Every 6 to 12 months I like to flatten my computers and build them up from scratch. Clean start with the operating system, applications I actually use and a chance to get rid of the trialware and redundant drivers for hardware that’s been consigned to the bin.
It’s also a really good time to take some backups!
I’ve been noticing though that my day to day laptop (which I don’t want to reformat for a couple of months) has been getting a bit slow, so I wondered what I could do to fix things up.
I’ve recently updated to Vista SP1 on all my applicable machines and noticed one significant usability factor on a couple of very similar machines we have at home. The one with 2 hard disks is much more responsive than the single disk machine. I’ve got the OS, apps and data on one drive and the pagefile on the second drive (it was fairly small) – note this are physical drives, not partitions.
That got me thinking if there was anything I could do on the laptop to speed things up.
First thing I did was get rid of old files by using the Disk Cleanup Wizard which got rid of some cruft.
Now I’ve always assumed that Vista has been doing a pretty good job of keeping my drive de-fragmented but I installed a trial of DiskKeeper and was surprised to find that it reported almost 20% fragmentation.
So I ran the defragment a couple of times and that certainly helped.
In order to get the number down significantly though I did have to make sure all my applications were closed – so no files were locked open. That made me wonder about the contents of (for instance) my Outlook OST (Exchange Offline Store) and PST (Personal files) – sure enough, right clicking on them allowed me to compact those – after emptying my deletes items folders.
My next experiment was based on the fact that my processor isn’t often stressed out, but the disk light is usually on. So I decided to compress the drive (on the grounds that reducing the physical I/O at the expense of some CPU cycles might be a good thing)
Net result…. compressed disk, clean up wizard done, compact application data files and running de-fragmentation utilities… gives you not only a bit of a spring clean but a more responsive machine.
Take some backups and give it a try. You might be surprised. Of course it’s better to get a second drive and balance the physical bottlenecks but for laptop and small form factor machines there’s still a fair bit you can do to tweak.