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You have a million things to do, so when you find five minutes of free time in your day you decide to hop on the computer to complete one quick task. But what is supposed to be quick ends up taking 30 minutes or more, and results in finger tapping, a few curse words, and some desperate bargaining with your computer (as if it could hear you).

Sound familiar? A slow computer is a common source of frustration for many computer users, but there are easy ways to fix this problem using the built in Windows utilities.

Check Your Score

First, it is important to determine if your computer is slow because of the hardware. If the components in the computer can’t handle the software, then you’ll need to upgrade to speed things up.

Luckily, Windows 7 has a feature that rates your computer, telling you how it stacks up by giving you a score. Scores are on a scale from 1.0 to 7.9. The lower the number, the slower your computer is. Note, your base score is equal to your lowest sub-score, and is not an average of all the scores listed.

To check your score, go to: Start > Control Panel > Performance Information and Tools. If hardware has changed within your computer, click on “re-run the assessment” to get your most up-to-date score. If your score is in the ones and twos, you may want to consider upgrading your hardware.

Clean Up Startup

When you install a program, sometimes it installs in Startup too. The theory is that the software pre-loads when the computer starts, allowing you faster access when you need to use the program. The problem is you probably don’t access all of these programs immediately, and the time it saves you is minimal compared to the delay you experience waiting for your computer to boot.

Instead, clean up Startup from any programs that don’t need to run when the computer boots. To do this, click on Start, type in “System Configuration”, and click on the program when it appears. Once open, click on the Startup tab. Uncheck programs that are not vital.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Some items should stay checked in startup, like anything that says Microsoft or anything having to do with your virus scan. A better bet is to uncheck things that are actual programs, like Dell Webcam Manager or Google Music Manager, for example.

Delete Unused Programs

Cleaning up your disk space can help with performance speed. One way to do this is to delete any unused programs, including trial programs. To delete unused programs, click on Start, go to Control Panel, and click on Programs and Features. A list of programs will appear. Click on the one you want to uninstall, and then click the Uninstall button. Be VERY CAREFUL in here, and make sure you only uninstall the programs you don’t use.

Clean Your Hard Drive

Check Disk

When programs crash and things go awry, your computer may create errors. Over time, these errors can cause your computer to slow down. Keep things running smoothly by identifying the errors and fixing them using Check Disk.

To run, go to Start and click on Computer. Right click on the hard drive you would like to check, and go to Properties. Click on the Tools tab, and under Error-Checking, click on “Check Now.” If you want errors fixed automatically, select “automatically fix file system errors.” (Otherwise it will only report the problems, not fix them.) Select “scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors” if you are concerned about physical errors on the hard drive (this option takes much longer to run).

Disk Defragment

Once everything else is done, optimize how your computer accesses your data by running the Disk Defragmenter. As you use your computer, it stores files in the largest area available, which means your files don’t always get stored together. Then, the computer has to spend time searching, and putting everything together so you can use it. Speed up this process by defragmenting your hard drive, re-indexing everything so that the computer can access the files more quickly. The Disk Defragmentation is located underneath Check Disk (Start > Computer > Properties of the Hard Drive > Tools.)

Disc Cleanup

When you use your computer, it writes temporary files to the hard drive to help programs quickly access the current information. Over time, these temporary files can overrun your computer and slow things down. But cleanup is a breeze, with Disk Cleanup.

To access, click on Start, type in Disk Cleanup, and click on the program. It will take a few minutes to analyze your

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system, and then it will tell you how much space you can clear, and from what areas. Click the boxes to select the items you want to clear, and then click the “clean up system files” button.

These are just a few of the many features Microsoft included in Windows 7 to help you maintain your computer and keep it running right. Regular maintenance helps keep your computer running right, and keeps your frustration level to a minimum.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who loves arming people with knowledge that can help them make informed decisions about their technology. Email: [email protected]. Website:

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