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Improving System Performance without Adding Memory for HP Notebook PCs (Windows XP)

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This document applies to HP Pavilion and Compaq Presario notebook PCs with Windows XP or older operating system.
If the computer has Windows 7 or Vista, see Improving the Performance of Your Computer .
As a computer is used to access information on the Internet and additional programs are added, the computer's performance may begin to degrade. A combination of unintentional changes to the system configuration files and some poorly designed software, can cause the computer to run slowly or freeze up for no obvious reason.
To help resolve issues and improve system performance, perform one or more of the following methods. The methods include a mixture of operational diagnostics, software configuration changes, and hardware maintenance activities.
Adware is any program that displays advertising banners while it is running. This may include sometimes annoying pop-up windows. Spyware is any application that collects information from the computer and sends that information to another computer over the Internet.
These programs, as well as viruses and worms, can degrade the system resources. Set up a schedule to search for and remove these types of programs.
Install virus and spyware protection software and use the automatic update feature to keep the virus and spyware definition files current. Use the Symantec Security Check to test the computer's exposure to a wide range of online threats. It's a free service designed to help HP customers determine their Internet security needs.
It is a good idea to save data and close program when the task is finished. Minimizing the window for a program does not stop that program from using the computer's processor and memory. Activities, like being connected to the Internet, listening to music, and running virus scans all use a lot of system resources. Schedule the use of virus scans and other system tools for a time when the computer is not being used. Work offline when convenient. Close unnecessary programs to help Windows perform more efficiently.
Deleting a file is a two-step operation. First the file is marked for deletion and temporarily stored in the Recycle Bin, then action is taken to empty the Recycle Bin. Files in the Recycle Bin take up disk space and can slow a program's operation. Do the following actions to empty the Recycle Bin frequently.
  1. From the Windows desktop, right-click the Recycle Bin , and select Empty Recycle Bin .
  2. Select Yes to confirm the deletion of multiple files.
    Windows will remove the contents of the Recycle Bin from the hard disk (C: is most common hard drive designation).
If there is a question about which files will be deleted, do the following actions to open the Recycle Bin and view the file names.
  1. From the Windows desktop, right-click the Recycle Bin , and select Open to view the contents of the Recycle Bin.
  2. Select any file that is mistakenly marked for deletion, then click File on the top menu, and click Restore .
    The file will be returned to its original location on the hard drive.
  3. After restoring any files, click File on the top menu, and click Close to exit the Recycle Bin.
Windows uses several directories, such as the C:\WINDOWS\TEMP directory, to store files (*.tmp, *.spc) intended only for temporary use. Over time, the number of files can build up and slow the operation of programs, such as print spooling. Do the following activities to delete these files to increase hard disk space and reduce the time needed to access the hard drive.
    1. Close all open programs.
    2. Click Start , select Programs , select Accessories , select System Tools , and then click Disk Cleanup (see Figure 1).
    3. When prompted, select the name of a drive from the drop-down list. (Drive C:\ is normally the hard drive on a computer. However it may be both drive C:\ and drive D:\ if there are multiple hard drives, or if hard drive is configured for multiple logical drives.)
    4. Place a check next to the types of files to be deleted. It is always safe to delete temporary files, Internet files, and recycle bin files.
    5. Select OK to begin the cleanup. When prompted, click Yes to confirm the actions.
      Figure 1: Disk Cleanup Window
    After completing this action, continue on to Scan the hard drive for errors .
    Windows 95 does not provide a utility to safely remove these file. Actions should be taken by experienced users only.
    To delete these files, it is necessary to open a DOS command window , use the CD command to change to the c:\ root directory, use the DIR command to verify what type of files in the temporary directory, and use the DEL TEMP\*.tmp command to delete the files.
    WARNING:Running these commands incorrectly may delete important files and could cause the computer to stop working. Do not perform these activities if you are not experienced using these commands.
The ScanDisk program checks the hard drive for file structure and physical errors. Do the following activities to run ScanDisk before running the disk defragmenter program.
    1. Close all programs including background programs such as virus scanners and screen savers.
    2. Click Start , then open My Computer .
    3. Right-click the hard drive's icon (usually C:\).
    4. Click Properties , and then click the Tools tab.
    5. Click Check Now .
    6. Place checkmarks in the check boxes for the Fix file system errors and Attempt recovery of bad sectors options.
    7. Click Start , and then click Yes to schedule a full disk scan when the computer is restarted.
    8. Restart the computer. The disk scan can take a very long time to complete.
    9. The results of the ScanDisk testing is displayed. Click Close to exit program when finished.
    1. Close all programs including background programs such as virus scanners and screen savers.
    2. Select Start , Programs , Accessories , System Tools , and ScanDisk .
    3. Select the drive (usually C:\) and check Automatically Fix Errors .
    4. Select the type of scan to be done.
      Check Thorough to perform a complete scan of the hard drive. A thorough scan may take more than an hour to complete.
      If the computer is not often used, select the Standard scan to check only for errors in the files and folders.
    5. Click Start and follow the onscreen instructions. If the ScanDisk starts itself over and over, then a hidden background program is still accessing the hard drive. Restart the computer in Safe mode and try again.
    6. The results of the ScanDisk testing is displayed. Fix or repair any files, if asked. Click Close to exit program when finished.
The Disk Defragmenter program examines all the fragmented data and program files and reorganizes them into continuous storage places on the hard drive. The defragmentation process reduces the time needed to access files on the hard drive.
Do the following activities to defragment the hard drive. Depending on the size of the hard drive, it could take over an hour to complete the defragmentation process.
  1. Close all programs including background programs such as virus scanners and screen savers.
  2. Click Start , Programs or All Programs , Accessories , then System Tools .
  3. Click Disk Defragmenter .
    Click Defragment to start the program. If Disk Defragmenter starts itself over and over, then a hidden background program is still accessing the hard drive. Restart the computer in Safe mode and try again.
At start-up, many programs launch background processes that take up space in memory waiting for some system level action to be called. Common programs that load at startup are virus scanners, display settings, and multimedia programs. Most of the processes are not needed by every program or games. Removing these speciality programs from a normal start-up will improve overall performance.
    Using MSCONFIG will display lists of program files with unique names. Before selectively disabling any of these programs, you should search on the Internet for definitions of the individual files and decide if each file is needed. Disabling system critical items could cause the computer to stop operating.
    1. Click Start and then click Run .
    2. In the Open dialogue box type MSCONFIG and then click OK .
    3. Select the Startup tab (see Figure 2) and remove the checks from any tasks that do not contribute to the system and are unwanted. If a task is unknown, write the name down and research it on the Internet later. Do not remove a checkmark if the task is not known.
      Figure 2: Startup tab of the System Configuration Utility
    4. After removing the checkmark from the unwanted files, click OK to accept the changes. Allow the computer to restart.
      NOTE:If Windows or other software stops working after a checkmark is removed from a task, restart the computer, go to the Startup tab and replace the checkmark.
    After completing these steps, Windows will re-start using the Selective Startup option. This means Windows prevents the selected programs from starting automatically. To revert the original state, during the start-up process, un-select the Selective Startup option and reselect the Normal Startup.
    As the programs load, they usually display an icon on the system tray bar . Increase system performance by stopping these tasks from loading, or by changing their settings.
    1. Click Start , select Programs , select Accessories , and click Windows Explorer .
    2. Navigate to the Startup folder on the hard drive (usually C:\Documents and Settings\Start\Programs . The shortcuts to programs listed in this folder will start at startup.
    3. To prevent the program from automatically launching at startup, remove the program shortcut from the Startup folder.
      To permanently remove the startup item, delete the item from the C:\...\Start\Programs\Startup folder.
      To preserve the startup item for possible reuse, create a new folder in Programs folder and name it something other than Startup. Drag-and-drop the specific shortcut from the Startup folder to the new folder.
      Sample Folder Names:
      C:\...\Start\Programs\Startup
      C:\...\Start\Programs\NonStartup
    4. Restart the computer. Any items removed from the Startup folder will no longer load at startup but can be launched by clicking the desired item on the standard Start and Programs menus.
Older computer have a limited amount of ROM memory, and memory leakage is a problem with Windows 98, Me, and 2000 operating system. If the computer runs well when first turned on, but performs noticeably slower after several programs are opened and closed, there may be a problem with memory leakage. Memory leakage refers to the loss of available memory while a computer is running. For instance, when a program started, it reserved a specific amount of memory for its processes. When the program is closed, it should release all the reserved memory. Unfortunately, some programs do not release all the reserved memory. As a result, there is less memory available for the next program.
A simple workaround for slow performance is to restart the computer after using the program(s) with large memory leakage. For computers with Windows 98, ME, 2000, it may be possible to upgrade to Windows XP and install the Microsoft updates including Service Pack 2 or SP3. Alternately, you could consider retiring the old computer and purchasing a computer with newer hardware and software.
Use one or more of the following methods to calculate memory leakage and identify which of your commonly used programs are not releasing the memory.
    Do the following activities to identify programs that cause large amounts of memory leakage. The general diagnostic procedure is to determine and record the amount of available memory at three measurement points:
    A. ______ Before starting the program.
    B. ______ After starting the program.
    C. ______ After closing the program completely.
    The available memory at measurement points A and C should be the same. To determine memory leakage, subtract the value at C from the value at A. If there is a large leakage, contact the software manufacture for current updates or patches.
    1. Start with a fresh session of Windows by shutting down and then restarting the computer.
    2. Right-click the My Computer icon on the desktop and select Properties .
    3. Select the Performance tab to view the available percentage of System Resources.
    1. Start with a fresh session of Windows by shutting down and then restarting the computer.
    2. In Windows XP, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete .
    3. Select the Performance tab on the Windows Task Manager.
      Note the change in CPU Usage when the program starts and stops (see Figure 5).
      Record the amount of Physical Memory Available (Figure 4).
    Figure 3: View System Resources - Windows XP
On older computers with small hard drives, unused files and programs take up space that could be used for other processing activities. Windows needs a certain amount of free space on the hard drive for different types of operations such as caching and virtual memory. If the available free space is less than five percent of the total disk space, the computer's performance will degrade and the computer might become unreliable.
You can easily determine the amount of free space, and then remove the unused files and programs to increase the amount of free space.
  1. Right-click on the hard drive icon , and click Properties .
  2. View the percentage of Used Space and Free Space on the General tab.
    If the percentage of Free Space is near or less than 5%, then files and/or programs should be removed.
You can increase the amount of disk space available on a hard drive by making a backup copy of the old data files onto an external storage device and then deleting the unused original files. By default, most Microsoft XP programs save the data files to the My Documents folder on the desktop. However, the programs allow users to store files in other directories. Having data files scattered across multiple folders makes it difficult to find and copy files.
To simplify the process for backing up files and freeing up storage space, it is helpful to decide where you want files will be stored on the hard drive. Choose some file organizing scheme and use it consistently.
  1. Open a Windows Explorer window, right-click the hard drive icon , and click Properties .
  2. showhide
    Select Backup on the Tools tab, and follow the instructions on selecting files to be backed up.
  3. After data files are backed up, move the original files from the hard drive folder to the Recycle Bin, then empty the Recycle bin.
You can increase the amount of disk space available on a hard drive by uninstalling old or unused programs. The unwanted program might be an old word processing program or a game that has not been played in months. You simply decide which programs are important. If you are unsure and you have the original disks, you can always reinstall the program if necessary.
  1. Click Start , Settings , and Control Panel .
  2. Open Add/Remove Programs .
  3. Click the Install/Uninstall tab. Select programs that are no longer used and will not be used.
  4. Highlight the program name, and then click the Add/Remove or Change/Remove button and OK (see Figure 5).
    Figure 4: Select and Remove One Program At A Time
  5. When the program is removed, a prompt might appear to restart Windows. Restart Windows, then repeat the above steps to remove any other programs.
  6. After removing all the desired programs, go to Defragment the hard drive .
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