Tech Watch

2 minute read
Maryanne Murray Buechner

Is your computer underperforming? Online activities such as downloading music, installing programs and accidentally opening strange e-mails can crimp the efficiency of even the fastest machines. Here are five steps for keeping your Windows clear:

Spywareprograms that covertly send information about your Web activities to third partiesis often a big reason a computer is acting sluggish. Fix it with software like Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition (download free at or Spy Sweeper 3.5 (; $29.95 for a one-year subscription). To avoid future digital insurgencies, set your Web browser to block pop-up ads. The Firefox browser ( makes that easy, and experts say it has fewer security vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer. Make sure your antivirus program is up to date.

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Move digital photos and audio and video files to an external hard drive like the Iomega, below left. Or burn them on CDs or DVDs. Under your browser’s Options menu, limit space for temporary files. That cache saves pages you have viewed for quicker access later; 50 MB is plenty.

Defragmenting your hard drive is like refolding sweaters to fit more on the shelf, only instead of woolens, it involves data. In the Windows Start menu, go to Programs, Accessories, then System Tools and select Defragment. Do that once or twice a month. Then run Disk Cleanup, also located under System Tools.

Check which icons appear in the systems tray, located in the lower right-hand corner of your screen. Those are some of the programs that launch automatically every time you boot up. Too much running at once drags everything down, so disable what you don’t need by right clicking and resetting the preferences.

When all else fails, you could reformat your hard drive and start afresh. Beware: that is not for the faint of heart and could take several hours. You will have to back up everything first, including your favorite programs, and then reinstall it all, including your operating system. Before you take that leap, consult your owner’s manual.

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