PC Enhancement Is At Your Fingertips

Want a faster, safer, more efficient computer? Don’t buy a new one, use these tools already installed on your current PC instead.

Here’s a silly question: If you could enhance the performance of your PC — using tools already installed on your computer — would you do it? Of course you would.

With a few easy-to-use applications that came prepackaged on your PC, you can make your computer run faster and more efficiently, protect yourself from malware and increase your privacy while browsing the Internet. Soon you can enjoy better computing by using these tools for Windows and Internet Explorer.

Enhancing Speed and Performance

Have you noticed your PC isn’t running as quickly as it once did? Does it take longer to start up? Do your applications seem sluggish? Is web browsing slower than usual? If so, you may need to use these tools to give your PC a tune-up.

Defrag Your Hard Drive

Your computer has a strange habit: Sometimes your PC will break files into different parts and then store these file fragments in separate areas of your hard drive. Your PC does this for efficiency, but as the files update and multiply, the retrieving and rebuilding of these files when you need to use them becomes more work for your computer. Thus, your PC slows down.

To put the file fragments back together and help your PC run more efficiently, you will need to run your Disk Defragmenter tool. This tool is found on your Control Panel under Administrator Tools. Note that you will need to be signed into your PC as an administrator to use this and the following tools.

Remove Disk Errors

Every once in a while, a program on your PC will crash or you will experience a power outage. The result of such an event is often errors on your hard drive, errors that result in a slower PC. To repair these errors and improve performance, run the Check Disk tool, which is found on your Control Panel.

Remove Temp Files

Your PC is a bit of a hoarder. Each time you surf the Web, your computer stores temporary files on your hard disk that make Web-page loading faster. Also, when you use programs like Word, your PC keeps many temporary files to ensure that you don’t lose important data. Eventually the sheer bulk of these files adds up, and they slow down your computer.

To rid your PC of these unnecessary, temporary files, use the Disk Cleanup tool.

Manage Startup Applications

Some software applications may be set to start automatically whenever you turn on your PC. This can be useful for programs you consult frequently, but too many programs running automatically can cause startup delays. Use Windows Defender in your All Programs list to limit your startup applications.

Remove Malware from Your PC

Spyware, viruses, adware —you can hardly surf the Web these days without running into them. And if you do contract some of this malware, not only can it compromise your personal privacy and information, it can reduce your PC’s performance. As these applications run in the background of your PC, they take up processing power, leading to slowdowns.

Many people have already purchased an anti-malware program, but those who haven’t can download Microsoft Security Essentials for free. This tool removes existing malware from your PC and prevents further infections.

Enhancing PC Privacy

Maintaining your privacy is important when surfing the Web. Keeping your critical data hidden from hackers can thwart identity theft and financial loss. Hackers are also keen on tracking the Web sites you visit, keeping tabs on pages viewed and even recording each keystroke you make while there. Such keystroke trackers can reveal your passwords to hackers.

We’ve already discussed the use of anti-malware programs, but there are a few other utilities packaged into Internet Explorer that can enhance your PC privacy while you use the Internet.

InPrivate Browsing

This Internet Explorer tool allows you to surf the Web without your PC storing data about your browsing session. Information such as history, cookies and temporary files is not collected, keeping this data from being usable by hackers. You can access this tool through the Safety

Tracking Protection

Many of the Web pages that you visit include content from third-party sources. For instance, you may be viewing an online gardening encyclopedia, but advertisements from gardening retailers are in the sidebar. In such cases, your browsing data is sent to the folks who run the encyclopedia and also those third-party retailers. In this way, these retailers can store and use your data for their own purposes.

Although many of these third parties are benign, some are not. For this reason, another Internet Explorer tool, Tracking Protection, can be enabled to weed out “trouble sites” and keep them from collecting your information. Lists of sites known to be malicious can be downloaded from Microsoft and added to Tracking Protection, or you can add your own sites to the list.

SmartScreen Filter

Some hackers set up Web pages that are made to mimic the appearance of other sites. They may create pages that look like your bank’s Web site to try to coax you into giving up passwords or account information. Or, these pages may appear to offer free downloads of popular programs, which instead download malware to your PC when you click Install

The SmartScreen Filter available with Internet Explorer detects these scam sites and blocks the pages from loading.

Other Internet Options

If you click the Tool icon on the Internet Explorer toolbar and choose Internet Options from the drop-down list, you will see there are other tools available to enhance your security and privacy while surfing the Web.

On the Security tab, you can set the level of protection to be used while you surf. You may wish to lower or heighten this level depending on the kind of browsing you do. You can also specify lists of trusted and restricted sites.

Under the Privacy tab you can set your personal privacy level (Accept All Cookies; Medium; Block All Cookies). This is also the place to turn on the Explorer pop-up blocker, which prevents pop-up advertisements from opening while you surf the Web.

Finally, under the Content tab, the types of Web content that can be viewed while surfing can be controlled. This is where you will find options for parental controls as well.

Rate Your PC’s Performance

Once you’ve used this handy list of tools to soup up your computer, find out just how well your PC is performing. The Windows Experience Index tool, found on your Control Panel, gives your computer an efficiency rating.

By measuring such things as CPU and disk drive performance, the Windows Experience Index lets you know how your computer stacks up against other PCs out there. This indicates whether you need a memory or processing upgrade to perform the functions and run the software you want on your PC.

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