Keeping Your PC Optimized

Hi everyone, Benedict here. Sorry for the inconsistent timings of my posts.

Continuing from where I left off regarding the survey, the next most common feedback I received was how our computers tend to slow down or lag behind after we have had them for a while. In this post, I would like to share with you some steps you can take to improve your computer’s performance. None of these will require 3rd party software programs, as the utilities are already inbuilt into the operating system.

These remedies are generic and while they would help improve your computer’s performance, don’t expect it’s performance to be soaring through the roof. In addition to these steps, I recommend running an Anti-Virus scan with your anti-virus program. There may be times when malicious software or adware installs itself on your computer along with other software you install, and they cause a drop in system performance.

The first is to remove any programs that you do not want or no longer need. To do this, head over to Control Panel > Programs and Features. Yes, you may see quite a number of things there that you may not be familiar with. Run through the list, keep a lookout for those programs that you are familiar with, but no longer use, and uninstall them if you wish to.

Exercise caution in uninstalling an unwanted program. If you are unsure of what that program is, do a quick lookup of it online. My rule of thumb is: If you don’t know what it is, don’t uninstall or change it.

The second step is to clear the “junk” files on your computer, and by that I mean things like temporary files. These files are often left behind by programs when they are run, and can be safely deleted in most instances. (Unless say, it is currently in use.) You can think of temporary files as the construction material, used or unused, that was left behind after constructing a building, instead of being cleared.

To do this, go to the disk cleanup utility from the start menu. If you would like to include the cleaning of unnecessary system related files, right click and run the application as an administrator. After it scans your PC, it will present a list of items that can be cleared, along with a description for each one and the amount of disk space you will free up. The rest is up to your decision.

The third step is to defragment the files on your hard drive. (Do Not perform this step if your computer is using a Solid State Drive.) Allow me to explain how it works.

When you create a new document and save it, it saves to your hard drive as a single contiguous file. As you continue editing it over time and adding or removing information, the document file is broken up into more pieces and saved to different locations on the physical hard disk. (This is usually because there is no room to add the additional data along side the original location of the file as another file could have planted itself there.)

When you want to open that particular document file, the computer has to search for and gather all the pieces, or fragments, of the file all over the hard disk, before consolidating them and opening it in the application. This would be more time consuming. Upon defragmentation, the pieces of that file would be rearrange once again, back into a single contiguous file. Thus when an application wants to open the file, the computer only has to gather the file from one part of the hard disk to retrieve it.

To perform defragmentation, go to the defragment and optimize drives utility from the start menu. To analyse the fragmentation level, select the drive and click the analyse button. To defragment, select the drive, and click the optimize button. (I recommend optimizing the C Drive first, as that will probably give you the greatest performance boost.

The computer boot time for some of you may be slow. This is primarily due to the number of programs that start running as soon as the computer boots up. The large number of programs causes the computer to become slow at startup. For example, sometimes you may encounter pop ups by some programs or utilities on your PC that are actually not necessary, and consume additional resources. Here is how to resolve it.

If you are running Windows 8, 8.1 or 10, open the task manager, go to the ‘Startup’ tab on the top header, then click on the programs that you feel are not necessary on startup, and disable them. If you are running Windows 7 or an operating system older than it, press “Windows Key + R” and type “msconfig” in the dialog box. Click on the startup tab and check the box stating ‘Hide all Microsoft Services’. (Reason being that you don’t want to disable any system startup processes.)

Do note that these steps only prevents the program from automatically starting when you login. You can still launch the program manually from it’s desktop icon or the start menu.

If your computer happens to be quite slow, the above mentioned remedies may also take a while to finish. Give it some time and be patient. If your hard drive is heavily fragmented, I recommend leaving the defragmentation and optimization to run overnight as it could take a long while.

Even after carrying out all these proposed remedies, your computer may still not be as fast as you want it to be. The reasons are numerous. If you are still facing trouble with such issues, feel free to reach out to me at my email: benedictlee21@gmail.com

Advanced method of above mentioned utilities:

If you are like me, curious to see what’s under the hood, or just to make things a little simpler, there are some additional steps you can take to boost your computer’s performance.

Disk Cleanup: Navigate to the paths of the following folders, and manually delete their contents. (Use Ctrl + A to select all files). If these paths do not exist, just ignore them.

C:\temp
C:\Windows\Temp
C:\Users\<Username>\AppData\Local
<username> refers to the name of the user currently logged in.

For the last path, you will need to show hidden files and folders. Go to Control Panel > File Explorer Options (Folder Options for Windows 7 or older) >’ View’ Tab > ‘Show Hidden Files and Folders’ button.

You may notice that there are many files, and that their names are quite gibberish, but that’s not an issue. The computer may inform you that some of the files cannot be deleted, in that case, ignore those files.

Disk Defragmentation: Open the command prompt as an administrator. (Right click, run as administrator.) Type in the following command, within the quotes, :

defrag c:\ /a /u /v” (Analyse C drive only)
defrag c:\ /u /v” (Analyse and Defragment C drive)

Meanings: defrag – command to defragment, C:\ – Specifies the target drive as C drive, /u – show the details of the process as it occurs, /v – show the analysis or defragmentation output in greater detail.

Bonus: Disk Boot Optimization: There is an additional parameter that can be included with the defrag command:

defrag c:\ /b /u /v” (Optimizes the files required for your computer to boot)

The /b parameter tells the computer to optimize mainly the system files required for your computer to boot, so as to improve startup times and overall performance.

System File Checker (SFC): The SFC scans your computer for system files that may have been corrupted, and attempts to repair them. Open the command prompt as an administrator. The command is:

sfc /scannow

The scanning process will take some time. Corrupted files may be the result of the installation of third party software or programs altering system files. Upon completion. the results may state that some files could not be repaired. If your computer previously had no serious performance or working issues, I suggest that you ignore it, but keep a lookout for any unusual system behavior. Many a time these are relatively minor problems that should not have too much impact on your system.

The last (and fast) resort to resolving a really slow system is to refresh or reinstall the operating system from the settings menu in windows 8 onward, or reinstalling the operating system. These should only be used as a last resort and remember to back up all your data before you do it.

Gaining Knowledge and Having Discipline

Let’s get started on the responses. The responses I received covered a wide area of topics ranging from the lack of knowledge of technology on the part of the end user, to the technical problems we may face when using our smart devices, to the health effects of spending to much time on them. Indeed, it’s quite a bit of information to cover, but let’s take it one step at a time.

Having gone through the responses, the first issue I would like to elaborate on is knowledge on the part of the end user. Knowledge is not difficult to obtain today, with the existence of the internet and all the resources it offers. However, it is also equally as important that you use your discretion when sourcing for solutions or help, as some information on the internet is incorrect or outdated.

I have realized that many problems we face today with using technology today may stem from either the lack of knowledge of how to use a software program, or how to troubleshoot a problem. The first thing I would want you to do if you run into such an issue, is to search online for an answer.

There are many forums and discussion threads that explain the problem and list the possible steps that you can take to resolve it. I recommend that you visit several websites or forums instead of just one, so as to be able to get a bigger picture of the problem and its possible solutions. This was the strategy I used to learn how to work with technology and resolve computer related problems from a young age.

It is also important to use your discretion when searching for answers this way. Some solutions or forum threads may recommend downloading an unknown program to help you resolve the issue, or suggest things that just don’t make much sense. In my opinion, steer clear of downloading any ‘recommended’ repair tool, unless you trust the publisher and can obtain it from a trusted source. Use your discretion, and make comparisons. If a proposed solution does not seem to make any sense, ignore it. If it is too difficult for you to understand, do not take the risk. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.

The second issue I would like to elaborate on is exercising discipline when using technology. A few responses I received were about the distractions caused by social media, gaming, watching too many online videos, or just spending too much time on the computer doing things that are not very useful, or productive, you could say.

Additionally, there could possibly be some negative effects arising from sitting in front of a screen or staring at one for too long. Some of these effects may include a sore back or stiff muscles, hurting your eyes and not getting enough rest for the next day.

In this case, it is all about you and how much effort you put in to it. As an individual, train yourself to have the discipline to manage your time well and limit your time doing unhelpful things online. Think of other things that you can do and learn offline. Spend time with your loved ones and friends. If it seems too difficult for you to pull off? Well, get your parents, friends or peers to help you. It is better to start as early as you can, to avoid it from becoming a habit.

My parents instilled the value of discipline into me from a young age through their household rules. They forbade me from playing any form of online game, even until today. They also limited my television time and screen time. I am very thankful to them for having done that, as today, I know that I am the master over my technology, and not the slave. You should too.

That’s the gist of these topics for the time being. As for you, do not stop learning, even during your holidays. You will surprise yourself with what you can do and even discover your hidden talents.

As always please feel free to contact me regarding any feedback you may have about my posts, or just in general. My personal email is benedictlee21@gmail.com, and my Facebook email is benedict.lee.9250@facebook.com

Thank you for your Responses

Not long ago, I decided to conduct a short survey to help me understand where your areas of concern are with regards to using technology productively. You can still participate in it if you wish to, the link is in my previous post.

First and foremost, I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to everyone who took the time to help me by completing the short survey that I created. Your insights have helped me to learn and discover how I can help you, and I will be elaborating on the general topics covered by your responses and address their issues in my future posts.

Just to give you a brief introduction or recap, my question in the survey was: “What are the factors that you feel are hindering you from using technology (your computer, smart devices, software tools, etc) productively?”

Let me help you understand my viewpoint in setting this question. I would interpret the term ‘Productivity’ as being able to produce the desired results from your work or studies in the time frame that you are given, using the available tools that you have. On the other hand, you could also interpret it as being able to share your knowledge and ideas, or even to finish or level up on an online game. (If you feel that is helpful to you.) Overall, I would consider the term ‘Productive’ as being able to successfully accomplish whatever you set out to do, effectively and within the time constraints you may face.

Having gone through the responses I received, I have decided to place my focus firstly on both the larger areas of concern, as well as those which would give you the most beneficial impact. These I will elaborate in my next post.

Let me know your opinion.

Recently, I distributing a survey on the social media platforms I use. Before I get into the gist of it, I would like to share with you what inspired me to do this.

A few years ago, I came across a website, named ‘Ask Leo!’, by Mr Leo Notenboom. The website is: https://askleo.com/

He frequently writes articles about how to use technology productively and solve the problems that it might throw at you. I found many articles on his website very interesting, and you can read all his articles here: https://askleo.com/all-entries-by-date/

His articles have helped me to understand many concepts and resolve some problems I encountered, both then and now. You should have a look at it too. Who knows, you might just find a solution or two applicable to you.

Less than half a year ago, he conducted a survey to find out what kind of challenges people may face when using technology. The question was simple but prompted an overwhelming number of responses in different areas. Some of these were: Change, Security and Stability, just to name a few.

Having been inspired by this, I decided to conduct a similar survey to help me understand the kind of problems people face when using technology productively, for school and work. Whether it be hardware or software, technical problems or the lack of understanding on how to use a feature or tool. I wanted to have an overview of the situation so that I would know where to focus on, at least for now.

Oh, and in case you have not done of or heard of this survey yet, here is the link to it: http://goo.gl/forms/6bD43fk7kU

Once again, thank you very much for your help and participation.

(Note: Please do not enter any personal information in the survey. The responses are meant to be anonymous. I will not be able to respond to you individually. Thank you for your understanding.)

Welcome

Welcome to my blog, allow me to introduce myself.

I am Benedict Lee, a student currently studying computer engineering at Singapore Polytechnic. I have chosen to specialize in the areas of computer networking and security, as I believe that these two aspects will be the cornerstones for the future of technology’s benefit to humanity. Aside from computers, I also have the interest of experimenting with electricity and electronics.

To start off my blog, I would like to share with you more about my background and journey so far.

My interest in the field of computers and technology was born when my father taught me how to work with and repair electrical wiring and extension cords.

At the age of four, I learnt how to assemble an electrical extension line.
At the age of seven, I learnt how to assemble a computer, by simply disassembling my parents’ computer and putting it back together. (That sacred my parents.)
At the age of twelve, I learnt how to use more of the tools of the trait, like the multi meter and soldering.

I constantly learn about electrical, electronics and computers by taking things apart to observe how they worked, even the lock on my front door. In doing this, I learnt how circuits are assembled, how mechanisms work and how improvisations and innovative solutions were used in their implementation.

Many of the components and parts I obtained from the machines I disassembled are unique and cannot be found easily as standalone parts in Singapore, and they would cost quite a bit if you purchased them online. I later used some of these parts for building my own projects.

I started building my own computers in primary school, but instead of buying new parts, I sourced for computers and parts that people discarded in trash bins or dumping areas. My first few desktop computers were built from a range of discarded parts. However, getting it to work was no easy task. Trying to put a bunch of old parts together and have it work was daunting and took many long and messy hours of troubleshooting.

I am a hands-on person, and often conduct my own experiments with what I have learnt and what I find online, to determine their suitability for different scenarios. I like to go further than simply learning what is in the school syllabus. In SP, my eyes were opened to the possibilities that computing and technology had to offer, at a time when I was curious and searching for the explanations to many concepts.

Through these last several years of playing with electronics and computers, I have come to understand how they function together. I currently manage multiple computers, routers and a server at home. Implementing what I have learnt in my course of study in SP, I have managed to create a home networking system similar to that of a small office.

I am thankful that through these years, I have had many opportunities to help other people troubleshoot their computer problems. Each opportunity has allowed me to explore a new problem, and learn how to resolve it.

Through this blog, I hope to be able to give you some help and suggestions on how to use technology productively, and resolve common issues you may face using your PC or smartphone. However, one aspect which I cannot help with is online gaming on any platform. It was one of my parents’ rules that I was not allowed to play any form of online game from my young days. (I am very grateful that they enforced this rule on me.)

Please understand that despite having learnt these basic skills, I still have relatively little experience in this field, and that my answers or suggestions may not be suitable for everyone. Use your discretion, or search online, but exercise caution at the same time. That was how I obtained a significant amount of my knowledge, alongside my lessons in school.

Your feedback on any topics or issues discussed in this blog would be greatly appreciated. I sincerely apologize in the event that I do not respond to you quickly, as I have my own commitments and family responsibilities.

Last but not least, I can be contacted through:

My Primary email: benedictlee21@gmail.com,  or
My Facebook email: benedict.lee.9250@facebook.com

Do feel free to reach out to me if you feel you need to, and thank you for taking the time to read this long post.