Thursday, July 05, 2007

I Finally Did It

I spent yesterday, most of it anyway, reformatting my home computer's hard drive and reinstalling the XP operating system. My computer had become so sluggish of late that something had to be done. Now that everything has been updated and reinstalled, the computer runs like new. If you're looking to get a new computer because your present computer is running slower than a preacher's sermon on Mother's Day, let me recommend a few things you can do to your computer to make it like new (and save you a few hundred dollars in the process).

Before I tackled the huge project, I backed everything up on an external hard drive by making a duplicate copy of my programs and files. Then, after I finished that, I added some more RAM to my computer. That has helped enormously. RAM doesn't necessarily speed up your computer, instead it allows you to do more on it at the same time. For instance, you can have 4-5 open windows running at the same time (if you have your email program open, plus your internet browser, and are currently working on one or two Word documents). RAM is pretty inexpensive but realize that not all RAM works on all computers--you have to find the RAM that works for your system. To find which RAM you'll need to buy, go here.

As I was taking the computer cover off my CPU (knowing that doing so voids my computer's warranty), I purchased a can of pressurized air and blew out the dust that had accumulated there. Lots of dust tends to make your computer run hotter by insulating the heat. Blowing out the dust allows the motherboard inside to "breathe". Also, remember to blow the dust from your various fans inside the CPU. Be careful blowing the dust off your motherboard, I did it holding the can about 10 inches away from the board. Some of the circuitry can get damaged from a direct hit of that compressed air, so be careful.

I installed the RAM being careful to touch a metal surface before touching anything in the CPU to discharge any static electricity that would immediately damage anything inside. When I was finished, I put the cover back on, plugged in my cables, and turned on the power to the computer. Now the tedious process began.

Once I reinstalled my operating system, I went and began to delete all the computer programs that came with my computer that I knew I'd never use. Using them only once, you will discover that deleting them can be next to impossible. So, I got right to it. I went to by Add/remove program option and deleted just about everything that came with my system including Microsoft Money, Norton Utilities, Outlook Express, and anything having anything to do with AOL. Once any one program was removed, I had to reboot. That was okay, I had the entire day.

Without going into too much detail (as I am tempted to do, and as I probably have already done), here are the programs I either installed or reinstalled. Note, that all of these programs are open-source and are free to use. In most instances the free programs do as good a job as the paid-for versions.

Avast! This is a free anti-virus program that is rated tops by PC World.

Zone Alarm. This is a free firewall that is extremely popular and efficient. You can purchase a firewall or use this one, but for heaven's sake, don't use the Windows Firewall that is in SP2 of XP. While it serves well as a basic firewall, it doesn't do eveything that a good firewall needs to do, as a result, it can leave you open to a lot of trouble.

OpenOffice. This is a free utilities suite (similar to Word, PowerPoint, Excel and includes extra programs like Draw, and a Database) that looks a lot like Microsoft Office. It even opens MS documents, saves to them, as well as creates its own. It has some handy extra features such as a .pdf creator. I love it, be sure to have it load in your system tray for faster starts.

This is also a handy office suit because it'll help your conscience too. Unlike many of us who have used "borrowed" versions of MS Office; this way, you'll get to use something without the guilt of continuing to use an office suite that you didn't really pay for. ;)

Firefox. This is a free internet browser with tabbed capabilities (IE 7 now has this feature).

Thunderbird. This is a free email client that lets you pull all your internet email (or work emails) threaded via pop3 access. I love this email client, I've been using it for years. And it has some of the best spam filters that I've ever used.

Picasa 2. This is a free photo management program from the fine folks over at Google, that one day may stir the same amount of ire that is directed at Microsoft (some folks are already getting a bit nervous with them). Until that time actually comes, this is a handy photoshop-lite like program that organizes and can manipulate your images to your taste.

AT Notes. This is a handy free program that lets you put those cool yellow stickums on your desktop screen to serve as reminder notes.

Evernote. This is a free information handling program that lets you copy and store all your information in one place as you surf the web, think of notes to jot down, or share information with colleagues. I use it with my sermon preparation and it's wonderful.

Okay, so there are my basic programs and as of this morning, my computer was running fast, smooth, and efficient. I am so glad I took the time to do this--hopefully I'll get another couple of years or so out of my computer before there is any need to upgrade to a fancier unit. (Heh heh, I just said, "unit" - is one ever too old to quote Beavis and Butthead?)

No comments: