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When Good Computers Go Bad

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Remember the day that you got your new computer (or the hand-me down from Uncle Larry) and you pulled that shiny case out of the box? Once you finally had all of the cables properly mangled into an unmanageable ball, you powered on, the screen lit up and off you went. The PC was fast, programs loaded in the blink of an eye, and Internet surfing was a breeze. Those were the days.

But now your PC seems to need a walker and a dozen car batteries just to get enough energy to start. Now you can turn the PC on, go get some coffee, walk the dog, and wave hello to your local waste management person who is throwing your trash cans around like a toy. When you come back inside, if the computer is ready to go, you're surprised. Then, once you click on something, the wait starts again.

So what happened? Where did you go wrong?

There are many things that contribute to your slowing PC. Perhaps you forgot to feed the little gerbil inside ? the one that's running the wheel round and round that powers your PC. Maybe you've loaded one-too-many programs and now your hard drive is gasping for air. You may have a computer that is more than 2 years old, which may cause some newer programs to just not work. You may need more memory in your computer. And if you have teenagers, you're just out of luck. Between games, instant messaging programs, and tons of Internet history backlog, you should be looking for a professional psychiatrist.

But your PC is not dead on arrival. There is a way to resuscitate the old pile of metal into a once-again functional machine. Start by going into the Control Panel (START, SETTINGS, CONTROL PANEL on most machines) and click on the Add/Remove Programs button. Look through the list for programs you no longer use. Make sure you recognize the name, and that you aren't deleting Aunt Mary's recipe book on accident. If you do, your wife will remind you daily for the next six years. Remove with care. For programs that show in duplicate, remove the oldest version. If you are not sure about a program, don't delete it. Call a professional - or your teenager.

You really should check your hard drive. In Windows, it's pretty easy. Double-click on the My Computer icon on your desktop. Your desktop is the main screen you see when the computer comes on, you know, the one with the cute puppy background or the picture of someone's kids. When the My Computer window comes up, right-click on your main hard drive, usually labeled as the C drive. You should get a menu with options, choose Properties. That will bring up a small window with a neat little pie chart. Note your used and free space amounts. If your pie has only 1 slice left worth of free space, you need to start cleaning the drive, or get a bigger one. Windows wants at least ten percent of your drive to be free just to run minimally. I suggest more like twenty percent. With hard drives in the 100 gigabyte range now, you shouldn't have to worry about space issues.

These are a few good ways to start reviving that PC back to its former self.

Will Hanke is owner of Lighthouse Technologies, a web design, programming and hosting company. He is also author of several software applications in use by companies across the US.

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