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Improving System Performance without Adding Memory (Windows 7)

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Use this document to help make Windows and other software perform better. The information below provides ways to improve system performance by making more resources available.
Use the following sections to learn how to make your computer run faster.
See the Increasing System Resources video for more information about how to improve your computer's performance.
HP recommends using HP Support Assistant on a regularly scheduled basis. Use this tool to keep your computer tuned up.
NOTE:If you are not sure that you are using the latest version, or if the operating system was upgraded to Windows 7, download the current version of HP Support Assistant from the HP Web site.
Run HP Support Assistant to scan your computer and get the status of any available maintenance tasks. After the scan is complete, a list of maintenance tasks displays. Review and perform all the recommended actions.
Show me how
  1. Click Start , All Programs , HP , and then click HP Support Assistant . Or click the HP Support Assistant icon on the desktop.
  2. Click Maintain on the main menu.
    Figure 1: HP Support Assistant window
    HP Support Assistant window
  3. Click Refresh to open the Health Analysis window and start the analysis process.
    Figure 2: Refresh button
    Location of the refresh button
    Figure 3: Health Analysis window
    Health Analysis window
    As the HP Support Assistant analyzes your computer, a green and red circle displays next to the task the Support Assistant is currently performing.
  4. When the health analysis is complete, a list of Important actions needed displays. Perform these actions.
If the computer is performing slowly after connecting to the Internet, adware or spyware programs might be installed. Spyware and adware software programs use the Internet to download and upload data in the background. Some of this data might be sensitive information or unwanted advertising.
Scan for viruses and spyware using antivirus or antispyware security software. Remove any viruses and spyware found. For more information, see About Spyware, Adware, and Browser Hijacking Software (in English).
Close software programs that you are not using. Minimizing a software program window does not stop that software program from continuing to use the processor and memory. Being connected to the Internet, watching TV or video, playing games, listening to music, and running virus scans are all software tasks that can use a lot of system resources. Running more than one can add up and cause the system to slow down. Run virus scans and other system tools when no one uses the computer or when you are away from the desk.
A startup program is software that opens when Windows opens. Over time, as you install more and more software programs, the number of small icons on the notification area increases (usually these icons are in the lower-right corner, next to the time). Each of these small pictures represents a program running in the background, and each one uses valuable system resources. Move the mouse pointer over each icon to identify what software it is. Common programs that load and run in the background are security software, Windows Update, instant messaging software, and multimedia programs. You can increase system resources by stopping some of these tasks from loading, or by changing their settings. This can be achieved in a variety of ways because these programs open from various different places.
Figure 4: System tray icons
 System tray
Perform the following steps to selectively prevent items from starting when Windows launches.
Show me how
CAUTION: Disable only those items that are known and unwanted. Disabling system-critical items might cause problems.
  1. Click Start , and type msconfig into the Search box. Click msconfig .
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    Figure 5: Opening the System Configuration tool
    Opening the System Configuration tool
    The System Configuration tool displays.
  2. Click the General tab, and then click Selective startup .
    Figure 6: General tab
    General tab
  3. Select the Startup tab, and uncheck any tasks that do not contribute to the system and are unwanted.
    If you are unsure about a task, write the name down and research it on the Internet. Do not remove a checkmark if you do not know what the task is. For a list of files that are recommended not to remove, review the HP support document: Using Microsoft System Configuration in Windows 7 .
    Figure 7: Startup tab
    Startup tab
  4. Click Apply , and then click OK to accept the changes. Restart the computer.
  5. When prompted, click Restart .
    Figure 8: Restart the computer
    Restart the computer
  6. If Windows or other software stops working after a checkmark is removed from a task, restart the computer and reverse these procedures to replace the checkmark. If needed, you can press F8 after the first blue HP startup screen (after the computer has been turned on) to open safe mode. For more information, see Windows 7 Safe Mode .
By completing these steps, Windows runs using Selective startup. This means that Windows prevents the selected programs from starting. If Selective startup is disabled in the future, all the selected software programs will start again.
Use the following steps to prevent unwanted items from loading:
Show me how
  1. Right-click anywhere in an open area on the Windows desktop, and select New and Folder . Name the folder Notstartup . This folder will be used later.
  2. Click Start , All Programs , right-click Startup , and then click Open .
    The Startup folder opens.
    Figure 9: Startup folder
    Startup folder
  3. Any icons in the list indicate programs that load when Windows opens. Right-click any of these icons and select Properties to reveal more information about the icon.
  4. Right-click any icon you do not want, and then select Cut .
  5. Double-click the Notstartup folder on the desktop that was created earlier.
  6. Right-click inside the Notstartup folder, and then click Paste . The icons that were cut from the Startup folder are now placed in the Notstartup folder.
  7. Restart the computer.
    Any items removed from Startup no longer open when Windows opens. You can open the programs by double-clicking the desired item in the Notstartup folder.
Show me how
  1. From the Windows desktop, double-click Recycle Bin .
  2. Restore any mistakenly deleted items by right-clicking each file, and then selecting Restore .
  3. Click Empty the Recycle Bin . Windows removes the contents of the Recycle Bin from the hard disk (C: is most common).
  4. Select Yes to confirm.
  5. Close the Recycle Bin.
Deleting temporary files and folders increases hard disk space and reduces the time Windows takes to access the hard drive. It also resolves problems with spooling print jobs. Windows uses a Temp folder to temporarily store files intended only for temporary use. Over time, these files can build up and cause problems. To delete these files, use the following set of steps:
Show me how
  1. Close all open software programs.
  2. Click Start , All Programs , Accessories , System Tools , and then Disk Cleanup .
    Figure 10: Select drive
    Select drive
  3. Select the drive you want to clean up, and then click OK .
    A message opens telling you that Disk Cleanup is calculating how much space you can free on the drive you chose.
    Figure 11: Disk Cleanup progress indication window
    Disk Cleanup progress indication window
  4. Place a check next to the types of files you want the Disk Cleanup tool to delete. Temporary files are safe to delete.
    CAUTION:Selecting some options can have a negative effect. Examples: Selecting Hibernation File Cleaner can prevent the computer from entering hibernation. Selecting Setup Log Files deletes the files that online phone support agents use to help troubleshoot setup problems. If you are unsure about what to delete, do not delete the files until you know if the files are not important for your use of the computer.
    Figure 12: Disk Cleanup
    Disk Cleanup
  5. Click OK .
  6. Click Delete Files .
Perform the following procedure to check the integrity of the hard disk drive in Windows 7. Close all open programs before beginning the disk check.
Show me how
  1. Close all open software programs.
  2. Click Start , and then click Computer .
  3. Right-click the hard disk drive that you want to check, and then click Properties .
    Figure 13: Selecting Hard Disk Drive Properties
    Selecting Hard Disk Drive Properties
  4. In the Properties window, click the Tools tab.
    Figure 14: Tools tab
    Tools tab
  5. Under Error-checking, click Check Now .
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  6. If desired, click the check box next to Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors .
    CAUTION:Checking and fixing disk errors can take an hour or more to complete, depending on the size of your hard drives, and you CANNOT use your computer during this process.
    Figure 15: Check Disk options
    Check Disk options
  7. Click Start .
    If a window opens stating that Windows can't check the disk while it's in use , click Schedule disk check and follow the on-screen instructions to restart the computer and scan the disk for errors.
    Figure 16: Windows can't check the disk while it's in use
    Windows can't check the disk while it's in use
The Disk Defragmenter tool takes all the scattered bits of program data and groups them together in more efficient areas of the drive. Use these steps to defragment the hard drive:
Show me how
  1. Close all open software programs. This includes background programs such as virus scanners.
  2. Click Start , All Programs , Accessories , System Tools , and then click Disk Defragmenter .
    NOTE:If Disk Defragmenter repeatedly starts, a hidden background program is still accessing the hard drive. Restart the computer in Safe mode and try again. For more information, see Windows 7 Safe Mode .
  3. Click Defragment disk . This could take a few minutes or a few hours, depending on the amount of data on your hard disk drive. You have the option to click Stop operation to stop the tool.
    Figure 17: Disk Defragmenter
    Disk Defragmenter
Allocated memory space from programs that are no longer open can cause problems. Over time, this unused memory space can build up, causing Windows to slow down and use the hard drive more. These memory leaks are causing the system to slow down if the computer runs well when first turned on, but performs noticeably slower after several programs are opened and closed.
Memory leaks can happen when software is closed before it has fully opened. Always allow programs time to fully open before closing them. As a rule, wait five seconds after a software program opens before closing it again, even if the program was opened unintentionally.
On rare occasions, an incompatible software program might continue to allocate memory while it is running, causing the system to slow down and eventually lock up.
To immediately fix memory leaks, restart the computer. For a permanent fix, isolate software programs that might be causing the leaks by using the following steps:
  1. Start with a fresh session of Windows by shutting down and then turning on the computer.
  2. Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete , and then select Start Task Manager to open the Task Manager window.
  3. Click the Performance tab to view the amount of available physical memory.
    Figure 18: Performance tab in Task Manager
    Performance tab in Task Manager
  4. Click the Resource Monitor button to view how your computer is using the memory.
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  5. Click the arrow to expand the Memory section, and then scroll down to view which programs are using memory.
    Figure 19: Resource Monitor
    Resource Monitor
  6. Open a program suspected of causing the computer to run more slowly.
  7. Check the percentage of Used Physical Memory and write it down.
  8. Close and reopen the suspected program repeatedly, noting the Used Physical Memory and comparing the new percentage to the one recorded. Each time, wait about 10 seconds before opening the program again.
  9. If the Used Physical Memory percentage continues to increase, a memory leak is occurring. Contact the program's vendor for available patches or fixes.
  10. If the Used Physical Memory returns to the same number or similar each time, the suspected program is probably not creating a memory leak.
Windows uses unused space (free space) on the hard drive for different types of operations such as caching and virtual memory. The computer might not run reliably if the free disk space drops below five percent of the total disk space.
CAUTION:You might see a RECOVERY (D:) or FACTORY_IMAGE (D:) hard drive. This hard drive is reserved for system recovery and should not be used for anything else.
To view the amount of free space on the hard drive:
  1. Click Start , and then click Computer .
  2. Right-click the hard drive (C: is most common), and then click Properties .
  3. View the amount of space available next to Free space.
    Figure 20: Hard drive properties
    Hard drive properties
Use the following steps to remove unwanted programs and increase hard drive space:
Show me how
  1. Click Start , and then click Control Panel .
  2. Under Programs , click Uninstall a program .
    The Uninstall or change a program window opens.
    Figure 21: Uninstall or change a program
    Uninstall or change a program
  3. Select the program you want to remove.
  4. Click Uninstall or Uninstall/Change at the top of the program list.
  5. Read and respond to any messages that might open while the software is being removed from your computer.
System Restore is a feature of Windows that can revert system software and settings back to a particular date. System Restore does this by saving the changes made to system files in a restore point. These restore points use a lot of hard drive space. System Restore uses up to four percent of the hard drive with restore points if left unadjusted, regardless of the size of the hard drive.
CAUTION:If you are experiencing system problems and may need to restore your computer to an earlier time, DO NOT remove the restore points.
CAUTION:Selecting Turn off system protection will prevent the system from creating future restore points. You cannot restore the hard drive without restore points.
Use the following steps to reduce the space System Restore uses for restore points.
Show me how
  1. Click Start , right-click Computer , and then select Properties .
  2. From the tasks pane on the left, click System protection .
    Figure 22: Computer Properties
    Computer properties screen
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    The System Properties window opens with the System Protection tab selected.
    Figure 23: System Protection
    System Protection
  3. Click Configure .
  4. To reduce the amount of hard drive space the system reserves for system restores, slide the Max Usage: slider bar to 2%. You can choose a higher or lower percentage depending on how many restore points you want and the capacity of your hard drive.
    Figure 24: Max Usage slider
    Max Usage slider
  5. Click OK .

Creating a restore point

System Restore automatically creates restore points each week or when system changes are made. You can manually create a restore point to save your current system files.
To create a restore point:
  1. Click Start , right-click Computer , and then select Properties .
  2. From the tasks pane on the left, click System Protection .
    Figure 25: Computer Properties
    Computer properties screen
    The System Protection tab opens.
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    Figure 26: System Protection
    System Protection
  3. Click Create .
  4. Type a description for the restore point and click Create .
  5. To view your restore points, click System Restore .
Software conflicts can cause the system to slow. HP, Microsoft, and other software manufacturers release updates to address these problems. Make sure that you go to HP's software download site and use Windows Update tool regularly.
Graphical features and programs can use a lot of system resources. Turning off these features can improve system performance. This section explains how to adjust visual effects for best performance and how to disable Windows Aero.

Adjusting visual effects for best performance

Follow these steps to adjust visual effects, such as menu and window graphics, to optimize performance:
Show me how
  1. Click Start , right-click Computer , and then click Properties .
    The System window opens.
  2. Click Advanced System Settings .
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    The System Properties window opens with the Advanced tab selected.
  3. Under Performance, click Settings .
    Figure 27: System Properties
    Advanced System Properties
  4. Select Adjust for best performance , and then click OK .
    Figure 28: Performance Options
    Performance Options
Windows 7 provides a visual experience known as Aero. Windows Aero can be used to change window colors, provide alternate tasking views, and make window borders transparent.
CAUTION: Disabling Aero can greatly improve system performance, but might prevent certain software programs from opening. For example, if you have an HP Touch computer, disabling Aero might prevent the HP TouchSmart software from opening.
While Windows Aero does offer benefits to your computing experience, it comes at a cost in system performance. If you do not want to use the Windows Aero features and want to increase the performance of your system, follow these steps to disable Windows Aero and apply a different theme:
Show me how
  1. Right-click an open area of the desktop and select Personalize .
    The Personalization window opens.
    Figure 29: Personalization window
     Personalization window
  2. Select a theme that is not an Aero theme.
Extend the life of your PC by removing potentially damaging dust, dirt, pet hair, and other buildup.
For more information on cleaning your desktop PC correctly, refer to the HP Desktop PCs - Cleaning Your Desktop PC support document.
For more information on cleaning your notebook PC correctly, refer to the HP Notebook PCs - Cleaning Your Notebook PC support document.
To free resources and keep the computer running correctly, follow a maintenance schedule as listed below.
Recommended maintenance schedule
Daily tasksWeekly tasksMonthly tasksQuarterly tasks
Manage e-mail

  • Delete e-mail from unknown sources.
  • Do not open attachments that you do not trust.
  • Organize e-mail.
Protect against viruses, adware, and spyware

  • Update definition files or schedule a weekly automatic update.
  • Run a full virus, adware, and spyware scan or schedule a weekly automatic scan.
Use Windows Update

Check for updates or schedule a monthly automatic update.
Set new passwords
Optimize system performance

Review the Start menu

Set the Start menu to open only needed applications.
Clean the computer, monitor, keyboard, and mouse

Use a portable vacuum to remove dust and debris from ventilation areas.
Clean up Web browser files

  • Delete cookies.
  • Delete cache.
  • Delete history files.
Clean up the desktop

Delete or remove unneeded icons and software programs.
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