Keeping PCs away from the doctor’s office

by Mike Garofalo

Everyone is familiar with this sequence: the Web page you need fails to open. You click once, twice, even a few more times. A few minutes later, your screen displays several failed operations, likely accompanied by the “task manager.” Now what?

Computer slowdown is annoying; we often wonder how we can reverse this effect and prevent it from occurring again. Rider’s Office of Information Technologies (OIT) was able to shed light on this topic and offer the average computer owner advice.

Every program opened requires a certain amount of memory to operate and many of these programs take up a large amount of space. Picture a student working on a big research paper. Maybe he is typing in a Word document, listening to iTunes, searching the web for an important date and checking e-mail all at once. These are a lot of tasks for this computer to deal with at once.

“This, over time, can cause a computer to slow down or even crash,” said Shane Smith, manager of Support Services of OIT.

Windows task manager is a handy tool to help the user determine if too many programs are running at once. Control, alt, delete is the easiest way to bring up the task manager and look at the Applications tab, which lists all programs currently running and their status. A frozen program will usually read “not responding.” Try clicking on the Performance tab. A graph of CPU usage will be accompanied by a percentage, which will usually be very high with a slow computer.

The Processes tab can identify other hidden tasks that your computer is running. Many of these objects must run for the computer to operate smoothly. For example, without Apoint.exe, a laptop’s touchpad feature would not function correctly. Another common process is Winlogon.exe, which allows proper approval of the computer’s user during the login.

Unfortunately, certain processes may actually be linked to spyware. The trick is to know that a process is harmful and can be eliminated. Acting in a rash manner and deleting potentially important processes can prove to be a big mistake. If unsure, the best option here is to consult someone you can trust. Relying on any site that comes up from a Web search can be risky.

Three primary points of interest were abundance of random access memory (RAM), computer security, and general clearing out. As a former student support specialist, Smith developed three key steps for computer health: “cleanup, upkeep, protect.”

Regarding cleanup, Smith highly advocates that students “defrag their hard drive, delete their temporary Internet files and restart their computer on a regular basis.” Additionally, the removal of excessive and unwanted cookies can be helpful, and this is made easy by certain antivirus programs that feature this tool.

Keep in mind that not all cookies are bad; some will remember passwords for the user. However, it is good to know which cookies are of use, and which are just clutter.

Computer upkeep is a crucial step in performance, and therefore updates should be taken care of in a timely manner.

Often users have the option of receiving automatic notifications when new updates are available. Although these can require restarting the computer, which can interrupt an important task, it should not be put off for too long.

“There is always the possibility that there is an update available, whether it is a driver or system update that can potentially resolve a slowness issue,” Smith said.

Protection is one element of computer maintenance that requires a conscious effort on the part of the user. Antivirus programs require frequent updates in order to ensure defense against the latest threats. This step does not usually take too long, but the scans themselves can take quite a while, especially in the case of older computers with a lot of information stored. Leaving the scan alone can sometimes be the best bet because working through it usually causes the machine to run slowly.

When purchasing antivirus software, remember that any program that requires a significant amount of space on the hard drive can cause the computer to run more slowly – even virus protection.

“Although I mention here that these applications can slow down your machine, they do contribute to its overall well-being,” Smith said.

Consider looking at the amount of space that each program takes up prior to purchase if you are concerned about file size. Remember that beyond installing this software, consistent use is important. Even the best software protection is no excuse to dismiss responsible internet use.

There are numerous reasons why a machine may slow down and many possible solutions. It is up to the diligent computer owner to take care of his or her investment.

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