July 22, 2019 Technology

TAPAs: Feeling the Need for Speed?

By Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene
Speedometer image courtesy of Qimono on pixabay.com.

Speedometer image courtesy of Qimono on pixabay.com.

Computers have many powerful features that enable you to perform limitless functions. But your ability to enjoy these benefits hinges on your computer’s ability to run them efficiently. Regardless of whether you are using a Mac (macOS) computer or a Windows PC, there are some easy steps you can do yourself to improve your machine’s performance.

Tip 1: Disable Startup Applications

Many of the programs installed on your machine are configured to launch automatically when you power on your computer. Just like too many cars vying for a single lane on the freeway will slow down your commute, too many applications trying to start at once will slow down your machine. Closing the application isn’t always enough to resolve the issue; many programs will continue running in the background even when closed. This means your computer will continue being slow. If you do not use these applications on a daily basis, it is best to disable them from running at startup. You can still load the program when you need to use it, you just avoid bogging down your machine during the times you are not using it.

To do this on a Windows PC:

  1. Right-click on the Taskbar (that strip of the screen usually at the bottom that contains icons and the time).
  2. Choose Task Manager. If you are using the compact mode, hit the More Details button.
  3. Go to the Startup tab and the Status column to see the list of applications. Determine which ones are currently enabled on startup and click the Disable button for those you wish to remove.
  4. If you want to take a closer look at each application, click on the “Startup impact” option.
  5. Restart your computer once done.

To do this on a macOS computer:

  1. Go to System Preferences.
  2. Select Users & Groups.
  3. Click on your Username.
  4. Click on Login Items.
  5. Select a program you don’t immediately need when your Mac starts up, and click the minus (–) button below.

Tip 2: Reduce Resource-Hungry Processes

Some programs are more power-hungry than others. You can identify and close the processes that are slowing down your system. As above, the process for Macs and Window PCs are slightly different.

For a macOS Computer:

The Activity Monitor will show you the apps that are eating up your system resources. You will find it in the Utilities folder of your Applications folder. If you have trouble locating it, try using Spotlight to find it.

The Activity Monitor displays five different resources: CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, and Network usage. If your Mac runs slow, pay special attention to the CPU section. This section will show you how processes affect CPU (processor) activity. Click on a column name, such as % CPU, to list all programs by the amount of CPU they’re using.

If you notice some apps using a lot of CPU power, you can close them from here by choosing the app with the mouse and clicking the X in the left-hand corner of the Activity Monitor.

For a Windows PC:

Your computer may be running a process that is hogging a lot of resources. To investigate, right-click the Taskbar and select Task Manager. On the Processes tab, click the CPU column header to sort by processor usage. The top items will be the ones hogging the CPU. (If the top processes are all using 0%, the processes are sorted in the wrong direction. Click the column header again.)

Determining processor usage in the Windows Task Manager.

Determining processor usage in the Windows Task Manager.

You should not assume that the top process is necessarily a hog. Some big applications are worth the CPU cycles. One way to manage these programs is to close them when you’re done with them. Another is to switch to a smaller program.

Tip 3: Clean Up Your Disk Space

Hard drives today come in varying sizes, up to multi-terabytes. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t take long before we have filled them up with files, pictures, apps, and games. When this happens, you will notice your computer’s slow performance.

If your device is running low on space, there are a number of features and options to clean up unnecessary and temporary files in order to optimize the storage. For starters, you can free up space by emptying the recycle bin. When you delete most files, they are not immediately erased from the hard drive. Instead, they are sent to the recycle bin, a sort of limbo that allows you to retrieve them in case they were deleted by mistake. Unfortunately, without periodic cleaning, the bin can quickly grow in size, ultimately wasting a lot of space. This makes emptying the recycle bin an easy first step to improving your computer’s performance.

Tip 4: Clean Out the Registry

The registry is a hierarchical database that stores configuration settings and options in the Microsoft Windows operating systems. It contains settings for low-level operating system components and for applications running on the platform that have opted to use the registry. A registry may have hundreds of thousands of entries, and new entries are created all the time. As it fills with information, the registry may cause a computer’s performance to suffer. One problem is that Windows almost never removes registry entries, even if a program is uninstalled, as most uninstallers aren’t able to effectively remove their own registry keys. And as files are moved around and programs are uninstalled, some registry keys point to programs or files that no longer exist or are located elsewhere.

Fortunately, the registry can be cleaned up, and doing so can give you a performance boost and faster boot time when you start your computer. It can be tricky to do this manually on your own, but there are several quality free registry cleaners out there that simplify the task. Check out CCleaner and WiseCleaner if you are interested.

macOS computers have a similar function spread across several .plist files, which are configuration files that contain a list of properties in either plain text or binary format.

Tip 5: Check for Malware

Both Windows and macOS computers are vulnerable to malware. You should be scanning your system and keeping it updated on a regular schedule to remove or avoid malware. Doing so will also help your system’s performance.

It’s inevitable that all computers will experience the problem of slow speeds at some point. However, these helpful tips will alleviate some of that burden and extend the functional life of your computers .

Next Article > > >

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California, where he has practiced since 1973. He is active in the ABA (particularly in the GPSolo and Senior Lawyers Divisions), the California State Bar Association and the Alameda County Bar Association. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is Editor-in-Chief of GPSolo magazine and GPSolo eReport. He serves as an editor and the technology columnist for Experience Magazine and has served on the Board of Editors of the ABA Journal. He also serves on the ABA’s Standing Committee on Information Technology. Recently, he coauthored (with Ashley Hallene) Technology Solutions for Today's Lawyer and iPad for Lawyers: The Tools You Need at Your Fingertips. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, he has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He teaches at California State University of the East Bay. He may be reached at jallenlawtek@aol.com.


Ashley Hallene is a petroleum landman at Alta Mesa Holdings, LP, and practices Oil and Gas law, Title Examination, Due Diligence, Acquisitions and Oil and Gas Leasing in Houston, Texas. She maintains a diverse solo practice on the side. Ashley is the coauthor of the technology overview Making Technology Work for You (A Guide for Solo and Small Firm Attorneys) along with attorney Jeffrey Allen. She has published articles on legal technology in GPSolo Magazine, GPSolo eReport, and the TechnoLawyer Newsletter. Ashley is an active member of the American Bar Association’s General Practice Solo & Small Firm Division, ABA’s Young Lawyers Division, the Texas Young Lawyers Association, the Houston Young Lawyers Association, and the Houston Association of Petroleum Landmen. She frequently speaks in technology CLEs and is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Technology and Reviews Department of the GPSolo eReport. She may be reached at ahallene@hallenelaw.com.