Remove viruses and spyware

If the computer is performing slowly after connecting to the Internet, adware or spyware programs might be installed. Spyware and adware software programs use the Internet to download and upload information in the background. Some of this information might be sensitive or unwanted advertising.
Scan for viruses and spyware using antivirus or antispyware security software. Remove any viruses and spyware found.

Close all open programs not being used

Only use programs that are necessary. Minimizing a programs window might not stop that program from using the processor and memory. Being connected to the Internet, listening to music, and running virus scans are all ways to use up your system resources. Try running virus scans and other system tools while no one is using the computer or when away from the desk. Work offline when convenient. Closing programs that are not necessary helps Windows perform more efficiently.

Manage startup programs by preventing background programs from loading

A startup program is software that opens when Windows opens. Over time, as you install more and more software programs, the number of small icons in the notification area increases (usually these icons are in the lower-right corner, next to the time). Each of these small pictures represents a program running in the background, and each one uses valuable system resources. Move the mouse pointer over each small picture to find what software it is. Common programs that load and run in the background are Security Software, Windows update, Instant messaging software, and multimedia programs. You can increase system resources by stopping some of these tasks from loading, or by changing their settings. This can be achieved in several ways because these programs often open from various places.
Figure 1: System tray icons

Image of system tray icons

Use System Configuration to prevent programs from launching

Perform the following steps to selectively prevent items from starting when Windows launches.
Show me how
  1. Only disable items that are known and unwanted. Disabling system critical items might cause problems. Click Start , and type msconfig into the Start Search field, and then press Enter .
  2. If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. When the System Configuration window opens, click the General tab and make sure Selective startup is selected.
    Figure 2: General tab

    General tab

  4. Select the Startup tab and remove the checks from any tasks that do not contribute to the system and are unwanted. If unsure about a task, write the name down and research it on the Internet later. Do not remove a checkmark if you do not know what the task is.
    Figure 3: Startup tab of the System Configuration Window

    Startup tab of the System
                                          Configuration Window

  5. Click OK to accept the changes. Restart the computer.
    After Windows starts, a message window might appear stating that Windows has blocked some startup programs. Click the message to view the blocked programs.
    Figure 4: Blocked programs message

    Blocked programs message

  6. If Windows or other software stops working after a checkmark is removed from a task you were unsure about, restart the computer and reverse these procedures to replace the checkmark. If needed, you can press F8 after the first blue HP startup screen (after the computer has been turned on) to open safe mode.
By completing these steps, Windows runs using Selective startup. This means that Windows prevents the selected programs from starting. If Selective startup is disabled in the future, all the selected software programs will open again.

Remove icons from the Startup folder

Use the following steps to prevent unwanted items from loading:
Show me how
  1. Right-click anywhere in an open area on the Windows desktop, and select New and Folder . Name the folder Notstartup . This folder will be used later.
  2. Right-click Start , and select Open . The Start Menu folder opens.
  3. Double-click Programs .
  4. Find and open Startup .
  5. Any icons present in Startup are programs loaded when Windows opens. Right-click any of these icons and select Properties to reveal more information about the icon.
  6. Press and hold the Ctrl key. While holding this key down, click the icons that you do not want.
  7. Click Edit , and select Cut .
  8. Close all open windows to return to the Windows desktop.
  9. Double-click the Notstartup folder on the desktop that was created earlier.
  10. Select Edit and Paste from the Notstartup folder. The icons that were cut from the Startup folder are now placed in the Notstartup folder.
  11. Restart the computer.
    Any items removed from Startup no longer open, but can be opened by double-clicking the desired item in the Notstartup folder.

Empty the Recycle Bin

Show me how
  1. From the Windows desktop, double-click Recycle Bin .
  2. Right-click any mistakenly deleted items, and then select Restore .
  3. Click Empty the Recycle Bin . Windows removes the contents of the Recycle Bin from the hard disk.
  4. If prompted, select Yes to confirm.
  5. Close the Recycle Bin .

Deleting temporary files and directories

This step increases hard disk space and reduces the time Windows takes to access the hard drive. It also resolves problems with spooling print jobs. Windows uses a TEMP folder to temporarily store files intended only for temporary use. Over time, these files can build up and cause problems. To delete these files, use the following set of steps depending on the Windows version:
Show me how
  1. Close all open software programs.
  2. Click Start , All Programs , Accessories , System Tools , and then Disk Cleanup . The Disk Cleanup Options window opens.
    Figure 5: Disk Cleanup Options

    Disk Cleanup Options

  3. Click My files only or Files from all users on this computer .
  4. Select the drive you want to clean up, and then click OK .
    A message displays telling you that Disk Cleanup is calculating how much space you can free on the disk drive.
    Figure 6: Disk Cleanup progress indication window

    Disk Cleanup progress
                                        indication window

  5. Place a check next to the types of files you want the Disk Cleanup tool to delete. Temporary files are safe to delete.
    CAUTION:Selecting some options can have a negative effect. Examples: selecting Hibernation File Cleaner can prevent the computer from entering hibernation mode, selecting Setup Log Files deletes files that online phone support agents use to help troubleshoot setup problems. If you are unsure about what to delete, do not delete the files until you know that the files are not important for your use of the computer.
    Figure 7: Disk Cleanup

    Disk Cleanup

  6. Click OK .
  7. Click Delete Files .

Check for hard disk drive errors

Perform the following procedure to check the integrity of the hard disk drive in Windows Vista. Close all open programs before beginning the disk check.
Show me how
  1. Close all open software programs.
  2. Click Start , and then click Computer .
  3. Right-click the hard disk drive that you want to check, and then click Properties .
    Figure 8: Selecting Properties for the hard drive

    Selecting Properties for
                                        the hard drive

  4. In the Properties window, click the Tools tab.
  5. Under Error-checking, click Check Now .
    Figure 9: Tools tab

    Tools tab

  6. If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  7. If desired, click the check box next to Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors .
    Figure 10: Check Disk window

    Check Disk window

  8. Click Start . If prompted to Schedule a disk check, click Schedule disk check and follow the on-screen instructions to restart the computer and scan the disk for errors.
    Figure 11: Message that might appear if Windows is unable to check

    Message that can appear if
                                        Windows is unable to check

Defragment the hard disk drive

The Disk Defragmenter tool takes all the scattered bits of program data and groups them together in more efficient areas of the drive.
Run Disk Defragmenter as follows:
Show me how
  1. Close all open software programs. This includes background programs such as scanners.
  2. Click Start , All Programs , Accessories , System Tools , and then click Disk Defragmenter .
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    NOTE:If Disk Defragmenter repeatedly starts, a hidden background program is still accessing the hard drive. Restart the computer in Safe mode and try again.
  3. Click Defragment Now .
    Figure 12: Disk Defragmenter

    Disk Defragmenter

  4. If prompted, select the checkbox for each disk you want to defragment, and then click OK to start the disk defragmenter.
    This could take a few minutes or a few hours, depending on the amount of data on your hard disk drive. You have the option to click Cancel defragmentation to stop the tool.

Preventing memory allocation problems

Allocated memory space from programs that are no longer open can cause problems. Over time, this unused memory space can build up, causing Windows to slow down and use the hard drive more. These memory leaks are causing the system to slow down if the computer runs well when first turned on, but performs noticeably slower after several programs are opened and closed.
Memory leaks can happen when software is closed before it has fully opened. Always allow programs time to fully open before closing them. As a rule, wait five seconds after a software program opens before closing it again, even if the program was opened unintentionally.
In more rare occasions, an incompatible software program might continue to allocate memory while it is running, causing the system to slow down and eventually lock up.
To immediately fix memory leaks, restart the computer. For a permanent fix, isolate software programs that might be causing the leaks by using the following steps:
  1. Start with a fresh session of Windows by shutting down and then turning on the computer.
  2. Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete , and then select Start Task Manager to open the Task Manager window.
  3. Click the Performance tab to view the amount of available physical memory.
    Figure 13: Performance tab in Task Manager

    Performance tab in Task

  4. Click the Resource Monitor button to view how your computer is using the memory.
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    Figure 14: Memory graph in Resource Monitor

    Memory graph in Resource

  5. Click the arrow next to Used Physical Memory, and then scroll down to view which programs are using memory.
  6. Open a program suspected of causing the computer to run more slowly.
  7. View the System Resources percentage or the amount of physical memory again and write it down.
  8. Close and reopen a suspected program repeatedly, comparing this number to the one recorded. Each time, wait about 10 seconds before opening again.
  9. If the system resources percentage or available physical memory continues to decrease, a memory leak is occurring. Contact the program’s vendor for available patches or fixes.
  10. If the System Resource percentage or available physical memory comes back near to the same numbers each time, the suspected program is probably not creating a memory leak.

Freeing up space on the hard drive

Windows uses unused space (free space) on the hard drive for different types of operations such as caching and virtual memory. The computer might not run reliably if the free disk space drops below five percent of the total disk space.
CAUTION:You might see a Recovery (D:) hard drive. This hard drive is reserved for system recovery and should not be used for anything else. If the computer displays messages that the drive is full, see Error: Low Disk Space. You are running out of disk space on Recovery (Windows Vista) .
To see how much space remains on the hard drive:
  1. Click Start , and then click Computer .
  2. Right-click the hard drive (C: is most common), and click Properties .
  3. View the amount of space available next to Free Space.
    Figure 15: Disk properties

    Disk properties

Use the following steps to remove unwanted programs and increase hard drive space:
Show me how
  1. Click Start , and then click Control Panel .
  2. Under Programs, click Uninstall a program or double-click the Programs and Features icon.
  3. Highlight a program name that is not used, and then click the Uninstall/Change button.
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation. Click Yes to remove the program.
    Figure 16: Removing programs

    Removing programs

  4. When done, a prompt might appear to restart Windows. Wait until completely removing the unwanted programs; then restart Windows.

Adjusting System Restore settings

System Restore is a feature of Windows that can revert system software and settings back to a particular date. System Restore does this by saving the changes made to system files in a restore point. These restore points use a lot of hard drive space. System Restore can fill 12% of the hard drive with restore points if left unadjusted, regardless of the entire size of the hard drive. Turning off System Restore deletes all restore points for that disk. You cannot restore the disk until you turn on System Protection again and a restore point is created.
Turning off System Restore
To save hard drive space, use the following steps to turn off System Restore for a hard disk drive.
Show me how
  1. Click Start , Control Panel , System and Maintenance , System , and then click System protection in the left pane.
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    The System Properties window opens.
  2. To turn on System protection for a hard disk drive, place a check in the check box next to the drive.
    To turn off System protection, remove the check next to the drive.
  3. Click OK .
Using System Restore to fix problems
  1. Click Start , Control Panel , System and Maintenance , System , and then click System protection in the left pane.
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    The System Properties window opens.
  2. Click the System Restore button.
    The System Restore window opens.
  3. Click Next and follow any on-screen instructions.

Updating software

Software conflicts can cause the system to slow. Computer Vendors and Microsoft, and other software manufacturers release updates to address these problems. Make sure that you go to the software download site and use the Windows Update tool regularly.

Recommended maintenance schedule

To free resources and keep the computer running correctly, follow a maintenance schedule as listed below.
Recommended maintenance schedule
Daily tasks Weekly tasks Monthly tasks Quarterly tasks
Manage e-mail

  • Delete e-mail from unknown sources.
  • Do not open attachments that you do not trust.
  • Organize e-mail.
Protect against viruses, adware, and spyware

  • Update definition files or schedule a weekly automatic update.
  • Run a full virus, adware, and spyware scan or schedule a weekly automatic scan.
Use Windows Update

Check for updates or schedule a monthly automatic update.

Set new passwords
Optimize system performance

  • Run Disk Cleanup.
  • Check for disk errors.
  • Run Disk Defragmenter.
Review the Start menu

Set the Start menu to open only needed applications.

Clean the computer, monitor, keyboard, and mouse

Use a portable vacuum to remove dust and debris from ventilation areas.

Clean up Web browser files

  • Delete cookies.
  • Delete cache.
  • Delete history files.
Clean up the desktop

Delete or remove unneeded icons and software programs.

Turning off nonessential graphical features

Graphical features and programs can use a lot of system resources. Turning off these features can improve system performance. This section explains how to close the Windows Sidebar and how to adjust visual effects for best performance.

Closing Windows Sidebar

If you are not using the Windows Sidebar, you can close this program to increase system performance.
To close Windows Sidebar, right-click inside the Windows Sidebar and then click Close Sidebar .
Figure 17: Closing Windows Sidebar

Closing Windows Sidebar

Adjusting visual effects for best performance

Follow these steps to adjust visual effects, such as menu and window graphics, to optimize performance:
Show me how
  1. Click Start , right-click Computer , and then click Properties .
    The System window opens.
  2. Click Advanced System Settings .
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    The System Properties window opens.
    Figure 18: System Properties

    System Properties

  3. Under Performance, click Settings .
    The Performance Options window opens.
    Figure 19: Performance Options

    Performance Options

  4. Click the Visual Effects tab.
  5. Select Adjust for best performance , and then click Apply .

Disabling Windows Aero

Windows Vista provides a visual experience known as Aero. Windows Aero can be used to change window colors, provide alternate tasking views, and make the window borders transparent.
CAUTION: Disabling Aero can greatly improve system performance, but might prevent certain software programs from opening. For example, if you have an HP Touch computer, disabling Aero prevents the HP TouchSmart software from opening.
By default, Aero is enabled on Vista Home Premium, Business, Enterprise or Ultimate. While Windows Aero does offer benefits to your computing experience, it comes at a cost in system performance. If you do not want to use the Windows Aero features and increase the performance of your system, follow these steps to disable Windows Aero and apply a different theme:
Show me how
  1. Right-click an open area of the desktop and select Personalize .
    The Personalize appearance and sounds window opens.
    Figure 20: Personalizing appearance and sounds

    Personalize appearance and
                                      sounds window

  2. Click Window Color and Appearance .
    The Window Color and Appearance window opens.
    Figure 21: Window Color and Appearance window

    Window Color and Appearance

  3. Click Open classic appearance properties for more options .
    The Appearance Settings window opens.
    Figure 22: Appearance Settings window

    Appearance Settings window

  4. Select a color scheme, and then click Apply .