Saturday, June 13, 2015

Tips to Increase the Performance of Your Windows Computer


[I expect this entry to get long. I don't want to post a series, so I'm posting it piecemeal. If you find it at this stage, cool, thanks for coming by. Hopefully you find some useful tips. Keep coming back to find more. Given time, I'll finish listing all my tips and post a link to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Follow me on one or all those social media sites if you'd rather wait until I'm done to get all these tips at once.]

Our computers have a lifespan longer than four and half years. Yet, on average, home computers get replaced that frequently.

With proper maintenance, however, our Windows PCs can last quite awhile. This blog entry will provide tips on maintaining your computer for speed and performance. I stay away from manual adjustments to the Windows Registry and other sophisticated hackery. That type of stuff can make the computer unusable, so I don't want go near that type of advice.

These types come from a Windows 7-centric viewpoint. I will base all instructions on Windows. I think Vista and 8 will have some type equivalent structure. Some features may have been added or removed between Vista, 7 and 8, though, so I wouldn't worry too much if you can't find what I'm talking about. If you can't find it after 10 or 15 minutes, I suggest moving onto the next tip.

I'll stay away from Apple computers, too. I've seen Macs last almost a decade without any tweaking. I don't know enough about Apple products, either, to provide this type of advice.

Some of these tweaks, I discovered myself. Others, I found on the Internet. Considering a couple posts I've posted on Facebook elicited a few responses from frustrated Windows PC users, I think The Lextopia makes for a great place to provide these tips. I also don't think I've seen all the tips I'll provide all in the same place, either.

TIP #1 SEE HOW MUCH VIDEO MEMORY YOU HAVE

This tip has more the point of getting information. Some of the first few tips I provide might not worth your while if you have a lot of video memory. I don't really know how much is little and how much is a lot. I've fiddled around with computers with anywhere between 16 MB to, I think, about 128 MB.
That whole range of video memory proved too feeble for many of the graphical features that come with a Windows PC that you bring home from the store at factory settings. I don't why Microsoft or the computer manufacturers send these systems out with the implicit impression that they have the optimum configuration. They don't.

Anything with a higher video memory than 128 MB might work fine, for all I know. I just know that up to that point, eliminating a lot of graphic features encourages better performance in a Window's PC.


Find out your graphics memory by:

  1. Go to your desktop
  2. Right click any blank section where there isn't any file
  3. On the pull down menu, choose "Screen Resolution"
  4. Click on the "Advanced settings" link that's in the middle right side of the new window
  5. In the middle of the new window, it lists "Dedicated Video Memory" and a value. That is your video memory
I don't know at what level video memory makes for a good amount. My next few tips have the goal removing and downgrading graphical features to free up resources. You're free to use what you want and discard the rest. High video memory might make the tips pointless.

Some people prefer the nice graphics over a high performance computer. They, and you, have that right. These are all tips, after all, not commands.

TIP #2 TURN OFF AEROS

I'll admit, the Windows Aeros graphics features make for a pretty interface. It's enjoyable to watch. It also provides some useful tricks to help with human memory, like when you put the pointer over an active icon on the taskbar, it will show the active screens for different documents, web pages and what have you. It's cool and useful if you prefer visuals. It slows your computer down a lot, though.

Turn off Aeros by doing the following:

  1. Go to your desktop
  2. Right click any blank section where there isn't any file
  3. Click on "Personalize"
  4. Choose a non-Aeros theme. Switching between theme will take some time, but it will be worth it.

    The Aeros themes are under "Aeros Themes." For my home computer, though, my "Installed Theme" from the manufacturer is an Aeros theme, but it's not under the "Aeros Themes" category. Each selection has two or more simulated screens. if there are more than two, it's definitely Aeros. If it's two screens but the front one is transparent, it's still Aeros.

    If the front screen is opaque and has a couple lines, it's non-Aeros. You can be sure that the options under "Basic and High Contrast Themes" are not Aeros.
After changing to a non-Aeros theme, I like to find a memorable picture from a relaxing vacation to put on my desktop. Do that by:

  1. Save picture to your desktop
  2. Right click on icon of picture that's on your desktop
  3. Choose "Set as desktop background"
  4. If it works for you, great! Leave it alone. I like mine to stretch, so it fits the whole screen
  5. Go to your desktop
  6. Right click any blank section where there isn't any file
  7. Click on "Personalize"
  8. At the bottom of the screen, click on the link "Desktop Background"
  9. At the bottom of the new window, there is a pull down menu for "Picture position:". I look to choose "Stretch"
TIP #3 ADJUST YOUR GRAPHICS CARD TO PREFER PERFORMANCE OVER QUALITY

Per my previous spiels, this blog entry focuses on increasing performance, not graphics. That said, adjusting this setting at home and work has only improved performance and my computing experience. Adjust your graphics card for performance, not quality, by doing the following:

  1. Go to your desktop
  2. Right click any blank section where there isn't any file
  3. Choose "Graphic Properties"
  4. Wait. The next window can take a few seconds to pop up
  5. Click on the bubble next to "Advanced Mode"
  6. Click the "OK" button
  7. Click on the "3D" tab on the left side of the new window
  8. At the top of window is a slider with "Performance" on the left and "Quality" on the right. The selection bubble should start in the middle. Move that slider all the way to the left over "Performance."
  9. Click on "OK" to accept the setting and leave the window. You can also click on "Apply" if you don't want to leave this control panel just yet.
TIP #4 TURN OFF HARDWARE ACCELERATION IN INTERNET BROWSERS

We're still gearing down those graphics! Hardware accelaration has the intent of offloading the heavy lifting of graphics onto the graphics card. Problem comes down to with little video memory, the graphics card really can't handle too many things at once.

At this point, your computer's CPU ends up doing a lot of work organizing and mediating what work and jobs go to the graphics card at any time, put not so urgent graphics information into regular memory and switches between the all these jobs. . .all the while handling non-graphics calculations and actions.

By turning off hardware acceleration, your computer's CPU doesn't offload the work to the graphics card. That doesn't sound like a good idea at first. Why have the CPU do all that work when you have a graphics card that should do it?

In the long run, turning off hardware acceleration takes a step out of the process. Your computer then can use the resources it had been using to shuffle data onto the graphics for actually processing the graphic data. Having your CPU process this data ends up more efficient than a graphics card doing it.

This status may not prove true with a powerful graphics card. Experiment a little if you have a powerful graphics. I plan to when I get my next laptop that will have a more powerful graphics card.

Turning off hardware acceleration in Internet Explorer 11 (obviously this advice will become obsolete in a year or so when Microsoft stops producing and supporting IE):

  1. Load Internet Explorer
  2. Choose "Internet Options" under one of two drop down menus:
    1. Under "Tools"
    2. From the gear symbol on the top right side of the screen
  3. Choose the "Advanced" tab at the top of the screen
  4. Check off the first option at the top of screen under "Accelarated graphics" that reads "Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering"
  5. Click on "Ok" then restart Internet Explorer to see the improvement; click on "Apply" if you want to fiddle with more settings
  6. Exit and re-load Internet Explorer for the settings to take effect
Turning off hardware acceleration in Mozilla Firefox:

  1. Load Mozilla Firefox
  2. Similar to IE, "Options" can be chosen from one of two drop down menus:
    1. Under "Tools"
    2. From the three horizontal line symbol on the top right side of the screen
  3. Click on the "Advanced" option on the top right of the new window with a gear over the text
  4. Click on the "General" tab
  5. Uncheck the box in the "Browsing" section next to the text that reads "Use hardware acceleration when available"
  6. Exit then re-load Mozilla Firefox for the settings to take effect
Turning off hardware acceleration in Google Chrome:

  1. Load Google Chrome
  2. Cick on the three horizontal line symbol on the top ride of the screen
  3. On the pull down window, choose "Settings"
  4. Scroll all the way down on the screen
  5. Click the "Show advanced settings..." link
  6. Scroll down to the "System" section
  7. Make sure to uncheck the box next to "Use hardware acceleration when available"
  8. While you're at it, you find some benefit to keep the box unchecked next to "Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed," too
TIP #5 TURN OFF HARDWARE ACCELERATION IN MICROSOFT OFFICE

Turning off hardware acceleration in Microsoft Office has the same goals as turning it off in Internet browsers. Specific directions can help a lot of people.

These directions will apply for Microsoft 2010. With a couple adjustments, though, you should be able to figure out how to make these adjustments for later versions. I don't know if earlier versions have the options available.

Without further ado, here are some directions:

  1. Load either Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel. Change the hardware acceleration option in one will change it for the other. For the purposes of these directions, I'll provide directions for Word
  2. Click on the "File" menu on the top left of the screen
  3. Click on "Options," second from the bottom on the left side of the screen
  4. Click on "Advanced," just about in the middle of the options on the left side of the screen
  5. Scroll down the right side of the screen until you reach the "Display" section
  6. Put a check mark in the box next to "Disable hardware graphics acceleration"
  7. Click on OK
  8. I suggest exiting out of the program then loading it again, if you need to use it again or just to see if load faster
  9. In Excel, the "Disable hardware graphics accelaration" option looks to be in the middle of the Advanced: Display section
I have yet to find a hardware acceleration option in Microsoft Outlook. If you find one, don't hesitate to point it out to me.

Disabling hardware acceleration in Microsoft Office won't necessarily speed up general performance of your computer. If you use Microsoft Office a lot, though, it can help a lot.

TIP #6 TURN OFF HARDWARE ACCELERATION AND LOAD AFTER COMPUTER BOOT IN SPOTIFY

As with Microsoft Outlook, turning off hardware acceleration only really makes a difference if you use Spotify on a regular basis, like I do.

Telling the program to not load after boot will help a lot, though. Note that a later tip will provide directions on not loading Spotify at startup, also. Both these steps should be done.

I'm providing specific directions in different places, however, because they're options in totally different programs. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Windows has multiple places to turn the same thing and off.

The directions for within Spotify:

  1. Load Spotify
  2. Click on "Edit" at the top to open the drop down menu
  3. Select "Preferences" at the bottom of the menu
  4. Slide to the bottom of the new screen
  5. Click on "Show Advanced Settings"
  6. Scroll to the bottom of the new options that pop up
  7. Move the little slider to the right of "Enable hardware acceleration" to the left
  8. A couple sections up, move the slider to the right of "Open Spotify automatically after you log into the computer" to the left
  9. Under display options, turning off "Show friend feed" can free up resources, too
  10. Exit Spotify then load it again for new settings to take effect
TIP #7 TURN OFF EXTENSIONS AND ADD-ONS IN INTERNET BROWSERS

Extensions add functionality to browsers and the computer. I like having Facebook Chat and Google Hangouts available without having the respective Websites open.

The downside: Those extensions use up valuable resources, downgrading computer performance. A bunch of random extensions get installed onto the browsers, also, especially onto Internet Explorer.

Disabling/Removing Add-ons in Internet Explorer:

  1. Load Internet Explorer
  2. Under the "Tools" or gear-symbol drop down, choose "Manage add-ons"
  3. Choose one of the options under "Add-on Types"
    • I just noticed for the "Toolbars and Extensions" option, there's a drop down menu at the bottom of the section labeled "Show:" with a few sub-options. Count these options as additional "Add-on Types" in the directions below
  4. Each chosen Add-on type will display add-ons on the right side of the screen, categorized by manufacturer, I believe
    1. Click on the first add-on that you don't think you need
    2. Under "Currently loaded add-ons" under "Toolbars and Extensions," I have the following add-ons that I don't use:
      • Office Document Cache Handler
      • Windows Live ID Sign-in Helper
      • Add to Evernote 5
      • OneNote Linked Notes
      • Send to OneNote
      • Norton Identity Protection
      • Noron Toolbar
    3. Click on the "Disable" button on the bottom right of the screen above the "Close" button
    4. Repeat to disable all add-ons that you don't use
    5. If you have the option to remove an add-on, feel free to do so
    6. Don't feel obligated to disable all the add-ons or all the add-ons that I've disabled. I suggest only disabling add-ons that you know what they do & you know you don't need it. You may also want to do some Internet searches to identify add-ons you're not familiar with but sound useless
  5. After disabling and removing unused and unwanted add-ons in each "Add-on Types" section, move onto the next section
  6. Exit the add-on section
  7. Exit out of Internet Explorer then load the program again to see how much better the browser works
Disabling/Removing Add-ons in Mozilla Firefox:

  1. Load Mozilla Firefox
  2. Under the "Tools" or three horizontal line drop down, choose "Add-ons"
  3. Choose one of the options on the left side of the screen
    • Feel free to ignore the "Get Add-ons" option
  4. Each chosen option on the left will display add-ons on the right side of the screen
    1. Click on the first add-on that you don't think you need
    2. Click on the "Disable" or "Remove" to the right of the chosen Add-on
    3. Repeat to disable or remove all add-ons that you don't use
    4. If you have the option to remove an add-on, feel free to do so
    5. Don't feel obligated to disable all the add-ons. I suggest only disabling add-ons that you know what they do & you know you don't need it. You may also want to do some Internet searches to identify add-ons you're not familiar with but sound useless
  5. After disabling and removing unused and unwanted add-ons in each "Add-on Types" section, move onto the next section and repeat the disable and remove process
  6. Exit the add-on section
  7. Exit out of Mozilla Firefox then load the program again to see how much better the browser works
Disabling/Removing Extensions in Google Chrome:

  1. Load Google Chrome
  2. Under the three horizontal bar drop down menu, choose "Settings"
  3. Click on "Extensions" on the left side of the screen
    1. Chrome keeps things simple. They list the extensions all on one screen
  4. If an Extension is enabled, it will have color and a check in the box on the right next to the word "Enable"
  5. If it's disabled, the box won't be checked the and the Extension will be grayed out
  6. Check Extensions you want enable, uncheck the ones you want disabled
  7. If you want to remove an Extension, just click on the trash can and say OK to removing
I like Chrome because it makes turning Extensions on and off easy. As I said above, I like to use Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts when I'm not on the webpages. In the Extensions page, I turn them on and off.

If you find yourself unfamiliar with an Add-On and Extension, I suggest researching it online before disabling or removing it. It might be useful when you least expect it.

This point provides a good time to start doing this kind of research, too. Names of programs, apps, extensions and Add-ons can start becoming esoteric at this point. Learning some research skills now will prove invaluable for the rest of these tips and for as long as you're using a computer. Get good at it!

TIP #8 TURN OFF EXTENSIONS AND ADD-ONS IN MICROSOFT OFFICE PRODUCTS

Turn off these extensions has the same rationale for turning them off in Internet browsers. Let's just get right to it.

Microsoft Outlook 2010:

  1. Load Microsoft Outlook
  2. Click on the gold "File" menu bar option at the top left
  3. On new drop down/screen, click on "Options" on left menu, second from the bottom
  4. New window/menu, click on "Add-Ins" on left menu, again second from the bottom
  5. Microsoft Office categorizes these Add-Ins into different categories. I only have one current category of Add-Ins, so I'll only give directions after this point once. Feel free to apply them other categories, if you have them, feel free to apply these instructions to them, as you believe appropriate (if you use it, keep it; if you don't, turn it off)
  6. At the bottom in the "Manage" drop-down menu, choose the appropriate. For this example, I will use "COM Add-ins"
  7. Click on the "Go..." radio button to the right
    • Oh, hello, Add-Ins that had turned themselves on again! This marks a good place to state that you need to reman vigilant by going through these tips regularly that updates and other installs don't change your settings when you're not looking.
  8. Go through the list, uncheck Add-Ins that you don't use
    • I'm hardcore for performance, so I've unchecked all but a few Add-Ins. The following are some observations that I have about some:
      • Microsoft Exchange Add-In If you use a Microsoft Exchange, keep this Add-In on. I don't know what happens if you turn it off. It sounds more trouble than it's worth to turn it off. If you get your e-mail through POP3 or IMAP, though, don't hesitate to uncheck it
      • Microsoft Outlook Social Connector: Cool and all to see someone's social media profile while looking at their e-mail but slows things down too much
      • Evernote & OneNote: I'm sure they provide some cool functionality, but I haven't discovered it.
      • Windows Search Email Indexer: I don't know if a Solid State Drive makes e-mail indexing useless, like it's supposed to for indexing the file system. Not really a matter since I've turned off the Email Indexer on my Outlooks that use both Solid State and Hard Drives.

        My rationale: I use the search function infrequently in comparison to my overall Outlook use. More often than not, I'm more concerned about going through my e-mail boxes linearly to clean them out than finding particular e-mails or e-mails that fit a particular search string. Indexing uses so much resources all the time that it destroys my productivity on a regular overall basis compared to the ad hoc frustration and time used for particular times. I'm willing to suffer occasional increased frustration and impatience rather than suffer it all the time for infrequent convenience.
      • Microsoft VBA for Oulook Addin: I keep this one around because I dont know what it does and doesn't do. I know Virtual Basic can be important, so I leave it alone.
    • Be careful not to click on the "Remove" radio button unless you really don't want the Add-In. I just did on one Add-In I use all the time. I had to get the latest version online then reinstall it.
  9. Once satisfied with the Add-Ins you have on and off, click on the "OK" radio button
  10. Exit and load Outlook to make sure all the changes take hold
I will add more to this tip section later. I got distracted with another blog entry inspired by this one. Oops!

No comments: