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Windows slow? Try these 5 solutions

by Kim Komando (www.komando.com)

Think that you need a new Windows computer because the clunker is too slow? You may not. Windows doesn't do a great job of maintaining itself. Before you dump Old Faithful, try these simple solutions:

1. Straighten up the hard drive. Start by scanning your hard drive for problems. Use Scan Disk in Windows 98 and ME; in Windows XP, the tool is Check Disk. These utilities find stray data--called lost allocation units--that weren't properly handled, generally in a system crash. They also rope off bad spots on the hard drive.

To find Scan Disk, click Start>>Programs>>Accessories>>System Tools>>Scan Disk. In Windows XP, click Start>>My Computer. Right-click your hard drive (probably C:) and click Properties. Select the Tools tab. Click Check Now. Regardless of the system, select options to do as thorough a check as possible.

Next, defragment your drive. Windows scatters file fragments all over creation. When you open a file, the hard drive has to work hard to assemble it. Defragmenting the files puts the pieces in adjacent clusters. That makes reassembly easier and faster.

To defragment, click Start>>Programs (or All Programs)>>Accessories>>System Tools>>Disk Defragmenter.

2. Dump the spies. Spyware tracks your surfing and feeds that information to advertising companies on the Internet. In turn, you receive customized ads.

In recent years, spyware has gone from an irritant to a crisis. It can bog down a computer. At its worse, it seizes control. Your choice of search site, or even where you surf, can be severely curtailed.

A number of programs can be downloaded to clean up spyware. There include Ad-aware, Spybot-Search & Destroy, Microsoft AntiSpyware, and Spy Sweeper. All but Ad-aware also can be used to block further infections. And they all are free, except for Spy Sweeper, which is $30.

3. Turbocharge your surfing. Are you still using dial-up access? People often use the rationalization that "it's good enough for me." But it is glacial compared to broadband.

Broadband simply means that much more data can be downloaded at once. That translates to a much faster experience. People are often amazed at the difference. Try it and you'll never go back.

The primary broadband methods are DSL, over telephone lines, and cable, which moves with television signals. DSL is eight to 30 times faster than dial-up. In some places, cable can be 100 times faster. Either way, this is money well-spent.

5. Replace hardware parts. Undeniably, you can jack up your machine this way. But this can get into serious money.

There is a relatively cheap way to speed things up. If you have, say, 128 megabytes of memory in a Windows 98 or ME machine, you can raise that to 256 MB. Going up to 512 may give you even more of a boost. And memory isn't too expensive.

Beyond that, you're raising economic issues. You could pour money into a new motherboard, chip and video card. You could even upgrade your hard drive. But this will add hundreds of dollars. Why bother?

A new low-end machine can be had, with monitor, for less than $500. It will contain new, reliable parts. And, though it is low end, it will be relatively fast.

So, try cleaning up your old machine. If that doesn't work, think hard about a new computer.


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Last modified: 03/20/05

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