the crap out of your computer
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
May 8-14, 2007; issue 915
High Tech Office column
friend recently dropped by bearing a new name-brand laptop. His
complaint: it took a long time (over two minutes) to start up, a long
time to shut down, it and seemed sluggish when it was running.
it was a low-end model with just the base 512 megabytes of memory. But
aside from installing more memory, could it be made to work better?
problem is common to most new computers, and not just bargain-basement
models. Increasingly users are complaining about “crapware” – software
they never requested that comes pre-installed on new computers.
thing I checked: the control panel’s add/remove programs item (renamed
Programs and Features in Windows Vista for no good reason).
with many models, this new Dell didn’t have too much to uninstall. All
I removed was the pre-installed 30-day trial security-suite software.
We replaced it with a free antivirus program and the Windows defender
anti-spyware software that was already on the computer. After a
restart, it already felt a bit faster.
Worth checking out: the free PC Decrapifier utility (pcdecrapifier.com
This automates removal of a large number of commonly pre-installed
software or lets you pick and choose so you can keep any that you want
to use. Or do it right: erase everything on your new computer and
install a fresh copy of the operating system and your preferred
applications. (You did get a copy of the operating system CD with that
new computer, didn’t you?)
Why do we get all this crap in the
first place? Software companies pay manufacturers to pre-install trial
versions of their software, hoping to get you to buy a full version. A
Dell spokesperson recently estimated the company made about $60 per
system that way.
A related problem for many Windows users (and
not just users with new computers) is all those programs are set to
load automatically every time the system starts. They slow down the
startup and suck up system resources. This was especially true on my
friend’s system, which started with relatively little memory.
the bottom right corner of the screen you’ll see a collection of little
icons. Each one represents something running in the background. Besides
the volume control, how many do you use?
Run a utility that
lists startup items and lets you disable items while making it easy to
re-enable items that you need. Try typing “msconfig” at the start
menu’s run command to get the Windows system configuration utility and
look at the startup tab. Or if you’re using Microsoft’s free Windows Defender
anti-spyware utility, click on
tools then on Software Explorer for a less confusing list of startup
can be hard to know what in the long list can be turned off. Try
Googling unfamiliar names. On my system, I found an item listed as
DMXLauncher. A search for “DMXLauncher startup” told me that both Dell
and Roxio install it with their media suites and that it’s probably not
needed. Apple’s QuickTime, Real Player and more may have unneeded items
installed. Even important-looking items from video, sound card and
mouse manufacturers and items from your computer manufacturer can
usually be disabled with little noticeable effect except that your
computer will be perkier. Leave ones from your antivirus software
This is not an exact science. Be prepared to
experiment; if you find you’re missing something, it’s easy to put a
checkmark back beside an item and restart to get it back.
removing unneeded startup programs, my friend’s new laptop booted up
and ran noticeably quicker. It would still benefit from more memory,
but in the meantime, it’s much more usable.