Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

The economic downturn has hit both solution providers and their
customers in the pocketbook. Many businesses are delaying purchasing
new PCs and are stretching out their replacement cycles to five years
or more. If your customers aren’t buying new PCs, any revenue and
profit from hardware sales goes right out the window.

There are ways to turn that dearth of new hardware sales into a
positive by telling customers to hold off on new purchases, and still
realize out some revenue. The answer lies with something as simple as a
tune-up. Just like in automotive maintenance, tune-ups can improve
performance and extend the life of equipment. Many mechanics recommend
sinking a few maintenance dollars into a vehicle instead of seeking a
replacement. That same idea can be applied to the lowly desktop PC, and
no one is better equipped to perform those tune-ups than a solution
provider.

CHECK OUT: PC Refresh Cycles Stretched Out to 5 Years

Of course, there are many ways to go about tuning up a PC, and there
are many software packages that can be used for tune-ups. However,
there’s no one method or piece of software that can automatically fix
all ills. Solution providers will need to take a pragmatic approach,
which guarantees results and won’t cost the customer an arm and a leg.
With that in mind, there are some simple tricks and freeware packages
that can offer substantial PC performance improvements.

Tip 1: Remove Unnecessary Apps
The first thing to do when tuning up a PC (especially an XP machine) is
to evaluate all of the installed applications and remove any that are
not needed. Many are surprised at the number of applications that an
Internet-connected PC can accumulate over time and how unnecessary many
of those applications actually are. Be sure to document what was
installed and check the usage of the application in the Add/Remove
Programs dialog box. If a good backup has been performed, a technician
can take a relatively aggressive approach to removing programs. This is
pretty basic, but can offer some real-world performance improvements
and give some insight into how the PC has been used over its lifespan.

Tip 2: Find & Remove Orphans
Even though an application is uninstalled, odds are crumbs
are left behind in the registry, INI file and orphaned directories.
CCleaner, a freeware tool, is a powerful ally in removing unlinked file
entries, perform a registry cleanup and numerous other tasks, all of
which can help improve system performance. While using CCleaner, make
sure to check what applications are being loaded during startup and
remove any that are not needed. CCleaner offers the ability to check
for third-party installed applications and may even uncover some items
overlooked in Tip 1.

Tip 3: Vanquish Malware
Check for and remove any viruses, spyware, adware and other
malware. Few PCs—desktop or notebook—operate without some form of
malware protection. But even the best antivirus and antispyware
applications can’t keep everything out—especially if their signature
files aren’t kept up to date. Particularly pesky are rogue and
malicious adware apps that often elude antivirus apps. Solution
providers should use conventional security software to scan for
malicious code. They should then use freeware apps such as AdAware by
Lavasoft or SpyBot Search & Destroy to remove the unwanted bits of
software.

Tip 4: Update Everything
Everything from the BIOS to third-party application drivers
requires periodic updates and patches, and not everyone is updated
automatically. That means applying all software patches, updating the
BIOS, installing updated drivers and verifying that all of the
associated settings are optimized for speed. For example, boot time can
be reduced by turning off the full memory test diagnostic that is run
by the BIOS, many drivers also have settings that impact performance –
ranging from enabling DMA for IDE drives to color depth and resolution
for a display adaptor. Of course all of this is dependent upon the
hardware installed and the systems configuration. Surprisingly,
significant performance increases can be realized by paying extra
attention to those details.

Tip 5: Optimize Windows
Many people complain that Windows—particularly Vista—is a resource
hog. Perhaps, but it doesn’t have to be the case. Some relatively
simple registry tweaks could help maximize performance. A good source
of information for registry performance can be found at www.tweakxp.com. Solution providers should also consider disabling some of the Windows services that are not needed. The Web site www.blackviper.com
offers a plethora of information that can help solution providers
determine what services can be unloaded or not loaded to improve
performance.

Tip 6: Defrag
When in doubt, defragment the disk drive to improve performance. A
defrag should be the last step of the performance enhancement process
and will often speed things up a little, but more importantly – the
defrag process also tests the hard drive and can uncover any potential
problems. Depending on the system, a defrag can take several hours, so
it is one of those processes that is best left to run overnight.

Tip 7: Upgrade Memory & Hardware
Any XP system that has less than 384 MBs of RAM will benefit from a
memory upgrade. The good news is that RAM is really cheap. The bad news
is that the system will have to be opened up to install the memory and
that could introduce other problems, especially if regular maintenance
has not been performed on the system. Opening up a system that has been
untouched for years can lead to some surprises; technicians have been
known to find dust clogging up cooling fans and filters, or even worse
– spider webs or mouse nests. So you may want to offer a memory upgrade
as a last resort and may want to consider upgrading other hardware at
the same time, such as installing a discrete graphics adaptor. But, be
careful with hardware upgrades, after all is said and done, a new
low-end PC may prove to be a better performer and less expensive than
upgrading a four- or five-year-old system.

The idea behind these seven steps is to help solution providers to
build a tune-up business that is easy to do and offers measurable
results, while saving customers a few dollars by delaying new PC
purchases. More importantly, PC tune-ups help to give a solution
provider “face-time” with customers and also help the solution provider
to better understand their customer’s environments. With relationships
solidified and systems taken care of, it should be much easier for
solution providers to garner new sales in the future or even sell
hardware and software upgrades. Simply put, tune-ups can create a
situation where everybody wins.