The 10 Best Ways to Optimize Windows 10

Tips to help you get the most speed and power from your PC

Before you spend a single dollar on a new, higher-performant Windows-based PC, take the time to make sure your current one is running the best it can.

From simple hardware additions to Windows configurations to routine maintenance, there are some measures you can try to optimize your current setup. Here's how to get the most out of your PC while spending the least.

of 10

Restart Your PC

The Windows Settings App's About Screen

It may seem like an old joke: "turn it off, then turn it back on again." But the reason people have heard this so often is that there's truth to it. Over time lots of digital cruft accumulates in your PC's memory, from poorly-developed apps that don't clear the memory they use to malware. Restarting your PC will clear some of this, at least temporarily.

of 10


Adding a RAM Module to a PC Motherboard

urric/Getty Images

While updates to hardware components are more involved than simply clicking some buttons, they can bring about the best results. One of the easiest is increasing your machine's Random Access Memory (RAM). The more RAM your computer has, the more data, including running programs and dealing with files, it can handle simultaneously. So if you have the budget, buying and installing some additional RAM can boost your performance big time.

Check out this guide to checking your PC's RAM compatibility to see what type you need. Then head over to our buyer's guides to desktop RAM or laptop RAM for guidance on how much you need.

of 10

Upgrade to an SSD

Installing a Solid State Disk drive in a PC

Roman Budnyi/Getty Images

Older machines may still be equipped with mechanical hard drives, which can not only struggle as they age, they can never compete with the speed of SSDs. These drives contain magnetic platters with a reader (much like a record needle), which has to move across them to read and write data. In contrast, more modern Solid State Drives (SSDs) hold data in cells that are accessed electronically. That makes any operation, from reading a program into RAM so it can launch, to rendering out your latest YouTube video, many times faster.

First, take a peek at our overview of the different drive types. Then follow this guide to cloning your existing hard drive to an SSD to make it your main drive.

of 10

Disable Start-Up Programs

The Windows Settings App's Startup Screen

One possible reason your PC starts to lag over time could be some programs you've installed open on startup. They may sit in the system tray and never show themselves, but they still use processing power and RAM. Making sure you're only running the apps you use means you're saving those resources to be available for other apps.

Use the toggles on the Settings > Apps > Startup screen to turn the applications you don't use regularly Off. Don't worry; you can always come back and set them to auto-start again if you find you're missing them.

of 10

Adjust Power Profile

The Windows Control Panel's Choose or Customize Power Plan Controls

You may think something called "Power Profile" would only be necessary for battery-powered laptops. The "power" you experience from your PC is a function of how many bits of data it moves through its innards, from processor to RAM to storage or network and vice versa. And the faster it does this, the more electrical power it consumes.

If you have a laptop, click on the battery indicator in the system tray, where you can use a slider to set your PC's power level. For desktop devices, open the Control Panel, select Power Options, and make sure the highest-performance option is selected.

of 10

Update Software & Drivers

The Windows Settings App's Optional Updates Listing

It's important to make sure you keep current with updates for your PC, as they include improvements to performance, security, and functionality. There are three main areas to consider for keeping up-to-date:

  • Windows Updates: Open the Settings app, select Update & Security > Windows Update, and if any updates are ready, click Install now.
  • Driver Updates: From the same screen, click View all optional updates, which can install updated hardware drivers.
  • Application Updates: The method for updating applications is different, but as a rule, if you see a notification for an update, install it as soon as you can.
of 10

Run an Antivirus Scan

Windows Security's Virus & Threat Protection Screen

Malicious software can cause your machine to run slower, either because it's a setup process to use your resources for nefarious activities or for the sole purpose of making your life difficult. Regularly running your antivirus can ensure these bad actors are removed and your machine runs at top speed.

Don't forget to apply any antivirus-related updates presented to you. Antivirus is software too, and it's only as smart as the latest batch of virus definitions it's received from its developer.

of 10

Disable Windows Visual Effects

The System Properties Dialog's Performance Option's Visual Effects Settings

One of the most processing-intensive tasks a computer can do is rendering graphics. If you don't have a dedicated graphics chip in your machine, using Windows Visual Effects can cost you overall performance.

You can adjust these settings by going to the Settings app, selecting System > About, then clicking on the Advanced system settings link on the right. In the System Properties dialog, select the Advanced tab, and click the Settings button under Performance. Here you can elect to Adjust for best performance (note how it turns all effects off).

of 10

Increase the Size of the Page File

The System Properties Dialog's Virtual Memory Controls

The Windows Page File is where the operating system stores temporary data typically stored in RAM. The process of "paging" is when Windows moves data between this file and the RAM, depending on which application or service is the most "processing-intensive" at the moment. Increasing the size gives Windows more space to stash this temporary data and can help improve stability and prevent crashes.

From the System Properties dialog, click Settings under Performance, then switch to the Advanced tab. Under Virtual Memory, click the Change button, and make your adjustments in the Virtual Memory dialog.

of 10

Defragment Your (Older) Hard Drive

The Windows Settings App's Storage Screen, and the Optimize Drives Dialog

When Windows saves your data to older mechanical disks, it often won't keep it all in the same location. Instead, it saves pieces of the data across the disk then re-assembles them when needed. So when files are saved and deleted over time, which creates gaps in the disk. Over time, the reader needs to move more and more to gather all the parts to recreate files.

Defragmenting the disk compacts all this data closer together, and disk reads and writes become quicker. All this equals better performance for your PC. Open the Storage screen in the Settings app click the Optimize Drives link to get started.

  • How do I speed up downloads on my PC?

    Slow download speeds in Windows are usually network problems. You can try moving closer to the router, switching to a wired connection, or resetting your network hardware. You should also check that nothing is taking up bandwidth, like streaming platforms or online games.

  • How do I speed up a laptop running Windows 10?

    The above suggestions should work whether you're using a laptop or desktop PC. The main difference is that your laptop may have two power profiles: when the computer is running on battery power and when it's plugged in. Generally speaking, a laptop runs better when plugged in because Windows doesn't have to make any changes to minimize consumption and extend battery life.

Was this page helpful?