Is your computer not as fast as it used to be? Do you consistently get application crashes, “time outs” and the dreaded hourglass? When you press the power button on your computer in the morning, can you start the coffee, take a shower, style your hair and get dressed, all before your computer is finished booting?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your computer needs more than another cup of coffee. It needs a tune-up. You probably already know that there are a myriad of ways that a computer repair professional can help you. But, unfortunately, not everyone can afford to call a computer repair specialist every time something breaks – especially those hardest hit by the current economic downturn.
I’ll be honest, here. As a computer repair consultant and owner of a computer repair shop in Fort Collins Colorado, I am not one to suggest the use of free tools very often. When someone can afford to purchase software, I usually advise them to purchase a quality retail product, because the paid-for software is typically far superior and the user is entitled to support.
In my experience, free tools are usually either crippled versions of their related non-free products, or simply don’t do a good enough job to be useful. But, there are a few free tools that are exceptions to that rule, and offer a good product for those who genuinely cannot afford to purchase off-the-shelf software.
So, with that being said, here are my 5 suggestions for free tools to speed up your slow computer. All 5 of these popular tools can be searched for and found easily through Google.
CCleaner is legendary for its usefulness in helping rid computer systems of any and all junk that has accumulated on a hard drive. However, there is a hidden gem in CCleaner: its ability to find and clean problems in the registry.
Using CCleaner once per week will keep your system running pretty smoothly all by itself. But, combining it with the other tools listed below will give you some synergistic results. For example, in our computer repair shop, we use CCleaner before any antivirus scan because it will help the scan go much faster (the resulting drive has fewer files to scan).
۲٫ Startup Inspector for Windows
In case you didn’t know, too many programs that load on start-up can quickly cripple a good computer. Limiting start-up programs to only the bare essentials is an excellent way to reclaim much lost speed. Some people even go to extremes and disable all start-up programs and non-Microsoft services, but that can have a negative impact on things such as backup schedules, antivirus protection, and useful keyboard shortcut keys.
Startup Inspector for Windows takes the guess work out of this process. Not only does this utility take the place of MSCONFIG’s very limiting interface for managing start-up programs, but it also has the ability to access a database of known start-up programs. It will even give you suggestions for disabling certain applications, or leaving them intact so as to not limit the functionality of certain programs.
Nothing chokes a computer’s speed faster than Malware. But, how do you sort the good from the bad? Is that toolbar you installed a bad program? How about that game you love to play online? Could that “coupon finding” toolbar that you just installed be a virus in disguise?
That’s where Malwarebytes can help. It’s one of the best free malware removal utilities that I know of. Many seasoned computer repair technicians swear by it. Although the free version of Malwarebytes is “crippleware” (the free version doesn’t provide real-time protection), it does a very good job if run manually on a regular basis.
۴٫ Avast Antivirus
Avast is a program that I’ve warmed up to over the years. As I stated earlier, I’m picky about that software I recommend. That goes double for antivirus protection, because antivirus protection is usually your only barrier between you and the scumbags of the Internet. I will never respect those who would steal and use someone else’s identity and/or financial information to get something for nothing, rather than to work honestly for what they want.
If you absolutely cannot afford antivirus protection, do not go without it. Instead, download Avast Home Edition. Avast Home Edition is completely free, but you do have to register it before the 60 day trial has expired. Registration is free, and afterward you can use it for a year before having to re-register. In addition to being free, Avast works pretty well, too.
Without getting into the technical details of what fragmentation is, or how it happens, let’s just say that if you haven’t defragmented your hard drive lately, you are probably overdue. Defragging your hard drive is like reorganizing your storage closet. It makes things easier (and therefore quicker) to find.
There are very few tools that rival Defraggler. Although I tend to prefer Diskeeper more than Defraggler due to it’s ability to perform real-time defragmenting, Diskeeper is not free. However, Defraggler is a close second to Diskeeper and is completely free of charge.
Coincidentally, Defraggler is made by the same company as CCleaner. It seems that Piriform is on a roll when it comes to developing and releasing free and useful utilities. Google the term “defraggler”, download it, use it. Leave it running overnight, as it will probably take several hours to finish.
The Clean-Up Proces – Step by Step
The order you use these free computer repair tools are up to you, but as a professional who has done this more times that I can count, here is my recommendation for how to use these free tools to speed up your slow computer.
In 9 out of 10 cases, using these 5 free utilities will have your computer back up to speed. If you properly utilize these tools and your computer is still not functioning properly, it doesn’t mean that the tools did not work.
Perhaps your computer problem is beyond the scope of these tools. Maybe you don’t have a sufficient amount of RAM memory. There is also a possibility that your computer has a serious hardware issue (such as a failing hard drive) which requires the attention of a computer repair professional.
Luckily there a hundreds of websites on the Internet that will provide free advice to those in need. They won’t do the work for you for free, but will be glad to provide information and resources to help you help yourself. There are even a few that offer free video training on how to repair your own computer. By doing your homework and asking a lot of questions, you can learn to solve any computer problem without spending any money at all.