Here's how to speed up Windows XP and Windows Vista computers, for not a lot of money.
Prices for 1 GB RAM modules for relatively new computers are well under $40, and prices for PCs more than a few years old are still under $75. Add a pair of those and a Windows XP computer with only 512 MB will fly when multiple programs are running. Windows Vista likes 2 GB of RAM or more, so if you have less, you should upgrade now (do not pass Go...). Plan for at least 2 GB, preferably more, in a new PC.
Get Rid of Startup Software
As users install software over time, more and more programs tend to configure assorted modules or utilities to start up when Windows starts. Trim this list using the System Configuration Utility, by selecting Start/Run and typing in msconfig. When the utility opens, click the Startup tab to view a list of programs that run when Windows starts. Not every program should be disabled, but there are a few that can be safely turned off, for example, multimedia programs like QuickTime and RealPlayer, so uncheck those. Click OK to save your changes and close the utility.
Often these programs show an icon in the system tray (next to the clock at the bottom of the screen) so if one of those disappears you can run msconfig again to get it back.
If you have questions about programs that run at startup, let one of our technicians know and we will be happy to help when we are next on location, or can connect in remotely.
Windows Vista users can also close any "Gadgets" that are open on the Sidebar, and not being used.
Windows ReadyBoost in Vista
Insert a USB 2.0 flash drive (a.k.a. thumb drive, or memory stick) into your Vista PC. A prompt will appear; select the option "Speed up my system using Windows ReadyBoost." ReadyBoost uses space on the flash drive to store frequently-used program files, since reading from a fast flash drive is typically much faster than reading from the hard disk. Microsoft recommends using one to three times the amount of system RAM for ReadyBoost, but we say that PCs with less than 2 GB of RAM will see more benefit by adding RAM first (and PCs with 4 GB of RAM probably won't get much benefit from ReadyBoost).
Since Windows allocates a big chunk of space on the USB flash drive, it is probably best left in the computer, so try this with a spare memory stick. ReadyBoost also works with SD or CompactFlash camera cards if your PC has a built-in card reader, and those are less likely to be dislodged or bumped.
Windows Experience Index in Vista
On the Windows (Start) menu, right-click Computer and choose Properties. Next to Rating, click Windows Experience Index. The item with the lowest score is the biggest drain on you getting a better Vista experience. For example, if the lowest score is attributed to Graphics, it may be time to invest in a new graphics card (note that Gaming Graphics is for 3D game-playing and not a useful indicator for most business PCs).
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