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How To Speed Up Your Snail-Slow Notebook Computer

How To Speed Up Your Snail-Slow Notebook Computer
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This is the first in a series of articles designed to show you how to improve your experience with various kinds of mobile computers. To let us know how we can improve this and future articles and to tell us about a How-To subject you'd like us to cover, please send us email by clicking on the names of the authors just above.

It is difficult to impossible to upgrade the components in most notebook computers. So, when a notebook computer runs slowly, if you don't take steps to improve its performance, often your only option is to toss it out and get a newer faster one. That's no fun. So, we show you how to improve notebook performance by better managing software and background services as well as the condition of your disk drive.

All of this reduces the amount of work your notebook's CPU and memory must do, thus speeding up remaining applications and services. This is especially important when your notebook is running on battery power, because on battery, power management software can reduce CPU speed by around one-half and thus make the fight between applications and services for CPU access even more of a knock-down-drag-out affair.

Remove Unnecessary Startup Tasks

Many of today's notebooks come pre-loaded with a ton of software that you may or may not need (or want) in everyday use. Much of this software starts up automatically when a notebook is turned on, leading to extended wait periods before the notebook is ready to use. And, with this software running all the time the notebook runs the applications you're interested in more slowly.

The irony here is that some applications are supposed to improve load time by running at Windows startup or by launching a startup accelerator. But, as more applications crowd the Taskbar during startup, the longer it takes for all to load, particularly when a dozen or more applications try to use the same resources simultaneously.

Startup items are big contributors to system performance degradation, yet many of them may be removed with little or no impact on usability. First, disable applications from starting up with the Windows desktop: Click Start > Run, then type msconfig in the Open: textbox, then press the Enter key. You will be presented with a dialog with several tabs, the rightmost of which is labeled Startup. (See the image below.) Disable any unnecessary applications you find in the resulting list of startup items. How can you tell if you're not sure? Try turning them off one at a time, reboot and see if anything important turns up missing. If so, re-enable the corresponding startup item; if not, leave it alone.

Navigate to Start > Control Panel and then open the Add or Remove Programs entry. For each item that appears on the task bar that you deem unnecessary or unwanted, click the Remove button to yank the associated application entry.

Note that not all items will appear in the Add or Remove Programs window, and must therefore be removed manually. In that case, go back to Start > All Programs and locate an application targeted for removal, then check its menu for an Uninstall option. User-unfriendly application installers may neglect to include this option. This may require you to turn to third-party applications designed to uninstall stubborn applications of this kind, such as Norton CleanSweep or the Windows Live OneCare Clean Up Scan at Clean Up Center.

We've already removed a number of items from the startup process. So they don't show up on our Taskbar. These include:

Nvidia Media Center Library Quick-Launch utilities for: Adobe Acrobat Adobe Photoshop Apple iTunes Apple QuickTime Sonic CinePlayer OpenOffice an HD audio control panel

Note valid arguments can be made for keeping the quick-launch utilities. It comes down to how frequently the related applications are used. Check out Startup Tool (available here) for a nice free utility to help you identify startup list items.

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    Anonymous , April 25, 2012 4:51 PM
    Thank you very much for the tips. I followed it step by step and to my amazement, my computer is much faster. Am not tossing this anytime soon. Cheers!
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