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Miscellaneous Optimization Tools
You have plenty of other ways to optimize your PC. Following are some great all-around optimizers that give details on your system configuration, keep your drivers up-to-date, and manage your PC's power use.
Before you start optimizing your PC, you need to know your system's exact configuration. That's where the free Belarc Advisor comes in. It tells you everything you need to know--and far more. Of course, in this program you'll find the computer manufacturer, installed RAM, hard-disk size, processor type and speed, and so on, but that's only the beginning. You'll also see the motherboard maker, hard-disk manufacturer, chassis serial number, PC service tag, bus type and speed, multimedia devices, and plenty of other details. The program goes beyond a hardware inventory, too, giving information about your Windows installation, including user accounts, security hotfixes that are installed or missing, and a list of all the software on your machine.
Download Belarc Advisor | Price: Free
Keeping drivers up-to-date helps your system stay in top shape, but if you don't correctly remove old versions, you can experience system instability, slowdowns, and crashes. Driver Sweeper finds old drivers and deletes them. It also backs them up if you need to restore them.
Download Driver Sweeper | Price: Free
A monitoring tool--software that can show you overall system use--is essential for optimizing a PC. This nifty little freebie tracks RAM, CPU, Internet, and hard-disk use, and shows everything on your desktop in four small colored boxes. (Reading the information in the boxes is tough, so hover your mouse over them.) You'll see statistics such as the percentage of your CPU currently being used, and even the usage of individual cores on multicore PCs.
Download Performance Monitor | Price: Free
Consider this: If you don't use the power settings on your PC, you're spewing hundreds of pounds of unnecessary carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, a result of the electricity you waste.
But Windows' power-setting controls are as confusing to use as the tax code, you object. We agree--but we also have a solution for you. The free, simple-to-use Edison helps you change and manage your power settings. No need to fiddle around with Windows: Just move a slider or two, click a few buttons, and you're ready to go. You could just stay with the defaults, too.
How much might you save? When we used its default power settings on our laptop, Edison claimed we would save 359.63 kilowatt hours of electricity in a year (which adds up to $32) and 490.17 pounds of carbon dioxide.
Download Edison | Price: Free
This freebie, like Edison, helps you cut your PC's electricity use. You can easily edit settings such as when your PC automatically turns off or goes into hibernation, and when your hard disks spin down. The program also displays the amount of energy, trees, gallons of oil, or kilowatt hours you've saved.
Download LocalCooling | Price: Free
Windows Memory Diagnostic
If you find your PC crashing frequently, the culprit may be bad RAM. This free software from Microsoft performs a comprehensive test and tells you whether the RAM or the memory system on your motherboard is faulty. It's built into Vista, too: Click Start, type memory in the search field, and then click Memory Diagnostics Tool.
Download Windows Memory Diagnostic | Price: Free