The Best Ways to Speed up Your Computer

Quick tips to speed up your PC

After you've had a computer for a while, you might notice that it's running less slowly than when you first got it. Files and folders take longer to open, programs don't shut down as quickly as you'd hope, and delayed logins and startups seem to be a daily occurrence. Sometimes specific programs are to blame, making it difficult to know where to begin to clean things up.

Fortunately, you can do some things to speed up your computer to make it seem new again.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 7.

Why Is My Computer Slow Anyway?

Over time, as you download files, browse the internet, remove programs, leave applications open, and do pretty much anything else on your computer, it slowly collects junk and causes behind-the-scenes problems that aren't always so easy to catch at first.

Computer with an illustration of a rocket coming out of it representing a fast computer
ipopba / Getty Images

File fragmentation is a big culprit. So is the accumulation of cached web browser files, a cluttered desktop, a full hard drive, slow hardware, and many other issues.

However, your computer itself may actually not be slow. You may just be experiencing a slow internet connection due to a faulty router, a bad connection, or limited speed offered by your ISP. In any case, you may just need to speed up your internet access.

Clean up Junk Files and Programs

Getting rid of unnecessary files, application and other "junk" is an effective way to speed up any computer.

  1. Use a free system cleaner like CCleaner to erase unnecessary junk files in the Windows OS itself, the Windows Registry, and third-party programs like your web browsers, which like to collect cache files.

    If these temporary internet files and other useless items stick around for too long, they can not only cause programs to hang and become unresponsive and sluggish, but also take up valuable hard drive space.

  2. Clean up your desktop if it's cluttered. Making Windows Explorer load those icons and folders each time the desktop refreshes can put unnecessary load on your hardware, which takes away system resources that could be used elsewhere.

  3. Remove unwanted programs that are just lingering on your computer. These are not only taking up hard drive space but they might open automatically with Windows and be running in the background all the time, sucking away at the processor and memory. There are several free uninstaller tools that make this really easy.

  4. Also considered junk files are anything you simply don't use or want anymore. So, delete those old video files that you downloaded a year ago and back up all the data you don't readily use, like vacation pictures.

Once your computer is free from unnecessary temporary and junk files, you should have more free hard drive space available for more important things. The larger free space on the hard drive also helps with performance.

Defrag Your Hard Drive

To defrag your hard drive is to consolidate all the empty spaces that you create in the file system structure as you add and remove files. These empty spaces make your hard drive take longer to think, which in turn causes files, folders, and programs to open slowly.

Plenty of free defrag tools are available to do this, but another option is to use the one built-in to Windows.

Remove Viruses, Malware, Spyware, Adware, etc.

Every Windows computer is vulnerable to malware, but your risk of infection is low if you regularly use anti-malware programs.

Once the virus is on the computer, it usually stores itself in the system memory, slowing everything down. Some malicious programs show pop-ups or trick you into buying their "antivirus program," which are even more reasons to remove them.

You should periodically scan your computer for malware to get rid of these pesky memory hogs.

Fix Windows System Errors

Installing and uninstalling software and Windows updates, rebooting your computer during an update, forcing your computer to shut down immediately, and other things can cause errors within the Windows system files

These errors can cause things to lock up, halt program installs and updates, and just generally prevent the experience of a smooth computer. Run a program like SFC /Scannow to repair your system files.

Adjust Visual Effects

Windows provides numerous interesting visual effects including animated windows and fading menus. These extras are usually fine to have turned on, but they're only worth it if you have enough system memory.

You can turn off these visual effects to speed things up a bit.

Clean, Replace or Upgrade Your Hardware

Even though software problems are the cause of many slow computers, you can only get so far before you need to address the hardware components.

For example, if your computer doesn't let you open more than a couple of programs at once or doesn't let you watch HD movies, you may have a small amount of RAM or a broken or outdated ​video card. You may also just have dirty hardware.

It's wise to periodically clean your physical hardware parts. Over time, and due especially to certain environmental effects, fans and other pieces under the case can gather clumps of dirt or hair, which makes them work in overdrive just to function normally. Clean up everything before you buy new hardware - it's possible that they're just too dirty.

You can use a free system information utility to see the specs of your hardware. These tools are helpful if you're planning on replacing hardware so that you don't have to open your computer just to check on things.

For example, if you want to expand your RAM, you can use a system info tool to confirm the type and amount you already have buy the right kind.

Reinstall the Entire Windows Operating System

The most drastic solution to speeding up your computer is to delete all the software and files, remove the whole Windows OS, and start from scratch. You can do this with a clean install of Windows.

The great thing about doing this is that you essentially have a new computer, free of years' worth of software and registry changes and errors that you don't even know you had. However, you should really think more than twice about doing this because it's irreversible and is one of the last decisions you can make to speed up your computer.

Reinstalling Windows is a permanent solution, so make sure to back up your files and record any programs you want to make sure to reinstall.