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Windows XP: Removing programs to speed up my pc

Posted on 2007-12-05
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Last Modified: 2008-03-10
I use a fair number of software tools simultaneously which grinds my pc down to a halt at times. Having increased my RAM to 2Gig it still seems to be running slowly.

I understand that something which slows my pc is the number of programs installed, found via:

Control Panel>Add/Remove programs

.. and sure enough i have an awful number of programs installed. The significance of this list however has always baffled me. The window lists all the programs installed, is it referring to the programs currently loaded/installed in to RAM, or the programs installed on hard disk? ..

.. surely if it refers to programs installed on the machine i.e. on the hard disk, then this shouldn't affect the pc speed. And if this refers to programs loaded into memory, then by removing them (via add/remove programs), i can still load them into memory by running the program directly right? .. thereby loading it into memory as and when i want? i.e. i run no risk of removing and permanently removing something by mistake?

So, does removing programs from this list then remove them from running in RAM, or remove them from the machine completey?

And finally.. i've always heard that having a full desktop (i.e. many icons) also slows the machine. Do all the files on the desktop also effect speed/RAM memory? For example, could it be considered very BAD practice to have a large file on the desktop? i.e. a large zip??

Thanks, full credit awarded to whoever can clarify my above doubts and suspicions, as well as much gratitude! :)

P.S any other obvious tips for speeding up my pc would be much appreciated :)
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Question by:paddycobbett
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by:Delphineous Silverwing
Delphineous Silverwing earned 100 total points
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Uninstalling software really only makes a difference if those programs are always running - like if they have components with the system startup.

You might want to take a look at your Security Software.  Norton Internet Security and McAfee Security Suite tend to slow down older machines.  If you are using these products, you may want to consider changing to a lighter security software or disabling features you do not need.

Take a look at your autoruns - programs that start with windows.  These can be found in your "Startup" folder in your start menu.  some launch from the registry HKLM>Software>Microsoft>Windows>CurrentVersion>Run and HKCU>Software>Microsoft>Widows>CurrentVersion>Run.
Be careful not to remove startup components that you do need.

Have you defragmented your harddrive recently?
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by:Wod
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It lists programs installed on the HD but many programs starts at startup (look at the bottom right of you screen in the task bar)...
You could go into those programs properties by right clicking on the icons, and you should be able to find an option to disable them.

You can also hit ALT-CTRL-DEL simultaneously and hit Processes tab to see all programs currently running (it shows most programs but doesn't show viruses or spywares usually).

You might have spywares (they slow down your computer alot.. try Spybot search & destroy (http://www.safer-networking.org/) or Adware (http://www.lavasoftusa.com) to remove them.

Many icons on my desktop doesnt slow down my computer considerably (hardly noticeable)..

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by:paddycobbett
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Thanks guys, i think i confused the add/remove programs window with the start up menu. Where is the "start up" menu located?
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by:Delphineous Silverwing
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Start > All Programs
There is a folder called Startup
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by:paddycobbett
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I found it at: start>All Programs>Startup

but it only lists 3.. but i can already see that there are some missing

looking at the bottom right of the screen for example, i can see yahoo messenger is loaded.. (which i dont need) but was not listed
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by:Wod
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at the bottom right, you might be able to click the double arrows left and see more programs loaded in memory
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by:Wod
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to stop those programs, you should be able to right click the icons and click Settings or Properties... and then look for a checkbox that says something like Start at boot.. and uncheck it

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by:Delphineous Silverwing
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Many of your startup programs launch from registry settings.  Modifying the registry yourself can cause irreversible damage.  There are products available that help to clean out your startup items:
Registry Mechanic and Startup Optimizer are perfect examples
http://www.download.com/Registry-Mechanic/3000-2094_4-10742905.html?tag=lst-2
http://www.download.com/Startup-Optimizer/3000-2086_4-10529547.html?tag=lst-3
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by:Suroj Shrestha
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Go to Start >Run
Type msconfig
click the startup tab an uncheck the programs that you don't need during startup, like yahoo messenger as you said. You can even Disable all of them.

Click on Okay.


You might even want to stop some Services that are not required. For that click on Services tab. chk "Hide all Microsoft Services", so that you do not stop any necessary system services.
With "Hide all Microsoft Services" chked, you will only see the services that are not related to the OS. Uncheck the services that you think you don't require. Click on Apply and Ok.

You will need to restart your computer to get those changes.
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by:Wod
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msconfig doesn't list every programs that are started at startup
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by:Delphineous Silverwing
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MSCONFIG is meant to be used as a troubleshooting tool.  It does not remove the startups full-time.  MSCONFIG also misses some of the startups.

If this is a desktop machine that is plugged into the network with a wire, not using wireless, you can disable the Wireless Zero Configuration service.  Start > Run - SERVICES.MSC ... scroll to Wireless Zero Configuration and double-click it, select disabled and click ok.
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by:Suroj Shrestha
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Tuneup Utility is a good software for PC optimization. Chk this:
http://www.download.com/TuneUp-Utilities-2007/3000-2094_4-10698444.html
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neopumpkin earned 200 total points
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Hi Paddy,

I'll explain the concept behind programs installed on your PC and RAM usage, first and then i'll explain how to "trim the fat" on having programs running in the background, thus giving you more processing power and available memory to do the tasks that you are trying to do more efficiently.

Having programs installed on your HD will have an affect on your PC's performance, likewise, the more programs you have installed on your computer you will notice a gradual degredation in performance.  This is mainly due to the newly added content to the Windows registry, thus creating more work for Windows to process - hence the slowwwwness.  Other factors such as the more you use your computer (ie. adding/deleting files and programs) will cause your HD to become fragmented, in order to recover from fragmentation and restore disk read/write speed, you will want to defragment your HD.  (see write up below on how to defrag your HD)  Taking those factors into consideration, having programs installed on your PC don't necessarily affect the RAM (memory) in your PC, unless they are running in the background, thus reserving RAM while the program lies dormant, ready for use.  Some programs will run in the background and "leach" onto your RAM and other programs don't run in the background, which is how it should be in my eyes.  However, when a program runs in the background it usually pops up quicker when you want to use the program instead of having to pull the program from the HD, load it into memory and then give you control of it - some people prefer this configuration, whereas I am more interested in having as much as my memory available to use on what program I'm using at any given moment.  As Wod said above, you can view what programs/processes are running in the background, by pressing Ctrl Alt Del (or right clicking on the start menu bar, and clicking task manager) and clicking on the processes tab.

With that said, you can tell your Windows XP PC what to run in the background and what not to run in the background.  You can do this by clicking on Start > Run and type msconfig into the run box.  Then click on the "startup" tab.  (Delphineous was on the right path above, but going into the registry can be rather dangerous for non technical folks...the Windows interface is much safer)  Be careful here, as you can tell windows not to run certain system processes and this will create more of a headache than help you out at this point.  However, when you go through the list you'll see common things such as "real player updater", "quick time updater", "yahoo messenger", "adobe updater" and a whole slew of other updaters and commonly used programs.  Feel free to uncheck those commonly used programs that you don't want to run in the background and take up memory.  Your PC will tell you to reboot once you click apply or ok, which is optional....do so as you wish.  However, on your next reboot, once you log in, you'll get a pop up saying that the start up process has changed - check the "don't remind me about this" box and click ok.

As for having a large amount of icons on your desktop and whether that affects performance - yes and no.  When you first log onto your PC, Windows pulls up your profile and loads it into memory - your profile consists of the desktop, your favorites, my documents, and a whole slew of other folders and files.  The larger your profile is, the slower your PC will take to pull it from the HD and load it into memory....so in that regard, it can slow your PC down.  The number of icons on your desktop isn't as detrimental to load time - it's the size of the files on the desktop.  If you have large folders or large files on your desktop, a recommendation would be to create a folder in the root of your C: drive (or another drive if you have one) and then make a shortcut to the folder or file on your desktop.

You can can defragment your Windows XP PC by doing the following (I believe Vista has the same interface):

Right click on My Computer
Click Manage
Click on Disk Defragmenter on the right hand side of the pane
Select the HD that you want to defragment
Perform an Analyze on the selected HD, and Windows will tell you if you need to defrag or not.  **go ahead and defrag regardless of what the pop up tells you - defragmenting will never hurt!


I hope the concepts help you to better understand and also these steps improve the performance of your PC.  Thanks

Jim P.
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by:paddycobbett
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Looking at Start>Run>type "msconfig" and looking in the startup tab:

There are some obscure entries. What stops me from removing all unrecognised entries? .. anything i need to run would still be loaded on the fly right? .. there are some i recognise and would like to keep there, i have for example "Microsoft Office is displayed".. is it really necessary for this to be here? If i remove i can still run it via a shortcut right?

Also, i use: Avira AntiVir anti-virus, is this considered a heavy weight anti-virus, or can anyone recommend a better and lighter anti-virus?

thanks for all the comments so far :)
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by:Delphineous Silverwing
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Some of those unrecognized entries may be essential to other components like your video or sound.  Some of those entries may be viruses.  Pick and entry and do a search under Google to find out what it is.
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by:Suroj Shrestha
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Ya, you surely can access those programs from shortcuts even if they are not in startup. And I would recommend McAfee, It's a good antivirus.
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by:neopumpkin
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Delphineous and Simcasuro are both correct - unchecking "MIcrosoft Office" from the startup lineup in msconfig, will still enable to open any MS Office program via shortcuts, start menu, etc. - the concept here is to prevent MS Office from running in the background, using up RAM (memory) when it doesn't need to.

You can look at this way:

MS Office box checked:  Your PC will run slightly slower at the expense of MS Word, MS Outlook, etc. opening a bit faster when you double click on the shortcut.

MS Office box unchecked:  Your PC will run slightly faster at the expense of MS Office programs starting a bit slower when you double click on the shortcut.

In my eyes, I want a PC to run as fast and efficiently as possible when you're not using programs.  When and only when I start a program, do I want it to be loaded into and reside within the memory - likewise, when I close the program or am not using it, I don't want it to make my PC slower by staying in memory.

Hope that helps your understanding a bit more.

Jim P.
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by:Delphineous Silverwing
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Unfortunately so many of the 800-pound gorillas will put themselves back in startup when you launch them.  In example, Quicktime Updater, Real Player.  This is where uninstalling programs you do not use comes in.  In my cited example of media programs, instead of using Quicktime and Real I installed a different player that handles both types of files without the startup portion.
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by:paddycobbett
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Thanks for all comments :)
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