Help me tweek my new computer, and keep it safe

I just got a new Dell over the weekend. I’ve noticed that it runs a bit slow out of the box, not a whole lot faster then the Pentium we had before. When I looked at the Task Manager it seemed that 50-60% of my gig of memory was being used with out any programs running.

I’d like to know what programs I can keep from running at start up, and which ones I can just get rid of all together. I’d also like to know what’s a good spyware, pop-up blocker, malware, program even if I have to buy it. McAfee was installed already, but it’s only a 30 day trial.

Any other tips would be good too since I’d like to keep the machine running good for a long time.

Step 1) Get rid of McAfee
I’ve not seen a resource hog like McAfee. I really can’t understand why they preinstall it on new computers. Why would any company spend time making a new computer, and then put a program on there that will slow it down as much as McAfee.
So, get rid of McAfee, if you want an antivirus program, try AVG.

Is it a Vista machine? What are the rest of the specs?

Use readyboost (that’s where you put a high-spec (fast) SM card in the card reader and use it as additional memory).
Disable any bloatware that starts up with the machine. You should un-install anything like Norton, AOL, McAfee, and any other goofball programs that came with the unit. Try to find out if you can select other programs (that you want to keep) to not start up automatically when you turn the unit on.
If you have the install discs you may even be best off re-installing the whole shebang and doing a custom install so only the stuff you want gets put on the there. That’s what I did when I got mine and I’m glad I spent the time doing so.

BTW, I’ve also got a gig of RAM and when Vista (with Aero enabled) and both windows and Google sidebars are running I’ve got about 60 percent of ram used. But I also use the Readyboost feature so I’m assuming my performance isn’t compromised as much as yours would be.

It is a Vista machine, it costs more from Dell to get XP. It’s a Dell Dimension E521, 1.9 GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 3600+ processor. I’m not sure if it came with an install disk, I know I can make one. I have already uninstalled the AOL, don’t know why they put that on there and make it come up on start up.

What’s the easiest way to disable stuff that starts up with the machine? I’ve tried, but I can’t remember if McAfee was on the list I was given. It also took like 10 minutes to find and wasn’t that easy.

I don’t have my Vista machine here in front of me but if you right click on the taskbar icons (lower right) you can sometimes select an option to disable the startup feature, or go into properties (or some similar feature/button) and de-activate the startup feature of each program.
Also, I think in task manager (ctrl+alt+del) there is an area where you can customise the programs that startup when you turn the unit on. I can find out more tonite when I get home and get back to you but there will undoubtedly be a number of people that will beat me to it.
I think you’ll like Vista. I don’t have any problems and I rather enjoy the added security built into the OS. Once you get used to where things are and how it’s laid out you won’t see much superficial change from XP.
Try the readyboost feature if you happen to have a high perfomance SD card laying around. You can get them for less than $30 for a 1 gig card. Make sure it’s speedboost compatible. There are lists on the internet and most of the cards that are compatible will say so right on the package.
What’s the rating of your computer? I can’t remember how to find it but Vista has a rating system for each computer it’s installed on and that will better help you decide how beefy your system is. I think my laptop was a 2.4, not a super machine by any stretch but plenty fast for anything I’ve done so far with it.

How much memory does the machine have? The new sweet spot seems to be 2 GB.

I thought I had put it in, but I didn’t. There’s one gig of memory.

Tee hee. It took me three times re-reading the post to actually see that. I knew you posted that it had a gig, but I coudn’t find it either right away.

Vista uses a new smart cache system which WILL take up more RAM if there is more to take up. Almost everyone praises it though, and I have noticed that once it learns my routine, it does speed up the loading of programs. So I wouldn’t be concerned. You said the machine runs slow out of the box, exactly what makes it feel sluggish, it may not be a memory problem at all, perhaps a background app eating up CPU time?

When I got my new Dell laptop last month, the first few times I started it up it went slower than I expected but it’s faster now. Also I noticed it uses a little less RAM than it did straight out of the box.

I killed off McAfee and things are running a lot faster. I’ve decided to try the Ad-Aware since we use it at work. Now I’ll have to find some of the other programs that are trying to use the system as well.

Spybot S&D is often recommended as a useful malware detection program to install. Not only that but it will list (under Tools) all the programs that run on startup. With the click of a button you can then stop any of them running if you so wish.

When you buy a new Dell, you have to spend some time de-crapifying the Dell. I’m convinced that their boxes are so economical not just because they get good deals on parts but also because they sell tons of advertising in the form of “free” programs that come preinstalled.

De-crapifying is such a common thing with Dells now (I’ve de-crapified 4 this year, myself) that there’s even a little free app some dude made to help automate the process.