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Bogged Down

by Andy Thompson on May 12, 2015

With our previous article we looked at slowdowns with respect to Internet traffic.  The cause could be due to Internet conditions outside our control or due to poor PC performance.  We looked at ways you could be causing congestion such as too many devices connected to your Internet service or that your overall PC performance is below its potential.  Now we can continue with this theme by examining something that can be hidden but very much a part of our Internet connectivity congestion.  A major factor in Internet slow down that can result in your PC being bogged down is: software running in the background which can also bring about web browser overload.  Your PC is a great at multitasking.  Despite this, there are instances when it can suffer the consequences of being bogged down.

The Hidden Factor

A very common PC experience is having too many applications requiring online access at the same time and applications that are picked up unknowingly that we can be considered unwanted.  This first category competes with resources and the second can be malicious or can run in the background without your knowledge.  Many software programs require taking up a portion of your Internet bandwidth to achieve their functionality.  In these instances the application will not even appear on your screen but will create “processes” – we can think of them as tasks – which include taking up Internet bandwidth.

Right from the time of installation these apps are designed to open and run in the background each time you start your PC.  Some of these apps can alter how you surf the web as is the case with malicious programs that are capable of hijacking your system so as to redirect you to particular sites.  They generate web traffic which can be profitable when selling software.  Redirecting you can also bring you to a page where other unethical vendors place ads and links to their own dubious websites.

Bog Down

There are several causes with respect to slow down that can potentially affect a number of your PC resources.  Applications running in the background compete with other programs you open and need such as your web browser or email application.  When too many applications run at the same time they compete for:

  1. computer resources such as: CPU, Memory, Hard Disc resources, etc. and
  2. networking resources which take a slice of the Internet pie available to you.  One very real result is your web browser isn’t as speedy as it could be as it fights for its share of the resources whether that’s bandwidth or PC resources.

Some applications require background network processing which adds to Internet congestion.  Email applications require bandwidth to check for new emails sent to you on an ongoing basis. Any program that performs upgrade checks requires bandwidth, as in the case of online music players, online games, and anti-virus (AV) apps.  As for AV programs – many can bring about slower PC and Internet network performance as they need to monitor the Internet and update their database sometimes on an hourly basis.

Installation

How do these items wind up on our PC in the first place?  Some get there without our knowledge but are a result of unsafe browsing practices including opening email attachments or passing files from one PC to your own via chat rooms, peer-to-peer file sharing, or instant messaging.  As for other apps, it seems hard to believe, but many get there because you installed them unknowingly.  Some are from legitimate software vendors that include other software when you install.  Here’s a well known example: Adobe Flash Point.

Adobe Flash update sneaks in McAfee installation

With the image above you can see how there is an additional offer to install McAfee to your PC.  This little check box is on by default and if you don’t look closely and click the “Install now” button without clearing the checkbox… you will be downloading two programs at once.

Action Items:

Although there are some among us who are “delete shy” and do not want to go there, we need to take action by bringing to light what software we have on our PC.  These hidden applications can be brought to your attention and you can then make a choice to remove them or to stop them from starting up when you turn your computer.

Examination and Uninstall

We will be using the free functionality available with PC Clean Maestro to look for a complete list of applications and to remove unwanted programs.  It’s quite likely that you have noticed a recent change in your PC functioning.  If so, we will start by examining the recently installed programs. After that you can examine each and all of your applications and determine if you can safely remove unwanted ones:

  1. Open PC Clean Maestro and select the Uninstaller button in the left pane.
  2. Begin by searching for questionable programs in the Recently Installed tab as can be seen in the image below.  If you installed something within the last 10 days it will appear here. If you do not see any items you can use the other tabs or enter a word in the Search box.  In this case the word “Search” would bring up Search Protect or other questionable programs.
    uninstall_unwanted_program
  3. Select the program and determine if it is unwanted. Examine the information in the right panel.
    Tip: If you are not sure about a program and whether to remove it… check the resource site: http://www.shouldiremoveit.com From here you will can enter in a program by name and get the goods on it.  You can also see that programs like “Search Protect” and many others with “Search” in their names are listed as the top most active programs to remove.
  4. For unwanted items, click the Uninstall button.

Once you have completed this list you can choose from other program tabs – All Programs, Large Programs, or Rarely Used – and continue with your process of examination and removal.

Apps at Startup

Another symptom of your PC being bogged is that it is slow to start compared to when it was fairly new.  We have spoken on this issue before and it’s worth a re-visit.  At installation applications are designed to be easy to access by offering a shortcut in your desktop, quick launch taskbar, and in your Startup menu.  Having these programs run each time you start your PC can bring about slower performance both in terms of startup and with Internet network speeds when requiring bandwidth.

For this action item we are going to be using free functionality available in PC TuneUp Maestro.  The steps include: opening the Startup Manager; reviewing the items in the list; and then choosing to  Enable or Disable.

  1. Open Startup Management: Begin by opening PCTuneUp Maestro and go to the “Optimize PC” page as seen in the screen below:

    Next, click the StartUp Management link.

  2. Review: There is a list that is provided with all the applications that are launched during the startup process.  The items that appear in the list will look like this screenshot:Tip:  You can review any items in the list to make an informed decision about how to best manage each.  This is especially advisable with ones you are not familiar with.

    To review a startup application in the list, click the blue link associated with the item.
  3. From the Startup list, you can check the status of any item in the Select column.  If it is marked as “Disable” then it does not launch when you start the computer – no need to worry. If something in the list is marked as “Enable” you can click the drop down arrow next to it and select: Disable.  The item remains in the list and no longer starts when you boot your computer.

If you see something on this list that is completely unfamiliar and you do NOT plan on using, it is a good idea to uninstall it altogether.  You can use the Uninstaller tool as described above to remove all its components.

Good Practices:

Our intent is not to take away any PC functionality.  We instead empower you to examine what is on your PC that you either do not know or rarely use at all.  By disabling programs to run at startup, you still can access them whenever you want – you now have the control rather than the applications running wild.

While we agree that programs need to perform updates especially when fixing some issue related to security or functionality, we feel that it should be up to you to determine when this happens.  Good programs include options where you can choose when the upgrade occurs such as before you shut down.

Strongly Recommend: Follow safe online practices – use caution when opening email attachments and other files that can install unwanted items to your PC.

In Summary:

We have presented information here that can better equip you with the necessary skills to improve your Internet connectivity and the symptoms of PC bog down.  We plan to continue this with our next article by examining the browser and items that can be installed there which not only clutter up your web browser toolbar, but can direct your online activities and slow down your Internet and regular PC activities.

We will continue to provide story lines like this that benefit all of us and we will describe them in a manner that is within reach of everyday computer users.  If you have some ideas of topics you would like us to cover, email us at: newsletter@compuclever.com

Improve Internet Speed

by Andy Thompson on April 15, 2015

With demanding schedules is it any wonder we become easily frustrated when we are held up in traffic?  Whether it is out on the road or on the Internet, we want uninhibited passage.  In our previous article we began to introduce you to Internet speed tests by reviewing four popular testing tools that are available.  The caveat is that each of these is different and results vary.  So… how do we equip ourselves to: a) determine if the fault is at our end and b) if not, to better be able to present some real data to our Internet provider?  First we are going to offer more information on the speed tests in case you have given up hope on them. The key to using them is: create a history!  Next, we are going to examine and better understand how slowdowns and bottlenecks occur and what the impacts are.  By doing this you can better assess if the issue is within your home and network or outside and due to poor conditions.  Finally, if the issue is due to your PC, we will show you a very easy method of improving your Internet speed.

More on Speed Tests:

What did we learn from our previous article and our investigation with the multitude of speed tests that are available?  We found out that there are considerable discrepancies in test results.  If you missed our previous article – click here.  We also found it difficult to determine if the results were based on averages or the top speeds that are achieved during the test.

We have one more batch of observations to make about these four speed tests.  We recommend that you pick out one speed test that suits your needs and try to stick with it to be able to compare your results over time.

1. Speed of Me (http://speedof.me/)

SpeedOf.Me can utilize several test servers in various locations in an effort to make the test more realistic.  Other speed test sites choose the nearest physical test server which does not seem to fit the real-world model.  SpeedOf.Me tests bandwidth in several passes using sample file sizes that increase gradually.  What we saw as a shortcoming is that they seem to display the download speed based on maximum speeds achieved.  You have to examine the graph to get a real idea of your connectivity and overall speed.  What we do like is that they provide a history of your previous tests.

2. Speedtest.net (http://www.speedtest.net/)

This site also includes a results page of previous tests and it is well presented with each test displayed in a list and in a graph.  There is also excellent information available in the support page.  For example, we found out that the tests are based on binary file samples and that they aggregate the samples into 20 slices, remove the slowest 30% and the fastest 10% and then average out the remaining pieces.  This seems to be a much better approach but Speedtest.net uses a nearby server methodology whereby they identify up to five servers nearby and then ping each to determine the one with the lowest latency (meaning nearest on the network).  This does not reflect real world conditions well and we found our tests results to be the lowest for two out of three of our network tests (not good for satellite or high-speed wireless networks).

3. SpeakEasy (http://speakeasy.net/speedtest/)

This site offers you the chance to pick a server location.  Of course testing from one server location is not reflective of real-world connectivity either as we surf to sites throughout the Internet world.  While it does include a history we found the test results to be dubious as they appear to be a mix of tests from our machine and other test that were much higher in download throughput.

4. Bell Aliant (http://speedtest.bellaliant.net/)

There are many positives to this test site: we were in favor of the lack of advertisements (unlike the other speed tests above), we felt the results were accurate in comparison to others, and we liked the ease of use.  However we think this site would be the outright winner if it also included a history.  If you pick this site we would recommend recording your test results along with the date and time of the test.

Recommendations:

  1. History of Speed Tests:  why is it so important to track your speed time?   If you are having issues with your connection that are not due to your PC or wireless router, then you can contact your network service provider and provide your findings.
  2. Time of Day:  Check your speed at various times of the day to determine if peak use times are an issue.  You could find striking differences when running a new test 30 minutes after the previous one.  It may be due to traffic and your ISP (Internet Service Provider) is not able to provide consistent service.
  3. Make sure you are performing your tests with no Internet activity (downloads, streaming, etc.), as this can affect consistency of results.

Now that we have provided you with more information to better choose a site that you can use on a regular basis you are in a better position to assess if your connection is an issue.

Slow Downs and Jitter:

Jitter is a technical term.  Although it doesn’t sound very technical, it relates to the quality of your connection.  For example, if you are having a video chat or you are watching a streamed video and there are delays and interruptions, this is referred to as jitter.  What is happening is data is transferred to you in packets and when they are not arriving in a steady stream you experiences disruptions or shaky pulses.

Another factor in connection speed relates to how many connections are between you and the source (or the receiver if you are uploading data).  We can refer to these connections as hops.  It’s like traveling from one city to another but there are various roads and interstate highways in-between.  The slowest and less maintained of these roadways will be the “bottleneck”.

The other critical factor to consider in our data route is the potential bottleneck that can be from your hardware (wireless router or modem) or with your PC.  This is the real challenge – determining whether the slow down you may be experiencing is due to something wrong at your end or as a result of connectivity conditions.

Let’s break our investigation down between items that are outside of our control and ones that are in our local terrain.

External Issues

  • Congestion:  When we share an Internet connection with other customers that use the same ISP, congestion can result.  If others on the service are using high-demand applications and are downloading large files regularly than this can really slow things down.
  • Time of Day: Peak hours come into play with shared Internet connection.  Many residential users will experience this from approximately 6 pm to midnight.
  • Throttling: In some cases your service provider will may slow down your connection speed otherwise known as to “throttle”.  This happens when you exceed a certain threshold of download (and upload) usage and it can happen with certain types of heavy downloading.  You may notice that the speed improves at the beginning of the month when you have a fresh allotment of download capacity.  Some ISPs have daily maximums and the reset occurs at the beginning of each day.
  • Internet Server Speeds: The speed of the servers you are connecting to and the routers in between may also experience slowdowns.  You may experience good connections with local sites but not with other more distant sites.

At Our End

  • Distance: If you are a considerable distance from the ISP source your signal could be weak.  For example, if you were in the middle of the countryside you could have slower connection speeds compared to being in the city.  For some types of service (such as line-of-sight wireless dishes), this is a major consideration as obstructions and weather can have an impact.
  • End-User Congestion: It could be that you have many users or Internet-connected devices in your home tapping into the same online service.  If demand is high, you can experience another form of traffic congestion.   Read below for more information.
  • End-User Hardware Issues: Using an old router can cause slow speeds or it could be you have a poorly configured Wi-Fi connection whereby you are experiencing interference.  In this case you need to do some investigation and this is a good place to start.

Wireless Router Tips:

  • Place your router near to the middle of the house, up off the floor, position the antenna vertically, and make sure there is no metal barriers between your router and your computer.
  • Interference from other wireless networks can cause interference as can cordless phones, baby monitors, and microwave ovens.  You can expect interference with cordless phones using the 2.4 Ghz frequency.

To find out more – including solutions – following this link.

How to Improve Your Speed:

Up to this point we have given some very useful information on how to test your Internet connection speed.  This is a very useful tool for your PC bag of tips and tricks.  We are now ready to move on to the next step… working on improving your speed.  First we need to check and rule out whether there are no other factors first requiring your attention.  Here are the top three items we would look at specifically if you were to require support relating to speed issues.

  1. Make sure it’s not your PC that is slow.  If you are experiencing slow performance with your Internet speed and other aspects of your PC (opening and closing applications for example), then you have to deal with your slow PC performance first and see if that clears things up.  Follow this link to deal with a slow PC.
  2. Congestion.  Have you tried taking a shower when the washing machine is running, along with the dish washer, and someone flushes a toilet?  This is similar to having too much demand on your Internet service.  We suggest examining all the devices that are connecting to your wireless network and making sure also that there are no outside devices connecting to your network without your consent.  To gain access to your wireless network you need to make sure you have a secure password that the whole neighborhood doesn’t know and share.
  3. Internet Explorer Browser Issues.  It could be that you are experiencing slow downs on your browser as a result of add-ons and other installed tools that are causing congestion.  If this is the case and you are using IE specifically we suggest that you click on this link and reset your Internet Explorer browser.

Internet TuneUp

Having unwanted applications can also cause browser issues.  Regardless of what browser type you are using, you can take full advantage of the Uninstaller tool available with PC Clean Maestro to remove recently added programs. Follow this link to find out about repairing your browser.

Now you are ready to deal with any networking issues by using the tune up tool available with PC TuneUp Maestro.  This tool analyzes your computer and provides a recommended list of items that will bring about Internet performance improvements.  The analysis focuses on PC areas that can benefit from a performance tuning and the results providing only the recommendations relevant to your system.  You can also use the Advanced Settings to configure the individual Internet TuneUp items.

Here are the steps:

  1. To begin, open up PC TuneUp Maestro and click the Optimize PC item in the left pane.
  2. Next, you can click the Internet TuneUp option in the list and the tool is immediately activated.

Note: You can view the Advanced Settings to see all the items that are optimized.

In Summary:

The knowledge presented here is intended to equip you with the necessary skills to assess Internet connectivity.  While we have covered a fair amount of area, we do feel that you can gain a great level of confidence and familiarity when it comes to assessing the conditions related to Internet connectivity.  With this in hand you are better able to speak to your Internet Service Provider if the bottleneck is indeed at their end.

We will continue to provide story lines like this that benefit all of us and we will describe them in a manner that is within reach of everyday computer users.  If you have some ideas of topics you would like us to cover, email us at: newsletter@compuclever.com

Test Your Internet Speed

by Andy Thompson March 11, 2015

Who doesn’t experience frustration when having to wait for a streaming video or show right in the middle of watching it? Or, when playing games online or wanting to do an online chat? We need good connectivity for these kinds of activities and we are finding more and more that the Internet is getting to be a crowded place. So how can we test that our connection is good? This is the first of a two part article on Internet speed and connectivity beginning with checking our Internet connection speed.

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We’re Asking You to Set the Record Straight for CompuClever

by Andy Thompson February 18, 2015

To our customers: At CompuClever we pride ourselves on building a valued relationship with our user base.  It is our mission and mandate to build software that is reliable and safe and to establish a relationship with our clientele in such a way as to offer not only software expertise but also solid customer support.  [...]

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Browser Repair

by Andy Thompson February 13, 2015

We have touched on the subject of web browsers in recent articles but have not given full attention to one particularly naughty and crafty unwanted program that many have had the misfortune of experiencing. How frustrating is it when we take the time to uninstall or re-adjust something on our computer and we find our efforts become undone. We frequently see many people in need of our support services as they have lost the ability to restore their web home page and regain the overall functionality, look, and feel of their web browser. The fundamental feeling to this is that their computer is no longer their own but is to some degree, controlled by someone else for another purpose or gain. This is not right and we need to reclaim our PC and restore the ability to customize the web browser. We’ll describe the situation to some degree and then point out the steps to take to uninstall the unwanted items and recover your browser once again.

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New Year’s PC Resolution

by Andy Thompson January 16, 2015

This article reviews the previous articles from 2014 that focus on PC performance and how you can take action to better improve PC sluggishness, accumulation of clutter, and unwanted actions or items. Here is your chance to pinpoint any issue that is within your ability to resolve. It’s time for some PC resolution!

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Browsing for browsers

by Andy Thompson December 12, 2014

There are two main themes to present – choice and browser clean up. As for choice… not all browsers are created equal. Most all of us start off with what comes with our PC – Internet Explorer. For some people, this is the only choice they know. While all browsers have the ability to access your favorite sites and create bookmarks, there are very real differences between the top most widely used browsers. This could be the time for you to look into the options. As for browser clean up, we have new functionality to roll out with our PC Clean Maestro application. As we are well aware, browsers start out with the basics and then, through the installation of extensions, they can get bogged down or in some cases are altered without our approval – most frequently, our homepage or search engine changes. It’s time to take charge and have your browser function as you would have it.

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DIY vs. Repair Shop

by Andy Thompson November 14, 2014

Why is it that asking for help can be an overwhelming obstacle? The reality is… there is a certain shame that comes from seeking help when we don’t know something. No one wants to admit to being lost and needing directions and no one wants to feel like they are not smart enough. Plus, we all want to join the ranks of DIY – Do It Yourself. To be real, this takes assessing the situation and knowing if the issues are outside our expertise. When we are simply spinning our wheels, it’s time to take it to the professionals. The next task is to get good and reliable service that will lead to a real solution. This article segues from some of our recent articles that focus on assessment of PC problems. We’ll cover this in brief and provide links. The main impetus for this article is to shine some light on PC repair technicians that are not trustworthy and to strongly emphasize how our users can benefit from available tools and services including those offered by our CompuClever support team.

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CompuClever Free Functionality

by Andy Thompson October 17, 2014
Thumbnail image for CompuClever Free Functionality

We’ve mentioned before in previous articles how there are some companies of poor repute that offer “free” stuff. But what you actually get is something not entirely free. At best you get a free time trial of the product; at worst you get a free app bundled with a bunch of add-ons that you didn’t want resulting in a clogged system with popup ads or other system modifications you didn’t ask for. CompuClever provides applications that have some functionality enabled for you to try for free. If you want the full program you can upgrade. There are no tricks or deceptions. We want you to try our products and see if they meet your needs. As you do have one of our paid programs we encourage you to look at our entire application suite and try out anything that looks of interest.

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Virus vs. PUP and how to remove both

by Andy Thompson September 12, 2014

We are going to tread carefully and examine two areas of PC ailments. We will strive to make this more understandable and to provide effective and free solutions for both. If you look at how Microsoft deals with these categories you will find that they admit these two areas are not mutually exclusive and certain terms are used interchangeably. For our purposes we want to be more definite so that we can pinpoint what steps you need to take in order to deal with these items if you are or ever have experienced them. This article also assists you in preventing them from happening, provides free tools, and outlines the steps to get rid of both types.

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