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Windows Disk Swapping - How It Works and Why It Is a Problem
When you got your computer, it was nice and fast wasn't it? You bought it because it did what you needed. But here you are a few years later and now your computer is very slow. The hard drive is constantly in use for some reason, and the computer seems to freeze up intermittently. If you wait long enough it responds in its own sweet time.
Does this sound familiar? You are experiencing a problem that is as old as computers themselves. Your computer has run out of memory (RAM) and is now resorting to its alternative to RAM: Your hard drive. That is called "swapping" because the computer swaps information between the RAM and the hard drive.
The problem here is that the hard drive is an order of magnitude slower than the memory. Memory access speed is measured in ns (nanoseconds, 1/1000ths of a second) and hard drive is measured in ms (milliseconds, 1/100th of a second).
The goal then is to reduce the amount of memory used so that its not overflowing into the hard drive. Let us consider a few ways to get the speed of your computer back to where it used to be.
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Why Is All the Memory In Use?
Before we can get down to a point where your computer will be reasonably fast again, we need to figure out why your computer is low on memory to begin with. Only then will we be able to disable whatever is using the memory up and gain some performance back.
The following will work in Windows XP, Vista and 7:
Look at your system tray. It's the area next to the time in the lower right hand corner of your screen. Take a note of all the icons that are displayed. Use the arrow next to them to see if there are more icons that have been hidden. If you see no more, then that is fine. Mouse over each icon in the system tray, and take note of the name of the program. If you have to, right click on the icon and see if there is an "open" or "about" that you can click on if the name of the program is not immediately apparent.
Now it is decision time. What do you need to turn off and what do you need to leave running? Let's get to the next step and consider that.
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What to Disable and How to Disable It
For this exersize, you'll need two programs. The first is "ccleaner" which you can download for free at http://www.ccleaner.com and the other is "StartupLite" available at http://malwarebytes.org/startuplite.php.
Start with StartupLite. Download it and save the program on your desktop. If you're running Windows XP, just double click on it. If you are running Vista or 7, right click on it and click on "Run as Administrator" to start it. Disable all of the programs it suggests then reboot your computer. Is it faster? If so, then you're done! If not, then on to the next step.
Open up CCleaner and run the cleaner. Click "Run Cleaner" in the bottom right corner of the program. Now go to the "Tools" icon on the left side and select "Startup". Make a note of all of the things that are enabled. Start disabling them two or three at a time, and reboot your computer each time. If you lose any functionality such as printing, then go back and see which one you disabled is associated with printing, and re-enable it.
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Conclusion and Supporting Links
So there you have the basics of optimizing your system. Hopefully this will help your computer get some of its speed back. If it doesn't don't fret! There are more options.
If you have Vista or 7, then you can use the Vista Services Optimizer available at http://www.smartpcutilities.com/servicesoptimizerdl.html to shut down the services that you don't use in your computer. It can be done in XP, but this program does not support it and it must be done manually.
Lastly, you may need to just add more memory to your computer. Check with your computers' manufacturer for supported memory and how to install it.
We hope this article has been helpful. Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section below.
Here are some links for more information on this topic: