Times are tough – and IT budgets are under pressure. Before spending money on new kit – it’s worth making sure you are getting the best out of your current systems, and there are lots of (free) ways that your current systems can be optimised.

Here are a few…

If you have the time (2-3 hours) and the confidence – one of the best ways to revive a struggling PC is to wipe it and re-install Windows. An old machine will have had endless installs and re-installs over its life – all of which leaves all sorts of old files, registry entries, etc on the hard disk. No amount of manual ‘spring cleaning’ ever gets rid of it all. A clean rebuild can do wonders for performance and reliability.
– Make sure you’ve backed up any and all data files, shortcuts, favourites, etc (in an office environment, of course, all important data should be on the servers NOT on desktop PCs – so there shouldn’t be much data to back-up, right?) đŸ˜‰
– Make sure you have all the right software CD’s and licence keys for the re-install.

Try to standardise the PC ‘builds’ across the office – lots of different PCs with different software versions makes support more difficult (and therefore more expensive). If you can’t justify Office 2007 for everyone – then stick to Office 2003 for everyone – not a mixture. But, make sure you have rolled out the latest Office service pack (Service Pack 3 in the case of Office 2003) and installed the 2007 Compatibility module that lets you read Office 2007 files.

Office 2003 SP3

Office 2003 compatibility pack for 2007 files

Uninstall Browser add-ons like Yahoo toolbar – you don’t need them and they can slow up your PC.

If you have Windows XP – Upgrade to Service Pack 3. It installs EVERY security and reliability patch Microsoft have released to date – in one handy package. It has also delivered performance benefits in some cases.

XP Service Pack 3

Upgrade to Internet Explorer 7 (at least) – IE7 is significantly faster and more secure than IE6, and it’s been around long enough for any major issues to be addressed. Microsoft are about to terminate support for IE6 as well – another reason to move on. If you’re up for it – go to IE8, which is Microsoft’s best browser yet – no question.


Upgrade to Acrobat Reader 9 – It’s the best version of reader so far – after many years where successive versions of Reader got ever slower and more bloated – Adobe have raised their game. Reader 9 loads faster, is more secure, and is easier to use.


Rationalise your security approach – Each PC should have..
1. Anti-Virus
2. Anti Spyware
3. Firewall
But not more than one of each! Some security products do all three, but if you have one of these, then clear out any other ones that may have accumulated over the years (Microsoft Defender, AdAware, etc.). Note that updating from IE6 will also help protect your PCs from the dodgier corners of the Internet.

Update your hardware drivers – Poorly written drivers are the single biggest reason for PC crashes (which leads to loss of work and time). Manufacturers DO review and fix problems in their drivers, and it’s worth checking the ‘support’ or ‘downloads’ sections of their web-sites for these. Also, Use the ‘Windows Update’ system to check for driver updates from Microsoft.

Once you’ve got past this – you do have to think about spending a bit of money….

The single best hardware upgrade you can do to improve system performance is more memory (RAM) – 1Gb should be a minumum with XP (2Gb with Vista and Win7) – and that shouldn’t be expensive. BUT if you intend to replace PC’s within the next 6 months – don’t bother, you won’t get the payback. All servers should have as much as possible (4Gb on 32-bit Windows). For new PC’s I’d want 4Gb RAM straight away.

Best Practice, Technology

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