Tidy The Registry (not DIY unless you are a computer expert)

The computer’s registry acts like a huge database that holds the complete inventory and location of every file, folder, programme and process that resides on it. This information is used to tell programmes how to run and to locate the files needed to perform particular tasks. As files or programmes are added to or removed from your PC the registry is modified to reflect these changes. Over time the registry becomes larger, the data more fragmented and can end up including errors, conflicting settings and leftover items like broken shortcuts. These diminish the performance of the computer.

PCs have an inbuilt utility to repair and maintain the registry manually. But it is an extremely complex task, certainly no job for the untrained. Delete the wrong thing and you will lose critical data and personal information, or maybe end up with a computer that doesn't work at all. You can purchase a registry scanner utility that will include safety net features but even they are not foolproof. Fortunately, the good ones come with an Undo function so you can put back what they remove. Still, it’s a job best left to the expert.

Increase Virtual Memory (DIY safe)

Virtual memory is the disk space your computer will start to use when it's short of RAM (Random Access Memory). But disks are slower than RAM so operations take longer. Worse, if the computer runs low on virtual memory your computer will freeze or crash.

Resetting the virtual memory usage on your computer through the built in utility can speed up the computer but DO NOT exceed the limit suggested in the properties box of your Windows system.

Shutdown Correctly (DIY safe)

Your computer performs a number of maintenance functions during the shutdown process. If this process isn’t carried out correctly files meant to be eliminated will be left in the cache, configuration information can be lost and programmes, or even the operating system itself, corrupted. The cumulative effect will be a slower, possibly damaged, computer.

The proper procedure for shutting down the computer operates through the Start button option to ‘Turn off computer’. If you need to turn off your computer reasonably quickly then use the Control-Alt-Delete key combination to open Task Manager and utilise the Shut Down option. Windows will make a record that it will need to do some cleanup on its next boot up sequence. A sudden shutdown, for instance by unplugging the computer and cutting power, can damage components and cause the computer to fail - never deliberately turn it off that way. If there is a power cut that shuts it down there’s a good chance that the PC’s self diagnostics will allow it to repair any corruptions automatically the next time it reboots.

Reboot Regularly (DIY safe)

PCs need to be restarted periodically in order to reset configurations after new programmes or peripherals have been installed so that they work correctly. Restarting also clears out memory and closes down unnecessary processes and services. In fact, rebooting is the all-time techie favourite suggestion as the first step for remedying all sorts of computer problems. Reboot returns all the software and most of the hardware to a known initial state, which in theory should eliminate fluctuating problems.

Scan For Disk Errors (DIY safe)

If it's going to go wrong, the hard disk is the likely location of the trouble. Your computer will have a built in tool (ScanDisk or Error-checking depending on the operating system version on your PC) for performing a disk scan to check the hard drives for errors. These errors can derive from a number of sources. Most common are system crashes, applications that have been improperly closed and harbouring harmful programmes such as viruses.

If it finds an error it attempts (usually successfully) to fix it. It's a good idea to run a scan on a regular schedule, about once every month or so.