Use Free Programs To Speed Up PC, Mac and Browsers

Dennis Halnon of Barkhamsted CT, is a 20-year veteran of the computer business and work fors Biznuzz IT Services in Winsted, CT. He volunteered to answer readers’ questions about why their computers were so slow and their browsers even slower.

He has provided us for free programs and advice on how to improve the speeds for PCs and Macs as well as for browsers.

If we ask nicely in comments at the bottom of this column, my guess is that Dennis will answer your questions and maybe prompt him to write more columns for us.

Thanks Dennis – George

1. While computers do need to be “cleaned” (e.g. have caches and temporary files cleared), this is fortunately no longer as onerous a task as it once was. Windows users can get a free utility called CCleaner which will take care of this as needed (the URL is ). Mac users can get an equally free utility called Maintenance (the URL is ). Windows users should run CCleaner once a month, Mac users can run Maintenance maybe 3 or 4 times a year. In both cases, if inexplicable problems crop up, cleaning might help (but then, it might not).

2. It used to be that defragmenting your hard drive was needed on a regular basis. This is no longer the case! Modern file systems such as what’s found in current Mac and Windows versions are not hindered as much by fragmentation as older file systems. Any defragging that’s needed, will get done by the system itself, in Mac OS 10.4 or later, or Windows Vista or later, so user intervention isn’t needed.

3. An inexplicably slow Windows system is more likely to be affected by malware (viruses, spyware, adware, etc.) than it is to need “cleaning.” There are many free virus-cleaning utilities available. Spybot is helpful ( ) for dealing just with spyware and browser hijacks. For viruses, Avast 5 Free is available and has a “boot-scan” capability that can rescue a computer so infected that it can’t even start up. (Yes, that happens; I’ve dealt with it a lot.) No other free anti-virus product has this boot-scan capability … that I know of.

3a. Once you have Spybot installed, be sure to run its active protection module (called “Teatimer”). Also, the first time you run it, be sure to “Immunize” your computer. And you need to schedule regular scans, in Avast 5; a “Quick Scan” once per week is needed, at the very minimum.

4. It is always a terrible idea to run any computer with an operating system version that’s no longer supported by its developer. Without ongoing security updates, such computers can easily be compromised. Not to mention, third-party vendors will no longer write or develop for them. This includes Windows 98 and ME, and as of last month, Windows 2000. If your computer is running one of these, it’s time for a new one. Upgrading your computer to a more recent, still-supported version of Windows (such as XP) may be possible, but as a rule is NOT recommended. Get a crowbar, pry open your wallet, and buy a new computer. You will be much happier in the long run.

4a. And when you get your new computer, if you get a Windows system, leave Windows 7 on it. Don’t roll back to XP unless you have a VERY specific reason for doing so. Windows 7 is a terrific product. Yes, even if some “knowledgeable geek” has told you to run XP instead. And yes, I know, Vista was a disaster … but Win 7 is great. Use it and enjoy it.

4b. Oh, and it’s no longer the case that brand-new computers need to be “optimized.” Immediately walk away from any salesperson who tells you it’s “necessary” or that your computer “won’t work right” without it. It is NOT necessary, and your computer WILL function just fine. Consumer Reports has demonstrated that “optimization” is a racket ( ). All computers sold today will work well, right out of the box. Windows owners will have to add some kind of anti-virus program, such as Avast (see above) but beyond that, not much else is needed.

4c. PC buyers may also appreciate PC Decrapifier, which will remove unneeded and promotional titles that come pre-installed on new Windows machines. Get it here:

5. While Firefox is preferable to Internet Explorer in terms of security, understand that it’s a resource hog, and may bring even a well-maintained computer to its knees. I used to run it on all my machines, but no longer can because it’s just too bloated. (This includes a Core 2 Duo 2.6 GHz iMac with 4GB memory.) If you can run Firefox without trouble, that’s great; but if you find it burdens your computer, or you just want something else, try Google Chrome ( ) or Apple Safari ( ). Both are free, and based on the same lean “browser engine” known as Webkit. (Mac owners already have Safari.)

6. Older computers running currently-supported operating systems, which act sluggish in spite of being kept “clean” of malware and bloated caches, might be helped by having memory (i.e. RAM) added. Putting the added memory into the computer is not difficult, and not very expensive; what is difficult is knowing what type of memory is needed, how much your computer can handle, and finding what it already has. It may take a little research but the benefits can be remarkable. Your goal should be to put the maximum amount in that your computer can use.

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15 Comments on "Use Free Programs To Speed Up PC, Mac and Browsers"

  1. Just wanted to make a comment that this cleanup program is not really free, right? the first thing they ask for is a donation – I couldnt really figure out how to get around this..

    • All of the programs I cited can be downloaded and used for free. Yes, some of them have donation links or offer upgrades to paid versions, but none force you to pay for them. Which one are you having trouble with?

      There is, of course, the question of whether or not “beggarware” is “freeware.” Even if you don’t pay in money, you do “pay” in terms of being asked for money and having to turn it down. But really, they shouldn’t cost you anything.

      • Its the ccleaner one and it automatically brings you to a page that you cant get out of unless you pay for it – I must be doing something wrong – I downloaded it and then it would only fix 10 errors before taking me to the “paid” page..cant find a way around it!!

  2. Great advice- I downloaded CCleaner and it freed up a lot of space. I was hoping it would solve another issue I’m having. There is a box that always appears on my desktop that says “Microsoft Visual C ++ Debug Library Debug Assertion Failed! Program C:WindowsSystem32wlhfkkcuatisvc_oqmtfgw.exe File: c:aticurrentclientdirectormonitordirector.cpp Line:252 Expression: (((HRESULT)(hr))>=0)” I don’t know how to get rid of or correct this. Any thoughts???

    • It’s not Visual C++ that is giving you the error here, it’s something in your ATI drivers or display-management software that gave the error. For some reason the Visual C++ Debug Library is being invoked by this, but you don’t have it on your system (and unless you’re a software developer, you shouldn’t need it, so there’s no reason to get and install it). You’d need to explore this with ATI tech support.

      • Sorry but what is ATI tech support and how do I go about getting help from them? I am not a software developer and certainly not an expert at fixing computer issues.

  3. I’ve got a mess going on my pc running windows xp. Even with a firewall, I seem to have some type of redirector virus. Bought the and tried cleaning with that. Have Symantic and still getting backdoor trojans, redirects, etc. Is my only resort reformatting my machine. I’m on a network. Could it be the network is infested too?

    • Try running an online virus scan from BitDefender and TrendMicro. It may catch things others don’t. I also recommend Microsoft Security Essentials as a good free program.

      Another issue is to disable java script within Adobe Reader’s preferences (got hit with trojans twice through that route just by visiting a webpage with infected ads- no user action needed) and to update Reader to the latest version.

    • Dennis Halnon | August 17, 2010 at 5:32 pm |

      What Roger said!

      Plus … you should not have two antivirus packages running at the same time (in your case Avast and Symantec). One or the other will do, but running both will just cause headaches … and may keep them from working correctly.

  4. I recommend Microsoft Security Essentials (free) over other free anti-virus programs. It is not a resource hog and I got hit with viruses while using other freeware programs.

    I also recommend Google Chrome over Firefox for security. It’s harder for worms and viruses to get out of the Chrome environment and to screw up your operating system.

  5. Franz Liem | June 14, 2013 at 10:23 am |

    I have paid with an automatic payment. The Speed Mac PC is for three computers, correct?

    My question now is how can apply the speed mac PC for the three computers?

  6. DrChiffre | June 14, 2013 at 2:14 pm |

    Mac OS 10.5(?) and newer versions permits erasure of ‘free’ space with choices of once, 7 times, and 35 times. I believe Mac OS 10.5(?) and newer automatically defrags your hard drive when you exit and has an internal firewall option. New Mac OS (beyond Mountain Lion) due out this Fall. As with Windows, check for security updates every 1-2 months.
    Firefox for Mac (now version 21.0) has various security and privacy setting options also.

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