How do I speed my PC back up?

The Slow Computer Syndrome

A reader writes, “My computer speed has slowed dramatically. What can I do to increase the speed back to normal?”

Sound familiar?

Yeah, sadly that is the plight of most of us. Our computers seem to get slower and slower, and we all want them to run as perkily as when they were new. I don’t have a silver bullet, but I can offer some thoughts about why computers slow down and what you can do about it.

There are multiple reasons, let’s go down the list.

Computers accumulate detritus

Over time we add programs, apps these days, files, pictures, videos, documents, and much more. These don’t necessarily contribute to the slowing down, but many cause update checks, statistics reporting, and some might even be malware. The first step is to do some “spring cleaning”.

Step 1 — Remove programs no longer needed

Get a notepad and pencil to jot down things to do. Press the Windows key and take a look at your start panel. Anything there you don’t use anymore? Jot down items to remove. Scroll down the apps list. Anything there you can do without? Jot it down.

You can also right-click on the icon or listing of an unneeded item and click the Uninstall option. Or you can finish your review, make your list and then proceed to get rid of the junk.

When you have finished your review and have a list of things to remove. Click the Settings wheel. Click Apps. Go down the list. Be very careful, there are apps that your computer needs to function. If you recognize it as something you no longer use, click on it and click Uninstall.

Step 2 — Remove any unneeded files

Cleaning out your own files, documents, pictures, videos, music, and more is the hardest part of the “spring cleaning” chore. It is easy for us to say, “I’ll come back to that another day”. Well, this is that day. Do don’t have to be totally thorough with this chore, but do make an effort.

Step 3 — Scan for and remove any malware

When you have removed the major unwanted stuff it is time to check for malware. You may have Windows Defender running and taking care of things all along. Open Defender and do a Device health check. There may be some recommended action for you to do. Do NOT be tempted to do a Fresh Start – that removes way too much of what you have worked hard to add to your machine.

You may also use a tool like Malwarebytes. Do make sure that you have only one malware defending program running. Having more than one tends to be more trouble than it is worth. The programs may even fight each other. Definitely multiple defense programs will slow your machine!

Step 4 —  Do a cleanup

There are many files that have accumulated on your PC that you can’t see such as cached images, temporary files, error logs and more. The Cleanup tool can take care of much these.

Type cleanup into the search box (lower left of the desktop). The Disk Cleanup app will be highlighted. Press Enter.

WARNING! Running this tool will likely remove passwords stored by your browser and other remembered settings. Be sure you will be able to sign back into sites and to set up your browser again the way you want it.

This chore may take a long time to finish. Let it do so while you don’t need the machine, maybe overnight.

Step 5 — Defrag your hard drive

If your PC uses a solid state drive, SSD, do not defrag it. If your drive is a rotating disk type defragging may be helpful. Type defrag into the search box to bring up this utility. Typically your machine will run this chore automatically. You can see the settings when you bring up this tool. If the defrag percentage shown is over 10% or so you may wish to run this utility. It will take a long time to finish. Time for lunch? Time for bed?

That was the easy part

After finishing the chores above your PC will function almost as well as it did when it was new, but you may still find that it is dreadfully slow. That is not your fault or your PC’s, it may well be due to external causes.

In the last few years much progress has been made in every nook and cranny. New machines have become amazingly more competent, the internet speeds too have gone up, your ISP may have upgraded your access speed. But hand in hand with that your “apps” have become more dependent on internet services. The websites too have loaded up many more images, videos, music tracks, tons of advertising. All that requires more downloading time and more resources inside your machine.

If your PC is an older model it may not have as much memory as all this churning demands, it will make up for that by using your had drive to store the temporary data, images, sound, video etc.

Here is what Task Manager shows when my little old laptop is working its heart out. The hard drive is working 100 percent of the time almost continuously. Finding the needed stuff and writing new stuff causes the access time to become long and that makes the PC dreadfully slow.

To make matters worse, Microsoft releases updates very frequently. Your machine may be trying to catch up and is downloading and installing stuff while you are trying to do other things.

So what can you do?

Several things in the way of changing your work habits.

Action 1

Give your machine time to do its chores like installing new software. Let it idle evenings or during lunch. Don’t turn it off or close the lid when you don’t need it. Let it run.

Action 2

Have only one browser running at a time. Have only one or two tabs open at any one time. That is probably the hardest to do. Having a dozen tabs open makes it easy to go from Facebook to your bank, your mail, to Twitter, to the many other websites you want ready at hand. Don’t keep them open. They communicate with your machine and all that takes resources and time. Instead set up you Favorites bar with the links to places you frequent, then visit them one at a time.

Try it. Even you will be more relaxed and your machine may just seem that it can still keep up with the world.

.:.

© 2017 Ludwig Keck

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How do I set a shortcut for a website?

There are several ways to set a shortcut to a favorite website. Let’s answer this for users of Edge on Windows 10. Users of other browsers, please, ask in a comment for details.

Setting a Favorites Bar tab

The easiest is to create a new tab on your Favorites Bar right in your browser.

Click on the star at the end of the address bar.

In the dialog window you can change the name to whatever you want to call it in the new tab. The URL will be already filled in. If “Save in” shows Favorites, click it and select Favorites Bar. Then click Save and it will show in your Favorites Bar – at the end of other tabs.


If your Favorites Bar is not showing turn it on by clicking the “starrish” icon – see the illustration here. Then click Settings.

In the Settings dialog look down just a bit and you will find Favorites Bar – Show the favorites bar and a slider control. Set the slider to the right – ON. Your Favorites Bar will be shown with your tabs.

Placing the Shortcut on your PC

If you want the shortcut on your PC, even when you don’t have the browser open, there are two easy places – In the Taskbar or in the Start area.

With the website loaded in your browser, click the three-dot icon at the top right. The drop-down menu provides two options: Pin this page to the taskbar and Pin this page to Start. Click whichever you like. Of course, you can set both. You will see the website icon on the Taskbar and/or in Start when you click the Windows icon or Start.

Shortcut on the Desktop

Most of us old-timers are used to having shortcut icons on the desktop. Getting one there is not quite so simple.

Go to the site in your browser you wish to set a shortcut for. Click in the address bar. The site URL will be shown as selected. Copy the URL with Ctrl-C.

Then right-click on an empty spot on your desktop. Click on New and then in the next drop-down menu, click Shortcut.

A Create Shortcut dialog window will open. Place the cursor in the field for the location of the item and use Ctr-V to paste the URL that you copied in the browser. Click Next.

In the text window replace the default text with the name of the website as you want it on the desktop.

Click Finish. You will now have a shortcut to the website on the desktop. When you double-click it it will open the browser and go to the site.

Unfortunately the image used for the desktop icon is not the identification icon of the website. You can change to some other image from the selection of shortcut icon images.

.:.

© 2018 Ludwig Keck

How do I download emailed pictures?

When you receive an email with attached photos they will show as little thumbnails in the email message. You can view them by clicking on the pictures. You can save the photos by downloading them to your computer.

How to download photos from email?

The procedure is quite similar for all the email clients or services. Let’s take a look at several.

Download emailed photos from online Gmail

If you are using Gmail for your email and you are using the Google Chrome browser, you will see the picture thumbnails as shown in this illustration.

EmailPhotos-Gmail

Above and to the right of the photos there are three links. the one with the down pointing arrow is the download tool. If there are several pictures they will be downloaded as a compressed “ZIP” file.

Click the Download all attachments icon with the downward arrow. You will get a dialog where you can specify the folder for the downloaded file.

EmailPhotos-Gmail-2

The download dialog will look similar to the illustration above. You can select any folder, even your Desktop and you can change the name of the file that contains the pictures. Click Save when you have specified the folder and file name.

Download emailed photos from online Yahoo

If you are using Yahoo and get to your email in a browser it will look similar to the picture here.

EmailPhotos-Yahoo-1

Above the thumbnails you will see a Download all link. Click the link. If you do not get a dialog for setting the destination folder, the compressed file with the pictures will be in your Downloads folder.

Download emailed photos from online Outlook

If you are using a Microsoft email service your online view of the email with attached pictures will look something like this:

EmailPhotos-Outlook-1

Below the thumbnails there is a Download all as zip link. Click it and you will get a dialog for selecting the destination folder and file name.

Save emailed photos from Windows 10 Mail

If you are using the Mail app in Windows 10 you will see thumbnails in the email message. Click on each photo. You will get a Save option. Click Save and you will get another dialog for specifying the destination.

EmailPhotos-Windows10

Extracting the pictures from the compressed file

Once the pictures have been downloaded find the compressed file either in your Downloads folder or the folder you picked.

EmailPhotos-Extract-1

Right-click the compressed file name or icon, it will look like a folder with a zipper. In the drop-down menu click Extract All… You will get a dialog with destination options, pick the folder where the photos go.

.:.

© 2016 Ludwig Keck

How do I create a desktop shortcut to Edge in Windows 10?

Windows 10 makes it quite easy to pin Edge to the taskbar if it is not there already, but getting a desktop shortcut is a chore. Try this:

Make sure that you are reading this on your Windows 10 machine where you want a desktop shortcut to Microsoft Edge.

Right-click an open spot on the desktop.

image

Move the pointer down to New and to the right on the drop-down menu and click Shortcut.

In the new dialog type the text shown on the next line, type it with a space, not a line break after the “.exe”:

%windir%\explorer.exe
shell:Appsfolder\Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe!MicrosoftEdge

image

Click Next.

In the next window you will see the word explorer highlighted for the shortcut name. Just type in Edge and click Finish.image

You are not really finished, because the shortcut icon will be a folder and not the Edge icon. Right-click on the new shortcut. In the menu, at the bottom, click Properties.

In the properties window click Change Icon…

image

The Change Icon window will offer all sorts of icons but not one for Edge. Type the following text into the fle location field:

%windir%\SystemApps\Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe\MicrosoftEdge.exe

image

Click OK. You will next see an Edge icon instead of all the others. Click OK again.image

You will see the icon in the properties dialog. Click OK.

image

Now at last you have an Edge shortcut with the proper icon on your desktop. Try it out.

.:.

© 2015 Ludwig Keck

What is that little Windows icon on my taskbar?

Win10-U-07A little Windows icon has appeared in the notification area of the taskbar on PCs operating on Windows 7 (SP1) and Windows 8.1. What is it for?

It is a little “gateway” to the future!

Win10-U-08Put your pointer on it and it will bring up a little message saying “Get Windows 10”.

Click on it and you will see a window with this message:

Win10-U-03

The “How this free upgrade works” message from Microsoft tells you the three steps to get your free upgrade to Windows 10. Step 1 is to “Reserve” your copy of Windows 10. You really have a year to perform this upgrade operation, but why not get in line to be one of the first to enjoy the latest and most efficient operating system from Microsoft?

Click on “Reserve your free upgrade” and you will see a simple form that just asks for your email address and whether you want to be informed of the latest on Windows 10.

Win10-U-04

Once you have sent in your reservation, you will get downloads of the upgrade components. The actual Windows 10 upgrade package will not be installed on your computer until after July 29, 2015, the official release date of the new operating system. There will still be opt-in steps for you, so don’t worry that your computer will be “taken over”.

.:.

© 2015 Ludwig Keck

When it says “Do not turn off your computer” what happens if I do?

You see this message usually when your PC is installing updates and it is in the process of shutting down or restarting. If the computer is powered off during this process the installation process will be interrupted.

DNTOYC-5

The interruption can have several outcomes. The best is that when you restart your computer the process either continues or picks up from the start and you hardly notice that anything bad has occurred. It may be that the computer goes through several cycles trying to get the job done. That may take extra time but gets everything updated.

It can also happen that the process was stopped when it was already marked done but has not completed. The PC will show the update installed when in fact it reverted back to the prior version of whatever was being updated. This can be bad especially if some vulnerability was being corrected and that did not really happen. It is usually best after a power interruption to manually check for updates again.

The worst outcome can be that the process gets caught in such a way that it loops back to the same incomplete state. The machine might even be unusable as it tries over and over to complete the update. Intervention might be needed, restarting into safe mode, and starting the update process again.

One thing you normally do not need to worry about is loosing any of your data.

.:.

© 2015 Ludwig Keck

How do I pin Outlook to the taskbar in Windows 8?

How to pin Outlook to the taskbar in Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10

Outlook can mean a couple of different things these days. There is Microsoft Outlook, the desktop mail client that is part of Microsoft Office, there is also Outlook.com the Microsoft email service. Let’s take them up one at a time.

Office ProgramsOutlook – mail client

To pin the Outlook mail client to the taskbar do this:

  • Click Start, or press the Windows key on the keyboard.
  • Find the Outlook listing – you may need to scroll around a bit.
  • Right-click on Outlook
  • Click on Pin to taskbar

That’s it.

Outlook.com – the online email service

To pin a link to the Outlook.com site to the taskbar proceed as shown below.

NOTE: This only works if you are using Internet Explorer.

  • Outlook.comOpen Internet Explorer and go to outlook.com. Sign in.
  • Find the little icon in front of the web address. See the illustration here.
  • drag iconPlace the pointer on the little icon. Note the tooltip “Drag to taskbar to pin site”.
  • Drag the little icon down to the taskbar and release it on the taskbar.

That’s it.

You can have both the mail client and the online outlook.com site pinned to the taskbar. The icons are very similar. The “white envelope” one is the Outlook client.

Taskbar icons

Outlook icons

.:.

© 2015 Ludwig Keck