Speed up your Dell


Firstly - this is NOT only about Dell PCs, it's just that we see a lot of Dell systems that are a lot slower than they need be, due to an excessive amount of trial or demo software, pre-installed on the systems that Dell (or whoever) hope the end user will find useful - and then be prompted to pay for after 30 or 90 days, typically.

Also, some of the pre-installed software such as Anti-virus software appears to be geared to provide the manufacturer with income from the end user, rather than providing the most appropriate software for the end-user.

Most of what follows is a basic tidy-up of the system as supplied by the manufacturer.  Some of the software is not generally useful, a lot is trial or demo-ware or pre-installed broadband sign-up software, e.g. for Orange, Tiscali or BT.

Between these packages, they install and configure a number of extra programs to load and run at system startup.  These all take time and use valuable system memory.

If you think that the extra start-up programs would not have any appreciable effect, consider these statistics from an actual Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop:

As supplied by Dell, after startup:

62 processes loaded and running, 347MB PF (memory) usage

After removing about 20 programs and disabling a further 4 from starting at boot time, task manager shows:

32 processes loaded and running, 188MB PF (memory) usage

This is quite an improvement - not to mention the improvement in start-up time and general responsiveness.  Disabling a number of the Dell add-on software packages, such as Dell support not only saves memory and speeds up the system - but also stops many pop-up messages.


STOP! - While most of what follows is simple advice on un-installing software from your PC, you should understand that this is NOT advice from Dell - and while unlikely, in the event of a problem, they could try and be difficult.  As it is YOUR PC, we think you should have it as fast and usable as possible, if you agree - then you do so at your own (minimal) risk.  If you are at all unsure, please stop and ask an IT professional's advice - or get them to do it for you.

OK, So what did we do perk up this brand new Dell?

1. Remove unnecessary programs

2. Remove some items from automatic start-up on boot

3. Use more efficient Anti-Virus and CD Writing Software

4. Tweak windows for better overall performance

Step 1 - Removing unnecessary programs

These are the surplus programs on the machine we had, in early 2007 - this is an example and the programs on your example may well be different.

If you want any of these, KEEP THEM! - Some need replacing with alternative software which you may have to purchase, but will provide a much better solution for you - including a faster PC:

Notes on removing programs:

If you are unsure about removing any of the programs listed, please don't! - At least check that you have the installation disk povided to re-install them if required (Should have been supplied by Dell) - Don't remove anything you're not sure about or don't recognise! - you could lose something useful.

Some of the software, especially McAfee Security Centre, can be difficult or stubborn to remove - this is not by accident, after all, if you don't subscribe - someone is losing out - and it's NOT YOU!

As the various programs are un-installed, you should find the system getting quicker to reboot and more responsive, and this is just the beginning...

If you have removed McAfee - you should replace it with another anti-virus package immediately - for home and SOHO users we recommend AVG Anti-virus Professional.

Similarly, if you have removed the various Sonic packages, we suggest replacing them with Nero Express V7, a much more standard and recognised software package.

List of programs to remove / replace with alternatives

Corel Paint Shop Pro - Demo
Corel Snapfire - Demo
Dell Network assistant - Not needed
Digital Line Detect - For dial-up modem users whose ISP support this (few)
Google Desktop - Not needed - keep if you like it
McAfee - Home version - Resource hog - Replace with AVG Anti-Virus Professional 7.5
Microsoft works - Very basic - remove unless you have existing MS Works documents
Modem Helper - Not needed
NetWaiting - Not Needed
Orange Preload - Not needed unless you want to sign up for Orange broadband
OutlookAddinSetup - Causes problems with Outlook
QuickSet - Dell power setting utility - not needed
SearchAssist - Not needed
Sonic (Everything) - Cheap CD recording software - Replace with Nero V7
Tiscali Internet - Not needed unless you want Tiscali Internet
URL Assistant - Not needed

Step 2 - Disable some programs from automatic start-up

We use one of the tools included in the excellent Spybot Search and Destroy to do this, see our page: Using Spybot for information on downloading and installing this software.

We suggest disabling the following programs from automatic start-up: - DO NOT DELETE THESE FILES!

c:\program files\dell\media direct\pcmservice.exe
c:\program files\dell support\dsagent.exe /startup
c:\program files\adobe\acrobat 7.0\reader\reader_sl.exe

AGAIN! - If you're not sure about disabling start-up items, PLEASE ask an IT Professional or get them to do it for you.

Step 3 - Install some more efficient Anti-Virus and CD/DVD Writing Software.

If you're getting the idea that we REALLY don't like McAfee Home Security Centre and Roxio CD/DVD Software, you're right! - This isn't without reason - and it IS our opinion (and that of our colleagues too) but for the following reasons:

1. It is a resource hog - It uses a LOT of memory compared to other products

2. It launches many processes at start-up, which all takes time, EVERY time you start your PC

3. It is intrusive - constant pop-up message boxes to remind you it's there and earning its keep

4. It's provided pre-installed with a 90 day trial to get you used to it being there - without the owner ever seeing the PC running much faster and smoother, as it does when it is removed.

5. It's highly likely that Dell profit from subscriptions and renewals to the pre-installed demo software - hence I question their judgement as to who they provide this software for.

So - with that said, we suggest that you purchase AVG Anti-Virus Professional V7.5, this is a much more efficient product, with negligible effect on system performance and will result in a good overall improvement in performance over the McAfee home product.

For CD/DVD Writing, we unreservedly promote Nero V7 CD/DVD Burning Rom software.  This has evolved over the last few years into a complete and comprehensive package that starts at just a few pounds for the OEM version - and can be upgraded on-line quickly and easily if you ever out-grow the Express version - although most users never need to.

Step 4 - Some General Windows Tips and Tweaks

Once you've got this far - you should be seeing quite an improvement in start-up time and general responsiveness.

Now, you're pretty much done with the re-configuration stuff and the system is ready for some general Windows tweak and tips to get the best from it.

These are all generally applicable to most standard PCs and we've listed them on our general information pages, in the PC Speed Tips pages.