Optimising desktop PC performance

Looking after the workhorse of the small business

Fingers on keyboard

While smartphones, tablets and the cloud are grabbing the technology headlines, the desktop PC is still the workhorse within most small businesses, optimising these computers is a commercial imperative to ensure they deliver on their investment day in and day out.

There a number of key steps that small businesses can take to ensure their PCs are always efficient. The first is to think about security.

One of the most damaging aspects of running desktop PCs is their vulnerability to viruses and malware. Optimising security involves using a firewall, having ant-virus software installed with its virus definitions up-to-date, and running a daily scan of each PC for malware.

Second is to use automatic updates. As Windows is in constant evolution, ensuring each PC is running the latest version of the operating system is critical. Switch on automatic updating and schedule this to take place at a quiet time, ideally outside of business hours.

Clean hardware

Next is to ensure the hardware is clean. As a PC is used its hard drive becomes fragmented, which impacts on performance over time. A regular defragmentation (once a month is recommended) is an ideal way to optimise a hard disk and keep it working efficiently.

Then think before you install any applications. PCs that run at their optimum capacity often have few applications, and a fully optimised PC will run only mission critical applications and nothing else.

Also, there are usually many programs that automatically start when the PC is booted. Switch off any program that isn't needed, as these can dramatically improve performance.

Next is to upgrade hardware. As Windows has evolved it has needed increasingly powerful hardware to run efficiently, and often Microsoft will quote the minimum hardware configuration to run the operating system. Expanding RAM, hard disk space and the graphics capability of a PC is a simple way to optimise its performance.

You can also optimise connections to the internet. Businesses have embraced the concepts of software as a service, but it is less effective if internet connections are not working smoothly.

Look for data bottlenecks when connecting a PC to cloud services, as often it's the connection and not the PC itself that is slow.

Finally, use the operating system. Often, small businesses can be too quick to install a plethora of utilities when there are powerful tools built into each PC's operating system.

Manager roles

Optimisation can be carried out via Windows Task Manager that can deliver details about CPU usage, processes and services that are running, with Device Manager giving a detailed insight into how each PC's hardware is performing. But before terminating any process in the software ensure what it does, as some are essential for the PC to run Windows reliably.

Understanding that small businesses need to deploy and optimise their installed PCs, Dell developed its PC Optimised Deployment Model. This has won some words of praise from analyst house IDC in a white paper on shared content.

"In deploying new PCs, organisations face technical challenges as well as significant costs, many of which are not readily apparent," it says. "By enabling companies to upgrade to Windows 7 or other Microsoft operating systems with less technician time invested and lower costs overall, this Dell solution helps improve the chances of a successful deployment and ensures that companies make the most of their scarce resources while adopting a new operating system."

Desktop PCs and their notebook counterparts need to be optimised on a regular basis to ensure they also perform at optimum efficiency.