Computer Tutor: John Lucas

Has your older Windows-based PC become more sluggish? Does it seem to take longer to complete simple commands? Like any car or other machine, computers need routine maintenance to run quickly and efficiently.

Before you decide to download another new utility software that claims to “clean up” your PC, purchase additional RAM (random access memory) or make the big decision to shell out big bucks for a new computer, you might want to try these five free maintenance tips to improve your computer’s performance without spending a dime:John Lucas, the Computer Tutor

1 .Reduce the number of open applications

Each application or computer process you open, whether it is your email, Internet browser, word processor, computer game or printer, uses some of your computer’s memory and resources. Cumulatively, it slows down your computer. By simply reducing the number of apps you have open at a given time, you can speed up your computer’s performance.

If you are not sure which apps you have open, the Task Manager utility program will show you a list of what applications are running on your computer and give you the option to shut down the ones you are no longer using.

How: Keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + Del > click on Start Task Manager

2. Run disk cleanup

Over time, temporary files, web page cookies and deleted files and folders in your trash or recycle bin can accumulate wasting your computer’s resources. Depending on your daily computer usage, at least once week or every couple of weeks, delete the temp files, cookies from your browser and empty your trash or recycle bin using the Disk Cleanup utility.

How: Go to Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools> Disk CleanUp

3. Keep your system software up-to-date

Your system software or OS controls the underlying operating system of your computer hardware and provides the platform for your application software such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. To keep your system software running most efficiently, make sure you regularly either manually or automatically download the latest software revisions from Microsoft for your Windows operating system. Updates may include new or revised settings, security patches or updated drivers for your system software.

How: Go to Start>Control Panel>Security>Updates

4. Uninstall programs you never or rarely use

Is your computer hard disk full of programs you may have installed in the past, but rarely use anymore? Did your computer come with pre-loaded software, called bundled software, from the manufacturer which you have never even tried? These seldom or never used apps can often consume system resources, even if not actively being run by the user, adversely affecting system responsiveness and startup time. Freeing up disk space on your hard drive by uninstalling these programs can sometimes significantly improve your computer’s performance.

How: Go to Control Panel>Programs>Uninstall

5. Defragment your hard drive

Over long periods of time, data files can become fragmented with pieces spread all over your hard drive. This fragmentation is a drag on your computer’s overall efficiency. After first analyzing the state of your computer, Disk Defragmenter can reverses the fragmentation as it re-arranges the data on the disk in such a way that it can be accessed more quickly.

How: Go to Start>All Programs>

Accessories>System Tools>Disk Defragmenter

If you just don’t have the time, energy or interest in maintaining your PC on your own and don’t mind spending a few bucks, PC Magazine published an article titled “The Best Tuneup Utilities” in its August 2012 issue. You can check it out at,2817,2371155,00.asp

John Lucas is the owner of Your Computer Tutor which provides personalized home computer instruction and technical support for both Macs and PCs in the Portland metro area. A retired teacher with a Masters in Library Science, Lucas welcomes questions about common computer issues. Reach him by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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