New PCs are thick on the ground at this time of year. So are PC problems. People deluge customer support with enquiries as they struggle to get to grips with recently acquired machines.
While there are rogue computers, many problems are less about faulty or difficult to use hardware and more about the marketing choices made by PC makers.
For example, laptop makers keen to keep their products below certain key price points have shipped models without enough ram. That’s dumb. Microsoft says Windows 7 (now installed on most machines) requires a minimum of 1GB to run in 32-bit mode or 2GB in 64-bit mode.
Realistically 2GB is the bare minimum and you ought to have 4GB or more. Otherwise your computer experience will be somewhere between sluggish and barely functional.
If you find yourself struggling to squeeze performance out of a laptop in these circumstances you have two realistic options: buy extra ram or dump Windows and install Windows XP (or if you’re brave, Ubuntu) instead.
Either way you’ll be in for some extra cost and a degree of fiddling around before you have a practical computer – which may not leave you feeling well-disposed towards your laptop maker.
Another problem area is the bundled software loaded by the manufacturer. A lot of it is rubbish. No, scrub that. Almost all of it is rubbish.
You may find programs you’ll never use automatically loading themselves into memory each time you boot. They can slow your computer down or interfere with other programs causing glitches or even crashes.
Alternatively you may find yourself connected to registration sites and badgered for personal information. Some preloaded applications are spyware – secretly reporting your computing activity to people whether you like it or not.
If this worries you – and it should – the best strategy is to start by making sure you have antivirus software and firewall installed and switched on. Then install an anti-spyware program like Microsoft’s Windows Defender (download from www.microsoft.com). Finally using the Add or Remove Programs panel in Windows Control Panel, systematically work through the pre-installed applications deciding what, if anything, is worth keeping and dumping anything else.
An alternative is to use CCleaner a tool to automatically get rid of the crud choking a PC.