Rejuvenate Your PC (Part 2)

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Strip back unnecessary files, processes and programs for a real burst of acceleration

Your hard drive isn’t the only component that stands to benefit from a thorough clear out – your PC itself can deliver improved performance if you limit the number of running programs and how much system resources they’re allocated.

Solute makes it easy to choose which programs to disable, but has a resource footprint of its own

Solute makes it easy to choose which programs to disable, but has a resource footprint of its own

The most effective way to free up resources and speed up your system start time is to strip back the number of unnecessary programs and services that start at the same time as Windows. While some of these particularly security programs like your firewall and antivirus software – do need to start with Windows, others can be safely disabled to make better use of your PC’s finite resources.

There are many tools out there that can help sort out your start-up routine. If you want an approach that will guide you through the process one step at a time, take a look at Soluto, which you can download from This tool makes it easy to choose which programs to disable, but has a resource footprint of its own. If you’re happy to wade through the list of programs yourself, check out tip 18 in our guide starting on p66 to find out how to use Auto runs instead.

Review your schedules

Sluggish performance can also occur when programs perform regular maintenance tasks, such as scanning for viruses or defragmenting your hard drive. If you find that a specific program is slowing you down on a regular basis, check its preferences for options to change its schedules, picking a different time or day, or even choosing a brand new schedule if you’re confident it doesn’t need to run quite as often as it does.

If you can’t find any scheduling options within the program itself, you may find it uses Windows’ own Task Scheduler (Scheduled Tasks in Windows XP) utility. Access it via the ‘Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools’ menu.

Double-click a task to learn more about it, then switch to the Schedule or Triggers tab to see when and how often – it’s set to run. From here you can easily modify the schedule to something that suits you. Pick a time when the computer is idle (such as during your lunch break) to run a task, and try to avoid overlapping tasks where possible so your computer doesn’t get bogged down by competing demands.

Rein in resource hogs

Ever found your PC unresponsive on occasion? Trying to get on with one task when suddenly the computer seems to momentarily grind to a halt? That’s usually the result of a runaway background process – a program or service consuming far more resources than it needs and overwhelming your system.

Thankfully, all processes can be taken in hand by assigning them different priority levels. You can do this on a one-time basis using Task Manager, but it can soon become annoying if you have to do this each time you open the program.

A better way to monitor and manage processes by hand is to use a free program on your free disc by the name of System Explorer 4.0; not only does it provide a useful security rating for all running processes, it allows you to permanently assign priorities to processes, so they don’t need to be reset each time they’re launched afresh. The step-by-step guide above reveals how it works.

Another useful feature in System Explorer 4.0 is snapshotting – you can take a snapshot of your PC while it’s running smoothly and then further down the line compare that snapshot with your current setup to help identify problems or rogue processes that might be affecting your machine’s performance.

Lasso processes

Process Lasso can help prevent your PC grinding to a halt

Process Lasso can help prevent your PC grinding to a halt

While that’s fine if you have a good idea of which process is hogging resources, you might prefer to let a third-party program go further and do all the hard work for you, intelligently reining in processes as they overstep their bounds without grinding your computer to a halt with its own system demands.

If that approach appeals, then install Process Lasso from your free disc instead. This automatically keeps over-zealous processes in check, but will throw up the occasional nag to register for the full version. If you want to remove the reminder and unlock advanced features including automatic optimization for gaming, a lifetime license costs $28.95.

Switch applications

Process Lasso can perform miracles, but some applications may continue to run sluggishly compared to the rest of your sped-up system. When you’re in the process of switching to portable applications, look for low-impact alternatives to your bloated apps – Foxit Reader Portable ( is a much quicker alternative to Adobe Reader, for example. If struggling to source alternatives, visit for extra help.

Search efficiently

Foxit Reader Portable is a much quicker alternative to Adobe Reader

Foxit Reader Portable is a much quicker alternative to Adobe Reader

Windows 7 and Vista users benefits from lightning-fast searches thanks to search indexing, a process that quietly catalogues files in selected folders to produce swift results when searching for information or specific files. The process is designed to run quietly in the background only when your PC is idle, and from the start only indexes certain folders, including the user’s personal folder.

If you keep data stored in other folders, you might wish to include those in the index too, so your ‘Modify’ to add and remove folders and drives from the list – try to place limits on which folders are searched to keep the index running smoothly or click ‘Advanced’ for more options, including the ability to move the index file to another drive or to select which file types are indexed.

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