The more we use our Windows-based computers, chances are the more changes we'll make to the registry by installing new and updated software and new or additional peripherals, such as printers and scanners.
Often our computer becomes sluggish or prone to crash. If we surf the Internet, we pick up cookies, caches and history files that use up our computer's disk space and memory.
Utilities to help us put the zip back into our computers are available free to try on the web. We can also sign up for free or low-cost technical assistance.
Periodically and before we download and run a utility, we should click on "Run" in the Start Menu and type in "scanreg" with no other characters visible, not even the quote marks. This saves a backup copy of the registry before changes are made.
One of the five utilities we'll discuss here is MemTurbo, which claims it can increase the efficiency of our computer's Random Access Memory and reclaim it from other applications so that we'll have enough available memory to prevent buffer under-run when burning CDs and paging delays when playing games.
MemTurbo "defragments" the RAM so that the virtual memory layout matches the physical memory layout. It is also supposed to reclaim memory and recover it from memory leaks - allocated and then forgotten memory.
Another of its functions is to flush infrequently used libraries and DLLs out to the system paging file, freeing up the RAM used by them, but keeping them available, should the system need them.
The second utility is Cacheman, which sets a minimum and maximum size of the VCACHE in the system.ini file. By default, Windows has no limit on how big the VCACHE becomes, so that it can stretch to handle video clips and other memory-intensive files. It does not automatically shrink back once you close that file or even when we run the Windows maintenance utilities. This often causes low memory crashes when we run programs like Photoshop.
Cacheman optimizes both the minfilecache and the maxfilecache in a system-dependent size.
Cacheman instructs (that) Windows recycle RAM instead of holding program components "open" tying up physical memory
"When Windows can rely on RAM (physical memory) instead of constantly building a pool of Virtual Memory (disk memory), your system will run more smoothly, and when opening/closing large programs, will allow you to re-use the same RAM over and over, instead of locking it up and forcing the system to utilize virtual memory."
The third utility is Window Washer which deletes cookies and the history trail of what sites we've visited while surfing the Net.
All three of these utilities can be downloaded from http://www.zdnet.com/downloads/prespick/ 1000/index2.html.
The fourth utility, InterQuick, describes itself as "a Web Accelerator/Enhancer designed to optimize the connection between the local computer(s) and the Internet.
InterQuick acts as a layer between a Web browser and the Internet. Instead of the browser connecting directly to the Internet, it will connect to InterQuick and InterQuick makes the connection to the Internet. InterQuick fulfills requests and sends information to the Web browser, but it can produce results far faster than a browser alone resulting in faster Web page access and reduced download times." It can be downloaded from http://hotfiles.zdnet.com/cgi-bin/texis/swlib/ hotfiles/search.html.
The fifth utility, SiSoft Sandra, is an overall diagnostic and benchmark utility that allows us to e-mail or fax the results of the diagnostics to a technician for interpretation or to obtain a report with performance enhancing tips we can use on our own. It can be downloaded from http://www.zdnet.com/downloads/stories/info/0,,000EX9,.html. TechKnow-How at http://www.techknow-how.com/index.cfm?TKHPart=ZDN.
SiSoft Sandra offers another way to diagnose and fix Windows performance problems. Signing up for the free membership allows us to search the knowledge database, participate in technical discussions in the TechKnow Village message boards, and initiate immediate call-back sessions on a pay-per-incident basis with certified "Techknowledgists."
Yearly and monthly maintenance contracts are also available.
We can learn a lot about our computers just by trying out these programs in the free trial. Then we can decide which ones we want to pay for and keep.