Your questions answered here:
Why is my computer slow?
A computer may be slow to start and slow
to run. Slow startups can be caused by
programs that run at startup. Windows
programs need to run at startup as do other
programs such as security programs.
Other programs may be beneficial, but not
necessary to run at startup. These
include programs that search for updates and
programs that make larger programs faster to
start. The hard drive
(pictured to the right) may have become slow
over time, or be failing. Or you may
have a virus or spyware slowing your
computer. Many of these will not
only make your computer slow to start, but
also slow to run.
Too little memory can also make your
computer both slow to start and slow to run.
Sometimes so many programs are trying to run
that there isn't enough memory left to spare
for the programs you deem necessary.
What might have been enough memory in 2001
or 2005 or even yesterday, may not be enough
today as programs (including your operating
system) require more and more memory to run.
Then your computer is slow and may freeze on
occasion while it tries to shuffle things in
and out of the existing memory to find
enough memory to run the program.
What do you do if your computer is slow?
The first and easiest check is memory.
Crucial Memory Finder is what I use.
Why? Crucial makes good memory at a
reasonable price which works well in most
computers (I use it in mine.) I have
had no problems with it except with a couple
of "custom" built computers and a couple of
HP's. It will tell you how much
memory you have and how much is recommended.
I recommend 1 Gig for Windows XP and 2 or
more Gigs for Vista.
Next, I check for running programs and
see what can be stopped from running.
This is not something you should do because
many programs are necessary for your
computer to run properly and you will not
always be able to identify those. when
I am checking the running programs I may
find a virus or spyware running. The
internet security product I currently
Finally, there are tests I can do on
modern hard drives to check their function.
Modern hard drives use SMART
(Self-Monitoring and Recording Technology).
When the drive is in imminent danger of
failing, SMART may give you a message at
startup. However, it may not.
So, I have tools to use to check the drive
before it fails to see whether it is
If you need more information, please let
When should I buy a new computer?
I tell most people to
expect their computers to last 3 years and
be happy if they last 4 years or longer. A
computer may last for so long that new
hardware, printers for example, might now
work well. A computer may last so long that
it can no longer be upgraded. Or a major
hardware component may fail and the cost of
replacement is not worth it. If your hard
drive, power supply, network card, floppy
drive, DVD or CD drive fail, these are all
relatively cheap and easy to replace.
Anything else fails, and it becomes much
more expensive. And sometimes, even keeping
an old computer going may cost more than a
cheap new computer. So, think about your
computer's age. Look at the cost of cheap
new computers. Is the repair almost half
the cost of a new computer? Then buy the
new one. You will be getting not just one new part, but a computer
full of new parts.
What is the Difference between Hard Drive space and Memory?People
often confuse these terms and then they
confuse me! Just kidding. A hard
drive looks like this:
It is relatively heavy and can be easily rendered dysfunctional if
dropped. It contains all the software
and data on your computer. It holds
that data and software whether it is
connected to your computer or removed, or
whether it on or off. There are two
different styles of hard drives in use
today. The first and oldest is called
PATA (Parallel ATA) or IDE. The other
type is called SATA (Serial ATA). SATA
drives tend to be faster than the other type
and are found on newer computers. Both
types are attached to the power supply in
your computer and to the motherboard.
Memory has had several different forms and
only the form compatible with your computer
can be used in your computer. All
forms look very much the same, however.
The memory sits in a special slot on your
motherboard. Windows moves things in
and out of memory as they are needed and
once the computer is turned off the memory
is empty. How do you know which memory
your computer uses?
The Crucial System Scanner is the best way to find out.
What are Cookies and are they Dangerous?
What are cookies? Cookies are tiny
text files that web pages leave on your
computer. They send information to a
website. They may identify your
computer to a website you visit frequently.
For example, The New York Times always knows
who I am and doesn't make me login every
time because it keeps a cookie on my
computer. When I visit their website,
they see the cookie and log me in
automatically. There are also 3rd
party cookies. If you visit a website
with ads, like the New York Times, those
advertisers will leave a cookie on your
computer to note your visit. Then if
you visit another website the advertiser
also uses, it will note the visit to that
website, also. It then sells that
information. It may also place a
specific ad on that website that it believes
would appeal to you.
In the interest of complete disclosure,
my website does this. I have ads on
the website for products and companies I
believe in. I put these ads in for
your convenience and also to pay for my
website. Every time you purchase
something after clicking on one of the ads,
I receive some money (Note: it is a very
small amount, often as little as 1%, and
does not in any way influence my decision
about what to recommend). It never
increases your price, and it sometimes will
decrease your price.
Different people have different feelings
about this. Some people don't use the
little discount card at the grocery store
because they don't want anyone keeping track
of their purchasing habits. I,
personally, don't care. I even
appreciate not having to sift through things
I would never purchase just to find the few
that I would. If you are like me,
ignore cookies. If you are paranoid,
you can block 3rd party cookies.
How much space are they using? Very
little. Even if you have thousands of
cookies they are so tiny that they use very
little space. Most people have
hundreds of cookies or fewer.
So are cookies bad? In my opinion,
only if you are paranoid. And even the
most paranoid often disregard cookies.
So, block them or leave them alone at your
Where can I learn
more about my computer?
Many libraries offer beginning computer
classes. However, you don't know what
the facility might be like and you don't
know anything about the person teaching the
course. I am personally acquainted
with some of the people who teach the
computer classes at the
Vineyard Community Center. Most
classes are free with a minor cost for a
book or workbook. The computers are
on-site so you can work on a system that
might be much like the one you have at home
or at the office.
are the latest course offerings as well as
some other educational opportunities.
What Free Programs
are Safe and Good?
Not everyone needs or can afford the best
of the best programs out there. So,
which ones are free but still good?
Here is a list of my favorites:
program is not as good as Microsoft
Office, but will work for those who
cannot afford the higher priced program.
Password Safe--this program keeps
all of my passwords. It generates
random passwords for me on request and
allows me to easily insert them into
Belarc Advisor--This small program,
free for non-business users only,
generates a print-out of everything in
and all software installed on your
computer. Maybe not so valuable
for you, but it makes my job easier if I
don't have to search for what you have.
Firefox web browser--Sure Google
Chrome is fast, but Firefox can do
anything you want it to and do it well.
It's been my choice for many years and
the best alternative to Internet
Explorer for well-designed web pages.
Microsoft Security Essentials--The best free anti-virus/anti-spyware
program out there. Of course, it
won't do everything that Norton 360
will, but if you can't afford Norton,
then use Microsoft Security Essentials.
You should NEVER run 2 Antivirus
products but SHOULD run 2 Anti-spyware
Malwarebytes--The best free
Anti-spyware program. The free
version is for personal use and does not
have all the features of the paid
program, but it will rid your system of
spyware. If you want it to run
automatically, you must purchase the
free "more than basic" photo
Windows Live Essentials 2011--Only
for Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, this set of
programs contains a photo gallery with
easy editing, Movie Maker, Windows Live
Mail and Messenger, Family Safety, and
Writer (a program for easy blog
postings.) I recommend the Family
Safety, Writer, and the photo programs.
I recommend the Mail program for anyone
not using Outlook or Thunderbird.
For people running Windows XP you can
have many of the programs, but not Movie
Click here for the version that works on
Secunia Personal Software Inspector--Scans
your computer to see if any of your
software needs to be updated.
Remember, the best things in life are not
free, there is always a trade-off, a cost to
pay. Most of the programs above are
limited when compared to their commercial