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18 simple, free fixes for your Vista or XP PC

PC Advisor's ultimate PC repair kit

Whether your PC is truly ailing or has a classic case of hypochondria, PC Advisor has 18 simple, free ways to ensure your Windows XP or Vista system is raring to go.

Speed tweaks

Having cleared out the crud and cut down on the auto-startup apps, it's time to add some refinement to your PC and make it seem not just squeaky clean but smooth too.

The option usually cited at this point is to defragment your hard disk – something we won't deter you from doing but that arguably has minimal effect on everyday computing. However, if you do want to try defragging your disk, it makes sense to run the wizard when you're not using your PC.

First, create a Scheduled Task by going to Control Panel and clicking on Add Scheduled Task and following the prompts. Next, edit the command line in Advanced Properties to read: cmd.exe /c defrag c: -f -v > “c:\doc\report.txt” (your switches and the path to your report file may be different).

In Vista, change the text in the ‘Add arguments (optional)' box to /c defrag -c -f -v -w > “c:\doc\report.txt” (again, your switches and report path may differ).

A clean sweep

More usefully, you can run Windows' built-in tools, such as the Desktop Cleanup wizard, to declutter your desktop, group genuinely useful items where you can instantly launch them from the taskbar or a hanging pane at the top of your screen. Assigning shortcuts to quickly launch the most useful and frequently used applications will also help your general organisation.

Use Windows own speed tweakers

In previous versions of Windows, tweaking settings to get the fastest system possible used to require bouncing from one arcane dialog box to the next. Though Vista makes most system information easier to find, many of the tools that will put your PC into overdrive remain buried.

A new Control Panel applet collects the tools you favour for analysing and revving up your system. Click Start, Control Panel, System and Maintenance, Performance Information and Tools, and click the links on the left to access tools.

Few of these tools are unique to Vista, and there are XP options available.

Ramp things up the easy way

Adding more memory is an effective way to increase your PC's ability to cope with several things at once. Vista's ReadyBoost makes use of the flash memory of any USB 2.0 device as if it were internal memory.

To use ReadyBoost simply enable the option on your laptop. While it won't make a huge difference to performance, when a lack of memory stops you in your tracks it can save the day.

Network tools

  1. PC Advisor's ultimate PC repair kit
  2. Spyware & adware
  3. How to disable and remove spyware
  4. Startup issues
  5. Startup: lose lingerers
  6. Memory matters
  7. Stifle Shadow Copies' wastefulness
  8. Recover lost data
  9. System Works file recovery
  10. Web connection woes
  11. Disgnose your web connection
  12. Speed tweaks
  13. Windows won't boot


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