Computer Performance Part 1

All information on this site is furnished in a general manner and can have errors, oversights and so cannt be expected to cover every specific scenario. Please research any information used with Dell documentation or contact their tech support if any clarification is needed

Step 1 Use MSCONFIG to Clear Out the Cruft

You bought this computer a while back and when you got it out of the box it was zippy, fast and speedy. What happened? You barely use it but now it slows to a crawl and gives you all sorts of error messages.

There are quite a few different causes of this but I will start by covering those that are easiest to look at and deal with. The first thing I want to talk about is what some people call "The Cruft". This is shorthand for an accumulation of programs that run in the background in the computer. Many programs don't need to be running all the time or may need to be uninstalled completely.

When you start getting an overabundance of them trying to run all the time, it can manifest in a couple of ways. Boot times can get slower and slower, programs can conflict with each other and slow the computer down to a crawl, or cause bad behavior and error messages and cause you to have problems getting the computer to shut down.

How does this happen? A bit of history is in order here. Windows have never been particularly good about advertising that a program has been added to the startup locations on your computer. When you download and run certain necessary programs on your computer, you may also be installing others you weren't aware you were installing. For an example, I recently installed Nero on a computer and hidden on one of the installation screens was a message asking me if I wanted to install the toolbar on my computer. It was checked as if all people installing Nero were assumed to want to install it. If I hadn't specifically unchecked the box that was set to be checked, and told it not to install, it would have gone ahead and put it on my computer. Unfortunately this deceptive practice of making people opt out rather than having them opt in to install extra programs has become very common.

How does one research all of the programs that the computer runs when it starts? You could run one of a number of different programs, but the one that I will cover briefly in this post is msconfig. I'll cover that first because it's been a default program in the last few versions of Windows so most people have the program even though they might not realize it.

To open msconfig, which is a shortcut name for the system configuration utility, in Windows XP you would click on your start button, click on RUN and then type in "msconfig" at the blank and click the ok button. Once you open the program, you'd then click on the startup tab to see a list of the programs running when Windows boots as the checked items on the list.

Here's a video I found on youtube which does a great job explaining the basics of getting in to use msconfig:

Stay tuned for the next installment as I offer more detail on how to use MSCONFIG to speed up your computer's performance.