Too many programs will slow down your computer to an absolute crawl. The TuneUp Blog team proved this theory, with a PC performance check that involved installing 200 new programs. The end result: The computer was basically unusable following the test.
The experiment also left the TuneUp Blog team and our readers with more questions. Is it possible to get this machine running again by removing all of these unnecessary applications? Can the original performance be restored? Or, will this machine be plagued forever with error messages, crashes, and an underwhelming performance?
Coming to the machine’s rescue
If your machine is in this kind of state, the obvious recommendation would be to wipe the hard disk and reinstall Windows! But, this is not an option for folks who have set up their operating system and programs just the way they like them. Backing up and restoring settings, e-mail accounts, contacts, program configurations, etc. is a tough chore and, often takes more effort than trying to clean up the original Windows installation. So, what happens if we uninstall all of these programs again? Do you think this will make the system usable again?
The uninstallation process
This is basically one of the dullest jobs anyone could possibly think of—we opened up the Control Panel and uninstalled the 200 programs one by one. Since we didn’t want to skew the results, we avoided simultaneous uninstallations, which also could cause conflicts with the system files and the Windows registry.
The entire process took us more than a day to complete. Since the computer was extremely sluggish, a simple program often took up to 10 minutes to be completely removed. In the cases of huge software products, such as the Nero 9 Suite, we waited about 20 minutes.
Benchmarks, benchmarks, benchmarks
Just as we were on the verge of losing all feeling in our fingers from clicking “Yes” on every “Do you really want to remove the selected application?” dialog box, the job was finally finished. Then, we started on the tests. We performed all of the benchmarks conducted during our last run. As with the previous performance check, we used the computer on a regular basis for a couple of days and carried out each test three times to get rid of all of the discrepancies and variations. To give you an exact comparison, we included the benchmark results of our last run in the following tables below.
As a reference guide, “Clean PC” represents the machine’s original state. Windows 7 had been freshly installed, and only a handful of programs were added. The machine was at its best possible performance. “Junk PC” represents the performance of the computer after the 200 programs had been installed, while “Restored PC” represents the performance of the computer after the 200 programs had been uninstalled.
This benchmark measured the amount of time it took the machine to load the last automatically running program on the startup list.
This came to us as a bit of a surprise. After we removed the 200 programs, the boot-up time was almost completely restored to its original state. It took only 14 seconds longer than usual to fully load Windows. We figured it was because of the high degree of disk fragmentation. But, let’s be clear about something—what difference does 14 seconds really make, especially when the 200 programs made the PC boot up in more than seven minutes, right? Big thumbs up for Windows 7 here, as it did not let the programs ruin the boot-up process too much.
We then measured the time it took from clicking the “Shut Down” button to actually powering down.
Windows 7 took exactly 11 seconds to power down the machine, and that is exactly the way it was before we installed all of those programs. Fantastic!
Virus scan performance
We used Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) to test how long it took to scan 1.5 GByte worth of RAR archives.
The results went back to a normal level yet again. We were happy to see that the 200 programs did not have an impact on scanning performance. This was expected, as MSE’s performance entirely depended on the hard disk speed and processor power. And, since all of the unnecessary background processes from those 200 programs had been removed, there was no interference.
The TuneUp Blog team also measured the performance of selected applications. We started with the time it took for Outlook 2010 Beta to load and display the first e-mail. We then started Google Chrome with eight tabs. Like the last run, we also tested how long it took our computer to fire up Windows Media Player and start playing a 1080p full HD video file.
The results were fascinating. No matter how often we tried, Google Chrome never returned to its original performance. Again, we think this is due to hard disk fragmentation. (Or, did any of these programs actually interfere with Google’s browser, so that it now takes 50% longer to start up?)
Windows Media Player produced another weird result. After we removed the 200 programs one by one, it needed nine seconds to load up the HD video file—six seconds longer than under a clean install. This is inexcusable and probably due to the many codecs that were added, replaced, and removed with some of the 200 programs. Don’t worry; we made sure that the Windows Prefetch feature optimized Windows Media Player, to make it launch faster.
Processor, graphics and memory performance
We watched WinRAR compress our three test files and frankly could not believe our eyes. Instead of taking two or three minutes (like we were used to), WinRAR needed more than four minutes to compress the files, which took even longer than when we loaded the PC with the 200 programs. There is simply no other explanation than that fragmentation really slowed down things. Even when we compressed the three files, deleted the ZIP file, restarted the PC, and repeated these steps five times, the results stayed the same.
Also, during the 1080p full HD playback benchmark, we noticed that every 10 to 15 minutes, the movie started to stutter for at least 10 seconds. This did not happen under the original and freshly installed Windows configuration.
Photo editing performance
Using Corel PhotoImpact X3, we applied the “Enhance” filter to a 30 MB image file. This test should have proved how fast both the processor and the graphics chip are able to render images.
Again, this task was slowed down by the 200 programs that created so much background activity. After removing all of the applications, everything went back to normal. Just like before the installation, PhotoImpact was able to enhance the picture in exactly 21 seconds.
Cinebench R10 performance
Cinebench is still one of our favorite benchmarks, as it clearly shows your PC’s processor and graphics chip’s capabilities. The more points you get, the faster your PC is.
Cinebench performance dropped as well, but the difference was quite minimal. It took just a bit longer to render the sample image on the screen, which resulted in a slightly lower score for our test laptop.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat performance
This benchmark is based on the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat, which was released in Q4 2009.
What a disaster! Gaming performance did not return to the original levels; it basically stayed the same (expect for the SunShafts test from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.). Again, we blame the high level of fragmentation. The game was not able to load all of the textures fast enough from the hard disk to ensure a continuous frame rate.
PCMark Vantage performance
PCMark Vantage was the last benchmark on our list. Again, this is an all around program that tests the PC in different areas, such as music editing, and gaming. The more points PCMark spits out in the end, the faster your PC is.
It was interesting to note that the machine was not able to achieve its original performance this time around. The total scores for our cleaned up system were better than the scores obtained with the 200 programs installed, which was expected, but we were unable to reach 2624 points, even though we performed the tests several times.
Overall performance and stability
In this last section of our test, we wanted to express our personal feelings—how responsive did we find the system and how we thought Windows 7 performed. We used the system for a full week for traveling, business, and a bit of gaming, as well. We edited photos and even hooked up an external Blu-ray drive to watch a couple of HD films. Overall, Windows 7 performed faster without the 200 programs installed, but we felt that the performance suffered quite a bit compared to the original state. Some of our programs did not start up as fast as they used to, menus took a bit longer to show up, and movies stuttered here and there. It was as if we were using a 1.4 GHz (rather than our 1.86 GHz) machine. The TuneUp Blog team believes the system’s performance was “good” when we first installed Windows 7, whereas now it’s only “okay”.
Leftovers and junk
Raw performance is one thing we wanted to take a look at; we were also very keen to see how many “leftovers” we had from the 200 programs, such as temporary files, unnecessary shortcuts, and empty and entire folders.
Let’s start with the desktop. Even though we got rid of all 200 programs, the desktop, especially the Start Menu, were still cluttered with dozens of invalid shortcuts and folders. The next thing we noticed was the number of files on the hard disk. On our clean PC, we had about 101,000 files (44.9 GByte in total). This number moved up to 190,000 files, which amounted to a total of 70.2 GByte, as we installed the 200 programs; this was a massive jump! The sad part was that, after we removed all of the programs, there were still 114.000 files left—and 53 GByte worth of data. There were two reasons for that. Firstly, uninstallers are not that effective; they leave traces behind! Secondly, the 200 programs created dozens of system restore points that amounted to a lot of unnecessary data.
Fragmentation had a big impact on performance. Before we started our rampage and installed the 200 programs, we regularly used TuneUp Utilities defragmentation feature to keep hard disk access times as fast as possible. So, the fragmentation level was usually 0-5% at most. After we installed and removed the 200 programs, TuneUp Drive Defrag told us that more than 54% of the hard disk was fragmented. This is probably the reason why the performance did not go back to normal levels.
Too much junk left
In some cases, performance could be restored by simply uninstalling the 200 programs. In other cases, and probably due to the mess we created, overall responsiveness and gaming tests in particular suffered immensely. The bottom line is that our test laptop wasn’t the same anymore. It was sluggish, and there was so much junk left on it, that the system was no fun to work with.
We were almost ready to back up the entire system and start from scratch. But, wait! That’s not fun either. How about we spice things up a bit? Curious? Just stay tuned for our next blog posts of this series.
Read the next part of our 200 programs experiment – Performance and Stability Update.
43 Responses to “Performance Check: How 200 New Programs Slow Down Your PC (Part 2)”
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