Fundamental Ways to Maintain Your System


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Many users have expressed discontent with their computer. It is running slow. You're finding popups everywhere. Something is wrong. Its taking 20 minutes to boot.

Here's what I recommend for most systems that have been in use for over a year, but have never had any IT maintenance performed:

Eliminate the potential for malware, trojans, viruses, and other unwanted software lurking on your computer.

How this can be accomplished is very simple. I recommend three or four major tools for this operation depending on your budget.

First, download Malwarebytes Anti-malware. It is a proven leader in finding malware and trojans, and is mostly freeware. If you find some significant problems, reboot your computer when prompted and run it about 3 or 4 time. I recommend uninstalling the software and only using it when needed, but there is also the option of purchasing pro-active protection.

Second, download SUPERAntispyware and run this software scan as well. If you start pulling up problems and eliminating them, you may want to go back to Malwarebytes one more time to eliminate any doubt that your system has been cleansed.

Thirdly, download TrojanRemover, another free utility, and run this to find if you have an infected system. Highly recommended.

If you find that these programs are pulling up the same instances of malware, adware, and trojan software repeatedly, you may need to boot into safe mode and run these programs. Some malware will even prevent these programs from running. To boot into safe mdoe, make sure you have the programs installed first, and then, upon booting up your computer, repeatedly hit the F8 key. Select Safe Mode and run these programs until nothing is detected.

If you are fortunate enough to have not had any detections or have cleared them from your system, now is the time to get serious about your anti-virus solution.

If you are using McAfee anti-virus, Norton anti-virus, Symantec, or some other form of anti-virus software which is highly commercialized or bundled with your computer, you have a minimal level of protection that is not suitable for the modern age of computing. These corporations have spent millions of dollars in marketing and contracting with companies like Dell and HP to have their software pre-loaded onto systems. They have paid millions of dollars to be reviewed over and over again in computer magazines. And worst of all, they don't work as good as the competition.

The true anti-virus solution you are looking for, in my own personal opinion is ESET NOD32 (anti-virus only) or ESET Smart Security (anti-virus and firewall). Visit ESET's website for details and online purchasing.

Kaskpersky is also another option which has a high detection rate and low false positive threshold. These suggestions are based on independent anti-virus test result samples which are conducted in an independent way, and not by computer review magazines. They are performed in a lab environment.

Remember, these are all paid solutions for anti-virus protection, so if you want to go down the free road, and know what you are doing when it comes to computer usage, consider downloading the new (and free) Microsoft Security Essentials package. This anti-virus solution is compatible with most versions of Windows and has received good test results, in many cases defeating other freeware anti-virus programs. This is most likely due to the fact that Microsoft had previously charged for this software under the brand OneCare up until this year. MSE is a great solution because it is free and provides a moderate level of protection against security threats. The added bonus is that it is created by the same company that developed the operating system, so you should expect to have minimal performance problems with the software (in theory).

Optimizing Your System to Improve Performance

For basic users, I recommend that you try a product that has been endorsed by Uniblue RegistryBooster. RegistryBooster was created by a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and thoroughly scans your registry for potential problems. It is an invaluable asset and works quite well under Windows 7 and previous versions of Windows. More importantly, it appears to be more thorough than other registry cleaners I have tested. A direct download can be found here.

If your system is booting slow, one major problem may be the indexing service in Windows. To remedy this problem, go to Start, Control Panel, switch the view to Large Icons (From Category View), and go to Indexing Options.

Under Indexing Options, click on "Advanced" and under the Advanced Options tab, click on Rebuild. This will rebuild your search index. I have found that nine times out of ten this improves the boot time of Windows Vista and Windows 7.

This, combined with the RegistryBooster, should improve your system quite a bit, but it may not be enough.

There are other utilities I will recommend like Ace Utilities. This program will allow you to defragment the registry itself, find duplicate files (be careful!), and perform other functions. It also comes with its own registry cleaner.

Another freebie I will mention here is Auslogics Disk Defrag, which I found out Samsung was using internally on their solid state drivers several years ago. This is a great program because it defragments the drive much more effectively and faster than the built-in defragmentation software that comes with Windows, it is absolutely free, and you get to see a graphic image your drive being defragmented again (this feature was removed after Windows XP). After the defragmentation is done, you also get a summary that pops up telling you what progress was made.

If your computer is truly running slow, run this program at least 3 times in a row. If you have not performed a defrag on your own in some time and store a large amount of files on the drive, I guarentee that this will result in faster performance.

Upon performing all of these tasks, perform a disk scan of your primary drive and reboot your system

Go to Start -> Search -> cmd

Right click cmd and Run as Administrator
When the black command prompt comes up type:
chkdsk /r /f

Type y

Restart the computer. This process will take a long time, but will scan for file system errors, and physically scan the disk for bad sectors. Upon finding bad sectors (damaged parts of the HD), it will mark them as damaged and allow you to continue using the usable parts of the drive.

I hope that you find some of these suggestions useful. If you want to add any suggestions, please do so here!