Desktop: Performance-based litigation

There are a bunch of things in Windows itself that actually hamper performance.

By DAVID SHAMAH
April 12, 2006 21:46
4 minute read.
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windows xp logo 88. (photo credit: )

 
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Windows can be as slow as a tortoise. You try all the tricks in the book, but your computer still crawls along. During some computing sessions, things sort of limp along, but in others, you can barely get the mouse to move. Defragmenting the hard drive, uninstalling programs you don't use, closing applications you aren't using - all seem to have at least a temporary effect, but sooner or later, your PC just goes back to its old, slow ways. And why? Well, each computer - and computer user - is different, and some of each PC's individual problems are unique to the combination of software and hardware present in each machine. However... it turns out that there are a bunch of things in Windows itself - especially in Windows XP, now the dominant version of the operating system in the marketplace - that actually hamper performance. These procedures, processes, routines and programs were placed there to make computing, and life, easier for users. And they do, to a certain extent; but they also have (perhaps unintended, perhaps not) side effects that end up making things harder! One of these "features" is Windows Indexing Service. Ever hear of it? I'm guessing no, but it turns out that Windows indexing can be a major drag on your system - and it is almost definitely running on your computer because it's turned on by default. And while it can help you get things done, it's little known and used even by veteran computer users. So, "they" set you up with a problematic program, they make it hard to figure out how to turn it off and they don't tell you how to use it! Who do I sue? Just what is indexing all about? Well, have you ever noticed how much faster it takes to search the Internet than to search your own computer? The most esoteric search terms in Google return results listing tens of thousands of Web pages in seconds - and yet it can take a good five to 10 minutes to find a document on your 80 gigabyte hard drive! The reason Google is so much faster is because Google is a search system with an indexed database. This database is a cross-section of information on the Internet, Web addresses and other data geared to allowing you to find information almost instantly. And how was the database developed? Google sends out search agents, called "spiders," which index the Web and feed the information into the database. The spiders visit Web pages near and far, with the result that searches using Google take mere seconds. Recently, Google came out with a product for PCs, called Google Desktop, which does the same indexing job on your local hard drive. It's a popular product - but also risky, at least according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (http://tinyurl.com/btdp9), which says "Unless you configure Google Desktop very carefully, and few people will, Google will have copies of your tax returns, love letters, business records, financial and medical files, and whatever other text-based documents the desktop software can index." This risk is a new one, a result of a new "feature" added to a recent version of Google Desktop. And while there are those who say that the EFF is just being paranoid, I uninstalled my copy of the program. But like I said, Windows itself has an indexing service that, as far as I know, keeps the information it garners on your computer only. As a matter of fact, Windows Indexing is turned on by default, and should help make searches fast - if you actually use it. But because most users don't know about this feature, they conduct their searches using Windows' "regular" flat search system, which crawls along at a snail's pace. So how can you conduct an indexed search? Easy: If indexing is turned on, open your Start menu, click Search, put an exclamation point in front of the term you're seeking and see how much more thorough and quick your search is. But Windows indexing has problems of its own, mostly surrounding issues of building the indexed database. Bottom line - Windows indexing slows you down, big time. It's a drain on performance, and while an indexing session is going on, you can barely get anything done. If you don't search your computer on a regular basis, though, you can turn off indexing: In Windows XP, open My Computer. Right-click the Drive icon (perhaps you call it "Local Disk") and select Properties. Remove the checkmark from "Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching." Click Apply. Make certain to select "Apply changes to driveletter, subfolders and files." Click OK in the new window. Now, occasional indexing won't slow you down. But what if you do need to search your PC for files? I'm glad you asked! Just surf on over to http://www.filehand.com and download Filehand, a professional program that will give you all the benefits of indexed searching and the power of Google style searching - without the system overload or the privacy problem. Filehand finds snippets of text inside almost any type of file - even PDFs. The indexing method used by Filehand is smart enough to suspend itself when you're using your computer, and starts up again during "quiet time" - a trick Windows Indexing doesn't seem able to get right. As a result, you get lightning speed searches with lots of features, but without the agita "other guys" give you. You'll be so happy with Filehand you'll forget all about that lawsuit you were going to file! ds@newzgeek.com

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