Your computer used to be fast, but now it is not. This is probably the thing most computer users complain about most. While there are numerous reasons why a computer can slow down, there are also steps you can take to optimize your computer for speed and regain that performance your PC has lost over time. Granted, the best thing you can do is backup and reformat your hard drive and start over. This is not a desirable option for a lot of users, so the steps explained below are tips to help you get some performance back without sacrificing a lot of time or risking losing important data.
Why Do Computers Slow Down
Computers slow down due to file fragmentation, lack of resources, viruses, hard drive errors and heat. Before we begin, you should take a moment to backup your data in case you lose anything. The best way to backup in a hurry is to make sure anything important is in your Document and Settings folder and copy that to a USB drive or network share. By default, your My Documents folder itself should have most of your important data in it unless you manually saved to another location. While you should not lose any data during this process, it doesn’t hurt to be safe.
Optimizing Your Computer
Start by making sure all programs are up to date. If you do not automatically update Windows, be sure to visit Microsoft Update, as well. Having the latest version of Flash, Java, Windows and your Internet browser means you have all of the fixes and patches in place that could have been causing memory leaks or other errors that have been bogging your system down.
Next, scan for viruses. Viruses and other malware are notorious for slowing down a computer as they use a lot of resources in their bid to take over your computer as well as those all over the world. Make sure you’re virus free by using free programs like Malwarebytes and Microsoft Security Essentials.
You should now uninstall any programs you no longer use or need. You can do this from the control panel under Add / Remove Programs or sometimes from the start menu. Programs will often run in the background without your knowledge, using system resources that can slow down your computer unnecessarily. To disable other programs from loading at boot, you can go to Start>Run and type msconfig and hit Ok. Under the start-up tab, uncheck any programs you know do not need to load into memory at boot. This does not uninstall them, merely prevents them from using RAM when then do not need to do so.
Once you have all of the latest patches and have confirmed you are virus-free, you can now start optimizing your computer. A good place to start is to run Disk Cleanup. To do this, go to Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Cleanup. It might take a while for Windows to analyze your computer, but once it is done it will show you a list of files that can be removed to help you regain space on your hard drive. After this has completed, the next step is to run the Disk Defragmenter from the same location. Disk defragmenter moves files to the front of the drive so the hard drive to speed up access to them.
Now that your disk is organized and free of clutter, you should run error checking on your hard drive. You disk will have errors on it, so this process will fix those errors and also map out bad sectors on the drive. To run this utility, open My Computer and right-click the C: drive and then select Properties. Next, click the Tools tab and under error-checking have it scan for bad sectors and automatically fix the errors it finds. The error-checking will run the next time your system is rebooted.
One of the last things you can do to optimize computer for speed is make sure your PC is free of dust bunnies. You can use a can of compressed air to clean the front intake grill and the rear exhaust fans and power supply area. If you feel comfortable opening your computer case, you can also blow the inside of the case out as well as the CPU fan. Make sure your work area is clean and your PC is located in a well-ventilated area. The cooler the PC, the faster it will run.