Cleaning the Windows registry – and optimizing

Cleaning the Windows registry is a popular and controversial topic. Many pundits tell you never to do it. When I wrote a book about Windows back in 1999, I dedicated most of one chapter to the topic. But today the pundits have a point. Most registry cleaning utilities do much more harm than good. I don’t recommend you clean your registry, per se, but I do recommend you maintain it.

I don’t want to dismiss the concept completely out of hand. There’s a difference between a bad idea and a bad implementation. Registry cleaning and maintenance is a victim of bad implementation. But that doesn’t mean it was a bad idea. So let’s talk about how to get the benefit while minimizing the drawbacks.

Read more

Optimize Windows 10 for better performance

Optimize Windows 10 for better performance

When I first installed it, I thought it was pretty pointless to try to optimize Windows 10. Of course, I installed it from scratch on a computer with an SSD and 16 gigs of RAM. Then I upgraded a couple of computers from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and I started to see why some people might not like Windows 10 all that much.

Upgraded systems almost always run slow, but I’d forgotten how much slower. And while you didn’t have to do much to Windows 7 to make it fast–that’s one reason people liked it–I find some Windows 10 optimization seems to be necessary. But don’t visit dodgy sites like downloadmoreram.com. Follow these tips for things that actually work.
Read more

What I would do to fix Dr. A’s computer

I left my conversation with Dr. A nearly convinced he doesn’t really need a new computer. The local store is pitching him a new $700 Dell Inspiron with a 1 TB hard drive and 6 GB of RAM and a 17-inch screen. But he could upgrade to a 1 TB hard drive for less than $125. If he doesn’t want to switch to Windows 7, his current Windows XP Professional will only use 4 GB of RAM anyway. Upgrading to 4 GB of RAM will cost less than $40. And looking at the new system, I don’t know that its CPU is all that much more powerful than what he already has.

To me, the clincher was this. I asked myself the question whether, if I were offered a machine exactly like his for $200 or $300, would I buy it. And it was an easy answer. I would.

I haven’t done a thorough analysis of the machine, but I’ve seen enough to have an idea what it needs. Much of it will seem familiar, if you’ve been reading me a long time.
Read more

Attempting to tame C:\Windows\Installer

Nobody seems to know why the C:\Windows\Installer directory sometimes spirals out of control.

All I can add is that I’ve seen this kind of behavior. At a previous job, I administered a couple hundred servers. I had web servers, database servers, domain controllers, utility servers, installation servers, and the old web servers which basically served as a playground for the people who had more clout than me.

Everything but the playground servers theoretically started out identical to each other except for the IP address. They were built following the same instructions.

But invariably, one or two servers in each team would suffer from perpetual low disk space. To keep things running, I had a few Red Green-like solutions.
Read more

Ways to speed up an aging laptop

Yesterday Lifehacker did a feature on laptop tweaks and upgrades, that basically came down to reinstalling the OS, adding memory, and upgrading to an SSD. All of those are good things to do of course, but there’s more you can do. I posted a response there; I’ll elaborate a bit here, where I have more room to do so.

There are tons of links here to previous content I’ve written; optimizing aging machines is a recurring theme for me. I’ve been writing on that topic for 11 years now.

Read more

My first Windows 7 build

I rebuilt a friend’s Windows 7 system this week.

The system includes a 30 GB SSD to boot from, and a RAID 1 mirror of 1 TB drives for storage. Aside from the two 1 TB drives, it’s basically a collection of $100 components. $100 Asus motherboard, $100 video card, $100 CPU. It seems like right now, no matter what individual system component you’re looking at, $100 buys you something really nice without going too far over the top. I’m sure certain aristocrats might disagree, but any reasonable person ought to really like using this system. Read more

Psst… Wanna compete with Best Buy?

Best Bait-n-Switch is offering a service where they’ll remove crapware from a PC for 30 bucks.

You can offer to do the same thing for 30 bucks, but do a better job. Here’s how.Of course, the first thing you do is go into Add/Remove Programs and remove everything in sight, unless it’s something the client actually wants. That’ll take about 20 minutes, tops, and it’s probably the extent of what Best Buy does. That’ll help, but it doesn’t bring back all of the new PC peppiness.

Next, you need to install and run a couple of utilities. Start out with CCleaner to remove any stray registry entries that may linger behind. Hopefully there won’t be too much. Then grab the unbeatable Donn Edwards bundle of JK-Defrag, NTREGOPT, and Pagedefrag.

Run NTREGOPT to remove the slack space from the registry, then run Pagedefrag and reboot. You’ll end up with a defragmented pagefile and a fresh-as-a-new-install registry.

Finally, run JK-Defrag to move all the useless data to the end of the drive, and all the stuff people actually use to the front. It’ll do a much better job than Microsoft’s built-in defragmenter, even on a new system.

The tuneup should take less than an hour, and most of it is time you can just walk away from the system and let it do its thing. You can advertise your service as better than Best Buy’s and compete solely on that, or beat them on price by a few bucks while providing a better and more worthwhile service.

If you’re feeling really industrious, you can even consult the appropriate Black Viper services list and disable unnecessary services to free up a little RAM and CPU time. If you don’t want to do a lot of reading, Computer Browser and Remote Registry are two services that always make sense to disable in home environments. My personal list used to be a lot longer, but Windows’ defaults are a lot more optimal than they were 5-8 years ago. The other stuff I always used to disable is disabled by default now.

And here’s one last piece of valuable advice you can give your clients. Rather than buy the Norton or McAfee antivirus product that’s probably installed on their computer as trialware, delete it and have your client buy NOD32 instead. The price is comparable to the other products, but it consumes a lot less CPU time and memory than the rest. So if you want antivirus protection but also want the computer to stay peppy, that’s the best choice in town.

Registry optimization

I gave my Windows 2000 system a little tuneup today. Nothing major, but it feels peppier now, and didn’t take all that long to do. Nor did it require any expensive utilities.

This works with Windows 2000, XP, NT4, and Vista. For Windows 9x advice, you’ll have to turn to an old critically acclaimed book written by someone you’ve never heard of.First, I ran Ccleaner, which does a general cleanup of temporary files and obsolete/incorrect registry entries. It found more than 300 MB of garbage to get rid of. Be sure to run both the file and registry cleanup, as they’re separate buttons. It found a lot less in the registry that needed to go.

Stage 2 is to run NTregopt. I recommend downloading the all-inclusive collection from Donn Edwards, which includes NTregopt, plus the Sysinternals system file defragmenter and the excellent JK-Defrag. NTregopt packs the registry, removing the empty space formerly occupied by now-deleted entries. In my case, it reduced the size of the registry by about 200K. Not a lot, but I don’t do a lot of installing/uninstalling on this system.

Stage 3 is to run the Sysinternals Pagedefrag, which is included in the Donn Edwards bundle. In my case, most of my registry files were in nice shape, but one of them was in a startling 28 fragments. Pagedefrag took care of that.

Of course, while you’re at it, it doesn’t hurt to do a general defragmentation. JK-Defrag is fantastic–much better than most commercial programs, and it’s free. In my younger days I might do a quick defrag both before and after registry optimization, but one defrag afterward takes less time and should usually suffice.

The registry optimization took about 10 minutes total, including the reboot. The disk defragmentation took another 45 minutes, but there was no need for me to sit and watch that.

The system boots faster now. It also feels peppier, but since the registry wasn’t in horrible shape, I’m guessing the defragmentation did more to help system speed than the registry work. Getting rid of 300 megs of garbage and moving a few gigabytes of rarely used data files to the end of the disk to make room up front for the stuff you do use makes a difference.

The nice thing is that optimization like this used to require a $99 software package, like Norton Utilities or Nuts & Bolts, and both of those packages also installed some junk that really did a lot more harm than good (like Norton Crashguard, which I used to call Norton Crashmaker). I devoted an entire chapter of the aforementioned book to installing and using utilities suites while keeping the problem-causing stuff off your system.

Today, you can download and install two files that do it for free and stay out of your way except when you need them.

Escape from Windows 98

There’ve been a few times that I’ve met someone who was stuck in an old Windows 98 PC because it had all their software and data on it, it was set up the way they liked it, they may or may not have all the installation media, and it would take several days’ worth of labor to set up a new one like the old one.

So usually in that situation I just bubblegum and duct tape the system together as best I can.

No longer. Not now that I’ve discovered PC Mover.PC Mover is a Laplink product. It’s really pretty simple. Set up the old PC and new PC on the same network (ideally the new PC should be as pristine as possible), install and run PC Mover on the new PC and follow the prompts. Eventually it will tell you to install and run it on the old PC. Follow the prompts there, and it will do its very best to move all of the programs and data to the new PC.

I literally set up Mom’s old Windows 98 PC and her new(er) Compaq Evo D51C (running Windows XP), set the options, watched for 30 minutes, then went out and spent an hour mowing the lawn. About 15 minutes after I came back inside, it was finished. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure her Windows 98 PC only has a 10-megabit NIC in it, so under what I would consider reasonable conditions, the migration would have been faster.

Now I wish I’d thought to change the NIC out.

But at any rate, at the end of the process, I rebooted the new computer and it came up looking just like her old PC. Her desktop looked the same, all her data was in the right place, and her old programs ran.

System-level stuff like antivirus and CD burning software won’t transfer, but that’s not PC Mover’s fault. Utility software is usually very OS-specific, and if I manually tried to install the Windows 98 version of Norton Antivirus in Windows XP, it would tell me to get lost. She can install her scanner, and XP will detect her printer and take care of setting that up for her.

When I ran PC Mover, I selected the advanced options and deliberately de-selected stuff I knew she wouldn’t need, in order to speed up the transfer and lessen the likelihood of something going wrong. But I’d be reasonably comfortable just letting it run on autopilot.

The resulting system does have some unneeded cruft on it, but I can live with that. Windows XP is worlds better than Windows 98 ever was, and this Compaq is newer and probably better than her old computer too. Maybe running CCleaner would help with the junk, but for now I’m just going to leave well enough alone.

PC Mover costs about 40 bucks, but I think it’s worth it. The last time I worked on someone else’s PC, I charged $50 an hour (which is probably too little, considering what a lawnmower mechanic or plumber charges). It would probably have taken me 4-6 hours to do what PC Mover did in two, and that’s assuming I would have been able to locate all of the old installation media.

Whether you need to move data and programs to a new PC running XP or Vista for yourself or for someone else, I think PC Mover can make the job a lot easier for you. It worked so well for Mom’s PCs, I’m thinking I ought to use it to migrate a couple of old PCs I’ve been keeping around to newer hardware.

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux