Tune up Your Computer like a Pro
Using Free Tools from the Internet
Do not connect the PC to Internet or to the local network yet. Before you start, you'll need another good CLEAN computer and a USB flash drive. With the good computer connected to the Internet, download the following tools and place them on the USB flash drive.
Install one of the free antivirus below.
- Microsoft Security Essentials. Free from microsoft.com
- AVG Free edition from grisoft.com or download.com.
- or Avast! free antivirus from www.avast.com
Install and run each anti-spyware below.
- Spyware downloads from download.com
- Ad-aware Personal Edition from download.com
- Spybot Search & Destroy from download.com
- Malwarebytes from http://www.malwarebytes.org/
- Ccleaner from ccleaner.com
- Spywareblaster will install a list of blacklisted sites into your browsers (FireFox, Internet Explorer).
Spybot will do a similar job if you click on Immunize from within Spybot.
Go to the bad computer with the above USB drive.
Click on Start > Run... > msconfig and select Diagnostic Startup . Restart the PC.
Install the tools from the usb drive and scan the PC. This may take hours.
Use the waiting time to collect additional tools.
If after scanning you still see some tough spyware, use HijackThis. Follow the instructions carefully.
If you have conflicting virus reports, upload the suspicious file to www.virustotal.com and get forty other opinions.
Restart your PC in normal mode:
Click on Start > Run... > msconfig and select Normal Startup. Restart the PC.
- Do the Windows critical updates: update.microsoft.com
- Stop unwanted startup applications: Download Winpatrol.com free edition
- Uninstall applications you no longer use: Control Panel --> Add/Remove Programs.
- Better yet, use free Revo Uninstaller or PCDecrapifier.
- Run Disk Cleaner: Start - Programs - Accessories - System Tools --> Disk Cleaner.
- Run CCleaner from piriform.com
- Locate and delete large forgotten files with Windirstat from sourceforge.net.
- Defragment the files on the hard disk: Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Defragmenter. Or Defraggler from piriform.com
- Install a firewall and learn to use it. Use ZoneAlarm from zonelabs.com or comodo firewall. If you find them too complicated, enable the Windows firewall in Control Panel.
- Backup your data with freeware SyncbackSE from 2BrightSparks.com. Set it and forget it. Your folders and drives will be backed up regularly to external disks or over the network, including ftp folders.
Online backup compared.
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Most of the above troubleshooting steps can be done from a live CD that contains many more tools.
One popular live CD: http://www.hiren.info/pages/bootcd
The five best live CDs: http://lifehacker.com/5157811/five-best-live-cds
If you must spend more than $100 on your old pc, it’s probably not worth the repair. Just pull out the hard disk with your data in it so you can put that data in a new computer. If you insist on spending money, the two biggest bangs for the money are:
1. Add more memory. Two gigabyte (2 GB) of RAM costs under $50. For current deals, visit www.newegg.com or www.tigerdirect.com or www.outpost.com (Fry’s Electronics). Compare prices at www.pricewatch.com or www.pricegrabber.com
2. Get a larger screen. 19-inch flat panels cost about $100. Get two flat monitors and configure them side by side to act as a single display. You’ll need two video cards, or one card with two video outputs. Go to Control Panel à Display à follow the instructions. The two monitors can be different sizes or brand.
A memory optimizer is normally not needed if your PC has 1 GB of RAM or more.
Files loaded in memory are shared by different programs. Their presence in RAM memory speeds up your computer. Once in a while, a bad application is filling the RAM because it failed to remove itself from memory after you closed it. It clogs it up and the other applications are slowed down.. A free memory optimizer is FreeRAM XP Pro from YourWare Solutions. Downloadable from download.com. Set it to scan at time intervals or a certain memory levels.
Free Anti-Virus Software
AVG Antivirus 7 Free Edition. has daily automatic updates, regular scans and handles email scanning. From free.grisoft.com
Equally effective is the free anti-virus
Avast! scanner free for home use. From www.avast.com.
Also, Sophos free 30-day trial will clean up. About $50 for three computers. Sophos if free for Apple computers.
Other free anti-virus programs – some do online scanning
NOD32 can be downloaded from www, F-Secure, Kaspersky AV, Panda, Trendmicro, Kapersky at http://www.kaspersky.com/kos/english/kavwebscan.html
AntiVir Personal Edition Classic. On-demand scanner, online and desktop:
Microsoft Security Essentials from microsoft.com
Before you connect a new computer to your network, always ensure you scan it for viruses and spyware. Use an anti-virus running off a USB flashdrive like Clamwin Anti virus portable from www.portableapps.com. Get the update, a.k.a definition file from a clean computer . You could reserve a USB flash drive just for the purpose of scanning sick computers.
What if my virus scanner detects a bad file and my other scanner doesn't? Which of the two is right? Upload your suspicious file for free to www.virustotal.com and let them scan it.
Fake virus alerts pop-up? Don't click on it. Close fake alerts with Task Manager: Press CTL + Alt + Delete
or Ctrl + Shift + Esc keys , select that running application and click on End Task.
Firewalls keep intruders out of your computer.
Get the free Comodo Firewall from www.comodogroup.com
Or the free ZoneAlarm firewall from at www.zonelabs.com
Zonelabs also sells a $50 suite that contains the above free firewall, anti-spyware, anti-adware and anti-popup.
- Free anti-virus for Comcast Subscriber,
You can download and install McAfee VirusScan at Security downloads page
Comcast recommends that you download and install the Comcast Toolbar, which includes Spyware Scan. Once you have the Comcast Toolbar installed, follow the steps outlined in the FAQ titled How do I run a spyware scan using the Comcast Toolbar?
I would install a toolbar only as a last resort.
- Free anti-virus for AOL Subscribers
AOL reserves the right to spam you. By default AOL installs the AOL search bar in Internet Explorer as part of the install. You may opt out during installation.
Some users complain that the McAfee, Norton and AOL virus package slows their computers too much.
WHAT ARE SPYWARE, ADWARE AND MALWARE?
Spyware silently transmits user information via the Internet to advertisers or to hackers. Spyware will cause your PC to perform poorly, causing slow browsing and downloads, program crashes etc.
Spyware may be found:
- Bundled inside of
shareware or freeware applications
- In free versions of otherwise licensed applications
- In peer-to-peer (P2P) and other file sharing programs
- Drivers that come with your new HP printer or new webcam CD.
Some applications that include Spyware, are: Xupiter, Gator, SaveNow, NewDotNet, BDE Projector, HotBar, Bonzai Buddy, Comet Cursor, Morpheus, WebHancer, WinMX, Kazaa and Wild Tangent. Anything and everything you download should be scanned for viruses. Put all your downloads in a folder. Scan that folder before you install new apps.
SpyBot Search and Destroy (now with
TeaTimer, resident watchdog running in background) and Ad-Aware Personal
Edition are free. Run them at least once a week.
SpywareTerminator. Get the free download from http://www.spywareterminator.com/dnl/landing.aspx
WebRoot SpySweeper and Spyware Doctor are commercial anti spyware products. About $30 each, and well worth the money.
Spycatcher Express www.tenebril.com
Caution: many programs claim to remove Spyware but in fact install spyware themselves. Do not download a legitimate application from unknown sites, as they may contain Trojan horse viruses.
For around $30, you can get a package of five features called Internet Security Suite from Computer Associates at www.ca.com Retails for about $50, (3 licenses for three computers). It comes with anti spyware, virus scanner, anti popup, firewall and parental control. A little difficult to use for beginners. Great if you are an expert user.
ZoneAlarm also sells a complete security package for about $50..
Back up your PC
It's essential to perform regular backups of your PC. Someday, you’ll lose that hard disk. The built-in backup utility in Windows XP Pro is more robust than earlier versions, but it won't back up to a CD-R. It does work with CD-RWs, hard drives, and removable storage.
1. Backup The Windows Way
Log in to XP Pro with Administrator privileges,
select Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Backup.
Step through the various dialog boxes and follow all directions. In the 'What to Back Up' dialog box, choose the All Information On This Computer option if you haven't done a backup before. This will create a floppy that you can use to boot your PC and to restore the backup after a crash.
2. Backup The Better Way
Get a third-party backup program. For Automatic and easy backup of your files to another computer on your home network, for free.
SyncBackSE from 2BrightSparks.com .
This free backup software will do the job of backing up your folders from anywhere to almost anywhere on your home network or remote computers, include ftp sites. No spyware, adware, or popup nagging you to buy the retail professional version.
Remove your Startup Programs
Many of the programs installed on your PC may have, by default, set themselves to run each time your PC starts.
The system tray at the bottom right corner of your screen shows a few of them. Many others are not showing here. These programs will take up system resources (memory, processor cycles etc) even though you're not using them.
1. The Windows Way
Click on the Start button at the lower left of your screen. Then choose Run and enter msconfig and then hit OK. A screen will appear with various tabs. Click on the Startup tab to see what is in your startup tray. You may remove the check mark in front of items you do not want to load when you start your PC.
msconfig program allows you to change which programs will run when your PC starts. If your pc is missing msconfig, you can get it from NetSquirrel.com/msconfig
Microsoft Windows XP resource
2. The Better Way
See and control startup apps with BillP’s WinPatrol, free download from www.winpatrol.com
Other startup viewer: Startup Monitor www.snpsoftware.com
is similar to winpatrol and also free.
Remove your Unwanted Large Files
Photos, songs, movies? This free tool. shows where all your disk space has gone and helps you clean it up. What’s taking all the space in your hard disk?
Windirstat from www.sourceforge.net
Clean out your Windows\temp directory
It is safe to delete all the files from the Windows\temp directory that are more than a week old. Go to the My Computer icon, open it, and double click on the icon for your hard drive. Double click on the Windows folder, then the Temp folder. Click on View - Details, then click on View -- Arrange Icons -- By Date. Using your mouse, draw a box around any file ending in the extension .tmp that is more than a week old and then hit Delete.
Run CCleaner, free download
Looks for junk files like temp files and cookies and dead links in registry.
Uninstall old applications (software programs)
Find the Uninstall program by clicking on the Start button at the lower left of your screen, then click on Programs. Highlight the name of the application/program that you want to remove and look for an Uninstall listing in the program folder and follow directions.) If there is no Uninstall program provided, double click on My Computer and use the Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs utility to uninstall it. (This is a less than perfect system, so if space is tight, try a commercial uninstaller.) NOTE: You may get messages asking whether you want to remove certain shared files that are no longer in use. The safest bet is to say No. (You can always invest in a cleanup program later like Registry Mechanic ($30), and it will identify and repair any leftover shortcuts.)
Folders, documents & files
Over time, you can begin to accumulate folders, documents, and files that do nothing more than clog your hard drive. Go to the My Computer icon and peruse your folders, removing things you don't want. Alternately, you can open Windows Explorer and use the delete function under the File option at the top of the screen to remove items you no longer need.
Clean out unneeded files
Go to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Cleanup, and select the drive you want to clean. XP will analyze your files and show a list of which ones can be removed. Check the boxes next to the categories you want to discard.
More Options tab offers you several more cleanup choices. The System Restore
cleanup option, in particular, can clear lots of disk space by erasing old
Empty your browser's cache
All Internet browsers toss files onto your hard drive as you move from Web site to Web site. The trouble is they leave them there in a folder or a series of folders called the Cache. The means you can literally have thousands of files on your disk that serve little or no purpose. To deal with this problem, with your browser running, use these instructions to clear the cache:
Internet Explorer 5.0: Select Tools/Internet Options. In the dialog box that appears, click the Delete Files button under Temporary Internet Files on the General tab. Netscape Navigator 3.x: Select Options/Network Preferences. In the Preferences dialog box that appears, click Clear Disk Cache Now. Netscape Communicator: Select Edit/Preferences to display the Preferences dialog box. Under
select Cache, and click Clear Disk Cache.
Get rid of old, unwanted e-mail
Do you hang onto all of your old e-mail? Do you have to keep it all? Adopt the habit of deleting the e-mail you don't need as soon as you are done reading it. In Outlook, the file keeps growing into many megabytes. The file is called outlook.pst.
Empty the Recycle Bin
Right click on it and empty it. Right click again and select Properties. Make the recycle bin maximum size 1% of the total disk space. If the delete confirmation annoys you, uncheck that box.
Applications and files must be closed in order for error checking to fix the problems it finds, so XP will often report that the disk check will run the next time you restart your system if you've checked 'Automatically fix file system errors' on the next screen.Turn off your screensaver. Click Start --> Run and type in: scandisk You will have an option of choosing Standard or a Thorough. Alternately, you can click on the Start button, then Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> ScanDisk. Again, alternately, you can click on the Start button, then Programs-> Accessories->System Tools->Disk Defragmenter.
Your computer will function best if all the information it needs to access is in the same place. Unfortunately, programs do not always place items in the optimal places on your hard drive, and when you delete files and programs, your files get fragmented. To get all the information together again, run a Defrag after running a ScanDisk. Click Start -> Run and type in: defrag . Defrag will take awhile, so do it just before you go to lunch or overnight. Restart your machine after defragging.
To run Scandisk in Windows XP, follow the instructions outlined below.
To run Defrag in Windows XP, follow the instructions outlined below.
Good defragger: PerfecDisk by Raxco (not Roxio)
Try the free demo at http://www.raxco.com/products/downloadit/perfectdisk_download.cfm
Clean Your Mouse
Start by turning off your computer and then turn your mouse over and turn (or push) on the cover that holds the ball in place. Remove the ball and wash it with water.No household products such as rubbing alcohol or a Windex-type cleaners should be used on the pc.Plastic and rubber parts don't like them. Look inside the mouse. Remove any hair or dust you see. Use your finger, tweezers, Q-tips or anything that’ll do the trick. Replace cover. Done.
Update Windows and Drivers
Keeping Windows up to date is not only easy, but helps ensure your PC runs securely and efficiently. Microsoft has created a site that will scan your PC and install any required updates. To set your PC to download and install these updates automatically. To run Windows Update manually, follow the instructions outlined below.
Backup and restore drivers with free DoubleDriver.
Update drivers and apps with Secunia PSI
Check with your hardware vendor to make sure that you're using the latest drivers. Comcast has provided a list of common hardware vendor web sites for video cards, sound cards, hard drives and networking equipment.
Western Digital: http://support.wdc.com/
Sound Cards, Creative Labs: http://us.creative.com/support/
Networking Hardware, 3com: http://www.3com.com/products/en_US/downloadsindex.jsp
Update your applications, such as Microsoft Office