Today we’re going to talk about improving your PC’s performance beyond the basic steps we’ve already covered. Most likely, your computer is working fine until you start stressing it, at which point it will obviously slow down as it has additional demands.
However, there are times when your system just freezes and doesn’t seem to want to budge — like it’s stuck in mud and switching between apps seems to take a long time. If your system is running slower, then most likely it is.
Many performance issues can simply be traced back to too much overhead and too few resources. In other words, your computer can only handle so many processes running at the same time before it starts showing signs of stress. This may manifest as long loading or loading times, or applications freezing or freezing, or the computer may show signs of instability such as blue screens or sudden restarts.
This is a lesson in practical advice, and this is where we’ll talk about improving your diagnostic skills with the almighty «Task Manager», which is much more useful than its simple name.
However, before we do that, we’re going to dive into something very important that is very often neglected by many PC users: updates.
How to update things
If your system is not updated regularly, it may be compromised and open to attacks from hackers. Microsoft regularly releases security patches and updates, and if your system is not configured to download and install them automatically, or you are not too diligent in checking, downloading, and installing these updates, then you are putting your system at risk.
Perhaps even more important, however, are those other small programs that don’t always get stellar treatment: Oracle Java, Adobe Flash, and Adobe Reader. While we covered these plugins in the previous chapter, we want to re-emphasize how important it is to keep these types of software, indeed any software, up to date.
Windows provides a utility called «Windows Update» that allows you to keep your system patched and protected (to some extent) from any malicious attempts to access and take control of your computer.
The first time you create a master or administrator account on a fresh Windows installation, you’ll be asked if you want updates to download and install automatically, or if you want to do it manually. We highly recommend that you let Windows take care of the update.
However, if you think you want to handle this part of PC maintenance, you need to know how to use Windows Update so that you never miss a critical update.
To open Windows Update, you need to open the Control Panel. This is true for Windows 8.x or Windows 7. In Windows 8.x, you can also update your system through «PC Settings» in the Metro interface under «Update and Recovery».
For consistency, let’s stick with the desktop version. Once you get familiar with it, the Metro version is pretty much the same.
When you open Windows Update for the first time, you will see its status, such as «are you set to automatically install updates.» In the following screenshot, we can see that we have 3 three additional optional updates, but we also ran the «check for updates» guide and we can see that we have one important update too.
You can click on the links to see what the updates are. You should install all important updates, but you can be a bit picky about optional updates.
In fact, you can even right-click on an update and hide it so it doesn’t show up on Windows Update anymore.
Don’t worry, if you really need «Bing Bar», «Bing Desktop» or some other hidden update, you can use the «restore hidden updates» feature.
All in all, Windows Update is very easy to use, so if you decide to tackle your own updates, it’s usually worth remembering to install them. Luckily, you can set the level at which important updates happen via «Change Settings».
Windows Update handles not only important updates, but also recommended updates and updates for other Microsoft products such as Office. You can disable these two options later if you don’t want to receive them through Windows Update.
As for «Important Updates», you choose from four different configurations, giving you complete control over the update process. You honestly don’t want to turn off automatic updates entirely, but you can choose to have it notify you when updates exist and then give you the choice of downloading and installing them, or downloading and then installing them.
Note that at the bottom of the important updates section there is a link «updates will be installed automatically during maintenance». Click on it and you can decide when Windows Update will run. By default, it is set to run at 3am every day and will turn on your computer when needed.
If you don’t want «Automatic Maintenance» to turn on your computer at 3am, uncheck «Allow scheduled maintenance to wake my computer…» or change the time you know your computer will be turned on.
Java, Flash and Reader
While Java, Flash, and Reader are just a small drop when it comes to applications, they are often the most common entry points for many types of malware, especially Java, which is said to be responsible for HALF of all security. exploits.
Don’t stop reading here because we’re about to show you how to make sure you’re protected!
Java from Oracle doesn’t like us. In the grand scheme of things, it’s just like an accident waiting to happen, but as we said earlier, you can do 99 out of 100 things on your computer, but there’s always one that requires Java.
Java comes with an «Update Scheduler» that runs automatically at regular intervals, thus checking for, downloading, and installing updates. You can see it here in our Startup tab in Task Manager.
Updating Java manually is easy. Just open the Start Menu (it will be in All Programs in Windows 7) and click Check for Updates from the Java menu.
Alternatively, you can simply open the «Java (32-bit)» control panel from the Control Panel.
Once opened, select the Update tab to see the available update options. In the following example, the updater is configured to notify the user before any updates are downloaded. This can be changed to automatically download updates and then notify us before installation.
If you want to disable automatic updates (strongly not recommended), uncheck «Automatically check for updates».
It is recommended that you click the «Advanced» button and change the update schedule. In the following screenshot, we can see that Java is configured to check for updates every month on Monday at 5:00 am. Seems unlikely, no matter how bad Monday is, we’ll be at 5am, so we might change that to something else, perhaps more often, at a more productive time of day.
Finally, to manually update, click the Update Now button at the bottom of the Java Control Panel.
If there are updates available, it will prompt you to update. If not, then you are ready (for now).
Adobe Flash Player is perhaps the most widely used browser plugin. So much so that it’s pretty much necessary, making him a very attractive target for exploits. We described how to manage extensions and plugins in the previous tutorial, so we won’t go into that further.
For the most part, browsers, in particular Google Chrome (which we recommend), are pretty good at auto-updating plugins.
However, if you want to download «Adobe Flash Player System Plugin» (for use with other programs such as video processing), you will be presented with the following options.
There is really nothing to think about here, you should definitely «Allow Adobe to install updates». Once installed, you can administer the system Flash Player from the Control Panel.
The Flash Player control panel is similar to the Java control panel, only the update settings are on the Advanced tab. Click the Change Update Settings button and you will be able to choose from two other options. Please note that you must have administrator rights to do this.
To manually check for an update, click the Check Now button. You will be redirected to the Adobe Flash Player page, and if an update is required, you can download and install it from there.
Last but not least is Adobe Reader. Reader, like Flash, is another (almost) indispensable utility. There are alternatives to Reader, and you’re certainly free to explore your options, but for many users, Adobe’s offering is one of the first (besides another browser) they install.
By default, Adobe places «Adobe Reader and Acrobat Manager» in your system’s startup procedure. This will automatically check for program updates every time you start Windows. You can turn this off, of course, but then you’ll need to check for program updates manually.
To manually check for program updates, open the Reader application and select «Check for Updates…» from the Help menu.