Kiras post over at Penny Foolish inspired me to expand on that idea and to point out a couple of specific things you can do right now to speed up your PC and increase your productivityand the best part is that it wont cost you anything other than a little bit of time.
Quick Note: This advice is targeted at Windows Usersso if you have a Mac or run Linux/Unix/BSD you wont find anything useful here.
Before you upgrade your computer, there are a couple of things you should check. If you dont keep your virus scanner up to date and you dont have all of the updates for your computer, then you probably have a virus or two. If you think you have a virus scanner, but you dont know if its up to date, its probably not.
The first thing to do is to open Internet Explorer (if you like Firefox or something else, youll have to just hold your breath and fire up IE for just a secondits the only thing thatll work for this part). Go to the Tools menu at the top of the window and choose Windows Update. You may have to click Yes or Install to popups if you havent updated in a while. Once you get to the page, you should probably click the Express install button. Itll take a second, but evenually youll see a screen with all of the updates for your computer. Just click the install updates button in the top left of the screen and let it do its thing. When it tells you its finished, its probably a good time to reboot your computeryou dont have to, but itll probably help.
Now that youre up to date – its time for a virus scan. So head over to McAfee and download the Stinger here. (The link you want is the first download link Download v2.6.0) When the download is finished, just run the program and click Scan Now. Itll take it 5-30 minutes to run, but itll check for the most common viruses. This is NOT a virus scanner that you install where it runs all the time to protect your computer. Its a quick tool that can help eliminate the infections you probably have – the point in doing this is that some viruses will stop you from installing or using a real virus scanner and your computer will be much slower if there are viruses presentso this will get things cleaned up enough to move on.
Once youve finished the scan and stinger did its job, you should move on to spyware/adware removal. There are several programs out there that are good at this, but I happen to like Lavasofts Ad-Aware SE Personal. You can download it here. Install that and run a full scan. Thatll remove any stray and unwanted programs that you might not have known you had. These arent as bad as viruses usually, but they can cause you nearly as many problems.
After Ad-Aware finishes up, youre good to go if you have a virus scanner already.
Ive found quite a few people dont know that they have access to McAfees virus scanner free. If youre a Comcast high-speed customer, all you have to do is look here – youll just use your comcast mail address to create an account at McAfee and then you can download the software right there. Not a bad deal.
If you dont already have a virus scanner and youre not a Comcast Cable high-speed subscriber, a good free virus scanner is AVG. You can download it here. This is just as powerful as a store bought virus scanner, but its very basic from a feature standpoint. Grisoft (the maker of AVG) does offer commercial versions though if you like the software, but want some of the features that are disabled in the free edition. Itll do the job though.
If your PC is 6+ months old, doing the steps above will most likely give you a nice little speed boost when everything is said and done and it didnt cost you buy the bit of time it took to install and run the software. If youve tried these steps and still need more performance, then the next step is to upgrade your computer as Kira recommends or just buy a new one (which is sometimes faster, cheaper, and easier than upgradingsad, but true).