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 Post subject: Need help to make my Win 7 laptop run better
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:59 am 
8086
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My Win 7 Dell laptop has grown to be painfully slow. It often maxes out at 100% CPU usage and grinds away at the hard drive endlessly. Stuff I want to too takes too long to load. It gives me the feeling (not certain) that all kinds of nefarious processes are running in the background doing nothing I particularly need or care about, or worse.

I guess what I need is a good guide, step-by-step process, or even book to tell me how to simplify my OS and programs to once again make my laptop a lean, mean, Win 7 machine, if that's possible. Here's my wish list, though it might of course be asking to much in today's "always connected" PC world:

- I want the P back in my P.C.: PERSONAL again. In other words, I want total, or at least much more control. Ideally, I'd like to control or be asked what goes out the wire (inet) and what comes in. Some for the hard disk, more or less. Wouldn't it be nice if once the PC was totally booted up, it would just sit there doing nothing or nearly nothing (or if it did need to do something there would be a unified log window saying something like "Pinged microsoft.com to see if MS word needs an update. I do this once an hour. No updated needed". or "Thunderbird running program just checked for new email and downloaded 3 new email headers".
- No more software full auto updating. Sure it's a little more annoying but if it must be updated, ask me first, nicely. Oh sure, and in a coordinated way preferably by the OS would be nice.
- Ideally I'd like to zero or minimal background processes running. Of the ones I need, I'd like to know exactly what they are and what they're needed for.

Okay, so I realize maybe you're getting a flavor here. Basically I don't want to be forced into this mind-set of "oh I just need to go buy a new laptop". Sure my laptop is 3 years old but so what? It's just find hardware wise and it's only problem is that it's gotten bogged down by to much crap in the OS and other application processes.

I know this request is pretty open-ended. Some answers might be to switch OS but I have to much time, experience, familiarity, not to mention some paid-for applications in Win 7 to ditch it. Also there's the fact that still most everyone runs it.

Some general advice is appreciated.

Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Need help to make my Win 7 laptop run better
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:38 am 
Smithfield
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Joined: Sun Jun 18, 2006 7:37 pm
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The best way to handle this: reformat and reinstall. Gives you a guaranteed clean slate on your computer, more or less. Since it's a Dell, you should have the option to factory reset it from the boot menu (Press F8 before Windows starts loading up and select "Repair this computer"). Obviously this means nuking all of the data which is something that isn't an option for a lot of people. So if this is out of the question, you can try the following:

  • Run the disk cleaner utility. You can do so by right clicking on the drive in My Computer, selecting Properties, then press the "Disk Cleanup" button. Make sure you press "Clean up system files" on the bottom left to do a deep clean.
  • You can also install and run CCleaner. This will pick up pieces that Disk Cleanup does not go through. This also includes a registry scrub (though it's questionable if this does anything)
  • Uninstall any applications you're not using. However, there are a lot of things programs depend on like the .NET Framework that always litters the uninstaller list. So unless you know exactly what the application in that list is, do not remove it. You'll also want to go dig through Program Files (both of them) for any stale folders that were left behind.
  • After you've removed what you wanted, defrag the disk. You can use Windows' or a third party tool like Piriform's Defraggler or Auslogics' Disk Defragmentor.

As for the other requests...

Quote:
I want the P back in my P.C.: PERSONAL again. In other words, I want total, or at least much more control. Ideally, I'd like to control or be asked what goes out the wire (inet) and what comes in. Some for the hard disk, more or less. Wouldn't it be nice if once the PC was totally booted up, it would just sit there doing nothing or nearly nothing (or if it did need to do something there would be a unified log window saying something like "Pinged microsoft.com to see if MS word needs an update. I do this once an hour. No updated needed". or "Thunderbird running program just checked for new email and downloaded 3 new email headers".

If you want total control, you'll need to move to a Linux distro, particularly Arch or Slackware. However, these also have a setup/learning curve of an inverse slope. Even then, you can't control everything. But as for the internet thing, at best, you can edit the hosts file on any OS to block a range of IP addresses.

As for logs... There might be some in separate places. Windows has one called Event Viewer. But in all honesty, logs should only follow the "no news is good news" principle. I don't care what it's doing if it's fine; I only care if the program starts choking or spazzing out. Besides, logging every freakin' detail is a waste of resources.

Quote:
- No more software full auto updating. Sure it's a little more annoying but if it must be updated, ask me first, nicely. Oh sure, and in a coordinated way preferably by the OS would be nice.

Most programs have the option to ask for permission before requesting an update. However, there's no unified system by the OS. Some internet security suites do have this option though like Avast, but only for certain, well known programs and it works half the time (or it works half the time because I don't run an admin account as a primary on my computer)

Quote:
- Ideally I'd like to zero or minimal background processes running. Of the ones I need, I'd like to know exactly what they are and what they're needed for.

Well, the best you can do is look into Windows services, this website contains various configuration recommendations. Otherwise, those that are living in taskmanager are basically impossible to figure out what they do. Windows throws up like 30 processes already on boot, with a half dozen of them being svchost. And doing a search on that will probably give you a generic answer.


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 Post subject: Re: Need help to make my Win 7 laptop run better
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:16 pm 
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There are programs like WireShark (among several others) available, that will allow you to monitor all traffic that travels over your home network - so long as you use it ONLY for your home network. They will log everything that comes into & goes out of your network. Logs can then be searched &/or filtered based on type(HTTP, FTP, ARP, TCP, TFTP, UDP, SMTP, SNMP, DNS, DHCP, SSH, etc...), keyword, etc...



As for the laptop... Not cheap, but personally, I would do the following:

1> Grab an SSD, an external 2.5" enclosure, a copy of Windows 7 (unless you have a genuine Win7 install disk), and a copy of Eset Smart Security 7.
2> swap the old HDD for the SSD & do a clean install of Windows 7 on the new SSD, followed by drivers, and Windows updates.
3> install Eset Smart Security Suite 7.
4> update Smart Security definitions
5> click on the Smart Security setup icon, then "enter advanced setup" link near bottom.
6> click the network icon followed by personal firewall. From here you can easily control everything that comes into & goes out of your laptop. I use "Interactive Mode" for the filtering mode which allows Eset to either temporarily or permanently remember to allow or block a request. I also supplement with custom rules & zones as needed.
7> connect old HDD to external enclosure & do a complete virus scan with Eset.
8> copy any of the files you need from old HDD to SSD, and enjoy your upgraded speedy laptop experience :)


In my experience, laptops always have more processes running than desktops. Some of the extra processes in a laptop, are for unique laptop features, like built-in touchpad, wireless NIC, integrated camera, etc... but some are from bloatware installed by the laptop manufacturer, which in the case of some HP laptop's I've worked on added up to as many as 28 extra processes :shock:

My desktop averages around 70 processes but can go up over 100 depending on what I'm doing. But my laptop is never under 94 processes, and that's without any added bloatware from the manufacturer.


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 Post subject: Re: Need help to make my Win 7 laptop run better
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:30 pm 
8086
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Thanks to LatiosXT...I think I will follow that path of reformatting and reinstalling. In order to maximize my chances of the laptop running Win 7 (or perhaps Win 8.1) in a lean and mean way, can you offer advice on the following which I'll plan to incorporate overall update process:

1) Win 7 or Win 8.1? Which has a better chance of being lean and mean on my approx 3-yr old Dell laptop? My gut is Win 7 but sometimes the latest is the greatest.

2) Should I invest in installing a SSD? I have talked to Dell and this option IS possible. Would it make performance overall faster? Of course, I'm pretty certain I'd enjoy the lack of the fairly heavy vibration I feel through the keyboard and while in my lap.

2) I'm very hesitant to choose the OEM Dell Win 7 (or Win 8.1) version, or factory reset it from the boot menu because if I'm understanding correct for the latter (factory reset) I'll get a 3-yr old version I think of Win 7 which will mean probably hours and many internet updates from Microsoft of Win 7. I'm hesitant to choose the OEM version because I really HATE HATE HATE the crapware that Dell installs, such as auto service update process and lots of other weird stuff I never use. If I need help from Dell, I'll call 'em or go to their website. But nonetheless, perhaps there is something magical or important about the OEM version. In my limited opinion, and out-of-the box Microsoft copy of Win 7 seems the best and I assume it would go to the web and get appropriate and latest drivers for the various hardware elements. AND would not install any Dell crapware. If you agree, how do I get a fresh Microsoft Win 7 DVD? I'd rather not have to buy.

3) Once the OS is up and installed any general advice on settings or useless things to get rid of to make more lean an mean, for example:
- Get rid if IE?
- Needless services?
- Network settings, etc?

4) Off the top of my head, I'll be installing from scratch the following programs to make my laptop useful. Can you give some general advice on these apps and if I should use or not, and if so any notes on configuration of them to keep the overall machine lean and mean?

- Microsoft office: I have the 2013 DVD I believe, I can do a fresh insall from It's not the "online" version.
- Firefox for browser. (Chrome/Google creeps me out: Evil eball watching all)
- Thunderbird for email. Hmm, will I might use Outlook from MS office too but probably Thunderbird.
- Dropbox (I'd LIKE to be able to use this, but I realize maybe to be lean/mean I should give it up)
- Skydrive (Same as above)

5) To keep things virus free, adware free, spy-ware free, and not to install a security suite that itself is an annoying resource hog, endless updating, or pop-up prone pain in the ass, any suggestions on the best one to get/use? Right now I'm using the free Norton suite that comes came with my Comcast cable inet service. I pretty much think it kind of sucks...it has weird menus and is confusing as to what the heck it's doing. Maybe it is good, but I have more of a sinking suspicion that it just another resource hog slowing down the stuff I really want to do.

Thanks again!


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 Post subject: Re: Need help to make my Win 7 laptop run better
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:33 pm 
8086
8086

Joined: Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:53 am
Posts: 4
Thanks also chaosdsm you answered some of my questions in my last post even before I read yours. Sounds like SSD is a good way to go. And Eset. Can you also comment on my last post that has sections 1 2 2 3 4 5? Thanks.


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 Post subject: Re: Need help to make my Win 7 laptop run better
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:56 pm 
Smithfield
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california_pc7 wrote:
1) Win 7 or Win 8.1? Which has a better chance of being lean and mean on my approx 3-yr old Dell laptop? My gut is Win 7 but sometimes the latest is the greatest.

I'm going to put one for Windows 8, if only because I feel like it manages resources a lot better on lower-end systems. Like for example, on my tablet after idling about 10 minutes, the RAM usage goes down to 350MB. It ramps up of course once you start using it, but I've never seen Windows 7 do this or drop below 800MB.

Quote:
2) Should I invest in installing a SSD? I have talked to Dell and this option IS possible. Would it make performance overall faster? Of course, I'm pretty certain I'd enjoy the lack of the fairly heavy vibration I feel through the keyboard and while in my lap.

Yes, as long as you're fine with the fact you will need to lug something around for extra space when needed. You can recycle the HDD already in there as mentioned by using an external enclosure.

Quote:
2) I'm very hesitant to choose the OEM Dell Win 7 (or Win 8.1) version, or factory reset it from the boot menu because if I'm understanding correct for the latter (factory reset) I'll get a 3-yr old version I think of Win 7 which will mean probably hours and many internet updates from Microsoft of Win 7. I'm hesitant to choose the OEM version because I really HATE HATE HATE the crapware that Dell installs, such as auto service update process and lots of other weird stuff I never use. If I need help from Dell, I'll call 'em or go to their website. But nonetheless, perhaps there is something magical or important about the OEM version. In my limited opinion, and out-of-the box Microsoft copy of Win 7 seems the best and I assume it would go to the web and get appropriate and latest drivers for the various hardware elements. AND would not install any Dell crapware. If you agree, how do I get a fresh Microsoft Win 7 DVD? I'd rather not have to buy.

The problem is that to ensure maximum stability, you must get the drivers from Dell themselves. The only exception is the graphics driver. You also can't get a copy of Windows 7 for free without pirating it (and I wouldn't do that anyway because you have no idea if the image is tainted or not).

Also a completely fresh install of Windows 7 can't go on the internet unless you have a hardline to the network.
Quote:
3) Once the OS is up and installed any general advice on settings or useless things to get rid of to make more lean an mean, for example:
- Get rid if IE?
- Needless services?
- Network settings, etc?

Go to Control Panel -> Programs and Features to get rid of Windows features you don't want.

That link I sent posted has a list of services you can disable.

And what network settings?

Quote:
4) Off the top of my head, I'll be installing from scratch the following programs to make my laptop useful. Can you give some general advice on these apps and if I should use or not, and if so any notes on configuration of them to keep the overall machine lean and mean?

- Microsoft office: I have the 2013 DVD I believe, I can do a fresh insall from It's not the "online" version.
- Firefox for browser. (Chrome/Google creeps me out: Evil eball watching all)
- Thunderbird for email. Hmm, will I might use Outlook from MS office too but probably Thunderbird.
- Dropbox (I'd LIKE to be able to use this, but I realize maybe to be lean/mean I should give it up)
- Skydrive (Same as above)

Microsoft office: Customize the installation and scrutinize all the features you want or don't want. However, do not turn off automatic updates. Office is a target for security breaches.
Firefox: Leave it as is. If you don't want Firefox to leave anything behind, use it in Private Mode.
Thunderbird: Don't use an email client. ;)
DropBox/OneDrive: Don't use the client.

i.e., if you can access via a website, access it via a website.

Quote:
5) To keep things virus free, adware free, spy-ware free, and not to install a security suite that itself is an annoying resource hog, endless updating, or pop-up prone pain in the ass, any suggestions on the best one to get/use? Right now I'm using the free Norton suite that comes came with my Comcast cable inet service. I pretty much think it kind of sucks...it has weird menus and is confusing as to what the heck it's doing. Maybe it is good, but I have more of a sinking suspicion that it just another resource hog slowing down the stuff I really want to do.

Microsoft Security Essentials (it comes with Win8) at the minimum. Add Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for another layer of protection. There are other free ones and you can usually disable pop-ups. I use Avast, which comes with a Game Mode that disables all notifications.

Or if you just want to ditch it altogether, use Sandboxie to sandbox the web browser and any suspect programs.


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 Post subject: Re: Need help to make my Win 7 laptop run better
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:00 pm 
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Also chaosdsm, if you'd be so kind could you recommend an SSD and an enclosure I could buy so I could follow your process? My laptop is a Dell Insprion 1470. If you could provide a link to amazon or newegg or whatnot, or a make/model that'd be great!


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 Post subject: Re: Need help to make my Win 7 laptop run better
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:49 pm 
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Windows 8/8.1 is hit or miss... some people love it, some people hate it... but for a lot of BETA testers, it fell just after Windows ME, & Windows Vista, on the love meter.... Personally, I ditched 8 on my touchscreen laptop & went with 7.

SSD is a HUGE performance booster, especially on a laptop, all those extra processes help to bog down a HDD. My laptop shipped with a 1TB 7,200 RPM SATA III HDD, it benchmarked great, showing avg transfer rate of 82MB/sec, but in real use it was so damned slow it was annoying. Fortunately, I ordered a 256GB Samsung 840 Pro the same day my laptop shipped to me.

I recorded some times when I swapped from Win8 on the HDD to Win7 on SSD
Boot time HDD (full boot starting at POST, not the Windows 8 short boot) ~49sec to password screen + ~23sec till Windows is ready to use, - SSD ~27 seconds to password screen + ~5 seconds till Windows is ready to use.
Outlook 2013 - HDD ~13 - 15 seconds to open - SSD ~3-4 seconds to open
I.E. 10 - HDD ~5-6 seconds to open then load homepage - SSD ~1 second and I'm reading my home page.
Excel 2013 - HDD ~8 - 10 seconds to the start page - SSD ~3 seconds to the start page

AFAIK you cannot remove I.E. it's an integral part of Windows itself, but you can turn it off through Control Panel (Programs & Features in Win7) so that it's not available as an internet browser.

As for security suite, I do prefer Eset because it allows me to see everything that's happening... through pop-ups... and if you're not getting daily updates, you're not as secure as you could be. But once you have everything properly configured, pop-ups are very infrequent. Resource usage wise, it's not the best of the bunch, but that's mostly because it's an active suite, not a passive one. It's geared at stopping threats before they are written to your hard drive, instead of cleaning up the mess afterwards...

I had briefly made the switch to Norton 360 after my previous subscription to Eset ran out. Several website reviews gave it very high ratings (including Maximum PC), & it was cheaper per device than Eset, so I figured 'why not'... I regretted it for 3 months till I went back to Eset. It's not a bad program, it's just geared towards IT Professionals who have a security specialization, more than towards home users. I find Eset infinitely more user friendly, and simply better overall...

Norton 360 missed a Trojan on my mom's computer that came through email, she didn't even click on the email, Norton scanned her inbox & said everything was okay. Apparently when Norton opened it to scan it, it went to the hard drive.... 3 days later, after her computer was virtually unusable, Norton finally found it, & "cleaned" it... yet computer was still unusable. That was the last straw for me. I paid for my current Eset subscription, and haven't look back.

As for services, just pull them up & see what's running, look them up on google (or equiv) & see what can or cannot be shut down safely, and decide if you need it for your system or not. Most will be processes needed for Windows to run properly, but there are quite a few that can be shut down safely.


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 Post subject: Re: Need help to make my Win 7 laptop run better
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:59 pm 
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LatiosXT wrote:
The problem is that to ensure maximum stability, you must get the drivers from Dell themselves. The only exception is the graphics driver. You also can't get a copy of Windows 7 for free without pirating it (and I wouldn't do that anyway because you have no idea if the image is tainted or not).

Also a completely fresh install of Windows 7 can't go on the internet unless you have a hardline to the network.


First part has nothing to do with the Dell version of the Windows install disk, drivers can be downloaded regardless of what media is used to install Windows.

Windows 7 includes limited network drivers, as does Windows 8. On an older system, Windows 7 may very well install with full network support depending on hardware, it did for my file server, but the motherboard & NIC were out a year before Windows 7 was released. But even newer hardware with certain Realtek and Intel NIC's won't have a problem either.


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 Post subject: Re: Need help to make my Win 7 laptop run better
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:16 pm 
Smithfield
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chaosdsm wrote:
First part has nothing to do with the <a href="http://www.dell.com/" rel="nofollow" title="Link added by VigLink" class="vglnk"><span>Dell</span></a> version of the Windows install disk, drivers can be downloaded regardless of what media is used to install Windows.

I don't really know what this has to do with anything, unless you are trying to say as long as you get it from the actual OEM it doesn't matter. But what I'm saying is if you want to make sure you have drivers that work, that you must get them from Dell's website.

Quote:
Windows 7 includes limited network drivers, as does <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008H3SW4I" rel="nofollow" title="Link added by VigLink" class="vglnk"><span>Windows </span><span>8</span></a>. On an older system, Windows 7 may very well install with full network support depending on hardware, it did for my file server, but the motherboard & NIC were out a year before Windows 7 was released. But even newer hardware with certain <a href="http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=realtek&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Arealtek" rel="nofollow" title="Link added by VigLink" class="vglnk"><span>Realtek</span></a> and Intel NIC's won't have a problem either.

KISS principle please. Yes, Windows 7 and 8 may or may not fully support your NIC out of the box, but it's usually the Ethernet it can do. I've never seen Windows 7 or 8 run a wireless adapter out of the box, which was the point I was getting at.


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 Post subject: Re: Need help to make my Win 7 laptop run better
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:40 pm 
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Windows 7 includes native drivers for most standard Wireless G or earlier cards, while Windows 8 adds even more of those earlier cards to its included drivers + many Wireless N cards as well.


BTW.... WTF is up with certain words becoming hyperlinks on their own ???


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 Post subject: Re: Need help to make my Win 7 laptop run better
PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 7:59 am 
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I agree Win8 is a tighter, faster OS. You will have to work at it to adapt to the new interface.

Make sure your Dell is maxed out in memory. Unless the laptop already had 8Gb that will do wonders for your speed---though adding more than that (if your unidentified Dell will take more) won't unless you use it as a RAM drive.

An SSD would allow you to have the old drive as the external backup so you can import the data off of it later.

Check if Dell has a BIOS revision for your laptop specifically for Win8 that should be applied (just do the most recent one if they do) before the OS install.


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 Post subject: Re: Need help to make my Win 7 laptop run better
PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 9:49 am 
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Okay, that Dell is a little older than I though, originally released in 2009, it only has SATA II HDD/SSD interface, meaning, just about any current SSD will max out the throughput on the interface, which is still damned fast compared to any HDD.

Personally, I think the best bang for your buck these days is the Samsung 840 EVO series SSD's. You get Samsung reliability (which is the biggest factor IMO), decent $/GB ratio, & virtually top-of-the-class performance - even under the SATA II controller.

840 EVO 250GB bare $130 - with transfer kit $150
840 EVO 500GB bare $250 - with transfer kit $280
840 EVO 1TB bare $432 Note: additional 12% taken off the $499 price after adding to shopping cart

Once you bump up to a new laptop with SATA III, just pop it in & get even more performance!

Personally, I don't care for Samsung's transfer kit, I use this instead: Unitek USB 3.0 storage drive docking station $30, but handles all 3.5" & 2.5" SATA 1.0, 2.0, & 3.0 HDD/SSD up to 4TB storage capacity.


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