Misc tips and tricks - Windows PC - Fixing problems

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Slow windows XP


It frustrates me often when an "internet friend" on here (and elsewhere) has a computer that needs a good coat of looking at, because I am invariably too far away

I have done quite a few for 80-90 folk, either as they live near enough, or even at shows or meets !

Trouble is there is a correct set procedure, the first and most important thing to do is check the hard drive is not failing ! If it is, and believe me, with these more recent sata drives, it is VERY common, then the rest of the servicing procedure will work the drive very hard and in the process can kill it ! (and risk losing all the data).

The first thing we do is look in the EVENT LOG http://support.microsoft.com/kb/308427 to see if it records any entries re "bad blocks" on your "C" drive. If it does then it needs IMMEDIATELY cloning (not a DIY thing !)

(Edit Hacksawbob: Also after the above I would check remaining hard drive space, anything less than 1GB may start to be causing problems. I have had one or two machines where there is 0 free space, you will probably have had messages popping up telling you about this but possibly not. http://www.wikihow.com/Check-Your-Hard-Disk-Space )

If it looks clear then the next thing is to run Check Disk (CHKDSK)http://support.microsoft.com/kb/315265

Simply, this is just a case of getting to a "DOS" window and prompt by going to "Start" then "All programs" then "Accessories" then click on "Command Prompt" then, it the black window that opens, type chkdsk /f after the last bit of text in the Window. It will say the drive cannot be checked now as it is locked (or similar wording) and do you wish to do this the next time the computer starts up = y/n (Yes or No) click Y THEN WAIT FOR 20 seconds or so (I won't bore you with why) then close the dos window and re-boot. The machine should then do the disk check, if it does start it successfully it can take quite a long time. Leave it to finish !! Sometimes it does not start check disk ! If it does that, just go back to the above and do it again, but wait 60 seconds at each step before going to the next step! (It's a Windows thing )

Then analyse the results of the CHKDSK (a bit more complicated READ HERE http://www.computing.net/answers/windows-xp/xp-chkdsk-where-are-the-results/132863.html ) - If using Vista or 7 then here is a tip = put a USB ( "pen drive", "thumb drive", whatever YOU call them ) in before you start the chkdsk, it will then dump an easy to read logfile on the USB drive.

If it the log shows NO bad sectors then it is OK to proceed with a full service, but that is simply too much to go into here and can take over 24 hours of "machine time" (i.e. not 24 hours of man hours)

Firstly, a computer that needs more memory takes longer to work on and will give less than optimal performance to the customer, so we check the memory and add to it if needed, often "maxing it out" as memory is cheap these days. If the customer has indicated he / she does not want to fork out for memory, we will temporarily put some in to make our job faster ! Sometimes, if we have put in used (tested thoroughly) sticks in, we might leave them there, at no cost to the customer, and without even telling the customer (as it makes the thing faster again for virtually no cost to us = win win, esp with the customers perception of the improvement to the thing ! )

Then removing 10's of thousands of "temp files" "Temporary Internet files" "cookies" "old Windows update files" etc etc

(Edit Hacksawbob: A good piece of software for removing some of these is CCleaner http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner as it runs by default it is safe enough, but there are some advanced options ie delete saved password, which if you don't have a backup of the password will ask you to reinput the password again. Also deleting cookies may make a website forget that you have been there in the past and not remember any settings, like when I visit the Odeon cinema website it remembers which one is closest to me. Not a big problem but you may need to remind websites your preferences if you choose to clear these out)

Then removing useless programs from "add and remove software". These include stuff you got by mistake during routine browser / flash player / etc up dates = McAfee security scanner, Uni-Blue, Reg Optimiser etc etc - the list is LONG and needs lots of experience before you can recognise all of them !!

Then identifying un-needed software that can be slowing up your PC such as ANYTHING by Norton, Zone Alarm, and old versions of Napster, copies of Lime-Wire, Bear-share, U-Torrent etc etc, ESP if those "file sharing" programs have been left at their defaults of "run at start up" or "keep running in the sys tray when I click on the "X" to shut it down !!" We see homes where say 5 computers are all running file sharing software from the moment they are turned on ! - strangulating the outgoing data stream on the routers network ("up-loading") Etc Etc... All the above (paragraph) can make a big difference.

Then removing viruses etc (there are nearly always some on almost every system we do) we use a collection "special" software for this Some of it can be dangerous if you don't know what you are doing so I won't post the details up here !

Then striping down (can be easy or hard, depending on model) for clearing dust out of laptop (and desktop sometimes) cooling fans (an important consideration = hot CPU's throttle themselves to prevent burning out) Same with fancy graphics cards on desktops.

Checking memory is next but cannot really be done under Windows and needs a special boot disk with MEMTEST http://www.pchelpforum.com/xf/threads/how-to-test-memory-using-memtest86.113776/

Then run a system board check (you have to pay for this software = we use PC_Check http://www.eurosoft-uk.com/pccheck.html

I probably forgot some more operations - we have a "check list" on every one that comes in so we know what has been done and what is next on the list to do = essential when we might have 10 machines going at the same time in our line of work ! (and we also have to be VERY careful to make sure a machine with viruses does not pass them on via the network cables !!!)

One of the VERY LAST things to do is DEFRAG http://support.microsoft.com/kb/314848

Oh, some where up there we check that Windows updates is working correctly, if it is not then the computer can often spend much of it's time "trying" to download and install updates but continuously failing !

I should say that a lot of the above operations are done with the hard drive out of the machine and hanging off a Linux (Ubuntu) box via a hard drive caddy

p.s. If ever you see a link in a website (and there ARE some in 1 or 2 of the links I posted above) about "Boost your PC's performance, Click Here to download" or "Fix all Windows problems in 5 minutes - Click here" then DON'T the NEVER work and VERY often cause problems !