This post is not about overclocking (changing hardware settings to increase the speed of your processor) – there are plenty of places on the web that talk about how to overclock various PCs.

I’m talking about the situation where you buy a new laptop or PC, boot it up for the first time, and find that it doesn’t seem quite as fast as you had hoped. Not only that, it has a whole load of software installed that you’re not sure if you need, and which seems to take an age to start.

Three core applications

There are three core applications that almost everyone needs on their PC: a good antivirus program, a program that lets you view PDF documents, and a program that lets you zip and unzip files and folders.

When you buy a new PC, the chances are that the antivirus program installed is a limited-time edition of one of the famous ones, e.g. Norton or McAfee. Not only will this stop updating after a period of time (unless you pay a fee), but it is probably slowing down your PC more than such a program should (Norton and McAfee are probably the worst offenders in fact).

You’ll probably also find that Adobe Reader has been installed. This is a huge application (in terms of the amount of disk space, memory and processing time it uses), when you consider that all it does is one thing – displays PDF documents.

And finally, your PC manufacturer has probably not installed any software to handle zipping and unzipping, because recent versions of Windows include basic functionality to do this.

Out with the old, in with the new

By replacing your antivirus program and Adobe Reader with smaller, faster, free alternatives, and adding a free zip/unzip program, you will not only speed up your PC, but you actually gain better zip/unzip functionality as well.

avast! Free Antivirus

avast! Free AntivirusThere are two really popular antivirus programs available for Windows PCs: avast! (the exclamation mark is part of the name) and AVG. Over the years, experience of using both has taught me that avast! is faster and also offers better protection (it protects against rootkit viruses, AVG does not) – the only downside is that you can’t schedule scans so you must remember to manually start a scan on a regular basis.

To replace your PC’s supplied antivirus program with avast!, you should first make sure your Windows Firewall is running, then download the avast! installer to your desktop from the avast! download page, then uninstall your existing antivirus using the control panel. It’s best to uninstall all items from the same brand (e.g. if your PC came with McAfee antivirus, make sure all programs from McAfee that show in the control panel are uninstalled).

Then reboot your PC and install avast!. You need to enter your email address once a year to keep the program working. Again, speaking from several years’ experience, this does NOT generate any spam.

Foxit Reader

Foxit ReaderThis is a lovely little program which lets you view and print PDF documents, and is much smaller and faster than Adobe Reader. Simply uninstall Adobe Reader from the control panel, reboot, download the latest version of Foxit Reader from the Foxit download page, and install it. Job done.


7-ZipThis gem of a program gives you more flexibility when dealing with compressed archive files (ZIP, RAR, etc) than the basic features available in Windows. Simply download from the 7-Zip download page, install and go. If you’re not sure which link to click on the download page, use the first one.

Speed and Satisfaction

Having done all of the above, you should find that your PC boots a little faster (thanks to avast!), runs a little faster, has a little more disk space free, and you also have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve improved its performance without spending any money whatsoever. ?

Et tu, browser?

I can’t resist mentioning at this point that if you take your PC’s performance and security seriously, you should change your web browser program as well. You don’t have to uninstall Internet Explorer (in fact you can’t), but all you have to do is pick a better browser program, install it, and when it asks you if you want it to be the default browser, say yes.

My own recommendation is Google Chrome, but you can’t go far wrong with Firefox either. Both are much faster – and safer – than Internet Explorer.

Note: any action you take as a result of reading this article is at your own risk and I assume no responsibility for any problems that may arise as a result.

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