We, at Multiple Monitors, have been talking about having a clean computer setup for a long time now, but what do we actually mean by this?
When we say that we supply a clean system we do not mean that we have spent time polishing the case, or the components (which incidentally is something we do, well for the case anyway!), we are talking about the software on the system.
By clean we essentially mean that we have not installed a load of software on them, the computers are sent with just what is needed for full functionality and nothing else.
Why is this important though?
The answer is twofold, performance and security.
With computers there are two main aspects which will dictate the speed of it, the hardware and the software.
Faster processors or extra RAM can improve the speed of your computer, sometimes dramatically, but it is important to remember that even the fastest processor is completely useless without software.
Software, programs and apps, are how you interact with a computer to perform tasks, software is what converts the data feed coming in from your broker into human readable charts and numbers.
Software works by processing instructions, it uses your system resources such as the CPU, RAM and hard drive to convert inputs into useful outputs.
Basically how ‘fast’ your computer performs is dictated by how quickly your software can complete its task. A faster processor means that jobs sent by your software are processed and computed quicker, giving you a quicker result.
Having lots of software running at the same time can introduce lag.
For this discussion let’s simplify things and forget about multi-core processors for a minute.
If you have 2 pieces of software running at the same time and they are both doing tasks that use your CPU then tasks will be queued and processed sequentially, waiting for CPU time will result in the software taking longer to produce the output you want.
Perhaps the data feed from your broker will take a little bit longer to be converted into a chart, which means your view of the market is on a slight delay.
For a modern CPU this delay may not even be noticeable, but imagine if you have 30 programs running on your machine at the same time, all trying to access your computers resources.
It is easy to see how this can end up slowing down your computer, sometimes considerably.
Often new computers, especially from bigger brands such as Dell or HP, come with a lot of pre-installed software, these can include things like security programs, driver update software, anti-virus trials, password managers amongst many others.
These programs can sit there eating up your precious system resources causing your computer (or laptop) to run slower than it should.
The reality is that most, if not all of this pre-installed software is completely unnecessary, ‘free’ trials of programs are ways brands can earn extra money, they are paid by companies like Norton or McAfee to try and force the software on you so they can increase their sales and subscription numbers, it is not for your benefit.
If you want a free trial of some software then more often than not you will get one online anyway.
When you buy a new computer you want to use it to its full potential, this is not possible if you have 5, 10, 15 or even more programs, which you didn’t want, or ask for, sat there using your CPU and RAM, taking those resources from the programs which you do want to run.
A Specific Trading Example
We had one customer who purchased a pretty high-end computer from us, he had been trading on a laptop and used IG and Pro-Realtime software to manage his trades.
After receiving and setting up his computer he inserted one of the disks which came with it, this was the motherboard driver installation disk, we supply this in-case a customer ever wants to reinstall their machine, it can come in useful.
On this disk are also a lot of free software trials, again the motherboard manufacturers are paid to include them. We do not use these disks to install the computers and never install any of these programs.
Our customer decided to install everything though, he ended up with a free trial of a password manager, a load of tools to keep his computer running in optimal condition (!), and a 30 day trail of Norton antivirus.
A few days later we received a call saying that he had his laptop on the desk next to his new PC with IG running on both, the charts on the PC where around 2 seconds behind the laptop ones, he assumed that the PC we had sold him was not up to the job, I can see why he thought this.
After a lot of investigation, we checked his PC for errors, monitored his network connection and speed, spoke with IG, we found that it was the Norton antivirus, as soon as we disabled it the lag was gone.
It turns out the suite had an on-access scanner which had introduced a delay into the system.
The scary thing is though, if he hadn’t had his laptop to compare he would never have even known that this lag was there, the PC wasn’t stuttering or anything, it seemed smooth.
Trading can be difficult enough, attempting to trade when your view of the market is constantly on a lag is not an ideal scenario.
Hopefully this example shows why it is important to keep your computer running as clean as possible when using it as a trading system.
The other major consideration here is to do with security.
As I’ve mentioned, many of the bigger brands such as Dell, HP and Acer will pre-install a lot of software on to their computers and laptops before they are sent out to customers, unfortunately this can sometimes lead to security risks.
Just recently (May, 2019) it has come to light that some of Dell’s pre-installed software had a security flaw which would allow a malicious person complete access to install anything they wanted on to your computer.
This could include software which records all of your keystrokes allowing someone to completely compromise everything you log into such as online banking, your trading accounts, basically anything with a login.
To make matters worse this security issue was discovered in October 2018 and the fix was only made available towards the end of April 2019, that’s 6 months that this flaw could have been used to compromise your computer.
They also failed to make any customers aware of the issue during that time either…
Taking into account Dell shipped over 3.6 million computers in the fourth quarter of 2018, that’s a hell of a problem! (Source: https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-01-10-gartner-says-worldwide-pc-shipments-declined-4-3-perc)
I don’t want to just pick on Dell (although they are a very big and easy target), HP have had their own problems: https://support.hp.com/rs-en/document/c06163738 as has most other manufacturers at some point or another.
It’s not that Dell or HP (or any of the others) are particularly bad at security (although they are obviously not great at it), its more the case that they ship so many computers and if a malicious person or group can work out a security vulnerability then it gives them a massive potential pool of computers to attack in one way or another.
The best way to avoid both security and performance issues is to insist on a clean installation, and if that is not possible then try and do it yourself.
How To Clean Your Computer
The first step in the process of attempting to get back some system performance and reduce security risks is to actually see what is installed on to your computer, you can then determine whether you need it or not, and then remove stuff as necessary.
In Windows you can see a list of installed software by looking in the system control panel, to access this quickly simply press the Start Button on your computer and then start typing ‘control panel’, this should bring up the Control Panel in the list of results, click to select it.
On the top right-hand side of the Control Panel please ensure that the ‘View by:’ setting is set to Category. You should now see a heading of Programs and underneath a link to ‘Uninstall a program’.
Selecting this will give you a list of all programs installed on your PC, have a look through it and make a note of anything that you have previously installed but no longer use, these are the first things which you should uninstall.
There will be a lot of entries which you will have little idea of what they are, don’t just start removing these or you could end up breaking something you actually need.
If you want to be sure what something is then do a google search on the name, this should give you more of an idea of what the program is related to.
Personally I’d recommend leaving anything that lists the publisher as Microsoft as these tend to be important system components.
Once you have your hit list of things to remove you can simply start uninstalling them.
Give your computer a reboot when done, this will ensure things are fully removed and closed down.
The next place to look is in the Task Manager, this helpfully lists Apps and programs which are currently running along with the resources they are using.
To access right click on a blank portion of your Windows Task Bar (black bar at the bottom of your screen) and from the menu select Task Manager. If you haven’t used this before you may need to click on the ‘More details’ button at the bottom to fully expand it.
On the first ‘Processes’ tab screen it will show you currently running Apps (programs) and the resources they are using, take a look through this list to see what is actually running and then again, make a decision on whether it is something you need or not. Like before, if you are unsure on what something is a google search may shed some light on it.
If you identify anything here that can be removed then you can head back into the Control Panel, find it and uninstall.
Sometimes you find things here which don’t seem to be in the Control Panel, Add / Remove Programs list, if this is the case then you can right click on an entry in the Task Manager processes tab and select ‘Open file location’ from the list. This will drop you into the folder which contains the program.
If you are lucky then there may be an uninstall program in there, or it may give you more of an insight into what the program is. Again, google may help you find a way to remove the program if all else fails.
The Nuclear Option
Sometimes there is just too much installed on your system to go through and remove it, you may have a load of programs which you are struggling to identify what they are, where they came from, and how to uninstall them.
In this case it may be worth thinking about a full Windows reinstall, this would (if done properly) completely wipe your hard drive clean and put a fresh, clean copy of Windows back on to it.
This can be a straight-forward process, it is much easier to do with Windows 10, but you do need to ensure you have backups of everything you want to put back on there before proceeding.
Likewise, it would be a good idea to ensure you have drivers for your computer hardware before starting this process, contacting your system manufacturer will often help here.
Keeping Your PC Clean
Let’s assume you have ended up with a clean running version of Windows one way or another, how do you keep it that way?
It’s easy really, you just need to keep a keen eye on what you are installing back on to it.
Only put on software and apps that you actively use, if you are downloading things from the Internet to use just be careful that you are actually installing something legitimate.
I’ve had more than one discussion with a trader who has downloaded something from a forum link thinking it was one thing only to discover that it was something quite different!
Finally, if you stop using a program or app then remember to remove it using the method mentioned above.
One Final Note on System Cleanup Software
If you do a google search on ‘windows cleanup software’ or something similar you will find a load of different programs all claiming to cleanup your system, remove junk software and registry files, update drivers, etc…
My advice is to avoid them all.
A lot of these programs offer a free download which will scan your computer, it will then highlight a number of ‘issues’, then ask you to pay to download the full software suite to clean up your PC.
Some of these are a pure scam, many of them end up causing more problems than they solve, and all of them will leave a program on your computer which they claim is monitoring your system for ongoing issues.
These monitoring tools sit there and consume resources constantly, which is what we are trying to avoid in the first place!
One of the worst cases of a computer running really poorly I’ve ever seen was a customer who had installed 3 or 4 of these ‘tools’ and they were crippling his system performance, he had a ton of other stuff installed as well.
We couldn’t even get 2 of these ‘cleanup tools’ uninstalled and ended up going down the nuclear option of reinstalling Windows from scratch just to get him back up and running again with a decent level of performance.
- When buying a new computer or laptop, try and get a clean installation right out of the box if possible.
- If your new machine does come pre-installed with a load of extra software, try and remove it straight away.
- On existing systems do an audit of what you use, and then try and remove everything else.
- If you can’t remove things and your computer is running badly then consider a Windows reinstall, but definitely backup files and settings first.
- Avoid all ‘system cleanup tools’!
I hope you find something here useful, if I’ve missed anything or you have any further questions just let me know in the comments below.