Are computers like people? Do they slow down with age? Computers are not supposed to show their age in this manner, but they often seem to get slower as they get more use. If your computer takes longer to boot up and perform simple tasks than when it was new, several steps can help rejuvenate it. First, read my articles on ScanDisk and on Defragmenting Your Hard Disk. These two simple procedures can be a shot of Geritol for your computer. There is also one other thing you can do to give your computer a little more energy and speed.
Unwelcomed StartUp Programs
Every new program that you add to your computer longs to be one of your most trusted and useful tools. Therefore, new software often installs a shortcut to their program in the StartUp folder so that they start automatically when you turn on your computer. Then, often unknown to the user, they silently run in the background. This enables them to execute more quickly when you do need them, but it also drains your system resources and makes your computer boot up more slowly.
To see what is in your StartUp folder, click on the Start button then choose Programs. Scroll up or down to the item called StartUp. When you place your cursor on that item, you will see a list of all programs that are automatically starting when you turn on your computer. In some cases, it may be convenient to have a certain program in your StartUp folder. For instance, if you always check your e-mail immediately after turning on your computer, having a shortcut to your e-mail program in the StartUp folder and having it start automatically will be a convenience. But if you see a lot of items that you don't need in your StartUp folder, it may be time for a good cleanup.
Cleaning Up Your StartUp Folder
Items in the StartUp folder are not the actual programs themselves; they are simply shortcuts to the programs. Deleting these items will not affect the programs themselves. If you are lucky enough to be using Windows 98, you can perform the cleanup right from the same screen used to check your StartUp programs list (follow the directions in the above paragraph to get to that screen). Move your cursor over the item you want to remove, right-click, and choose Delete. If you are using Windows 95, you will not be able to delete the items from this menu and will have one added step.
Windows 95 users need to click on the Start button. Choose Settings, then Taskbar, and Start Menu. Click the Start Menu Programs tab, and click the Remove button. Scroll down the list in the dialog box that opens until you see the StartUp icon. Click the plus sign next to it to view the programs in your StartUp group. Remove programs you don't want by clicking them, then the Remove button. (This method will also work for Windows 98, but the procedure mentioned in the previous paragraph is easier, by far.) Just a quick note of caution: Even if your StartUp folder is empty, never delete the StartUp folder itself.
Before you delete any item from your start-up folder, be sure that you at least try to determine its function. For example, if your anti-virus program appears in the StartUp folder, you will want to keep it there so that it scans for viruses every time you start your computer. Some programs like Microsoft Office will have a Fast Find or Office Start in the StartUp folder. These shortcuts are unnecessary and can be deleted. If you don't know the purpose of an item in your StartUp folder, you can still delete it. If you later find that you want to return it to the StartUp folder, you can simply open the Recycle Bin, highlight the icon, right-click, and choose Restore. This will put the shortcut right back into your StartUp folder as long as you haven't emptied the recycle bin since you deleted the item.
Adding Programs to Your StartUp Folder
While we are talking about the StartUp folder, you might have a program or two that you would like to start up automatically every time you turn on your computer. To add an item to your StartUp folder, find the program file on your hard drive by using Windows Explorer or drilling down through the My Computer icon. Then drag the program's icon over the Start button while holding down the mouse button. The Start menu should open. Move the cursor (with the program file's icon still attached) over the Programs and StartUp submenus until each is opened. Next place the cursor over the open StartUp submenu and release the mouse button. Win98 might ask whether you want to create a shortcut. If so, click Yes.
Learning about the StartUp folder can be a helpful adventure. And removing unused programs from your StartUp folder will add a little speed to your computing.