Haswell: Intel 4th Generation Processor – Marketplace Effect

Intel has recently released the Haswell, their 4th generation of the Core i series processor, and it has occurred at an interesting time. Some are viewing it as a factor in furthering the PC industry's sagging sales. I see that as a short term effect; let's also look at this from a more long-term view.

Yes, it's true the price point on the laptop low-end will be in the $700 range and $1300-1600 on the high-end. However, it is also true that with a new generation release (tock), the price will be higher. . . somewhat. Looking beneath the surface of that, let's consider what has occurred with the Haswell release in terms of it's features (or lack of) that are narrowing the gap between laptops (more distinctly Ultrabooks) and the tablets.

Let's consider the changes that have occurred from this 4th generation release:

  • Energy usage has become much more efficient. Longer battery life is the top feature; 7-9 hours are possible now. Users that have considered going to tablets because of their much longer battery life now have a viable option with a Haswell laptop/ultrabook. 
  • Enhanced Graphics capability will be a joy to many users. Users that opted for a tablet because of graphics support may now want to think twice about converting to a tablet.
  • Intel Ultrabook touchscreen mandate; the machine must now have a touchscreen or it is not considered an Ultrabook. Users that love the tablet touchscreen now understand all Ultrabooks will in fact have that capability; no exceptions.

The long-term laptop/tablet marketplace pricing will follow the features users desire for their computing. The features that were so attractive to tablets; long battery life, user interaction, good graphics capabilities, are now available to laptops/ultrabooks. As demand increases, prices should come down. This should drive laptop sales up and stabilize that industry sector.  That sector definitely can use a boost.

It will also be interesting to see the overall PC industry effect from the 4th generation Haswell. Intel has earmarked all sectors; tablet-laptop-desktop-server as candidates for this processor. This Fall, we will see more of the higher-end desktops available with this processor. Desktops with the Haswell will no longer have legacy PCI support on expansion cards. PCI Express is the only game in town now.

Many of you opting for a laptop to tablet conversion may find this is a good time to get a tablet, with the great prices available. However, I believe we will see in the not too distant future, the public being in an interesting position to consider two choices: the tablet, and the good ole tried and true laptop, that can also successfully meet your portable computing needs with similar features.  I see that as a great place to be.

 To get more information about the Hawell 4th generation processor from Intel, you can view it here.

How Startups Install a Small Business PC Network

Those of you with a small business, perhaps even a new startup, may be wondering how to setup your PC network and even the thought of networking them together is making you feel queezy as if it's one daunting task. Well, fear not because it is not that difficult to do; only time and perhaps a little planning will do the trick successfully.

Decide on how many PCs you will need to take care of daily business. For many small business owners, this number may be five or fewer. Let's look at this scenario today and take it one step at a time, okay?

If you've got the PCs already, great; that's one big step out of the way. If you don't, you can often get a business discount at a major electronics reseller, especially if you're purchasing multiple units. HP, Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo, just to name a few brands, would be viable candidates for the job.

Install Options

  • If you're concerned about the install and ongoing technical support,  sometimes purchasing the hardware from a nearby local PC dealer is the best way to go. Those companies that offer an ongoing maintenance support contract as part of the deal can often be a cost-effective way to keep your PCs in good working order. Just make sure you check out their reputation before doing it. That's important!

  • If you've already purchased and decided to go with a third-party extended warranty, with the plan of doing the install yourself, that is not a bad idea either. Shop around for the best deal possible since you're purchasing multiple PCs. Now you're ready to install if you've chosen to do it yourself.

Materials needed

  • The most materials needed are Cat-5 cables, one each for each PC-Router connection, as well as a few extra cables as spares
  • A router specifically designed for small home networks (I recommend a Linksys wireless router if you want a good realiable unit and easy set-up)
  • Some electrical tape or tie wraps, which you can purchase at most electronics/hardware stores
  • A tape measure for measuring the length needed for each cable
  • Paper and pen for drawing a sketch of your network setup. You will need to identify where each PC will be located and the location of the router. You will also need to ascertain how many feet of cable will be needed for each PC to router connection.  This sketch should be the first thing you do. Before you go to the store to get the cables, you will need to know how long each cable needs to be so you can make the appropriate cable length purchase choice.

Install Procedure

  1. The install begins by unboxing and setting-up each PC one by one. Before you move on to the second setup, you should already have sketched out a drawing that shows where each PC will be located as well as the router. The best place for the router should be close to where your cable modem or DSL connection is located. As mentioned earlier, the sketch needs to include the length in feet from each PC to the router. Purchasing a router for a small network is relatively easy. You can find some good Linksys routers at many electronics stores at a very reasonable price. 
  2. The next step is to run the cabling. You'll need Cat-5 twisted pair cables.  How long the cables will need to be, and how many needed should be easy to figure if you did that sketch of your setup as mentioned earlier. Are you operating your business from your home? Sometimes a cost-effective way to run the Cat-5 cabling is by going underneath the house and drilling a hole through the floor and running the cable up through it. It's either that or run the cabling through the walls, and that job, although doable, can be very time-consuming. A not so bad choice might be to hire an electrician or multimedia specialist to do that for you, who can terminate the connection at a wall-outlet. 
  3. Get the tape or tie wraps and wrap the various cords at each PC station and tuck them out of the way, or secure the wrapped cable bunch to the underside of the PC desk. I cannot tell you the number of times I have disconnected a cable from sitting at the PC, stretched out and pulled something loose with my foot. Don't laugh, it happens!
  4. The next step is configuring the router. Follow the instructions supplied and you should be able to connect your first PC to it without a problem. 
  5. Continue with the second PC, and the remaining ones, until all have connections to the router. 

Troubleshooting

If you're not seeing all of the PCs on the network as shown in Windows, verify that the PC cable is securely connected to the router. Look at the back of each PC where the Cat-5 cable connects and look for an illuminated indicator light. If you have connectivity with any of the PCs to the router and still have a connection problem with another PC, it's not the router. It's either a bad cable or it's the PC. Replace the cable with a spare and recheck. If you're still having a problem, take the PC back to the store and get it fixed. Do not try to fix the unit yourself; you may void the warranty.

If you have a problem with the install, contact me and if you live within driving distance of Columbia, SC, and if I'm available, I will take care of it myself, or will have a colleague take care of it for you with a professional installation and at a reasonable, competitive price. The same holds true if the above scenario does not apply to you; you are in a rented business office space and require a T-1 line for data and/or phone system. 

I wish you the best and good luck!

 

 

 

Apple Computer’s Thunderbolt

Are you looking for a Windows PC that has the fastest external data transfer speed in home computing? Orginally desgined by Intel and Apple Computer for their computers, the Thunderbolt technology  has been licensed to a few companies, including Acer, for one of its higher-end laptops. Thunderbolt's speed is 10 Gbps; to understand just how fast this is, you can download a full-length HD movie in under 30 seconds. Yep, that's pretty quick. 

Thunderbolt vs USB

To put it in perspective to other data transfer technologies, USB version 3.0 is 5 Gbps, so Thunderbolt is twice as fast, although replacing copper with fiber-optic wiring in the interface cables will significantly add to the speed.

Acer Aspire and Lenovo ThinkPad Ege

The Acer Aspire S5 laptop is selling with the Thunderbolt port for about $1300. The Aspire is ultra-thin and light, at 2.6 lbs,  and all of the ports are contained behind a motorized door. Other PC makers on the Thunderbolt bandwagon include the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge laptop, and Asus has added it to a few of their laptops as well.  The issue right now is that only a handful of companies make peripherals that are compatible with the Thunderbolt standard, although many believe it will be a different story by the end of 2012.  Time will tell. 

More information about Thunderbolt vs. USB can be viewed here.

USB Superspeed+ vs Thunderbolt

Can you say "Speed War?" The USB vs Thunderbolt speed war escalates as the latest USB standard has been upped to version 3.1. It is unofficially known at Superspeed+ and doubles the data bandwidth for USB devices to 10Gbps (gigabits per second).

Thunderbolt Bandwidth

Thunderbolt, the competing technology used for data transfer on Apple machines, already has comparable 10Gbps bandwidth capability.  Released back in 2011 with the MacBook Pro, Thunderbolt uses a Mini DisplayPort connector, different from the standard USB waferish style of connector that PC compatible machines have used since USB's inception. 

Thunderbolt Support

It will be some time before we see Superspeed+ hit the stores however. Two things need to take place first. Intel, AMD, and other chipset manufacturers will have to produce support chips to accomodate the new technology. Second, manufacturers of products that use USB will have to revise their products to accomodate the new standard. 3.1 will be fully backwards-compatible with devices using the older USB 3.0 technology, so it will not be a problem with PCs using the superspeed+ with devices built for 3.0; they will simply run in accordance with the 3.0 standard speed. 

Thunderbolt Availability

It will be late 2014 before we see Superspeed+ on machines. And it most likely will be early 2015 before we see it being offered on a large-scale with a plentiful supply of vendors supporting it. It is exciting to see it here. This speed war does have a beneficiary; the consumer. Who says a war has to be nasty?

To get more information about the Thunderbolt vs. USB speed war, you can check it out here.

Save Money ACPI Suspend Mode / System Hibernate S4

I’m sure many of you have asked yourself that question about your PC from time to time; should I leave it running or turn it off. To give you enough information to make the right choice, some points need to be made. The great news is that by properly configuring your system, you can some money!

Thermal Expansion and Contraction

First, understand that turning your PC system on and off regularly can cause damage because of electronic components expanding and contracting. When you turn on your system, the electronic components that make up your system, transition from room temperature to 185 degrees Fahrenheit (expanding) within a half an hour. After the system has been running and you power it down, the reverse process happens, cooling (contracting) the components back to room temperature. Since each electronic component has a different thermal expansion coefficient, each expands and contracts in a unique amount of time.

Long-term, this regular expansion/contraction causes damage to the components, and is the most popular cause of component failure in a PC system. Chips split, wiring and contacts break, and the motherboard and expansion cards can develop cracks. There are a number of other things that occur as well, none of which are positive. I’m not suggesting that you leave your PC on continually, but using your PC’s power options effectively is the key to combating the expansion and contraction problem, as well as reducing your power bill significantly.

ACPI Suspend Mode S3

Electricity rates for each kilowatt-hour are on average at about 10 cents in the U.S. Your average PC system costs over $200/month if it’s never powered off. The interesting thing is you can reduce that amount down to just over $50/month if you use ACPI S3 or even better with ACPI S4 Power Option. You not only enjoy saving $150/month, you run a far less chance of your system causing a fire, while left unattended.

To configure your power mode properly, you must first go into your BIOS setup. The setting is usually called the ACPI suspend mode; enable it for the S3 state. By setting up your PC for this mode, each time the PC goes into the S3 state, the system information is stored in RAM, and all hardware in your PC system is turned off, except for the RAM. To go back into the regular full mode, you simply depress the Power On button. However, your system will not do a normal boot, it will load much more quickly, with all prior system information and files reopened.

System Hibernate S4

As I mentioned earlier, you must go into the BIOS to enable S3. To further fine tune things, go into the Power Option Control Panel, select the Advanced tab, select Stand By as the choice for the question, “ When I press the power button on my computer.” Select the hibernate tab and enable hibernation if you want to go into the ACPI S4 mode, which saves the system information to the hard drive, and the entire system is powered off. When you press the Power On button, it will not perform a cold boot, and it will be fairly quick to recover all system information and reopen files, but not as quickly as S3. Go to the Power Schemes tab and select the amount of time you want to elapse before the system goes into System Standby S3 and System Hibernates S4.

As you can see, it’s not difficult to enable the S3 and S4 power modes, and by doing so, you will be saving money each month with a lower power bill, as well as prolonging the life of your PC. The cool thing about this is you have total control over your power consumption. In this case, you have the power!

Replacing Your PC’s RAM – RAM Ads

This post is for those of you who are comfortable replacing RAM in your PC and want to understand how to interpret the RAM ads on the Internet.

Know the Terms – DDR, Buffered, Registered, ECC

  • The more RAM that is installed, the faster the PC. Use as much memory as your motherboard and OS can support, within your pocketbook.
  • Using DDR/DDR2/DDR3 modules will improve performance. DDR refers to Double Data Rate and processes data twice for each pulse of the system clock, once on the upcycle of the pulse, and once on the downcycle of the pulse. DDR2 is faster than DDR and DDR3 is still faster than DDR2.
  • Use buffered or registered modules if the motherboard supports it. Buffers and registers hold the data and amplify it immediately before the data is written to the memory module. Some modules use buffers, some use registers, and there are some that do not use either of them. If a DIMM uses buffers, it is called a buffered DIMM. If the DIMM uses registers, it is called a registered DIMM. If the module does not support the feature, it is called an unbuffered DIMM.
  • Use the fastest memory possible that the motherboard will support. If using more than one module, ensure that all of the modules are of the same MHZ speed. If not, the system will default to the slowest module, or with some PCs, will cause system instability.
  • Although many PCs use only single channeling, using dual-channel or triple channing will improve performance, providing the motherboard supports it. You must install matching pairs of modules with dual channeling or have 3 modules match with triple channeling.
  • If the board supports ECC (error correcting code) memory modules, use them. Although there will be a very slight decrease in performance, it will increase the reliability of the system. If the motherboard supports parity, use modules with parity.
  • CAS (column access strobe) and RAS (row access strobe) Latency, refer to the two ways that measure access timing. Both CAS and RAS indicate how many clock cycles required to write or read a column or row of data from the module. The lower the value, the better the speed. These two terms CAS and RAS, are referred to as CL and RL also.

Reading RAM Internet Ads

Let's look at the following advertisement for memory and breakdown the technical specifications so that it is understandable:

  • Looking at the first ad, notice the first specification listed: DDR2 PC2 6400. First of all the DDR2 is pretty clear, the module has DDR2 technology.
  • The next item listed is PC2. IF you are using DDR2 modules, there will always be a 2 after PC.
  • The 6400 means that the speed in bandwidth is 6400 MB/sec (megabytes per second; doing the math: 800MHZ speed X 8 bytes of data per clock tick = 6400MB/sec).
  • The CL=6 means that the module uses CAS for measuring the access timing and it takes 6 clock ticks for the module to access data on a memory read or write.
  • Unbuffered means that the module does not use buffers.
  • Non-ECC means that the module does not use ECC (error correcting code).
  • DDR2-800 means that this DDR2 module runs at 800MHZ (system bus speed).
  • The 1.8V is the voltage the module uses to operate.
  • 256Meg X 64 means that the data path is 64 bits and to find the total amount of ram on the module, multiply them and divide by 8 to convert to bytes. Doing the math, 256Meg X 64 = 16384 Megs. Now we divide by 8 to convert to bytes =2048Megs, which is 2.048Gig (we can drop the .048 portion). So one module contains 2 Gigbytes of memory.
  • If you ever see 72 instead of 64 in the advertised formula, that is a clue that the memory is ECC memory. 

 

ram ads

To get additional tips on how to speed up your PC, you can view it here.

Fixing PC Hardware Problems

 No, you’re not losing your mind, although sometimes a PC can come close to giving you a coronary. It’s a little intimidating just to purchase a PC, given all of the types and models you have to sift through just to find the right one for you. Then, when something goes awry, it feels like you’re having to solve a 3-dimensional crossword puzzle! Well, let not your heart be troubled; we’re going to look at a few simple and maybe a couple of not quite as simple methods for fixing a hardware problem. 

Often, the solution to the fix is much easier than you think. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is first of all, relax. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that you will logically backtrack to what you were doing on the PC prior to everything going to battlestations.

The following is a good method for troubleshooting a PC hardware problem. Go through it step-by-step and chances are excellent you’ll find the hardware problem. Go slowly and methodically, okay? Okay; good luck.

1. Check for the obvious first. Many problems can be corrected by just taking a thorough look at the device and it’s connections.

  • Is the device plugged in and turned on? Is the power strip plugged in and turned on? 

How many times have you heard the classic story of the technician who spent 2 hours troubleshooting only to find out a blown fuse was the problem!

  • Are the interconnecting cables secure?
  • If it’s sound related, is the volume turned up?
  • If the problem is related to an expansion card, is the card seated correctly in the slot? 

Before opening the PC to check the card seating, 2 things to do first:

a-Ensure the PC is still not under it’s warranty. If it is, some warranties will be voided if you open the case. For more information about warranties, check it my article concerning them here.

b-If you do open it up, first power down the PC, unplug the power cord, and once again, depress the power button to remove any residual voltages still operating.

2. Consider all of the recent changes you or someone else have made to your system. Maybe the change is related to your problem. Sometimes in the process of installing or removing something inside of the PC, you could have accidently bumped something, causing it to not function correctly. Open your PC up and check inside for anything out of the norm. If the change was done by a PC shop, take it back to them and have them recheck.

 3. Research error messages. If you see an error message while booting or after the boot has completed, do not ignore it. Find out the reason why you saw the message. It could very well be related to your hardware issue. Use the Internet to find answers by doing a Google search. 

 4. Use the Vista Problem Reports and Solutions or the XP Error Reporting window. These tools can help classify and resolve errors that cause the system to lock up, device driver errors, and services and applications that did not start. Pay notice to the description given since that will clue you to identifying the device or application at fault.

To select the Windows Vista Problem Reports and Solutions window, select Start – All Programs – Maintenance – Problem Reports and Solutions.

To select the Windows XP Error Reporting, go to Windows Explorer, right mouse button click My Computer – select Properties from shortcut menu, select the Advance tab, and select Error Reporting. 

windows xp error reporting

 

5. Check your logs in the Event Viewer. In the Event Viewer, the Administrative Events log under Custom Views shows warnings and error events. Look for entries with a date close to the date the problem began.

To use the Event Viewer, select Start – Run – Enter eventvwr.msc and select OK. 

Using Event Viewer

 

6. Check your BIOS setup and ensure the hardware device is detected. It can be accessed by selecting a certain key while the pc is in the beginning stage of booting up, and should be on the screen with the BIOS version. If not, check your documentation for the key or keys to use.

 7. Check the Windows Device Manager and verify that the device in question is enabled and Windows sees it as working correctly. If you see errors or a yellow question mark warning symbol, this is an indication that it must be resolved now.

To use Device Manager, select Start – Control Panel – System – Hardware tab – Device Manager

Using Device Manager
 
For example, if you are having problems with your networking device, you can find out all about it by locating and selecting it in the Device Manager list, right mouse button click it, and select Properties from the shortcut menu.

Device manager properties  “

Observe the device status. Although it may have the entry, “This device is working properly”, you can select the Troubleshooting choice, which can help you localize the problem. 

If you need to update it’s device driver, select the Driver tab, then select Update Driver. Selecting Update Driver will bring you to the Hardware Update Wizard window. Continue to proceed by following the Wizard choices as applicable.

update device driver

 

Hardware update wizard

Sometimes just a Windows speed issue disguises itself as a hardware problem. If your system is operating slowly, first check it my article on speeding up Windows here. It is also possible that a virus problem could be causing your system to act strangely, to the point that you may think you’ve got a hardware issue. If you don’t have virus protection, check out my article on Virus Protection here.

It really boils down to a process of eliminating the most probable causes for the hardware sympton in the manner I’ve described to effectively combat a PC problem. There are different ways to troubleshoot a PC, but this procedure is one of the best ones to use. Faithfully use it each time you experience hardware-like symptom issues and you should minimize the amount of down-time you have. Good luck!

How to Speed Up Your PC

There is nothing more frustrating than a slow PC. It's especially frustrating when  you know that it's performance could be faster but you're not sure what to do. What can I do to speed up my PC is the obvious question you ask yourself.

PC Tools

The following is a list of PC
tools I use to speed up my PC, whether I’m using a word processing program or
surfing the web. They include a virus scan to ensure you are virus, spyware,
and adware free, using the Windows Task Manager for locating memory draining
processes, running a registry cleaner to check your Windows registry for
errors, removing unnecessary files using Disk Cleanup, how to backup the
Windows registry using the Registry Editor, using the Error Checking utility,
Checkdisk, to locate and repair hard drive errors, running the Disk
Defragmenter to defragment your hard drive to speed up access, adding
additional RAM for an overall speed increase, using the Services tab of the System Configuration Utility for
removing slow background services, running an online speed test, check all
cable wiring for continuity, and verifying you have the best possible Internet service
provider plan to meet your needs. Be careful with this information though. You
may end up becoming the "PC doctor" amongst your circle of friends!

1. Ensure you are virus free by running a virus and spyware/adware scan to check for possible infections.

In fact, you should have a good virus protection program running 24/7 and have its virus definitions updated regularly. If the scan shows infection, successful removal will have a substantial impact on the speed of your system. Your pc should certainly run faster as a result.

 

virus spyware adware scan

2. Run the Windows Task Manager to check for CPU hogs.

a. To open the Task Manager, depress the CTRL + ALT + DELETE keys (in that order and keep them depressed). 

windows task manager

b. The Task Manager gives a considerable amount of information about your system. The tab to focus on is the Processes Tab. Check out all of the processes and see how much of the CPU is being used for that process (shown under the CPU column). Look for processes that are unusually high, 70-80%. 

c. Compare it to what it does for your system. You should get an idea of what application it is associated with by selecting the Applications tab and view which ones are currently running. If you're not sure, select the application with your mouse.  

windows task manager

d. Right-button click it with the mouse and from the shortcut menu, select the choice, "Go to Process." It will take you to it's associated process on the Processes tab.


windows task manager

 

e. One of the most misunderstood processes shown in the Task Manager's processes tab is the entry, "System Idle Processes." The number in the CPU column does not indicate how much of the CPU is being used, as it is with the other processes. It is an indication of how much of the CPU is FREE. If you don't have alot of things going on, this number SHOULD BE HIGH and a high number is NORMAL. If the number is low, perhaps in the teens, it reflects heavy system usage and is an indication to close some applications.

windows task manager

 

f. If you suspect a virus or malware infection, expect a low number since the virus or adware is draining the system with unknown activity. You should be able to find the bogus process by checking and verifying each process by researching them until you find one that is not valid. That process more than likely is the offending one from the virus.

g. You can right click that offending process with the mouse and select "End Process" from the shortcut menu. With viruses or adware, this may or may not work, depending on the sophistication and design of the virus.

3. Check the Windows Registry for errors.

The Registry is a hierarchical database created during the installation of Windows. It contains binary files that hold system configuration information about various aspects of Windows, including security settings, user profiles, installed applications, attached hardware, and system properties. In Windows XP and Vista, the Registry folder is located in C:\Windows. In Windows 2000, the folder is located in C:\Winnt.

Registry problems can occur for various reasons, including power failures, corrupted Registry files, hard disk errors, or mistakes made while editing the Registry directly. It is time consuming to manually correct Registry errors, so it's much easier to let a registry checker/cleaner do the work. You can find a free registry cleaner by doing a web search with the words, "free registry cleaner".

With that said, be forewarned that although most registry cleaner utility programs do a good job of cleaning, a few of the cheaper ones have been known to corrupt a registry. You should backup the registry before cleaning when in doubt.

 

To do a Windows registry back up do the following:

a. Open the Registry Editor by selecting the Start button, select Run and enter regedit into the Run box, and press ENTER.‌

registry editor windows registry

b. On the Registry Editor, locate and select the key or subkey that you want to back up.

c. On the Registry Editor, select the File menu, then select Export.  To backup the entire registry,  select the location where you want to save the backup copy, for Export range select All. Enter a name for the backup file in the File name box, and select Save.

registry editor windows registry
 

4. Use the Windows Disk Cleanup utility to free up hard drive space so that you have a minimum of 20% of your hard drive free.

Disk cleanup is an important maintenance duty. The hard drive is used in conjunction with your system memory through Windows memory management. This utility will identify files that you can delete safely and will give you the option of deleting some or all of the flagged files. Some of the files it might mention are:

a. Temporary Internet files

b. Recycle Bin files

c. Optional Windows programs that you don't use

d. Installed programs that are not used

e. Unused restore points from the System Restore mode

f. Open Windows Explorer by Right-button mouse click the Start button. Select Explore.  Right-button mouse click the C drive (or the letter that represents your hard drive) . Select Properties from the shortcut menu.

windows explorer

g. Select the Disk Cleanup button.

disk cleanup

 

h. Check the files you wish to have removed and select OK.

 
disk cleanup

 

5. Locate and repair hard drive errors.

To repair hard drive errors run the Error Checking utility, known as Checkdisk. Checkdisk will scan the hard drive for bad sectors and will check for file system errors.

 a. To use the Checkdisk, open the Windows Explorer, locate the drive your checking and right-click the mouse on it. Select Properties from the shortcut menu. On the Tools tab in the Error-checking section, select the Check Now button and select OK.

checkdisk hard drive errors
 

b. Check both boxes, "Automatically fix file system errors" and "Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors. " Select the Start button to begin.

checkdisk hard drive errors

 

c. Since Checkdisk needs exclusive rights to the hard drive it cannot check the disk with open applications and will ask you if it can run with a system reboot. Select Yes to continue with the check of the hard drive. Reboot your PC.

   
checkdisk hard drive errors

 

d. After rebooting your pc, Checkdisk automatically performs checks on your hard drive.  Any problems it encounters will be automatically fixed if they are fixable.

checkdisk hard drive errors

6. Defragment your hard drive for faster disk read and writes.

To use the Windows  Disk Defragment program, select the Start Button – Programs – Accessories – Systems Tools – Disk Defragmenter.

 a. Select the Analzye button, which will check the hard drive for degree of fragmentation and determine if it's a candidate to deframent. If it's heavily fragmented, defragmenting the drive could possible take 2-3 hours or more. If you defrag your drive regularly, as part of a regular system maintenace chore, time for this will be minimal.

defragment

7. Adding additional RAM should bring a noticeable increase in speed.

4 gigabytes of RAM is what is generally considered to be the maximum amount for 32-bit PCs. If you've purchased a PC in the last 2 years it's probably a 64-bit PC which, if the OS and motherboard support it, allows you to install more than 4 gigabytes.  Consider your PC needs and gauge your decision to upgrade accordingly. 

 a.To find out how much RAM you currently have, go into the Windows Explorer and from the Menu bar, select Help – About Windows. At the bottom of the box there will be an entry "Physical Memory." Multiply the number portion by 1000 and that will tell you how much RAM your PC has in gigabytes. You can also go to http://www.crucial.com to ascertain how much RAM  is in the PC. You'll need to know the manufacturer and model# of the PC.  To get more information about how to read the RAM ads if you decide to order some, you can view it here.

 

ram

 

b.If you feel comfortable opening up the case, ensuring you are not violating your warranty on your PC by doing so, check the RAM location on the motherboard and see which slots are filled. Compare your observation against your PC documentation to determine how much RAM can be inserted into each available slot.  This is important since you will need to know what memory size of RAM module and how many are necessary to obtain the desired amount of RAM. You can do an Internet search and find a vendor that can sell you the RAM.

If you feel uncomfortable in any way about doing this yourself, take the PC to a computer shop and have them do it for you.

8. Time how long it takes your pc to boot up.

Press F8 while booting and you will be taken into a menu screen. Select Safe Mode, which will load only essential items for your system. You will know when you are in the Safe Mode since it will display "Safe Mode" on all 4 corners of your screen. Time the boot from the second you depress the power-on button until the time the Windows logo appears on your screen.

To shorten the boot up time, you can prevent the items from loading using the System Configuration Utility, known as Msconfig.

a. To launch the System Configuration Utility, select Start – Run. Enter msconfig.exe in the box and select OK.  On the General tab, select the choice, "Selective Startup." Then uncheck the box "Load Startup items and select OK. Power down the PC.  

b. Time how long it takes your PC to boot up and compare the time with the first time you calculated with the all Windows items loading. Again, timing should be from the time you depressed the power-on button until the time the Windows logo appears.

system configuration utility services

c. You can also remove Startup items selectively by selecting the Startup tab. Uncheck the box of the Startup item you wish to prevent loading and select Apply/OK. Reboot the PC.

system configuration utility

9. You can use the Services tab of the  System Configuration Utility Services tab to locate all running background services and stop it if it increases system speed.

a. Select the service and uncheck its box; then select Apply/OK.

 

system configuration utility services

 
b. You can use the Services utility to obtain more information about a particular service. It can be launched by selecting Start – Run – enter Services.msc in the window and select OK. 

system configuration utility services

Focus on services that are loaded automatically and see what the difference is by disabling it. If you find that you need the service, you can change its status to Manual, which will prevent it from loading with Windows, but will be available if you decide to use the service at will.

You can then double-click a particular service to open, obtain more information, and disable it if necessary.

c. To disable it, on the General tab, Startup type choice, select the menu drop down arrow and choose Disabled, then select OK. To change it to Manaual, select Manual from the menu so you may use the program at will.

Using the Services utility is also an excellent way to remove any services that are causing other problems with your system. It is an excellent troubleshooting tool.

system configuration utility services
 

Performing the above steps should give you a speed increase in your overall PC performance. If you would like to automate these house-keeping chores, a low-cost utility program, SmartPCFixer does an excellent job as well as performing other duties.

There is another speed consideration and it relates to the Internet. If after completing the above steps,  your online speed is not up to your expectations, there are external factors to consider.

10. Run an online Internet speed test.

A good speed test site is http://www.speedtest.net. Conduct the test during different parts of the day, since performance varies throughout the day. Most of the online testing sites will test the speed for bandwidth and the quality of the connection through a ping test. If the speed test results in less than 80 percent of their published speed or the ping test takes longer than the average time, contact your ISP's technical support and explain your case so they can troubleshoot. If their checks do not indicate anything wrong with their end, continue to step 12.

 11. Check all cable wiring and their connections to devices.

 To check all cable wiring includes ensuring the cables are not crimped or pinched, and the connectors are solidly on the wires. Check your router and ensure it is capable of processing data at the desired speed.

12. Ensure you're getting the best possible service for your Internet service provider's (ISP) service plan.

a. Check your service plan details from your Internet service provider and locate the upload/download speeds expected. The stated speed will range from a few hundred kilobits per second to several  megabits per second. While these numbers will vary between regions of the country and Internet service provider, you should verify the downstream and upstream speed for your package.

b. Call your Internet service provider customer service and explain your speed problem for a possible free improvement or upgrade. Providers update their service plans regularly. If you signed up for your service more than a few months ago, you should verify you’re receiving the best service possible. It is possible to have your speed increased without additional cost, just from calling their customer service. Sometimes you'll find a service upgrade package for a few extra dollars that will substantially boost your speed.

 After performing the above steps, you should notice a faster PC. Several of the steps should be performed on a regular basis, perhaps once per month, depending on how much you use your PC. In future posts, I will go into more detail concerning some of the issues mentioned above. My desire is that armed with how-to knowledge, you should experience more productivity and efficiency in your computing and on-line needs for a more enjoyable experience. Good luck to you all!