Saturday 18 June 2016

Don't Be Fooled By "Turbo Boost" and Windows Performance / Cleaner Applications

Don't Be Fooled By "Turbo Boost" and Windows Performance / Cleaner Applications


I bet if you have been online for a more than a few times you will have undoubtedly seen adverts for tools and applications that will "Speed up your computer" or "Tune it up", "remove unnecessary files" and even malware.

Most of these apps are con tricks in that they will run, show you a really high number of problems either to do with security, privacy or performance and when you go to fix them you are told you must pay a fee of £29.99 to get the full version.

Scam code I call it.

Mainly because people don't know what half the items that are recorded as security holes or performance issues are. For example to get a nice big list of privacy concerns about 20,000 they might list every single cookie you have from every browser.

If you don't know what a cookie is it it's a harmless small text file that holds very small information about your visit to the site e.g by linking your username to a member ID so that the next time you visit the site you don't have to keep re-typing your username in the login box.

For example if you install the Web Developer Toolbar on FireFox you can view all the cookies on a site, domain including sessions. Viewing the cookies for this site I see one that gives me this really important information....

Name: SNID
Value: 72=i-mBmgOp22ixVNh68LucZ_88i1MnYk0FkV2k8k3s=uNr4G5YjLe6X9iAQ
Path: /verify
Expires: Mon, 11 Apr 2016 16:43:43
GMT Secure: No
HttpOnly: Yes

I have no idea what the cookie value for SNID means and most people apart from the web developers won't so when people try and scare you with "cookies are dangerous" - something I have heard from my parents many times - just ignore their ignorance of web development.

They just need to realise that unless your password is stored in a plain text cookie (which never happens) then you don't have much to fear from cookies at all. They just fill up your local data directories the more sites you visit.

The one thing you may not like are tracking cookies e.g Google who try and track you from site to site to see what kind of information you are interested in so that they can show you relevant adverts.

Turning off 3rd party cookies in Chrome or the browser of your choice and setting DNT (Do Not Track) to YES/ON is worth doing even if some browsers don't support the DNT header.

Turbo Mode

Turbo mode is one of those cool sounding options that seem to signal that just by pressing the Turbo ON button your whole machine will speed up. In reality it does a few things, many of which might not even be happening at the time you press it.

These include:

-Stopping a scheduled de-fragmentation of your hard disk. Something that is rarely needed or used anyway but does consume memory and CPU if running.
-Stopping any scheduled tasks from running. These could be updates, downloads of applications that require updates and the automatic creation of system backup and restore points.
-Postpone the automatic download and installation of important application and Windows updates.

You will be informed about the postponing of downloads and automatic updates such as Windows Updates if enabled.

In reality it doesn't do much but sounds and looks good when it says it has boosted your systems performance by 25% etc. Just beware that there is no way of it really knowing how much it has helped and it is probably negligible anyway.

If you really want to speed up your PC, open the task manager, enable the show all processes option and then order the results by CPU or Memory. The programs at the top using over 1GB should certainly be looked at and may have memory leaks.

A shut down of those applications and then re-opening of them might help you out a lot. I find some apps like MS SQL 2015 really drain my memory if I leave them on for days and a reboot now and then is the best remedy for most problems.

It may be a joke from the IT Crowd to "Turn it on and off again", but in reality that does solve a hell of a lot of problems with computers running high memory or CPU.

Always try and install Windows updates regularly so you are not waiting around hours for those 64 updates to install like I have a number of times due to keep hitting the "Remind me in 15 minutes" button. A reboot with the most up to date software is the best thing you can do for your PC as well as removing applications and plugins for browsers that you never use.

The more unnecessary applications you have on your system the more apps you will find in your Windows Start Up options running just to monitor for updates. Google does it, iTunes does it, and many other programs do as well. The more you can trim your system down so it only uses what you want it to use the better.

Plugins on browsers that were only used once should be removed afterwards.Regularly check if you are actually using all the browser plugins as when they are updated the old versions are hardly ever removed.

Applications you downloaded to do one task should also be uninstalled before you forget about them.

The leaner the machine the quicker the machine. I have a 16GB RAM 64GB Windows box at work and I regularly hit 12/13GB of memory. I usually know this is happening because the radio cuts out. However as I hate closing everything down, waiting for the installations and then trying to remember what I had open at the time I tend to let the memory rise and rise and then get frustrated as everything slows down.

If someone could invent a program that would remember what was open and then after rebooting re-open every app, file (with text), and program that was running before would make a mint. If something like this already exist PLEASE TELL ME WHERE I CAN FIND IT!

Clean your PC manually

This part of the article shows you how these myriad of application cleaner tools which trick you into paying money to speed up your PC are basically useless. Even tests have proved that running the following Windows 8+ built system applications can be just as affective.

Use the built in Disk Cleanup tool included with Windows. It’s focused on freeing up space on your hard drive, but it will also delete old temporary files and other useless things. Just tap the Windows key, type Disk Cleanup, and press Enter to launch it. You can even schedule a Disk Cleanup to clean your computer automatically.

When the tool pops up it will list a number of folders and system folders containing files that build up over time the more you use your PC.

Whilst this might be good in regards to browser cache when you are constantly going to the same sites over and over again as it means the photos and other files are locally stored on your computer preventing a network look up to download them again, these are files that you probably use once and forget about. This causes the folder size to rise and rise slowing down access. If you don't go to the sites often enough for a browser cache to be useful then clean it out. A tool like CCleaner can let you decide which sites get cleaned and which others don't.

Remember to regularly clean the following:
  • Your downloaded folder, apps, videos and other files that you have then installed or watched and no longer need.
  • Device Driver Downloads after installation.
  • Empty the Recycle Bin
  • Clean the System Error and Memory Dump Files
  • Delete Temporary Files 
  • Delete User File History

There are tools that are free that help you do all this, backing up your PC before the deletions in case something goes wrong. We will look at CCleaner in a bit.

So if you don't want to rely on costly tools that try and trick you into paying money to make you feel safe there are plenty of ways around it.

1. Don't be tricked by the salesperson at PC World who promises you McAfee Anti Virus software is the best way to protect your PC. It's insurance, and they get the money - a bonus to the sales person so to speak.

There is no need to waste money on a tool that will kill your CPU by constantly scanning every single file your computer accesses (which is a lot), when there are free tools like MalawareBytes Anti-Malware which can be downloaded for free online. There is a premium version if you do require constant analysis of every file your PC comes in contact with but I haven't found it to be needed.

Just run a scan once a week and make sure to never open .ZIP, .EXE, .DOCX or .PDF files in emails especially when you are not expecting them and they are from people you don't know.

Also please remember that is VERY EASY to fake the "FROM" address in an email (1 line of code), so if your a member of a site and someone sends you a flashy looking email that seems to be from PayPal, Facebook or your bank with the address do at least a few things before opening the file.

1. Open the full email headers so that you can see the original sender of the email. Is it from Facebook or your bank?

2. If you are not sure as it's an IP address e.g then run that in a command prompt with the line >> nslookup and make sure it returns a known address. If it comes back empty or with an unknown name e.g use an online Whois tool (there are lots online), or if you have installed WhoisCL on your Windows computer type whoisCL and see what the WHOIS details return about the owner of the address. It should tell you what country it's from and an email address to complain to if you are being spammed by it.

3. If the HTML email looks fancy like your bank or Facebook or some other site. Move your mouse over some of the bottom links in the footer or side bar. Most site strippers will only bother putting code behind the main buttons so they can log your typing e.g Login, Password, Forgot Password etc. If you roll your mouse over the "About" or "Help" links and all you see is a # instead of a proper URL then that is suspicious. Delete the email ASAP!

Remember banks never ask you for your PIN code so never trust a site asking you for that. Also if it asks you for information about your mothers maiden name, first pet, first school, favourite colour and other information used to verify you by sites you should shut it down ASAP.

4. If the headers look okay it could still be a hacked mailserver or a man in the middle attack so right click the file and if you installed Malaware properly you should be able to run a virus scan over the file with one click before saving or opening it. If you can't then save it to your computer and run a virus check on the file before opening it. Never just open the file whoever you may think it's from.

Regularly clear your browser history or even better, set your browser to automatically clear its history when you close it if you don’t want to store a history or even better just use the browsers secret browsing options e.g Chrome's is called Incognito and allows you to surf the web without leaving a history or storing cookies on your machine.

Also clear your browser cache every now and then. Whilst a cache is good for quick loading of images and files (JS, CSS, JPEGs) that are used often. Once it becomes too large then it gets slower and slower to find those files you need so it negates the usefulness of it due to it's size.

Run the Disk Defragmenter included with Windows. This isn't necessary if you use an SSD or solid-state drive.

Don’t bother with a registry cleaner or other performance tool if you have to pay for it. If you want an application to help you then CCleaner is that tool.

You can download from here: CCleaner, The good thing about it, is that it's the best-tested registry cleaner out there.

I always run a registry clean after removing applications from my computer to ensure any registry keys and file extensions left over are also removed. CCleaner will also delete your browser cache for all the browsers you use, as well as cookies, saved passwords, web history and temporary files for other programs.

You have the choice to tick what you want to clean and what not to clean but the free tool CCleaner does a lot more than many of these PC cleaning apps do. A test performed in 2011 by Windows Secrets found that the Disk Cleanup tool included with Windows was just as good as paid PC cleaning apps.

Note that this is true even though PC cleaning apps fix “registry errors” while the Disk Cleanup app doesn't, which just shows just how unnecessary registry cleaners are. So don't waste money being "blackmailed" into buying the premium version of these clean up tools.

So yes, it’s been tested, PC cleaning apps are worthless. Tune your PC yourself and you will get better results.

If you want to download CCleaner which is the recommended tool that professionals use then you can get it from here


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