I came across a good article in Slate today about "My Faster PC.com,"* a cleaner that promises to improve computer speed.
I'm wary of those sort of claims, especially by someone who has something to sell. One of the advantages of Windows computer is that you can find free utilities for whatever you need. You only need to buy software when the freeware doesn't do the job -- which isn't that often.
In any case, computers do tend to run more slowly over time. There are two major reasons for this, both due to software, not the registry or hard drive:
- The most common cause is the amount of software running on the computer. If you install things that run at startup, it starts taking up memory. The fix is to uninstall this software. I'll discuss how in another blog.
- Updated versions of software require more memory. Your Office 2003 worked fine, but a update to 2007 runs too slow. Newer software is always memory intensive, so it will run slower on older machines. The best fix for this is to upgrade your memory -- the more, the better.
Cleaning out bad entries in the registry doesn't hurt, but it also doesn't usually make a difference. Like the author of the article, I've found that CCleaner does this just fine. Advanced Windows Care is another good cleaner. Both are free.
You can also clean files from your hard drive and defragment to increase performance. These help, but probably won't solve slowness issues. It's best to check your software to see what is running that you don't need and to turn it off.
*Which is how they show the guy entering it. So already they're showing something wrong.