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Tune Up Your PC

Tune Up Your PC

Staff Writer
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You take your car in for regular oil changes. You trim and re-pot your houseplants. You replace the batteries in your smoke alarm every six months. But when it comes to technology, many of us avoid doing any preventative maintenance, and simply accept performance levels far below what our machines are capable of. And the difference in speed can be impressive. Microsoft, for example, has estimated that removing bloatware improves Windows 7 notebook performance by 39%.[1]

Whether you have a brand new notebook or a long-faithful workstation, a few tune-ups - like changing your boot order or minimizing startup services - can quickly take your PC's performance from good to great.

Here's how:

1. Start with startup

Change your boot order:

One of the quickest ways to improve your PC's startup time is by changing the boot order (the sequence of places the computer looks for the operating system) to skip unnecessary checks. For instance, your computer may be checking for a floppy disk drive every time you reset, even though you don't have one.

Streamline the boot order by going into the BIOS (press DEL, F1, or F2 during startup) and search for the boot order. It's usually plainly labeled as “Boot.” From there, you can use the arrow keys to move your primary hard drive up to the first or second item on the list to speed up the boot process.

Minimize startup tasks:

Many programs install plug-ins that automatically load every time you turn on your computer - whether you need them to or not. Keep these unwanted hidden programs from slowing you down.

In Windows 7, use the MSConfig program to disable them. Simply click on the start menu and type MSCONFIG into the search box to start it. In Windows 8, use the Task Manager by right-clicking on the Taskbar, clicking “More Details,” and switching to the Startup tab.

Bonus tip:

Pay close attention when installing downloaded software. Even many reputable programs will install extra items you may not be aware of that can slow your system down.

2. Handle the hard drive

Defragment (if you need to):

The more places your computer has to search to find files, the slower its performance. That makes defragmenting the hard drive an essential step in any tune-up of a PC with a traditional hard drive. If you have one of the newer solid state drives (SSDs), however, you're in luck - they never need to be defragmented.

In Windows 7 and earlier, defragment by using the included Disk Defragmenter tool. In Windows 8, use the program Optimize Drives.

Remove bloatware:

Bloatware is any unnecessary and often obtrusive program that comes pre-loaded on many consumer PCs, or that gets added during the installation of legitimate software. These unwanted programs often increase boot time, waste memory, and clutter up your system tray, desktop, and context menus.

You can uninstall programs manually by opening your PC's Control Panel and clicking on Programs, then Programs and Features. And to keep from accumulating bloatware in the first place, check to make sure you're not loading unwanted programs as you install new software by reading through the installation dialogue boxes and unchecking any options to install additional programs that pop up.

Bonus tip:

The HP EliteBook Folio 1040 features an SSD to speed performance and boot time and make defragmenting unnecessary, and comes installed with only essential and productivity-enhancing HP software.

3. Don't skip security

Update the OS and programs:

This tip is especially important for new purchases. It may have been months since the computer was last updated at the factory, so check for updates, especially the first time you turn the machine on. Keeping the operating system (OS), drivers, and programs up to date is key to maintaining smooth performance.

On Windows 7, check for system updates by searching for Update in the search box - type Update, click Windows Update, and then click Check for Updates. Windows 8 generally updates itself automatically, and it's recommended that you keep automatic updates enabled if you've disabled it previously. If you plan on upgrading to Windows 10, making sure your system is up-to-date can help you avoid potential migration issues.

Scan for viruses:

Besides being serious security threats, malware and other viruses can also be resource hogs, using your hard drive, random-access memory (RAM), and internet connection without you being aware. Scan for and remove malware to stay safe and maintain peak performance.

On Windows 7, Microsoft's free Microsoft Security Essentials is an effective, lightweight antivirus program. On Windows 8, Windows Defender comes pre-installed.

Bonus tip:

Quickly and simply download software updates for the HP commercial PC models in your environment with the free HP SoftPaq Download Manager.

4. Heat up your hardware

Check your performance settings:

This tip is particularly relevant for notebook users. Sometimes your computer's performance is purposely degraded in order to save energy under certain power profiles.

If performance is more important than battery life for the task at hand, you can make sure your computer is running at maximum speed by checking your Power Options in the Control Panel.

Upgrade your system:

When many users consider upgrading their computer to improve performance, their first thought is often adding more RAM. If you're currently using most or all of your RAM, then adding more will provide a noticeable boost. If, however, you're not regularly using all of your current memory, adding more may make little difference to your computer's performance.

Search for Resource Monitor in the Windows search box to find out how much of your system's resources you're currently using. However, even if you're not using all your current resources, switching from a traditional hard drive to an SSD can provide a significant speed boost.

Bonus tip:

HP EliteDesk models like the HP EliteDesk 800 Tower have easy hardware access and don't require any tools to upgrade common components.

Shop today for HP business PCs:

[1] Microsoft Signature, Under the Hood, August 2013

Windows is a U.S. registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation.