From the Kenosha News on 10-29-06

Slowness and pop-ups can still be a problem

It’s an interesting phenomenon: One year, you get a new computer and it’s blazingly fast, but a year later that same computer slows to a crawl – or at least seems to. Processors and other hardware don’t get tired and slow down as they get older, so it must be caused by software.

If the operating system has been upgraded, e.g. from Win98 to WinXP, that could slow a computer down since newer operating systems always require more resources than older ones since they’re designed to run on newer, faster computers. Newer versions of specific applications, e.g. MS Office, will likely run slower than former versions for the same reason.

What if you haven’t updated your operating system or major software packages? Then there are several possible causes for slow-downs:

  • Added software. Over time, often without you knowing it, software will be added to your computer.
  • Spyware, which will also cause pop-ups.
  • Viruses

To see what software is on your WindowsXP machine, click Start and then Control Panel. Double-click Add/Remove programs. On the list of installed software, you’ll see some familiar and some unfamiliar things. It’s not always obvious what you need to keep and what you can delete. Look for items that don’t show a date that they were last run. If you’ve never run a program, it probably isn’t necessary. Delete items carefully!

See what runs on start-up by running MSCONFIG. Click Start and type in MSCONFIG and press Enter. Click the Startup tab, which shows all of the programs that run (and stay running) when your computer boots up. Some programs run automatically and slow down your startup and occupy memory, slowing down your computer overall. You can expand the Command column to show more of the programs path and name to give you a better idea what it is. Any items related to your anti-virus or firewall software should stay checked. Other items, like qttask (QuickTime) or DirectCD, can be unchecked. If you automatically load Instant Messenger, WeatherBug, or Google Desktop on startup, those items will also be checked. Some of the items on the list may even be spyware. Modify the list and click Apply or OK.

Get one of the free anti-spyware programs: Microsoft Windows Defender available at Microsoft.com, AdAware from lavasoft.com, or Spybot Search & Destroy from spybot.info. Make sure you have the most current version. Update the definitions and scan your computer. You may want to use more than one of these programs.

Finally, make sure that you have a recent version of anti-virus and up-to-date definitions. At Carthage, we use Symantec Anti-Virus Corporate Edition, and version 10 detects and prevents some spyware whereas version 9 does not. So, even if you’ve been updating your definitions, you may want to make sure you have the most recent version of the software as well. Run a full scan. Remember that there are many ways you can get a virus: e-mail attachments, through Instant Messenger, by visiting infected MySpace sites, and sometimes just by being on the internet or another network. Some viruses will slow down your computer considerably, especially affecting your internet access.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 10-29-06