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IT Tips and Tricks

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A Technical Health Check to ensure best performance

We have compiled some general tips to help improve the performance and reliability of the computers you use.

Performance Tip No.1 - EMPTY THE RECYCLE BIN (Frequency = Weekly)

Once a week empty the Windows' Recycle Bin. This will release hard drive space and help improve the performance of the computer.

When you select a file for deletion, rather than removing it completely, Windows puts it into the Recycle Bin. From here the file can be restored, if deleted in error, to its original location on the computer.

To permanently delete files from the hard disk, right-click the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop and select Empty Recycle Bin.

Performance Tip No.2 - RUN DISK CLEAN UP (Frequency = Monthly)

 Windows' Disk Clean Up is a fantastic built-in utility that automates regular maintenance tasks to improve computer performance, such as deleting Temporary Internet files, Setup log files, and so on.

 To start Disk Clean Up;

  1. Double-click My Computer, right click on the 'C:' drive and select Properties.
  2. Click Disk Cleanup.

The computer will then spend a few seconds analysing.

  • When it has completed, the audit Windows will display a list of areas where it has found files to cleanup.
  • To clean an area, tick the box next to it. To leave something intact, such as Temporary files, just remove the tick next to the item and click OK.
  • The computer will begin the removal process – which may take some time.

NOTE: It is not advisable to use the ‘compress old files’ option on the SQL Server files.  Compressing any files in the Microsoft SQL Server folder may cause the database to stop working.

 Performance Tip No.3 - REMOVE ALL TEMPORARY FILES (Frequency = Monthly)

 The Temporary Internet Files (or cache) folder contains Web page content that is stored on the hard disk for quick viewing. This cache permits Internet Explorer or MSN Explorer to download only the content that has changed since a Web page was last viewed, instead of downloading all the content for a page every time it is displayed.

 To delete the files in the Temporary Internet Files folder:

  1. Close Internet Explorer if open.
  2. Click Start, Control Panel, and then double-click Internet Options.
  3. On the General tab, under Browsing history, click Delete.
  4. In the Delete Browsing History dialog box, click Delete files for Temporary Internet Files.
  5. A message displays asking for confirmation. Click Yes. The temporary files are deleted.

 Performance Tip No.4 - RUN A VIRUS SCAN (Frequency = Monthly)

 Although it is unlikely that the computer will get infected with a virus, if it does, the virus, depending on how destructive it is, can cause serious problems. Some systems scan your files automatically. Check with your IT provider.

 Performance Tip No.5 - DISK DEFRAGMENTATION (Frequency = Quarterly)

 When Windows stores programs on the computer’s hard disk it saves fragments of files in the nearest empty spaces. Over time this can slow down the performance of the computer as ‘fragments’ of files are located and pieced together.

Running the Windows program Disk Defragmenter gathers together the fragments of programs and puts them back in the right order.

This makes it far quicker to find the files to load - a sure-fire way of improving performance.

 To defragment the hard disk:

  1. Click Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and then Disk Defragmenter.
  2. When the program has loaded, click Defragment.

The process can take well over an hour. Because defragmenting the hard disk takes such a long time, start it running overnight or during a time when the computer is not needed.

 Performance Tip No.6 - EMPTY THE PREFETCH CACHE (Frequency = Quarterly)

 To improve the time it takes to load programs, Windows anticipates which files are likely to be needed next and loads them into a pool or 'cache'.

This process is called prefetching, and it generally works well. Overtime, though, the prefetch cache can become clogged with files that are no longer needed - and that can slow down Windows' startup.

 To clear Prefetch:

  1. Click Start, Run.
  2. Type: Prefetch into the text box that appears and click OK.
  3. A window displays listing all the files. Press Ctrl+A to select them and press Delete.

The cache will quickly refill with links and files that Windows really needs. As a result, the system will feel more responsive.

 Performance Tip No.7 - AUTOMATIC UPDATES

 Microsoft Windows XP is always being issued with new security patches and updates. To ensure the latest updates are installed, activate XP’s automatic update feature, (as updates become available a message displays, prompting the download).  Downloading the updates will reduce the risk of receiving viruses, hacking, or spyware programs.

 To activate the update feature:

  1. Right-click My Computer and select Properties.
  2. In the System Properties window, click the Automatic Updates tab.
  3. Select the Automatic option, and from the drop-down list select how often XP checks for updates.
  4. Click Apply to save the new settings, and then OK.
  • Performance Tip No.8 - INSTALL EXTRA MEMORY

The price of memory (RAM) is falling all the time. Microsoft Windows XP performs best with 1GB or more and to get the most out of Microsoft Vista 2GB is required.

NOTE: Be aware that if the computer is more than a few years old, there is little margin in upgrading it, as extra RAM for older computers can start to cost more as it is no longer manufactured.

 Performance Tip No.9: CLEAN UP TOOL

Run the Microsoft Clean up tool every so often. It will clear out items that are not needed, freeing up more disk space, helping you work more efficiently

NOTE: It is not advisable to use the ‘compress old files’ option on the SQL Server files.  Compressing any files in the Microsoft SQL Server folder will cause the database to stop working.

These are Microsoft Windows specific tips gathered from many public sources. IRIS cannot be held responsible for any loss of time arising from the misuse of this information.

Whilst we make every effort to ensure quality and accuracy of this information, it is not intended to be a substitute for professional IT help. If in doubt please contact your IT supplier to check these procedures with you.

Vector Accountants in St Ives, Huntingdon are professionally trained business advisers and management accountants specialised in helping SME companies be successful; as well as bookkeeping and VAT returns we offer executive coaching and mentoring for new business, start ups and established companies looking to improve performance, increase profits and pay less tax. 

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