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.


  1. Don’t waste your money, cleaning your own computer is very easy
  2. Cleaning your computer inside and out
  3. Protecting your system
  4. Keeping your PC up to date
  5. Protecting your data

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 Update

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!

Oracle Java

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

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.

Adobe Reader

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.


If any updates are found, you will be able to install them, otherwise you are done.


As we mentioned, there are alternatives for Reader. Foxit Reader used to be one of our favorites, but has since become bloated with crap. If you don’t want to use Adobe Reader, then you can try Sumatra PDF, which is free, lightweight, and non-Adobe.


Drivers are small pieces of middleware that enable your hardware to work with Windows. Without drivers, you won’t be able to connect to the Internet or send something to your printer. When Windows 95 first came out, drivers were something of a mess, and in order to keep the system or system running fully you had to manually install drivers from every manufacturer and for any new hardware you added.

This situation didn’t actually start to improve until Windows XP, and it didn’t become an easy task until Windows 7. Today, there’s almost nothing you need to do with Windows 8.x. In fact, we’d be surprised if you ever have to install a driver yourself.

Also, if the drivers need to be updated, they will appear on Windows Update under «Optional» updates.

However, if you have a computer that you want to play games on, we recommend that you install the recommended graphics card manufacturer’s drivers. You will most likely have a graphics chipset from Intel, Nvidia, or AMD. The latter two release drivers for their chipsets on a regular basis, so you can visit their download pages for more details:



If you’re not sure if you want to do this or if you just don’t care about games, chances are you should just use the driver that installs Windows Update and you’ll be fine.

Introduction to Task Manager

Task Manager should be your first stop when you fix performance bugs. To access Task Manager, you can press CTRL + ALT + DEL and select Task Manager or right click on the taskbar and select it from the menu.


The «Task Manager» in Windows 7 is probably familiar to many of you. This is relatively unchanged between versions of Windows.


«Task Manager» in Windows 8.x received a new look, but retained its main functions. In this section, we will focus on this version of «Task Manager». You should be able to achieve the same goals using the Windows 7 version, it will look different.

The new «Task Manager» by default has a very simple and user-friendly interface. However, there is not much we can do other than close unresponsive applications, however, if you click on «more details», then the full power of the «Task Manager» will be unlocked.


The Processes tab lists all running processes on your system. This is very useful for diagnosing stuck applications and excessive system overhead.


If an application «hangs» it means it stops responding, it could be a temporary situation where the computer is running to free up resources, or it could mean the application needs to be terminated. In the following example, we deliberately highlighted our system with a bunch of resource intensive tasks to show you what it looks like. Notice the app with «not responding» in red next to it.


If this is happening to you and it seems like your system is being dragged, you may need to free up resources by closing stuck applications. You can try to close the problematic application by trying to shut down properly, but if the application is really bad, then in the «Task Manager», click on the problematic application, and then the «End task» button in the lower right corner.

Note that if you end the application abruptly, you may (probably) lose unsaved work, so use this option with great care. If at all possible, try closing other unused applications to free up system resources and/or wait for the hung application to respond.

Fixing performance bottlenecks

Apps don’t always have to stop responding for your system to slow down a scan. At such times, it is very useful to use the «Task Manager» to check where you may have performance bottlenecks. Looking at the «Performance» tab, we will see a recently restarted system with minimal load. By all our indicators, we can see that there are no performance problems in our system.


However, look what happens when we put our system under extreme stress. In this example, we started a virtual machine, which leads to a sharp increase in the load on RAM and CPU and destabilizes our system.


See here we are using 100% of our CPU.


And there’s also a spike in disk I/O that can make our system stutter and tumble.


Sometimes, if you push your system to the max, a pop-up will appear warning you that you don’t have enough memory and need to close programs to free up resources.


The dialog has a «Close Programs» button and it will list the various applications that it will close. Please note that you may be using some or all of these programs, so simply clicking on this button may produce unwanted results.

Obviously, there is a more sophisticated way to diagnose system slowdowns. In our «Task Manager» we can order applications and services by clicking on the appropriate heading («CPU» in the screenshot). Here, the «VMware Workstation VMX» process has pegged our CPU quite well, and overall it’s pegged at 99%. There’s practically no room for any other process.


Note that in the following screenshot, we’ve organized everything according to «memory» to give you an idea of ​​what things can help you free up RAM in the shortest amount of time. In this case, we can close Google Chrome, Dropbox and MusicBee and recover quite a lot of memory.


The Task Manager is invaluable to any Windows user, but it’s important to remember that it’s only a diagnostic tool, so knowing how to apply the information it transmits and make smart maintenance decisions can alleviate many common system slowdown problems.

Further …

Tomorrow, in our last lesson, we’ll talk about a critical yet invariably incomprehensible aspect of PC maintenance: protecting your data. We’ll talk about the different backup environments you can use, as well as the tools that come with Windows. You definitely don’t want to skip this tutorial as it can be a huge difference between a major data disaster and a minor inconvenience.

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