The Other Half of Digital Photography - Part 2

As I promised in Part 1, I'm going to tell you about some other programs that can help speed up your computer to work properly with digital photography. First off, let me say that these programs do not have anything to do with fragmented files due to copying or deleting photos from your hard drive. The bottom line is that I can't, in good conscience, leave you hanging with just a little part of monthly maintenance that I would normally do when I am called over to someone's house because they are complaining of a slow computer. This scenario happens all too frequently. It never fails that, because I'm a computer geek by trade, that friends, family and relatives all call me whenever they have an issue with their computer with common complaints like - It's slow, it's doing this, it's doing that. When I arrive, I don't do any magic to their computer that they couldn't have done themselves, just what I've listed in Part I and now Part II.

Before I get started, I want to mention something for Windows 95 and Windows 98 users that I forgot to mention in Part 1. There is a newer version of defrag that is much faster. You can download it from Dobson Central right here. Save it into your C:\Windows directory over the top of your existing defrag.exe. Make a copy of your existing copy just in case something happens and you want to go back to your old version. The new version is only as new as Windows ME. Matter of fact, that's exactly where it comes from. When Microsoft released ME, they enhanced Defrag to work better and faster. Most of your Defrag issues that you might have had in the past might just disappear with this new version. If you still have problems running Defrag with having it start over and over again, you can always run it when Windows is in Safe Mode. To get into Safe Mode, reboot your computer and when it beeps while booting up, press the F8 button and you will have a menu pop up. You can choose Safe Mode at this point. When it finally boots up, everything will probably look pretty ugly. This is normal. Just go to Defrag and let it run. When it finishes, reboot your computer. With this new version, it only takes me about 20 minutes to clean up my hard drives at home. With the old version, it would take anywhere from 3 hours or more.

Another program to run that should be part of your monthly maintenance is called Disk Cleanup. You have probably already seen it by now, as it's normally located with Defrag under the Accessories folder in your start menu. This program only allows you to clean up your hard drive of files taking up space that are probably no longer needed. Just start the program up and the rest should be self explanatory. You check off the areas that you want it to automatically clean up, such as the Recycle Bin, temporary files, etc. Be careful what you choose to delete. I have seen this program list different areas to clean up on Windows XP. Basically, a good rule of thumb is if you don't know what something is, leave it alone. I recommend running this before you run Defrag. This program removes files from your computer, and as I mentioned in Part 1, creates holes or gaps on your hard drive, which Defrag will fix.

The next two programs both do the same thing and go hand in hand to help speed up a computer. They're called AdAware and Spybot. What both of these programs do is clean up spyware. Spyware is basically items such as cookies and infectious software that gets installed on your computer to deliver advertising. Most of the advertising comes in the form of pop-up windows and pop-under windows. I've seen spyware on many computers and some of these programs are worse than any virus I've encountered. Spyware can severely slow down your computer. Some spyware can "phone home" to whoever created the software to let them know of your web surfing habits, purchases, which ads you've clicked on, as well as your passwords and even account numbers. Note that not all spyware grabs your passwords and account numbers, but it is getting worse each day. The bottom line is that spyware is getting to be pure evil. Advertising is being shoved into your computer without your permission, which by the way, is using up your bandwidth to the internet, slowing down your connection speed. It takes up space on your hard drive, and quite often when you have enough of it, will make your computer practically useless and maybe even crash your computer. AdAware can be downloaded here and the version you want to download is called AdAware SE Personal. I list the download page because I've had several people unable to find it on their web site. Spybot Search & Destroy is the other free Spyware remover. You can download it from Spybot's home page.

Something I should mention is that no two Spyware programs are alike. While the two that I mentioned do what they claim, they both remove different pieces of spyware. AdAware is probably the most popular between the two, because of its simple interface. Spybot is just as good as AdAware but the interface is a little clunkier looking and not as intuitive for the technically challenged. If you use both each month, you'll be able to clean up all the spyware on your system. If you only use one, you'll still be able to clean up your system, but there may be remnants that weren't cleaned by one or the other. Personally, I use both. They're both free and do wonders for computers that are infected with Spyware.

The last free program I want to mention to help speed up your computer is for virus protection. The program is called AVG by the makers over at For those of you who already have Norton or Mcafee, please read on before you dismiss this. Mcafee and Norton have both been developing their virus protection software for many years but something happened along the way. Someone must have had an epiphany and thought that we all need a "Swiss Army Knife" program for virus protection, personal firewall, etc. etc. The problem is that it slows your system down doing extra things when you really only want to protect yourself from virii. I used to use Mcafee and was quite happy with it, until around version 4 when it started to drag my computer to a halt whenever it was running. Norton is basically the same thing. I've seen a lot of computers running really slow with Norton running, but once you turn it off, voila! A speed demon of a computer suddenly appeared. This is where AVG came in to the rescue. A virus protection software that did exactly that. Provides protection from virii and nothing else. It does it quite well I might add and it's totally free!! No more paying for updates to update virus software that becomes out of date every week. Grisoft provides their updates for free, YEAR ROUND! At least at the time of this writing. Eventually they may not offer a free version, so take advantage while they do and try it out.

For those that already have Norton or Mcafee along with your personal firewall that comes along with it and whatever else, read on. If you are willing to try and speed up your system, uninstall all components of Mcafee or Norton, reboot and then install AVG. Give it a try for a month and see how you like it. If you need a firewall, download ZoneAlarm from Zonelabs. It's also free and has been protecting computers for many years now. I have nothing vested in these companies, but if you're still not convinced to let go of your existing Mcafee or Norton, think of it this way. What have you got to lose? You've already paid for your existing copy of your software. If it doesn't work out for you, uninstall what I've mentioned and put Norton/Mcafee back on your system.

Lastly, one word of advice. If you follow my tips and use AdAware, Spybot and AVG, you NEED to update your software at least on a monthly basis. It's no different than any other virus program out there. New virii and spyware are being released every week. If you don't keep your software up to date, newer version of virii and spyware will get past your defenses.

I really hope these two articles have helped speed up your computer and have made it faster for you to work with your digital photography. If you'd like to share your faster computer joy with me, feel free to drop me a line.