Surfing the traffic exchanges really puts your computer through it’s paces!  Eventually it can slow down, have browser errors. and refuse to load sites correctly.  When sites freeze your browser, you know it’s time to clean up!

Here are 4 things you can do to improve your computer’s performance:

1.  Clear your cache and cookies. Cookies are tiny files which contain your personal settings for various sites, and are sometimes used for tracking your activity.  Cache is where the browser stores web pages which you have viewed in the past.  This helps it to load up the pages more quickly when you next visit that site.  Once your browser has too many old cookies and cache saved up, it can slow down, freeze up on certain pages, and generally not work well at all.  If this happens to you, it’s time to clear your cookies and cache.  Google has an excellent page on Clearing cache and cookies which will give you directions for all the popular browsers.    There is also an excellent wikiHow article with screenshots.

2.  Fix your registry. Your PC’s registry stores settings and options for all the programs and operating systems running on your computer.  Over time it can become messed up with invalid entries and other junk, which slows down your computer.  You can clean up your registry with a free registry cleaner such as CCleaner which I have seen recommended in many places.  I use the ErrorFix program, which is not free, but which made an amazing difference to my computer when I first installed it.  Both CCleaner and ErrorFix will get rid of old junk files as well.  (I haven’t included a link to ErrorFix as, to my surprise,  some sites have it listed as a “rogue” registry repair program, i.e. one which appears to be real but is itself a piece of malware.)

3.  Defrag your hard drive. As your hard drive gets more and more data on it, eventually it cannot fit all the data from one file in one place, so it ends up putting a part here and a part there, until fragments of your files are scattered all over the hard drive.  This slows down your performance, as your computer has to reconstruct the files when you want to access them.  Defragging allows all the scattered fragments to be organized again, for faster access.  It also creates more space on your hard drive.  MicroSoft has directions for defragging your hard drive here.

4.  Run adware/malware  scans and antivirus programs regularly. Adware can slow down your computer, as it contains tracking cookies which monitor your activity.  Malware takes the concept even farther.  Some good free antispyware programs include Adaware and MalwareBytes.  And you should have an antivirus program running whenever you surf the Internet, to keep your computer clean and safe.  Some viruses and trojans will slow you down, others will shut you down and require a trip to the repair guy.  Free antivirus programs include  Avast and AVG .  I don’t recommend Trend Micro, simply because it is over-sensitive and reports sites which I know are ok, for example sites from Global Domains International.  It left me unable to know which sites were truly bad and I could find no way to make it less sensitive, so I uninstalled my paid version and went back to Avast.

Whatever you do, don’t accept a supposed virus scan which suddenly appears in your browser as you are surfing.  Those can often be “rogue” scanners which will actually cause you a heap of trouble.  If you come across one of those, don’t click on any part of it, and run your antispyware and antivirus programs immediately (not both at once, that can cause problems too).