Tech Beat: No new computer this year? Try a computer tune-up

1293530415 89 Tech Beat: No new computer this year? Try a computer tune up

The holidays and the arrival of the new Year always signal a time of change and renewal. If there is no new computer under the Christmas tree this year, you may consider a tune-up to improve the performance of your old PC so it runs like new (or almost new). a checklist we use at 3rd Eye Computing is a good example of how you can boost performance and reduce error messages by deleting unwanted temporary files, cleaning up system clutter.

In previous Tech Beat articles we discussed common tech-related problems or decisions, most of which center around what to get, but boosting the speed of a tired, old computer that has slowed down can be just as rewarding. even though the average lifespan of most computers is generally three to five years, you can actually prolong your system’s life with a few simple steps.

Let’s stroll down maintenance lane and visit the advice that tech experts offer about keeping your computer in tip-top shape:

De-clutter the hard drive: Dubbed “digital packrats” by Wired magazine, online hoarders typically clutter their hard drives with an endless stream of documents, photos and downloads, which they never delete. This slows down your PC speed considerably. to make your system run faster and create more disk space, organize your folders and delete documents and e-mails that have been sitting around for months. an easy solution is a web storage service, which allows you to save all your data online and avoid bulking up your hard drive.

Defragment the hard drive: Our tech expert recommends defragging your hard drive every month. The good news is that if you use either Windows 7 or Vista, your computer automatically takes care of this. The process of defragmenting lines up previously scattered files and puts them in order so your computer can access them more quickly, which helps speed up your computer.

Update drivers: Drivers maintain the necessary communication between your system’s operating system and its devices (keyboard, printer, etc.). In a future article about drivers, we will explain the importance of keeping the drivers up to date because it allows Windows to either fully utilize all the features of the peripheral or (more commonly) to correct problems with previous versions of the drivers.

Add RAM: RAM is memory and hard drive is space; users often get these two mixed up. Add more RAM if you receive messages about low memory. This also helps increase computer speed.

Automatic updates and antivirus protection: The importance of running an efficient antivirus program and updating it regularly is key to maintaining a healthy computer that is free from viruses and malware. These nasty invaders can cause considerable harm to your system, the most dangerous of which is stealing credit card and banking information. In addition, it’s important to install the updates for your operating system.

Fix broken registries, clear browser history: an easy solution to tuning up your computer is to run programs like system Mechanic or Perfect Speed. These types of programs perform all-in-one tasks, from speeding up slow computers, to defragging the hard drive, to clearing browser history and performing registry repairs to enhance overall PC performance.

Improve Mac Performance

In case you’re using Apple products, here are a few tips to tune up a Macintosh:

Clean out Startup Items — You can find out what is in your startup items list by navigating to Apple Menu > system Preferences > Accounts > Login Items. You may be surprised at how many there are. to remove them, simply select the item by clicking on its name and then hit the “minus” button at the bottom of the list. However, be sure that you know what you’re removing; otherwise you may kill some critical function for the next time you restart.

Clean out ‘Other’ system Preferences — Don’t close system Preferences yet! Take a peek in the bottom section of your system Preferences window, labeled “Other.” how many items are down there? do you know what they do? do you use what they do?

If there is a Preference Pane that you don’t use or that you use only occasionally, disable it (either turn it “off” within the Preference Pane itself or remove it from the folder “~/Library/PreferencePanes”).

Evaluate your Widgets — If you’re using Mac OS X 10.4.x “Tiger,” you have probably played around with the Dashboard. There are hundreds of useful widgets available, most for free, but there are many that you won’t use, even if they are very helpful to others. This includes some that came with Tiger. It takes RAM and processor power to keep these widgets running, even when Dashboard is hidden — so a judicious evaluation of what widgets you do use can boost computing efficiency nicely.

Clean off your hard drive — It doesn’t matter how large your hard drive is, eventually it will begin to fill up. Whether it is a huge I-photo library, some videos you’re editing or simply accumulation of lots of “stuff,” a full hard drive can cause problems. You may not realize that Mac OS X (and the Classic Mac OS, too) uses the free space on your hard drive as “virtual memory,” and it depends heavily on that virtual memory to run efficiently. If you’re starting to feel sluggish, it may be because your drive is too full. There are lots of ways to clean it off — maybe a different article will cover that — but sometimes a little more free space is all you need to be at peak performance again.

Want to meet other PC and Mac power-users? Join and become active in the Redwood Technology Consortium (

Terry Olgin owns 3rd Eye Computer Service, a managed service provider business, and is a member of the Redwood Technology Consortium. Check out his blog at He can be reached at

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