Q: I bought a laptop about six months ago, and it already feels like it's running sluggish. It came with a bunch of programs on it that I don't need and don't use. Are they making it run slow? If so, can I get rid of them?
A: Most people believe that computers get slower with age, but that's actually a misconception. Computer hardware doesn't get slower, at least not noticeably. The difference in speed over several years is microscopic, barely even measurable. However, the operating system and the software on your computer does get significantly slower as you install programs that run in the background and as you upgrade to more feature packed versions of the software you have. To make things worse, new computers, especially Windows PCs tend to come with lots of "bloatware" right out of the box, getting you off to a slow start to begin with. Get rid of any programs you have on your computer that you don't use, and you'll have a leaner, faster machine. There are a few free great programs that will do the job for you. Unfortunately, neither of the two best applications for Windows have really great names: CCleaner and PC Decrapifier. In case you were wondering, yes, the extra "C" in CCleaner stands for "Crap." Despite their names that seem to be inspired by the jokes of adolescents, both of these applications do an excellent job of uninstalling software and removing settings that slow down your computer. For Mac users, there is a beta version of CCleaner available on their website, and there is also MacKeeper and CleanMyMac which do the same job. MacKeeper is the only software listed above that isn't free, but it offers many more options than the others. It is worth checking out, even though the price can get hefty.
Once you have one of the programs I mentioned above downloaded and installed, go through the list of applications. Ask yourself, when was the last time I used this program, and when do I expect the next time will be? If you've never used it, and you probably never will, uninstall that program. If you haven't used it in six months to a year, and/or you don't expect that you will use it within six months to a year, make sure that you have the disk that it came on or that you can read download it and install it later. If you do, go ahead and uninstall that program, too. You wouldn't keep your fishing boat trailer hooked up to your truck just because you're going fishing in two months, right? Once you've gone through every program on your computer and make the hard decision if you really need it or not, reboot your computer. You'll probably notice a difference already.
The next step is to turn off programs that are running in the background or start automatically when you turn on the computer. These programs slow your computer down, by unnecessarily tasking your processor and using up memory that could otherwise be used to handle what you are working on. You'll usually see icons for these programs in the bottom right-hand side of your screen on the taskbar. Most can be turned off by right-clicking the icon and clicking Exit or Close. Some must be turned off in their settings or control menus. Also, most of the programs listed above can be used to stop programs from starting automatically. However, make sure to tread carefully here. Make sure you know what the program does before you shut it off. For instance, you do not want to disable your antivirus software, and you usually do not want to disable programs that allow your hardware to work like audio or webcam programs.
Another word of warning, don't mess with the registry. While it is true that uninstalling programs may leave things in your registry, it will not make a significant difference to the speed of your computer. However, making changes to your registry may cause significant problems with your computer. Unless you really know how Windows works, leaving the registry alone is the best option.
Once you've uninstalled the programs you don't need or want and stopped the rest from starting automatically, you'll have a computer that feels younger than the day you took off the shrink wrap.