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End-of-Year Tips: 18 Steps To A Speedier Computer

Posted by on December 9, 2015

2016This week, I’m providing tips for end-of-year technology maintenance. These are activities that could (or should) be done once a month if you’re active on your computer, but AT LEAST do them yearly.

Like this week.

There are two ‘speed’ problems that arise when using computers:

  • the computer itself is slow, for lots of reasons
  • you are slow–meaning: You have too much to do. We’ll deal with this later…

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Make sure your firewall is working. Windows comes with a built-in one. Maybe Mac does too. Leave it active. It’s under Control Panel>Administrative Tools. Sometimes, they seem to turn off by themselves (I have no idea why). Check to be sure it is active. This will keep viruses and malware out that slow your computer.
  2. Defrag your computer. To quote Windows, Fragmentation makes your hard disk do extra work that can slow down your computer. Removable storage devices such as USBs can also become fragmented. Disk Defragmenter rearranges fragmented data so your disks and drives can work more efficiently. Never mind all that geek speak. Here’s what you need to know: Run Disc Defrag by going to Control Panel>Administrative Tools>Advanced Tools.
  3. Run Spybot or a similar spyware programs. Spybot is free, which is why I like it, and I’ve had good luck with it. says this about Spybot: The program checks your system against a comprehensive database of adware and other system invaders. The Immunize feature blocks a plethora of uninvited Web-borne flotsam before it reaches your computer.
  4. Run Ad-aware once a week to keep malware off your computer. It has a stellar reputation and is also free (although there’s an upgrade that you can pay for).
  5. Keep your antivirus software active. If you’re paranoid like me, run an antivirus scan weekly to be sure nothing is missed.speed up your computer
  6. Sort through your Documents and get rid of those you don’t need anymore. It’s intimidating, like a file cabinet that hasn’t been opened in months–or years and is covered with dust, even spider webs. Do it, though. If you don’t, every time you search, the computer must finger through those unused and worthless files. It doesn’t understand the difference between ‘unused’ and ‘important’. Plus, they distract you from finding the documents you really want. If you don’t use files anymore, but don’t want to toss them, make an ‘Old’ file and put them all in there.
  7. Back up your files to an external drive or cloud storage. If you have an automated system, skip this. If you don’t, consider getting Carbonite or similar. If you use Windows, try their backup program. It’s easy to find: Click the Start Button and search ‘backup’.
  8. Empty the trash. Don’t even look in it. If you haven’t missed a file by now, it won’t matter if you throw it out.
  9. Learn to use that program you’ve been promising you would or delete it. Evernote is a great example. Use it (and you won’t be sorry) or delete the email from your best friend exhorting you to try it. Move on.
  10. Go through your programs and delete the ones you no longer use. Here’s what you do:
    • go to Control Panel>Programs and Features
    • peruse the list and pick the programs you downloaded by mistake, meaning to use, or used to use and no longer do
    • uninstall
    • don’t look back
  11. Update any software that needs it. I don’t mean BUY a newer version. I mean click the free update that’s been nagging at you (Adobe Reader and Windows, for example)
  12. Clean the junk off your desktop. Put it in folders or create a folder for ‘Working on’. Don’t know how to create a desktop folder? Just right click on the desktop and select ‘New>folder’
  13. Clean up your Start Button. Remove shortkeys you no longer use (with a right click>delete). Add those that have become daily go-to sites
  14. Clean out your subscriptions. This slows YOU down as you sit to work. They usually arrive via email. Dragging through dozens of emails a day when you know you aren’t interested in a lot of them slows you down. Me, I have over 200 every day. I regularly purge blog and newsletter subscriptions that didn’t work out as planned.
  15. Make notifications weekly instead of daily. If you get Google alerts, set them for weekly (unless you really must know when someone posts on the term ‘Labrador puppies’). If you have social media, let them notify you of activity once a week instead of daily. If you get reports on Twitter usage or Google Adwords, schedule those weekly.
  16. Change your browser to Chrome. When I did, it doubled my surfing speed. And it’s not just me. Among those-who-know, it’s considered the fastest browser (and IE the slowest).
  17. Slim down your start-up process.  Only have the programs you really need start when you boot (or reboot). Skip the rest. How? Click Start, type msconfig in the search bar and press Enter. In the System Configuration window, click the Startup tab. From the list of programs that appears, untick the box next to those you don’t need to launch automatically at startup. Only deselect programs that you don’t use regularly or know that you don’t need.
  18. Add more RAM. That’s the stuff that lets you keep more stuff open on the desktop (including tabs in your browser). If you don’t have enough, it’s like having a postage-stamp-size desk for planning your lesson plans. Upgrade yours to the max your system will take.

For more end-of-year clean up ideas, check Microsoft Windows page, How to Geek, and WikiHow.

Finished? Take a break. Have some eggnog.

More on online presence:

How to Talk to People Online

Writers Tip #48: Have a Web Presence

8 Free Online Marketing Tools for Writers

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

updated 5-2-16

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