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What are examples of advice on system performance, maintenance or upgrade that don't actually provide benefit or can actually result in detrimental changes?

As examples:

  • Zapping the PRAM on a Mac
  • Removing or shrinking swap file/virtual memory
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Rebooting. On *nix. –  PiPeep Aug 11 '09 at 4:04

8 Answers 8

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Cleaning the windows registry on a regular basis.

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2  
Cleaning the Windows registry ever if you don't know what you're doing. –  Andrew Scagnelli Aug 10 '09 at 17:59
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@Scagnelli : In fact a great way to improve performance. Mess with the registry, break the system, format, reinstall, hop, top performances ! –  Gnoupi Aug 10 '09 at 19:08

Defragmenting filesystems regularly. I know people who spend more time watching the progress of the NTFS defragmenter than they do anything else.

Especially when people keep forcing it to re-run to try coalesce the free-space, when doing so just means files immediately gain a fragment as soon as they next extend.

The only filesystems that really need defragmenting under normal circumstances are FAT16/FAT32. ext2/3, NTFS, and most modern filesystems usually only see serious fragmentation (to the point where the performance hit is measurable) after years of active use or when they get close to full.

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1  
I used to think that, but not I am not so sure. Why have Microsoft gone to the trouble of updating the defrag routines in Windows 7 to allow them to be scheduled? –  sgmoore Aug 10 '09 at 18:32
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Of course, this is a great way to good off at work. If anyone asks why you are sitting at your desk reading a comic book you can just say "Defragging hard drive" and point to the screen. –  JohnFx Aug 10 '09 at 18:57
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Occasional defragmentation on very active filesystems (or after clearing a pile of space on a volume that became full or near-full, and a few other circumstances) is a good thing. On naive filesystems like FAT* it is almost required. But doing it far too often on a modern filesystem just wears down your drive bearings for little or no gain. –  David Spillett Aug 10 '09 at 20:50
    
BSD's auto defraging is good enough. –  PiPeep Aug 11 '09 at 4:01
    
@JohnFx: xkcd.com/303 –  PiPeep Aug 11 '09 at 4:03

Memory Optimisation programs,

Registry Cleaners,

Registry Optimisers,

Basically anything that says it can speed up your computer dramatically.

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FinallyFast.com - my computer is fast, finally!

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Don't make fun of it, it's "as seen on tv" ! –  Gnoupi Aug 10 '09 at 19:10
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Billy Mays here with.... –  Troggy Aug 10 '09 at 20:24
    
Ginuwine 100% Whale Faeces. –  Umber Ferrule Aug 13 '09 at 21:57

A perfect example of this would be the advice to run Nightly anti-virus scans of all files. While I think that scanning all the files periodically is useful (I do it once a week). I also feel that doing a virus scan too frequently on "all files" is detrimental.

Virus scanners check all the files which are accessed. So once you have scanned the entire contents of your hard disk once, theoretically under these conditions, you should never touch another file on your system without the AV software also inspecting it first. So during this "static" state it is unnecessary to keep scanning everything. The system must touch/open/access/copy a file for a virus to end up on your disk. So that being said...

Continuing to scan exhaustively will only result in wearing out your drive before its time.

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"Virus scanners check all the files which are accessed." - Not true of all scanners. At least back when I used it, ClamAV didn't do this, and I know some others didn't as well. –  Herms Aug 10 '09 at 17:56
    
if you need a virus scanner, then you deserve to suffer the performance problems. –  Pyrolistical Aug 10 '09 at 22:26

Using programs to "clean" your RAM after using an expensive program (or game).

Most of times these things are clearing the most possible.... So that all programs opened have to reload in memory when you will use them after, making all even slower.

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Cleaning up the Prefetch folder on Windows XP. Several articles on the Web, including this one, have proven it does not work at all.

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Cleaning up files off your desktop.

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Actually, that one would be true. Cleaning files from desktop increase YOUR performance. It also gives less icons to load (though this last point is much less important since these last... 10 years ?) –  Gnoupi Aug 10 '09 at 19:11
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@Gnoupi how many zeros would be before that % in that speed up? –  sal Aug 10 '09 at 19:49
    
0.00000000000000067% –  Troggy Aug 10 '09 at 19:59
    
Precision : "YOUR performance", I meant as a user, from the fact that with less icons it's easier to find things, not system performance, of course ;) –  Gnoupi Aug 10 '09 at 20:05
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well if your profile was roaming and your desktop folder wasn't redirected to a network share - storing files on it would seriously slow down logins on new computers... –  Oskar Duveborn Aug 10 '09 at 21:09

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