Troubleshooting Windows

If you're having trouble with a Microsoft Windows machine here are a few tips that might help smooth things out...

A Big Desk

If you think of your computer as a worker, RAM is his desk.  It's where all of the files get opened and work gets done.  If the desk isn't very big then you can't open many files at once and when you do try to open a big file it gets stacked on top of itself, papers fall off onto the floor...it's an unstable mess.  Just like your computer.

Long gone are the days when 256MB of RAM were enough.  Many modern applications won't even run in that little memory.  To help Windows run well you should give it as much memory as you reasonably can.  For 32-bit Windows (which nearly all Windows XP and Vista installations are) you can add up to 4GB of RAM.  For 64-bit Windows (which a few XP and Vista installations are and many Windows 7 installations are) you can go well beyond 4GB of RAM if you like.

As a general rule I like to have at least 1GB of RAM on a Windows PC.  2GB is better.  3GB is better still.

Upgrading the memory in your computer doesn't have to be expensive or difficult.  Your local IT pro can do it for you easily, or you can do it yourself if you're a little comfortable inside the computer.  Here are two sites that can help you find memory for your computer:

  • Crucial.com - Includes a little scanner tool that can tell you how much RAM you have, how much RAM you can add to your computer and what kind of RAM you need.  You can even order it from Crucial, they have good prices.
  • Kingston.com - A manufacturer of memory - their site also offers a weath of free information and tools to help you assess and upgrade your machine.

 

Spring Cleaning

A lot of Windows machines that run slowly or poorly get that way because they've got too much junk in them.  A little cleanup can go a long way towards making the machine more reliable and/or faster.  For starters:

Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs (XP) or Control Panel Programs and Features (Vista/Windows 7).  Look over the list of programs you have installed.  Anything you don't need/want you should uninstall.  Once that's done, reboot the machine.  Then run CCleaner (see below).

Updates

Make sure that Windows and your applications have the latest and greatest updates installed.  Not only does this help your machine run better, but it also makes it more secure.

For Windows XP that means having Service Pack 3 installed.  For Microsoft Office 2007 you should have Service Pack 2 installed.  Most Microsoft products have service packs, hotfixes or other updates that should be installed for security and performance.  This doesn't just extend to Microsoft products though, Adobe, Apple, Mozilla, Google...just about everybody releases updates and service packs for their software.  And most of them have some kind of update mechanism to apply those patches.

Click here to go to Microsoft Update and check for new updates.

Visit the websites of your software vendors to make sure you have the latest updates installed.

CCleaner

A handy little free tool, CCleaner(http://www.ccleaner.com) can help to clean up your machine.  Download and install, it's small, light (and did I mention, free?).  It can not only check over your applications and help clean temporary Internet files and other such from your disk, but it can also check your registry and clean inaccurate or unwanted entries from there too.  Handy to run after you've uninstalled one or more applications (see above) to make sure the uninstall was a little more complete.

NOTE: if you have it clean the registry, make sure and let it make the registry backup file...just in case.

How to Flush Your DNS Cache

One of the more common troubleshooting steps if you're having trouble connecting to machines or Internet servers is to flush your DNS cache.  This clears out possibly bad entries that could be preventing you from connecting and forces your machine to get new, hopefully better, DNS information.

To flush the cache click Start | Run (or press Windows Key + R) and in the "Open" dialog that appears type "ipconfig /flushdns" and then press Enter.

Flush your DNS Cache

Start Windows in Safe Mode

Windows XP: Restart Windows by going to Start | Shutdown | Restart.  Then click OK.  As the computer restarts, but before Windows launches press F8 on the keyboard.  You might have to press it a couple of times as the timing isn't obvious.

Windows will tell you that you've started in Safe Mode - it's pretty obvious.  If Windows starts normally then you didn't press F8 at the right time, restart and try again.

Vista and Windows 7: Same as above, but F8 will bring up a Windows Advanced Options menu that will let you select "Safe Mode", "Safe Mode with Networking" and others.  Generally I choose the first one, "Safe Mode".

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Last Updated: 01/12/2013 - Hit Counter