It’s All in the Configuration

The Computer Corner
All you want to know about computers by Charles Miller

t’s sooooo slooooow! That is what people tell me about their computer, and it will come as no surprise to me if someone says the same about the dissemination of information via this column. Weeks ago I made passing reference to several reasons a computer can run slow and did so without elaborating due to the limitations of space.

The most common reason I see for a client’s computer running slow is the first thing I now look for. The Windows status bar (also called the “task bar” or “notification area”) is located next to the clock. Here is where we find an icon for each program that is actively running in the background. Each of these programs consumes memory and CPU cycles and thus slows the computer. Running a few programs is okay, but too many can slow your computer to a crawl.

Any time you install almost any program it will want to install something in the startup of your system. I have always said this is because computer programmers seem to be an arrogant and self-centered lot. It seems they think, “If you install my program you obviously want to have it running 24/7.” Then they proceed to configure your computer so that their program starts and runs at all times even though you may use it rarely.

A common example of this problem is Skype. Many people use this program for making free or low-cost phone calls and use it all the time. For these users it is best to have Skype configured so that it starts automatically and runs constantly. What I often encounter though is someone who says they only use Skype for one or two calls a month, yet they have the program running and slowing down their computer all the time.

Another example is the weather icon. It sits on the screen next to the clock displaying the temperature and current conditions. There are other icons that can display the up-to-the-minute Dow-Jones Industrial Average or the price of gold. To me the most illogical of all is the program that places an icon on the screen to show how fast the computer is running. I wonder if the authors of that one had ever heard of the “observer effect.”

Actually, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these programs. The issue is that each of them slows the computer a bit, and too many of these programs will adversely affect the performance of your computer. Call it too much of a good thing.

To get this situation under control, Windows users should use the MSCONFIG utility to reconfigure the startup options for unessential programs. Mac users find this in the Users & Groups pane of System Preferences on the Login Items tab. Re-configuring your computer is a matter of priorities. Do you want your computer to automatically pop-up Major League Baseball score updates, or do you want the computer to run just a little faster? There are no right or wrong answers, just a question of your personal preferences.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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