Windows - Updates, Cleanup, Speed Up...

This page is broken into two sections: "Updates" and "Clean up/Speed up"

See also:       information re keyboard shortcuts

[1] Updates

Machines running the MS Windows operatings system (XP and Vista) require periodic updates.

What needs to be Updated :

Why are updates needed:

It's useful to break the updates into two categories. One group relates to fixing bugs and/or improving the functionality of the program. The second group relates to protecting the system from damage from software attacks of various kinds (viruses, spyware, intruder takeover etc.). The first group are, usually, "nice to have" . The second group are, over time, essential.

There are exceptions. For example, when Windows Media player is not updated for too long, users will find that some newer audio or video files will not play, or will not play correctly, until the Windows Media player is updated.

Virus protection programs and Spyware protection programs need to be updated frequently in order to deal with new kinds of viruses, spyware and other "malware' attacks. The virus definition file is often update more than once a week. The program requires updating less frequently.

How to do Updates:

This can be pretty confusing. The updates discussed here are done via the Web. Sometimes the program have a button to click that will cause them to connect to their "mother ship" (their home site) and download and install needed updates. This is often the case with Virus and Spyware protection programs. Other programs require the user to go to a particular web site and make one or more choices in order to get a program updated. My experience is that users often have difficulty figuring out exactly what to choose at an applications home web site in order to update the application. Shown below are two "updates". The first one is easy. The second is a little more challenging. Many are are far more challenging:

Symantec AntiVirus

This is the virus and spyware protecton program required by Emory & Henry in order to access the wireless network.

To update this software and/or related virus definition files, find the small gold sheild in the lower right of the screen (the systems tray) and right click it. You may have to expand the system tray as shown in the sequence below:

Unexpanded tray

Click to Expand
Expanded Tray

In the expanded tray, RIGHT- click on the small gold shield (the Symantec icon) and then click the "Open Symantech AntiVirus" label:

click Sheild open Symantec

This brings up the Symantec menu. Click on the "Live Update" button to start the update process for the Symantec software and related virus definitions.


We assume this process requires no further instructions.

Microsoft Update.

I recently found a "one stop shopping" site for updating MS Windows and at least some of the other MS applications, including MS Office. There are other ways of doing this. This one has yet to be reviewed and approved by the E&H IT department, but I will document it here anyway.

Go to this web site:

This site requires your computer to have "the latest version of Windows Updating Software". If your machine does not have this it will require you to go through several steps to install it. These steps are not documented here. If you need help with this, contact Harry Baya.

Once you have the required "Windows Updating Software" you will see the following screen and will click on "Express Update":

choose express

This will start a series of steps to update MS Windows and some other MS applications including MS Office and Internet Explorer. You have to make choices along the way. In general I recommend agree with installing anything the site recommends. However, be careful. Read each choice. Don't agree to anything you clearly don't want, such a an e-mail newsletter, or a committment to make a particular program, such as MS Outlook, the dominant on your system when you are using something else for e-mail.

This can be confusing, but it's the best choice I've found so far. If your system is badly out of date this process could take as long as an hour. Along the way you may be asked to choose between "running" and "downloading" particular update programs. In general I recommend running them rather than downloading them.

[2] Cleaning Up &/or Speeding up your machine:

Users with computers running MS Windows frequently find that their machines are running slower over time and/or taking longer to boot up. Though there could be many reasons for this, a common one is that a number of unecessary programs are starting up and/or running in the background while the user is trying to do something else.

This is a very brief introduction and overview of this area. These are not intended to be detailed reliable instructions about what to do. If you mess up your machine by disabling a critical process, you are on your own. Don't blame us. These instructions will take you to some of the places you need to go to clean things up. What you do when you get there is your responsibility.


There are a number of fairly good free anti-spyware programs. Some of these also have versions that cost money. There are also products with very similar names that you may get to by mistake. In attempting to download, install, and use the programs recommended below please be very careful that you are getting the right name and are not committing to pay mone. You want the free "basic vanilla" version, not the higher priced one.

The three programs I have heard frequently recommended are:

The conventional wisdom a year ago was that users should download Spybot and Adaware and run each of them at least once a week. That is probably still good advice. However, one of my reliable sources recently advised me to use on SuperAntiSpyware and to run it at least weekly. I must admit that I run it only every few months and, so far, I have not had a problem. However, I am probably exposing my systems to unneccessary risks.

The process of finding the appropriate site, downloading the software and using it is left to the user.

Un-needed Windows Processes

MS Windows provides a fairly straightforward way of identifying all of the processes that are started when you turn your machine on. These are "start up" processes.   Many of the processes you find are not needed and are slowing your machine down. Windows provides an easy way to disable any of these processes so that they no longer launch at start up. The trick is to know which ones to disable. If you find this process too daunting, join the crowd. It's a littel scary. The fear is that you may disable something that prevents your machine from booting. I can't help you.

If you want to be safe in doing this I recommend doing one of these two things:

  1. Google everything - see if you can find some guidelines about what to keep and what to disable. I will do that the next time I go through this process. In general I would recommend against disabling anything unless you think your machine is slowing down, or doing something you would like to disable (such as launching a dialog box you would rather not see at startup).
  2. Get help from a knowledgeable person who can tell you which ones to disable

The way you to the list of all processes is the following steps:

Use the "Start" button to click the "Run" command


Type in "msconfig" and then click "OK":


Click on "Startup" in the dialog box:

click startup

This will bring up a list of all the programs that run at the start up of your system. Now comes the interesting part. Unchecking any of these will prevent them from launching at start up. The trick is to figure which ones are problems.

Another Choice:

Some startup programs are explicitly identified in "startup" folders. On my system the two folder I look at are:

C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Startup


C:\Documents and Settings\hbaya\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

If you find anything in those folders, consider creating a storage folder and putting them in there (e.g. next to the startup folder put startup_hold). Again, if this confusing, get a friend to help you.