, needs maintenance. Here are his top recommendations to help keep your computer running at peak speed:

Defend against viruses, malware, and adware

Even protected computers are still susceptible to harmful programs. Take morphing viruses for example. A morphing virus changes codes as it spreads, fooling security programs along the way. While Cheng’s solution targets these viruses, many other solutions do not. Perhaps the best way to combat these types of viruses is to make sure you are running the latest versions of Windows and other software.

Ransomware, a type of malware, encrypts files on your computer and, this is not a joke, holds them for ransom. A warning informs the user that to unlock their system, they have to pay a fine. The price can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on how quickly you respond. Backing up information can help minimize the issue. Some cloud services such as Windows 8.1 and OneDrive keep numerous old versions so if any encrypted files end up on your cloud, you can still access previously unencrypted versions. Cheng also recommends manually backing up your files onto an external hard drive and keeping your external drive disconnected from your computer when not performing a backup.

A third type is adware, which brings your web browser to a website that monitors what you’re doing. This annoyance slows down performance and memory.

In general don’t open any attachments or suspicious emails, even if they’re from companies you know. Anyone can steal a company’s logo. And ask your security solution provider about the proactive scanning tools they offer as opposed to their reactive resources that address new threats. Your computer and your wallet will thank you.

Defrag your computer

Your hard drive appears to methodically find your information. If you peeked under the hood however, you’d see it frantically digging everywhere to piece together all the bits of information you want. The more fragmented your drive becomes, the harder your hard drive has to work, which slows your system down.

A Disk Defragmenterrearranges your data to speed up the retrieval of information. For most Windows systems, the tool runs automatically. But for some systems, such as Windows XP, the tool must be manually scheduled. Considering that end of support for Windows XP arrives in the spring of 2014, this vulnerability only adds to the urgency for Windows XP users to update their operating system.

Another option is to buy a Solid-State Drive (SSD), a powerful alternative to the hard drive in your computer, which does not require defragging. In fact, defragging an SSD reduces the effective life of the drive. You can find SSDs more frequently in portable devices today.

Delete junk files

Your web browser, applications, and operating system accumulate junk files you don’t need. These pesky files fill up your hard drive and slow down your computer’s performance.

One easy solution, according to Cheng, is to keep your Recycle Bin empty. You can empty your bin manually or by using Disk Cleanup. You should also delete videos after viewing them and uninstall programs that you don’t use. "Think of these steps as regular cleanings," Cheng advises.

Speed up your start up

Many people are unaware that during the boot process, multiple programs start up at the same time, adding to your computer’s startup time. Cheng points out that the vast majority of these applications aren’t needed during booting. One easy solution is to use the Microsoft System Configuration Utility (msconfig),which lets you enable and disenable applications from activating during startup. To find this utility, go to your Windows Start menu and type msconfig. On the Startup tab, uncheck the programs you don't want to boot automatically.

Clean registry errors

Registry errors are those annoying error messages that pop up on your operating system at the most inopportune times. These errors are caused by leftover pieces of programs you have uninstalled. The error occurs when the registry points to a program that no longer exists on the hard drive. Cheng’s service removes twelve kinds of registry errors. If you decide to install a registry cleaner, be sure to research the product and only download and install programs from software publishers that you trust. And as a precaution, back up the registry before making any changes.


Article ID: 2931121 - Last Review: 11 Jul 2014 - Revision: 1