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If you’ve had your computer for a few years, you may have noticed it’s not as perky as it once was. Besides adding more ram or rebuilding the operating system, what can you do? Luckily, several free tools out there can help clean up old registry settings and abandoned files in hopes of speeding up your computer. This article will discuss what these tools do as well as offering you some guidance in using one of my favorite “clean up" tools.
Tools that offer to speed up your computer typically perform one of a handful of operations – disk defragmentation, registry cleaning, modify startup programs and general file cleanup.
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Over the normal course of using your computer by installing\removing programs, downloading files or creating files, your disk will become fragmented. As an example, when files are put on your hard drive, they take up physical space on the hard drive. When those programs or files are removed, the space is regained, but all files that come “after" the files removed stay put leaving a “hole" where the files once were. These holes are what we refer to as fragmentation – portions of files may go into these holes while other parts will go to the end of the hard drive where more available space is…. A “defragger" will allow you speed up file access by streamlining where files are stored on the hard drive.
My recommendation is to use the built in Windows Defragment tool or a free 3rd defragger like Defraggler.
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Registry and File Cleanup
When programs are installed on your computer, they install configuration options into the Windows Registry and in files located on the hard drive. When you go to uninstall a program, these registry settings and files should be deleted, but there are always remnants left behind. These abandoned files and extra registry settings can slow down your computer.
A Registry and Abandoned file scanner can scan the registry and file system looking for remnants and properly remove them. My preferred tool to perform these options is CCleaner.
Make sure you take advantage of the option to perform a backup of the changed registry settings when offered.
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One of the biggest reasons for your PC slowing down is that of programs running at startup. You can easily determine what programs are starting by using the Windows XP System Information Tool (go to Start, Run, and enter msinfo32.exe") or a third party tool such as CCleaner mentioned above. The nice thing about a third party tool is that they typically give you an option to disable or delete the startup entry for programs.
Be sure to do a little bit of research before you start disabling programs from running at startup – if you aren’t’ sure what a program is, do a quick internet search to learn more and determine if you really want to do away with it. If you do want to get rid of one of these, it may be best to just use the Add\Remove programs feature.
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Read about other tools for Windows XP in the Bright Hub collection of articles such as Backup Tips - How to Make a Quick Install Image of Windows XP, Improving Windows XP Hard Disk Performance and Want Your Windows PC to Perform Smartly?