SSD Drive Upgrade is the Best PC Speedup Method

SSD PC Speedup Upgrading to an SSD Drive (solid state drive) from your regular old hard drive (HDD) is the best upgrade you can make to your laptop or desktop computer, hands down!

Hard drives tend to be among the biggest bottlenecks in performance. SSD Drive speeds are insanely fast, meaning using one will make your boot times and application launches super-fast!

An SSD drive is a hard drive that’s made up of memory chips. It works the same way as a traditional hard disk drive. You wouldn’t even know you’re using an SSD if it wasn’t for the difference in speed. [Read more…]

Computer Tips & Tricks: Is Disk Defragmenting Still Necessary Today?

With today’s hard drive technologies, people wonder if it’s still necessary to defragment their hard drives. By the way, what the heck is defragmenting anyway?

Defragmenting your hard drive quite simply means reorganizing the way information is stored on a computer disk so that all of the information belonging to a file is stored in a single, contiguous area on the disk. Believe it or not, a file (like a document, photo, etc) can actually be split up into smaller pieces. Its sub-pieces can be be physically spread out into different locations on the hard disk. This is what is meant by “fragmentation”. [Read more…]

Online PC Tuneup Sites – Most are Useless or Even Scams

What’s the deal with these sites that promise to double your PC’s speed with just the click of a button?  Yes, we all hear the commercials where someone is ecstatically happy because his or her PC is running “faster than ever”.  Oh really?

You may think I’m posting this because I’m a repair technician and get angry when I hear these.  Well you’re right, but not because I’m afraid of the competition.  I’m angry because these claims are mostly scams that take advantage of people.  You can speed up your PC by downloading any of a wide selection of free utilities, versus paying these bozos.

Now I’m only talking about very basic cleanup processes on PC’s that are basically in good shape, because that’s all that these sites or the free utilities can handle.  A badly under-performing PC that locks up and freezes, or gets Windows errors cannot be fixed like this.  These sites dupe people into thinking they will, and that angers me even more.  Then, they start charging extra fees for more extensive procedures.

Why not Clean Your PC Yourself, for Free?

I recommend a great little free program called “C-Cleaner“.  It’s very popular among PC Technicians and is part of our arsenal of standard tools.  You can download it from the “Resources” tab on our Saguaro PC Tech website, or at Download.com.  There’s a paid version too, but you don’t need it.

To clean and tune a really slow PC suffering from lockups and errors, several procedures are required, including checking for viruses and spyware, checking the health of the hard drive, removing outdated programs, installing Windows and driver updates, etc.  The list goes on.

Again, these sites will charge for more work, but many of these procedures can’t be done very well, or even at all via on line support.  Don’t waste your time or money.  You may find that taking your PC to a reputable local repair shop will be both cheaper and more effective.

Preventive Maintenance – The key to Trouble-Free Computing and long life for your PC.

Proper PC Usage and Habits – General Guidelines to Keep Your PC Healthy

  • Install and run anti-virus and anti-spyware scans regularly (weekly is best).
  • Go to our “Resources” page where you can download some great free programs for this.
  • Make sure your virus and spyware programs are up to date! Update these programs weekly!
  • Run a windows cleanup utility to remove temporary files and other junk that can sap performance.
    We’ve got two great, free programs for this on our “Resources” page.
  • Defragment your hard drive monthly. This reorganizes your hard drive to keep in running efficiently, and prolong its life. Yes, we have a link to download a great free program for this too.
  • Run Windows Update when your system prompts you. Most of these are security updates, so these are very important.
  • Dust the inside of your computer. Get some canned air, open the side panel and blast away! This will avoid component damage from static electricity caused by dust.

Extending Your Computer’s Life: If Your PC is over 3 Years Old

I often hear the question from my customers, “My Computer is getting old.  What do you recommend I do if I can’t afford to buy a new one?”  Here’s what’s happening and what you can do.

The major issues that deteriorate the performance of older computers are:

1) Insufficient Memory (RAM):

Machines that are in the 3-5 year range of life have low amounts of RAM by today’s standards.  This is because as time goes by, all those Windows updates you’ve been getting have actually made Windows bigger, thus needing more RAM.

You may also have installed new software (programs) over time.  Newer software has more features, and so is often larger than older programs, thus needing more RAM.

2) The Hard Drive:

This is the storage device inside your computer.  It is a mechanical device and like any mechanical device, the more usage you place on it, the more it wears down.  It can become increasingly inaccurate as it reads and writes data, thus causing file corruption, data loss and a slowing down of its operation.  What can you do?

Defragment Your Hard Drive! This will make your hard drive last much longer and help your machine run faster.  Why?…. Over time, the data on your hard disk gets fragmented and spread out all over the disk.  This means the drive has to look all over the place to get your files and has to work much harder, stressing and slowing it down.

All versions of Windows have a built-in defragmenting utility, but in my professional opinion, 3rd party “Defraggers” do a better job.  I like the free “Defraggler” program, made by Piriform Software.

What if this doesn’t help? Then it may be a good time to replace the hard drive.  This gives you multiple benefits.  The most important preserving your data.  If you wait until it fails, you will lose your data, such as your pictures, documents, emails, address books and videos.

The second benefit is performance.  With a new hard disk, you have the chance to reinstall or upgrade your Windows to a newer version.  A fresh installation of Windows gives you a huge increase in performance.  Your PC will “run like new”.  Also, the newer hard drives are faster than older ones, giving you a further boost in speed.

3) Old Software and File Buildup (junk files):

A lot of the software that came with your PC is outdated and is taking up space.  You may also have lots of programs running in the background that you’re not even aware of.  Some of these programs came bundled with programs that you downloaded, but piggybacked themselves into the download and installed themselves without your knowledge.  The biggest culprits here are Toolbars (Bing, Google, Yahoo, Ask, etc.).  You should uninstall these unneeded programs, but be careful, if you’re not sure, don’t touch it.  Call a professional computer technician.

Finally, there are many files that get created automatically in the background by the programs you’re running.  These are only temporarily needed, but are left behind even after they’re no longer needed.  Clearing these out with a good cleanup utility, like “C-Cleaner” can help regain performance.  This free utility is also from Piriform Software, the same people that make “Defraggler”.

So there you have the basics.  The two utilities we mentioned can be a great help.  You can find these on our website’s links page, or at CNet’s Download.com site.

Turning Your PC Off – Good or Bad?

Well, it’s both.  This is one of those questions that seems to never get fully answered, as opinions vary.

One thing is certain.  You shouldn’t power your PC off every time you’re done with it.  Cycling the power can damage components because powering up a machine causes a lot of stress on the system.

However, you should turn it off every now and then to clear out the memory and let your components get some rest.  If you have an older (3 years plus) system, you can shut it down at night.  For newer systems, at lest once a week is good. We recommend twice a week if you use it heavily.

Newer systems have better power management and their sleep mode works pretty well, allowing your system components to power down fully or almost fully.  For Windows 7 machines, it works even better.  Still, you do need to shut it down occasionally to clear out the memory.  This will speed up your machine.

If you’re going out of town for a few days, it’s always a good idea to turn it off.  Another good time to shut down is during lightning storms.

For more information, tips and help with other computer issues, please visit our website at Saguaropc.com.

Speed Up Windows 7: Turn off Indexing if You Don’t Need it.

Did you know Windows constantly creates and indexes your data, and that this heavy chore can slow down your PC?

Actually, indexing is good if you have tons of files and you use the built-in Windows Search to find your data.  The indexing makes the searches quick and easy.

But what if you don’t have tons of files and don’t need to do searches to find your data?  Then you might as well reduce the activity of this feature, or disable it altogether.  The result will be a faster computer.

To modify or disable indexing, open the Indexing Options applet in the Control Panel.  Note that if you have your Control Panel set to “Category View”, you will not see it.  Change the view to “icons” (large or small), and you will see the Indexing Options applet.  Upon opening, you’ll see a window showing what locations are being indexed.  Click “Modify” and remove locations (folders, etc.) being indexed.  You might just choose to index only your Documents folder and nothing else, or choose nothing at all.  It’s up to you.  You can even choose what types of files are indexed as well.

If you do want to leave search indexing on, but find that it occasionally slows you down, you can stop its process when you need extra speed. Right-click on “Computer” either in the Start menu or on the desktop, then choose the “Manage” option.  Then double-click Services and Applications, then Services. Find the “Windows Search” item and double click on that.  From this properties dialog, choose “Stop”.  You can also choose the Startup type, setting it to Manual or Disabled.  For occasional use, set it to Manual and it will start indexing the next time you do a search.

Again, if you don’t have many files and you know exactly where you keep them, then disable it altogether and remove all locations.  If you have a very fast PC with for instance,  a Quad-Core processor and over 4GB or memory, this won’t make much of a difference.  Go ahead and leave it on, as you might enjoy using the search feature from time to time.

If you have any questions about this or want help tuning and optimizing your PC, we can help (but only if you live in Tucson, of course).  Our contact information is on the Saguaro PC Tech website.