Today is not only the day after the Super Bowl, it’s also National Clean Out Your Computer Day – the day was created by the Institute for Business Technology as a way to remind PC users about all of the clutter on their systems. Regardless of the day’s motive, it’s pretty clear that computer users are just as much packrats as they are in their homes. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the average American adult has more than 1,800 digital files. Instead of cleaning up our systems, Americans are likely to just go out and buy a new system, rather than fix or maintain the one they have. Vendor iolo technologies, maker of the System Mechanic PC tune-up software, says the average computer’s lifespan is about 30 months.
The reasons people give as to why their computer sucks, such as "It’s too slow, I need a faster one, etc." may be fixable using a reputable PC tune-up program on their existing system, rather than going out to get a brand-new system. I’ve compiled a list of several reasons why computers end up slowing down or "suck" from the purchase date to about two years later: 1) Registry errors: Imagine going to a shopping mall where several stores have opened and closed or moved over the past few years, and visiting the Store Directory map, and discovering that it hasn’t been updated. Imagine the time you’d waste walking all the way to where that store used to be only to find out it’s gone. That’s a little bit like what happens to your computer’s registry after a few years of installing and uninstalling programs, as well as errors made during the installation or uninstall process to the registry. Every error, invalid reference or unresolved key path involves more time needed by the PC, attempting to find that no-longer-existent program, slowing down the system. 2) Registry bloat: As new applications are installed onto the PC, the size of the registry grows. Even if an application is uninstalled, the empty spaces in the registry still exist and must be accounted for. In addition, bloat is created by applications that install temporary libraries or other data that doesn’t get used by the application or the end user, but still creates entries within the registry. 3) System crashes that corrupt the registry: The blue screen of death? It can corrupt the registry as well, slowing it down post-crash. 4) Startup Clutter: Applications that get loaded during the start-up process for Windows tend to eat up memory and processing power (and make you wait during start-up). Many are updater applications that are not even needed – most applications check for updates when they load, so they’re unneeded in the system tray. 5) Browser tool bars: Tool bars and extensions to browsers also can chip away at a PC’s available memory or processing power. For example, an ActiveX or Java tool that autodetects the type of printer a user is connected to is now there permanently, always checking or re-checking. Extensions can also freeze or crash or become unresponsive. 6) Lost RAM: Users who get frustrated over slow start-up times tend to keep their PCs on at all times, or put them into “sleep” mode so they can start up fast again. However, this can cause the system to leak memory over time. In addition, when some applications close, they don’t reallocate all of the memory they grabbed when the program launched, causing less memory to become available for other applications. 7) Fragmentation: Like the issues with the registry, the constant installation and uninstallation of programs can cause havoc on the PC’s hard drive. In addition, if a hard drive is fragmented, larger files often have to be split in order to be stored on the drive, causing application performance to slow. Users who don’t regularly de-frag their systems are likely to complain about a slower system. 8) CPU Churn: All of these extra applications, services, etc., end up using more of your CPU than you’d like – and while it appears that nothing is happening with your system, all of this stuff in the background is slowing down the system, causing irritation for end users. Dual-core processing systems from 3-4 years ago should be plenty fast enough for users’ needs, if there’s enough RAM, but processor churn and memory leakage can cause those systems to slow down. 9) Viruses, malware: A system infected with malware not only puts the user in danger if the malware is looking for financial or other data, but malware can slow down performance if the system is being utilized as a spambot, or if it tries to create several instances of additional malware to spread to other PCs. Drive performance, network traffic and system resources can all take a hit from viruses and malware. 10) Internet speed issues: Some systems and applications try to detect what your network connection speed is, and adjust the network traffic accordingly – for example, broadband connections tend to optimize traffic to carry larger packets over the network. When a user switches their network connection to a different method (in the old days, dial-up, but now, 3G wireless for example), those optimized packets can be too much for the smaller pipe, slowing down network traffic. Fixing a lot of these issues can be solved through the use of tune-up and defragmentation software (such as System Mechanic and Diskeeper, for example). Other tips: * Organize files more logically, and put them in folders that make sense to you. This helps later on when trying to locate or clean up. * Back up files and programs at least every month. Check out hardware like Seagate’s Replica or Clickfree Automatic Backup devices, which automatically back up files a lot easier than earlier software that required human interaction. Don’t forget online backup options as well, for off-site backup. * Uninstall programs you don’t use or need. Holding on to unused programs is like holding onto the clutter in your basement, and the excuse of, "well, I might need it some day." Trust me, you don’t need it. Get rid of it. And don’t forget to clean the registry after you throw out the old programs. Clean the outside of your PC as well. Clean your screen, keyboard and mouse, and you may feel like you have a brand new system.