I posted this guide in Hardware and Software forum and it was never approved, I guess. I'd like to post it here and if you guys use/enjoy it, I'll try to post it as a guide again elsewhere.
First of all, I've been working Technical Support for a few years now. I've come to learn a lot about performance issues and how to solve them. It's been my experience that 90% of performance issues I run in to come from 3 sources.
1 - Unseen background programs eating unseen resources
2 - Overheating or dust
3 - RAM Errors (or other hardware issues)
I trust that most of you know a considerable amount about computers at this point. With that being said, I'd like for everyone to understand that I am not assuming you do not know what you're doing with any warnings or anything like that posted here.
Super Antispyware: Google it. I can't post links here, so you'll have to find it yourself. It's an excellent program for Spyware removal. Just download the free version, let it update, run a quick scan. It'll likely find a LOT of cookies. (TIP: These cookies will tell you where a person has been browsing on said computer. It's an excellent way to keep check on what your 16 year old son is going when he browses.) If it finds anything beyond cookies, just remove selected when the scan is done. It may ask you to restart your computer. Don't yet. Uninstall this program after the restart later. There's more.
Hitman Pro: Google it, again. There is a free version. It gives you the option to remove selected items by activating a one time subscription key. Do this after the scan, assuming it finds anything. If you would rather remove things manually, it will show you exactly where the files are. Remove anything it finds. It may ask you to restart. Don't. Uninstall this program after the restart later.
Autoruns: Google it. Yes, technicians rely on google on about 90% of projects. Autoruns is a very powerful tool like msconfig. It basically shows you what your computer runs on startup. This list can be dangerous as well. If you recognize things, do not turn them off unless you know you do not need them. For instance, do not turn off anything with Intel or nVidia. HP, Dell, etc. stuff can be turned off. If you bought your computer retail (*it has a name brand like Dell or HP or **ESPECIALLY** Sony) you will likely see things that are labeled by these retailers. Please keep in mind that if you run a program regularly, messing with them in this program may make them start slowly or not run at all. Don't fret. You can always reinstall anything that you messed up. I recommend removing anything by a name brand that you do not use. Just right click and click delete on the things you don't want. Most retail computers come with loads of software (which is why those knowledgeable enough build their own) that run on startup and take up resources. Turn off anything by google or yahoo or anything of the sort. Turn off anything from Itunes or etc. These programs generally just run in the background to speed up the program when you actually run it. For instance, Itunes autorun will make the Itunes program open faster when you double click it. With that being said, there are sharing programs associated with Itunes (that a lot of people don't use) that if you turn off will remove the ability to share using that software. The stuff near the bottom of the list are drivers. They'll look funny and probably won't be recognizable to you. I leave them alone when I use this program, but if you see things you recognize that you don't need, remove them. Anything in yellow means that the file associated with the registry key is not found. They can be deleted. Please keep in mind that if you use USB devices regularly, some of the files associated with the registry keys can be on the USB drive itself. It will likely fix itself the next time you plug in your USB device, but it may cause problems. This can be fixed by reinstalling whatever association was there that you removed. Simple enough. To be honest, I don't know what the stuff in pink means. I generally leave it alone.
Combofix: Google it. I know, right? Combofix is a VERY useful tool. The problem with Combofix is that no one really knows what it does. (As far as I know, anyway). It will take control of your computer. It may remove your desktop. It'll definitely turn off your internet connection. Combofix can be dangerous if not run correctly. It can even be dangerous if it is ran correctly. For this reason, the first thing it will do is create a restore point. It will not continue without permission if it cannot create a restore point (at least the last version I ran would). I would recommend anyone having problems at all to run this program. If you backup, backup before you run it. If you do not backup, DO NOT RUN THE PROGRAM WITHOUT A RESTORE POINT. Combofix will open a blue DOS-like screen that will run through 50 stages. The first 10 are slow. The last 40 are generally very fast. Anything that seems like it's taking a long time is fixing something. If the program finds and deletes a lot of things then it fixed a lot of things. It may restart your computer itself. Leave it alone if it does. It'll continue once the restart finishes. Let this program completely finish. It'll open a text document with a log of what it has fixed and removed. It saves a copy of the log for you. I recommend saving a copy yourself so you know where it is.
Ccleaner: Google it. No quip needed. Piriform, the people that make this program, make some great stuff. Ccleaner is a cleanup tool that cleans both your internet associated files and your registry. Download it, install it, and leave it on your computer. When you run it, it'll open to the Internet cleanup section. Click Run Cleaner. Let it run. It'll remove things automatically. Be aware that it will remove the history on your browser. It'll also remove auto complete data in your browser as well. This means that all those websites you only have to type half of will no longer be there. You'll have to type the entire address. There is an optional check box to remove saved passwords. As long as you do not check that box, your passwords will be safe. Once the Cleaner side has finished, click on the Registry button on the left. It looks like blue cubes stacked on each other. The screen will switch. Click on Scan for Issues. Let it run. When it's done, click Fix Selected Issues. It'll ask you to save a copy of your registry. Just click okay to save a copy. Be sure you have saved a copy before you finalize. If it shows more than 300 problems (which it likely will if you've been using your computer for a long time without running this cleaner or another like it) then you're about normal. If it shows more than 1000 problems, you might have just located a problem with your machine. Finish the cleanup and close the program. You can leave it on your computer. It'll never bother you.
Defraggler: Google it. Quip. This likely won't fix any performance issues, but it'll free up disk space. It's just a better defrag program than the Windows version. Also made by Piriform. Great stuff.
AT THIS POINT: Restart your computer, even if it has restarted itself. If you are still having issues on a computer that should not have issues, it's likely a hardware issue.
Other things it may be: Hard drive corruption - check disk will help with this. Go to Computer (Windows 7), right click on your Hard Drive, click Properties, click Check Now under Error Checking, select Automatically Fix and Scan for and attempt to fix check boxes. It will likely tell you it will run when you restart your computer. Check disk generally takes a while to run, especially if you have lots of problems with your HDD. I recommend doing this even if you're not having problems.
Memtest: I've never actually used Memtest but it's a very useful tool. You can find it by googling. There are LOTS of different versions made by lots of different people. You choose what you think is best. Let it run overnight because memtests usually take a LONG time, especially if you have lots of RAM. It'll let you know if you have any issues in your memory sticks. The downside is that if it finds problems, the only thing you can really do is replace the stick. Good luck.
If you have not dusted your computer in the last few months... go get a can of air duster (make sure it's powerful... no cheap stuff. Office Depot brand sucks). Take the side off your tower, and blow out all the fans. Make sure they're dust free. Make sure your processor heat sink is free of dust. This may take some taking apart. If you're comfortable doing it, I'd take the heat sink off your processor and blow it out thoroughly. Clean out any filters your computer may have. In short, ensure your computer has VERY good air flow.
After all this, if you still have problems with anything running, there may be problems with your Windows. A repair install of Windows (Vista, 7, 8) will likely help. If you have XP, upgrade.
If you do not have your copy of your Windows Vista and latter disk, PM me. I'll tell you how to make one if you don't already know.
If you have any problems or questions with any of this, feel free to PM me. I'll even sit down and go through your Autoruns list with you if you need me to. By the way, Autoruns will likely make a huge difference in performance, so I definitely recommend at least running it if you haven't already. Don't think MSCONFIG will do everything you need it to do. Download Autoruns and figure out exactly what your computer is doing on startup.
*DISCLAIMER* I am not responsible for any problems you may cause running these programs. Some of them are dangerous to run if not used correctly. Again, please contact me if you are nervous about any of this, and I will walk you through it. Most of this is simple.
If you need an antivirus for free, Microsoft Security Essentials will work perfectly. Viruses aren't a big deal anymore. It's all in the spyware anyway.
I hope this helps you guys. Let me know if you have any feedback on this list. I'd rather not argue about it, though. I've been using this toolset for well over a year and I know it works well.
You can find all these things and more within the Hiren's Boot CD toolkit. Google it. It's PACKED full of excellent tools for computer test/repair/etc. I can tell you how to use it as well.
Even if you are not having problems with your PC, I would recommend following most of these steps AT LEAST once a month. Definitely Super Antispyware and Ccleaner. Autoruns if you've installed a lot of programs recently. (Most of the startup programs associated with software itself are not necessary. They just eat resources). If you are running any version of Norton or AVG or any other intensive antivirus, I'd recommend changing it for Microsoft Security Essentials when your subscription runs out. Most antiviruses don't catch everything they should anyway. They eat money and take up massive amounts of resources that are completely unnecessary. With that being said, some of the programs are worth the money. You decide.
If you are running Vista or latter, the task manager (control alt delete) will give you a Resource Manager option under the performance tab. Studying this data will likely show the cause of most problems. PM me for more info.
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