How do I speed up my system?

I see time and time again many people asking the basic question: How do I speed up my system? This is an important question; but is usually answered in the form of ads for the latest and self-proclaimed greatest PC Optimization Tool or Security App. I have tried many of these Tools in the past and found that not only do they not speed up my system, but usually make Windows unstable. If you really want to speed up your system here are a few actual ways that I personally found to help:

Reinstall your OS: Especially if you have been running it over a year. Windows has always been terrible at keeping the core system clean and it degrades over time from normal use, installing programs, swapping drivers, and such. Backup your documents, wipe your drive, and reinstall. When you boot back up the computer will run like it is brand new, that simple. If you are running Windows XP or Vista give Windows 7 a try, the base install is very streamlined. Once you have a fresh install only install the programs that you need. The more you install programs the more your system is modified and that can lead to problems.

Consider a hardware upgrade: Run some simple benchmarking software and see how you current hardware handles the type of programs or games that you run. I like SiSoftware’s Sandra , which has some extremely useful tools to help you understand and make the most of your hardware. For example If you notice your overall system is slow, but your processor and graphics card are fine, check your hard drive benchmarks. Last year I replace my old 7200 RPM 320GB WD IDE Hard drive for a new 10,000RPM WD Velociraptor Sata 2 Drive and was amazed at the results. It was like getting a brand new system. Windows 7 boots under 30 seconds, all my programs launch almost instantly (not iTunes though), I’m always first loaded in any game, and browsing the hard drive is super fast. Consider investing in a new hard drive if you have a Sata 2 capable system, as it is the number one upgrade to get more speed out of your system currently. You have the normal upgrade such as RAM and so on, heck Ram is so cheap right now most people can max out their RAM for under $50.

Try alternative software for your main apps: Sure we all want the most powerful, biggest, heavily featured software to run on our systems. But if you want a little more speed in your system or just to have your programs launch faster try this. There are many wonderful, often free programs that can match the core features of your most used apps. So give them a try; it is great to have programs that do just what you need without all the bloat that you don’t. They are smaller/light-weight, focused on getting the task done, and not getting in your way. ? is a great site that has alternative to some of the programs that you might be using. For example for the longest time I used Adobe Acrobat Reader for my PDF viewing. It is slow to launch, has a bunch of features I have never used, and always wants to upgrade with huge, slow to download, files before it will let me view the pdf that I want. So I found Foxit reader. A small, light-weight, and free pdf reader. It has a good amount of features, but is a tenth of the size of adobe, and lets me read pdfs within seconds of clicking on them. Foxit, over time, has made the hassle of reading pdfs into a smooth fast experience.

Here is my personal list of alternative software:
Foxit reader as a replacement for Adobe Acrobat Reader
Firefox or Chrome as a replacement for Internet Exploder
VLC as a replacement for Windows Media Player
NotePad++ sometimes as a replacement for Microsoft Word
Jzip as a replacement for WinZip or other UnZipping programs
Microsoft Security Essentials as a replacement for the main large security suites.
ImgBurn as a replacement for CD/DVD burning software.

A few other things to consider that can help speed up your system:
Overclocking – Easy to do free speed, just do a bit of research first.
Turn off unused stuff – Any feature or service that you never use. ie Hard drive indexing
Update Drivers – Go to the manufacture’s site and Download the latest drivers

There is a lot more I could say about each part of this post, but I have found that downloading all in one programs do not fix but create problems for my system. The best ways to actually speed up your systems are the old tried and true methods such as: Reinstalling the OS, Upgrading the Hardware, and choosing the more streamlined Applications. What is your favorite way the speed up your system? Feel free to comment.

A Gamers View on Windows 7 – Part 2 of 2 Gaming on Windows 7

Last post covers the History of Windows Vista

Windows Vista SP3, oh I mean Windows 7

Windows 7 is based on Vista, in fact there are only a few differences, and it’s what they choose to change that is really exciting for the gamers. They have kept the more core features of Windows Vista, but have cut down on the ‘bloat-ware’. And also gave the user the ability to disable more Windows components than ever before. They optimized the code to run cleaner and better on lower end systems. In fact Windows 7 is great for older systems and portable devises like laptops and net books. There are finally more common sense user-centric features like being able to mount virtual hard drives. Many of these new features built in and around the taskbar. The beta was released Jan 2009, and the retail version release date is October 22nd, 2009.

My experience with Windows 7

Microsoft has done something right by giving everyone a chance to play around with their new system by letting everyone download the Release Candidate 1. This is the full version of the OS that is good for a year. I installed Windows 7 RC1 version 7.100 to replace my old install of Windows 7 Beta 7.000. And for those thinking about trying Windows 7 out here is my experience so far. The install was the new 64bit for this install, to try it out.

Installation Experience.

On the 10,000 RPM WD Velociraptor hard drive it took about 19 minutes to install and boot to desktop; which requires less input for the installer, and only ask for the key after booting. The installer program is much like Vista and quickly up the monitor resolution as it is able. As the system has a large amount of hardware compared to most systems my install times may be slight longer than other peoples. For the base install all but the drivers for the Creative X-Fi sound card were ready to go, the screen was running at my normal resolution of 1920 x 1080. Next I updated the system by running Windows update twice, and installed the 3rd party drivers for all of the hardware. For a total time of 37 minutes from start of install until the system was updated and the 3d party drivers were installed, which I had downloaded and burned to a DVD beforehand. I had no problem finding current 64 bit drivers for all of hardware, and so far have had no problem running 64 bit.

Last to be installed were the applications for another hour. Total time from start of install to first game play was 1 hour 35 minutes, at this point I had most of the programs and games that I require installed; which were mostly downloaded before or able to copy from another drive such as steam games. I fired up Left4Dead and was able to help finish up a round of Expert Campaign that my friends had started at the same time as I started to install Windows 7. Though I was pulled off the boat right at the end by a very cheap smoker, you are never save even in ‘safe’ areas.

The change from Vista is noticeable, but not confusing. The desktop is cleaner and looks great, there are nice options for my duel displays; the taskbar is a vast improvement over Vista and those Classic holdovers will like the new taskbar if they give it a try. The system runs very fast and responsive with my 10,000RPM hard drive. With everything installed and running I’m running an average of 50 processes and very little of my system RAM.

Windows 7 And Gaming

Gaming on Windows 7 is a dream; you get the clean feel of Windows Vista, better gaming tech with full DirectX 10 support, and with faster speed than Windows XP. The big change is everything just works, compared to the switch to Windows Vista. The drivers are fully optimized; I’m even running 64-bit without worrying about not having access to the latest drivers. My main focus of games has been lately based on the popular valve games: Left4Dead, Team Fortress 2, and a little Company of Heroes. These games run great on Windows 7, and Steam interface even seems a little faster. I don’t have a comparison set of benchmarks from Vista, maybe if requested that can be a future project.

Playing with Windows 7

I also tried my hand at installing Windows 7 RC1 on an Intel Power Mac in Virtual Box and on my older Windows AMD 3400+ DDR400 system. Both installs went well, even with my passing knowledge on Mac OS 10.5. The Mac install currently runs a bit slow, but serves the purpose of putting Windows on Mac for free, giving the ability to run Windows only apps on a Mac system. The install on the older AMD system really gave new life to an older system, where the system was struggling to run Sims 2 on Windows XP, it runs Sims 3 fine with Windows 7. One of the cool features of Windows 7 is the Windows XP compatibility mode. Where in addition to the normal compatibility options to run older applications/games on the new system; Windows XP has been built into a virtual machine onto which the older application/game can be installed using an updated version or Windows Virtual PC that is integrated into Windows 7. After the install and first run of that application/game, it will appear in Windows 7 start menu and run just like any other application; thus solving the Windows XP to Windows Vista application capability gap.

What will Windows 7 do for the gamers system? If you get the RC1 right now you will get Windows free for one year, all the important features of Vista, but on the cleanest running OS Microsoft has ever released, and a little more speed out of all your games. It is a win, win solution. So if you aren’t afraid to reinstall you system head over to Microsoft and get a copy. Without knowing it Microsoft has a finally given the gamers a leg up.

A Gamers View on Windows 7 – Part 1 of 2 The History of Windows Vista

It is that time again; the new Windows 7 is soon to come out October 22nd, 2009. And the big question for the gamer is ‘Should I upgrade?’ When Vista came out, it was the promise of new gaming technology with DirectX 10 and more system support for the newer hardware; verse the reality if the older drivers and applications would work at all. Everyone had to decide whether or not to gamble their working Windows XP system for the unknown in Windows Vista. Now we have it happening again as Microsoft is about to release their next OS ‘masterpiece’.

Windows Live

Microsoft has had a very spotty past with gamers. Two recent examples of Microsoft missing the mark are Windows Live and Windows Vista pre SP1. Windows Live is Microsoft’s failed attempt to bring some of the features found on their flagship the Xbox 360 to the PC. It was a good idea that they put little time or research into and released half-baked. A simple comparison between Steam and Windows Live shows how little Microsoft understands their own gaming platform. Now I consider any game that uses Windows Live a lesser product for it sadly. Windows Vista was to be the next step in gaming with DirectX 10, redesigned basic system sound, and just for the fun it a desktop that uses the video card to look prettier.

The development of Windows Vista

Windows Vista was a victim of the old deadline, Windows XP, their last OS, had been released way back in Oct 2001 and it was past time for a new OS. The other big OS developers had moved on such as Apple with much more recent OSs that made the current Windows start to show its age. In Aug 2004 all the past work on ‘Longhorn’ or soon to be called Vista was scraped forcing the development team to start fresh and anew, but pressured to release as soon as possible. Within a year a beta was released but the core system was changed trying to support the most recent hardware up to the day of release. It would seem that most hardware developers had the last build for a very short time before the release in Jan 2007. And thus they had a very short time to develop drivers. Nvidia had just release their first set of DirectX 10 cards with the 8800s three months before the Windows Vista release. Creative was caught off guard by the changes to the old sound setup, which was past due, but still changed the way their cards would function.

A perfect storm was brewing as Microsoft forced Vista out the door. The quick redevelopment of the whole system, core changes to how the hardware and system interacted, very short time given to hardware developers to upgrade their drivers to work with the new system, and the release of new technology right before the release of the system. Also the common user had to worry that their basic Dell that had no video card could even power the desktop as video card were sold to the gamers and high-end users only.

Early adoption of Windows Vista

Here is my experience as an early user of Windows Vista. I had very main stream hardware, Intel processor, Nvidia Video Card, Nvidia motherboard, and Creative sound card. I bought Windows Vista Home Premium exited to play with the new system. It took 4 installs to get my system half way operational. The main problem was that Windows Vista didn’t like my Sata hard drives, my video card would just plain not work with Vista with any but the basic drivers, and I had no sound. I played with Windows Vista for a few months off and on but had to use Windows XP.

Finally Nvidia fixed most of their drivers’ issues, and I was also able to sell my Video card (7900GT) for a new 8800 GT 320Mb. And I got my hands on Vista Ultimate that worked with my hard drives in RAID. So I installed Vista as my main system in Aug 2007. I still had sound issues for another 6 months, but it was workable. At the point that Service Pack 1 (Feb 2008) finally came out for Vista, performance in games had caught up with that experienced in Windows XP. It took Microsoft over a year for the release to get the system where it should have been for its release. And that has cost them a lot of possible ‘good-will’ with the general Windows users and me. That was part of the risk they took developing a new system, but they should have just waited

The Current state of Windows Vista

Vista is a fine system for gaming now, DirectX 10 has finally taken off, and the hardware drivers have been optimized. All of the show stopping system bugs that Vista released with have been hotfixed out. Still a lot of gamers prefer XP as the OS has much less overhead than Vista. Vista has a lot of services and processes that are running, in part to support the Aero interface and other ‘features’, to gamers this is seen as ‘bloat-ware”. After installing all my apps and games I was running average of 90 processes and using a good percentage of my RAM. Most users end up having to close processes when running games to help boost game performance.

A Gamers View on Windows 7 – Part 2 of 2 Gaming on Windows 7 is next.