Get A Faster, Safer PC (Part 1) - Clear out the system tray, Remove crapware & A slicker setup

4/3/2012 5:32:03 PM

Get A Faster, Safer PC (Part 1)



One of the simplest ways to get more from your home computer is to return it to the uncluttered state in which you found it. Rosemary Hattersley suggests ways to make your PC and its owner more productive and efficient

Much like the humans who operate them, PCs benefit from a periodic detox. The accumulation of stray files, downloads scattered across various folders, and programs that start up as soon as Windows boots do nothing for a PC’s efficiency. And with the best will in the world, that vast hard drive inside your PC does actually have a limit the more you store, the less space is available for important Windows tasks such as virtual memory and system rollbacks. These not only help your PC seem slicker; System Restore is one of the best ports of call if your computer begins to act strangely.

It’s not just your PC itself that could do with taking in hand, though. Getting into better habits about how you organise and arrange your PC’s contents is also productivity must. If you’ve no particular system for how and where you store files, and you pay scant regard for how photos and videos are named, it’s likely you’ll eventually end up wasting precious time tracking them down when you need them.

Over the following pages we look at how to give your computer some more pep and strip it back, clean it out, reorganise its innards and give it some much needed TLC.

Contributors: Rick Broida, Jason Cross, Jon Jacobi, Anne McDonald, Nick Mediati, Justin Phelps, Nate Ralph, Wes Simons, Lincoln Spector.

Get going faster

Get a flying start to your working day by ensuring your PC is ready for action as soon as you are. An instant boot is yet to be realised on PCs, although window 8 promises much faster startups from cold. Resuming from standby or sleep I already possible. Rather than setting your PC to shut down each day, change the shut down option by clicking the Start button and choosing Sleep or Log Off.


Clear out the system tray

Description: Clear out the system tray

Have you ever wanted to remove icons, specifically those for unused programs, from the lower-right corner of the screen?

Those icons in the System Tray or notification area aren’t just icons; they’re running programs that use RAM and clock cycles. Each one is slowing down your PC. They might also be conflicting with other software, making Windows les stable.

Some of these programs are worth such potential problems. For instance, you need an antivirus program’s real-time malware protection to keep your PC safe.

To remove icons for programs you don’t use, however, you best bet is to uninstall the unwanted software itself. If you can’t remember its name, point your mouse at its icon and that information will be revealed.

Once you know the name, click Start, select Control Panel and, in XP, click ‘Add or Remove Programs’. In Windows 7 or Vista, choosing ‘Uninstall a program’. Select the program and click Remove or Uninstall.

If uninstalling doesn’t remove the icon, click Start (in XP, Start, Run), type msconfig and press Enter. Click the startup tab to see a list a programs that load automatically when you boot. Once you find the culprits, deselect them from the startup items list. This is also what you should do if you prefer to keep a program installed, but don’t want it running at all times.

Remove crapware

Description: Remove crapware

It’s a familiar problem: you boot up a new Windows PC, only to find it’s already littered with trial versions of software, commonly referred to as ‘crapware’. Although the unwanted software won’t harm your computer, it will hog memory and often create annoying pop-ups asking you to update your membership. Ditching crapware is like uninstalling any other program, but these steps will make the process easier.

To manually clean up your PC, click Start and head to the Control Panel. Double click the ‘Programs and Features’ button if you’re in Classic View, or click the ‘’Uninstall a program’ text under the Programs heading if you’re using the new Control Panel. Select the program to remove and click the Uninstall/Change text near the top of the screen. Make sure you remove all components if prompted.

Another cleanup option is to use PC Decrapifier( it’s small program that’s easy to delete after you’ve flushed your system. Run the application file and read through the first few screens until you reach the one titled ‘Select Items’. You can then begin to sort through the software that it’s identified as possible junk.

Be careful: PC Decrapifier has trouble distinguishing between paid for and trial software. If you’ve upgraded or manually installed any of the applications it lists, deselect those programs so that PC Decrapifier doesn’t eliminate them.

A slicker setup

Description: A slicker setup

Both you and your computer can become instantly more efficient simply by dint of some reorganisation. Read on for some handy tips.

Partition your hard drive. Disk partitioning can fix many PC related headaches, and Widows 7’s Disk Management tool does the job for free.

Back up your data. The partitioning process shouldn’t delete any data, but it’s not worth taking that chance.

Select control Panel, Administrative Tools, Computer Management to open the Disk Management tool. Beneath the Storage heading on the left, click Disk Management. You should see a list of you existing drives and partition, choose a disk that has free storage space, right-click it, and select Shrink Volume. You can safely shrink only basic disks; if you try to shrink dynamic disks (such as Raid arrays) formatted with the NTFS file system, you may lose data.

In the available field, enter the amount of space you want to shrink the disk by, based on what you wish to use the other partition for. If you plan to dual boot another version of Windows, for example, you’ll want a lot of space; but if you’re creating an emergency recovery partition, you’ll need far less space. If you’ll be installing an operating system in this partition, its installer will probably insist on creating the partition itself during the installation process.

Once you’ve cleared the necessary space, it should show up in the Disk Management window as Unallocated Space. Right-click this entry, select ‘New Simple Volume’, and let the wizard guide you through the remaining steps of the process. In all probability, you’ll want to format the new partition as NTFS; and unless you’re using the partition for archiving, you won’t need to enable file and folder compression for the whole drive.

Now you have a clean hard drive partition you can use to dual boot Windows 7 or keep your data safe.

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