Don’t Ditch Your Old PC! Renovate It With These Free Apps

image It’s hard to be in IT and avoid being constantly asked for advice on computers – everything from operating systems – (should I be running Windows 7?); malware – (is the Internet really unsafe?); problems – (what’s wrong with my computer? It’s always…..); and maybe my favorite question – do I need a new computer?

Usually, the “do I need a new computer” question comes up because the user is fed up with slow, or unreliable performance. Since we (at least here in North America), live in a throwaway society, the simple solution to a slow computer problem is often – out with the old, and in with the new.

From one perspective, I understand this problem solving approach, since consumers are conditioned to behave in this way – conditioning which is constantly reinforced by the mass media.

The “keeping up with the Jones’ syndrome”, didn’t just magically appear out of thin air. It’s an insidious, and a reinforced greed concept that works for those who reinforce it – business.

I’m not here to write about the nutbars who lined up in the dark , for hours, to get there hands on the recently released iPhone 4, but people who behave in this way illustrate this mass manipulation principal taken to a new level.

Here’s the real deal on – do I need a new computer?

This answer is not all encompassing, but let’s take a look at some of the alternatives you have before you replace what may be a perfectly functional computer which meets your current needs.

PCs don’t slow down without a reason. All computers have characteristic operating patterns that lead to predictable, but preventable issues. Simple maintenance, practiced regularly, which is easy even for a non-expert, can keep an older PC running smoothly for years.

Slow Boot Time.

Boot times increase with a computer’s age – that’s inevitable. As more programs and devices are installed, the startup process gets longer. And these slow boot times can lead to a frustrated user. I’ve seen boot times as long as 10 minutes!

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Soluto Anti- Frustration Software:

Soluto allows you to understand your boot, discover which applications are slowing it down, and allows you to significantly improve it.

Fast facts:

Allows PC users to understand their boot

Discover which applications are slowing you down.

Cuts boot time

Improves on-going PC performance

Download at: Developer’s site

Disk fragmentation.

Disk fragmentation, especially on intensively used systems, will degrade performance over time. This is a good task to automate by using a third-party tool like Auslogics Disk Defrag. This application is free and it does a great job.

Auslogics Disk Defrag:

The program is extremely easy to use, does not require any analysis phase and is faster than most disk defragmentation software I’ve tested in the past, and it’s free. In my view, it’s one more maintenance process in helping me get the maximum performance out of my hardware.

Fast facts:

Improve computer performance and stability

Increase your productivity – no more waiting for files to open

Defragment disks in minutes

Disk fragmentation map and detailed fragmentation report

Download at: Download.com

Your Hard Drive is full.

A full, or nearly full, Hard Drive will not function efficiently. Keep your Hard Drive lean and mean by uninstalling unused programs.

Revo Uninstaller:

Revo Uninstaller is a superior program for uninstalling programs from your computer. This free program with its advanced and fast algorithm scans before, and after, you uninstall an application. After the program’s regular uninstaller runs, you can remove additional unnecessary files, folders and registry keys that are usually left over on your computer. This feature is a definite plus.

Fast facts:

Superior uninstaller

Free

Fast algorithm scans before, and after uninstall

Removes additional unnecessary files, folders and registry keys

Download at: Developer’s Site

CCleaner:

Running a Disk Cleaner will optimize systems by emptying the Recycle Bin, Temporary Setup Files, Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Old Chkdsk Files, Temporary Files, Temporary Offline Files, Offline Files, and so on. For a full and through cleanup, I highly recommend CCleaner. As well, you should consider copying archived files such as pictures and music, to CD’s or DVD’s to free space on the Hard Drive.

Fast facts:

Frees up valuable hard disk space

Advanced features to remove unused and old entries

Comprehensive backup feature

System tray icon

Privacy tool

Download at: Download.com

Your Internet is slow.

Even the fastest Internet connection is a lot slower than any relatively modern PC, so make sure your Internet settings are properly optimized. Ashampoo Internet Accelerator 3.2 is an excellent Internet connection optimizer.

Ashampoo Internet Accelerator 3.2:

A slow Internet connection costs time and gets on your nerves. So, taking the time to optimize the settings is considered a must. Ashampoo Internet Accelerator is a great little application that makes it easy to perform this simply task.

Fast facts:

Free

Fully automatic

ISDN, DSL via LAN cable or cable modem, DSL via wireless LAN

Improvements in performance connection

Download at: Download.com

Note: This application is no longer free, but it does allow you to use it free for 40 days. With any luck, you’ll only need to use it once.

Malware Infections.

It’s possible of course, that the performance of your computer has been adversely affected by malware infections. If you believe that’s the case read my article on this Blog, Layered Computer Security – What Is It? Why Use It?

Once you have removed system-clogging clutter, ensured your Internet settings are properly optimized, are satisfied your system is not infected with malware, and performed the other simple maintenance, your old PC might just surprise you with its capabilities.

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23 Comments

Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Computer Maintenance, computer repair, Do you need a new computer, downloads, Freeware, Registry Cleaners, Slow Computer, Software, System Utilities, Uninstall Tools, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

23 responses to “Don’t Ditch Your Old PC! Renovate It With These Free Apps

  1. Liam O' Moulain

    Some very cool tools here. Thanks Bill.

    Liam

  2. Louis Gordon Jr

    Thank you Bill for the advice

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  4. Bill,

    Once again a very well written and very comprehensive list of tools and information.

    Bryan

  5. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Some of these I already have, some I haven’t tried. But I will, for sure.

    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      I know it’s tomorrow in Australia (which is a really weird thought!), so I hope you had a very cool weekend.

      These are fairly simple tools but taken together, they do a very good job.

      The one I really recommend is *Soluto Anti- Frustration Software*. It cut my boot time almost in half, and it was pretty tight to begin with. Still, * Soluto* was able to tighten it up even further.

      Best,

      Bill

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  7. John

    Hi Bill,

    Interesting you posting this article at this point in time.

    I can certainly testify to the benefits of using Soluto where my start up time was just under 8 mins and that has been now reduced to about 3 1/2 mins, so it certainly does its job and very well to.

    As you probably gather I’m a downloadaholic and have that many things running in my system tray that you would be shaking your head in bemusement or disbelief.

    Considering I only reformatted some six months ago, added 3 more Gig of ram, new and larger HDD my poor old system is starting to grind to a halt already. Mostly by what I D/L and then have conflicting with one another, but also because my system is old as in about 7yrs old.

    I have decided to bite the bullet and get my very first laptop as a desktop replacement. Then I can again reformat this old girl and pass it onto my young daughter. Don’t know whether to update cpu, motherboard, and videocard at this point in time, it’s probably cheaper just buying her a new barebones system?

    Anyway I am actually getting to my final point (can you tell I’m on end of semester break)? With this new laptop I will be looking for the ultimate list of security apps that you would be running on start up Bill.

    Cheers
    John

    • Hey John,

      Hope you’re enjoying your time away from class.

      I believe you about the apps running in your system tray – 3 1/2 minutes is still a loooong time for a boot. Maybe it’s time to give Revo Uninstaller a bit of a workout?

      I don’t think updating the CPU, M/B and so on will be worth doing. Maybe a lower end vid card might be something to think about, before you hand it over to your daughter.

      With 3+ Gig of Ram on board, I definitely think I’d be hanging on to it.

      Good to hear from you.

      Best,

      Bill

  8. A good definitive list, Bill, and I use all of these except the line speed tool on my father’s PC. His boot time is now down to around 4 minutes – which is an improvement! The best thing I could do for him is install a cheap dedicated graphics card, but I’m loath to do so as I’m not sure if it would work with his old motherboard. Also, I’m not convinced that it would be cost-effective as he rarely watches any video.

    Thanks again, Bill.

    Regards,
    Dave K

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  10. Bill
    I have to say my favorite way to renovate an old PC, especially for a basic user is to install Linux. I use the Xubuntu build which works adequately on some pretty old hardware. I put a big icon on the desktop for email and another on the desktop for browsing, install a few plug-ins and turn them loose. If they do basic photo editing and management, Picasa is now available for the Linux platform.
    Best of all Linux is far more secure than Windows, you almost need to be a security expert to run Windows these days, a casual user is better of on another platform.
    Mark

    • Hey Mark,

      That’s a terrific suggestion, and I like how you’ve set it up.

      I haven’t used Linux in years except for the occasional use of a Live CD. But, the more I hear from you and Dar on Linux, the more convinced I am to give it another shot.

      Best,

      Bill

      • I’ve tried PCLinuxOS and, very briefly, Ubuntu. Even though I’ve worked with Unix and AIX, I struggled to figure out how to use these Linux systems. Packages? Huh? Maybe they’re okay for young geeks, but I wouldn’t inflict them on the likes of my two oldies. Let’s face it – the world runs Windows and anything else is too different to get to grips with when you’re a senior user.

        Regards,
        Dave K

        • Hey Dave,

          I must admit, I understand your reluctance to use Linux. I struggle with this OS as well. It’s true that those who use, it think it’s the “greatest”, but your comment it’s “too different to get to grips with when you’re a senior user”, strikes a chord with me. Still, I’m going to spend a lot more time with Linux since a number of readers, who are high end users, are pretty convincing.

          Best,

          Bill

  11. mark

    I understand Dave reticence to try Linux, but the newer builds really are much easier. I remember someone saying installing Linux in the mid 90’s required “just a little soldering”.
    I reccomend Super OS or Linux Mint, for ease of use and a full set of codecs and drivers. Both are varients of Ubuntu. Both have live CD’s and and both use WUBI which allows you to install it within Windows and remove it from Add Remove Programs, a very easy way to try it without changing the partitian makeup of your machine.
    Its worth a look, I think its a great way to keep a casual user safe from malware, especially if they’re not wedded to any specific Windows programs.
    Mark

  12. I’ve found the best way to speed up an old pc is to use Ccleaner. The built-in registry cleaner also helps. Now that I think about it, CleanMem does a great job too. Check it out here: http://www.pcwintech.com/cleanmem. It is by far the best memory cleaner (and the only one that actually works:) around.