The PCTechBytes Ultimate Guide To Improve PC Performance was created to help our users navigate the confusing and tedious job of computer maintenance. Routine maintenance isn’t enough to improve PC performance, however. You have to roll up your sleeves and be proactive to make sure your computer is always running at optimal levels.
The general rule of computing is if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. There’s nothing more dangerous than tinkering with a perfectly good and fully-functional computer than doing the tips listed below. But the truth of the matter is, if you do the steps below, your PC will likely run a lot better. Just keep in mind, however, doing some of the steps below can also render your PC utterly useless.
Top Tips To Improve PC Performance And Overall Health
Update The Motherboard BIOS
In the past, the general rule of updating a motherboard BIOS was to not to update the BIOS. The process was simply not intuitive and the risks greatly outweighed the rewards.
Updating your BIOS is much easier these days, however. If your computer is more than a year old, you’ll be surprised to find the current BIOS is probably a few versions newer than the one you’re running on your motherboard. Updating the BIOS will not, necessarily, help you improve PC performance. It can help resolve minor hardware issues and even protect your computer from malicious exploits.
Your computer will use a traditional BIOS (Basic Input Output System) or the newer UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). Both the BIOS and UEFI provide the initial communication between your hardware and software when you first turn on your PC. What BIOS version do you have installed? You can check by going to the run box in Windows and typing msinfo32.exe
If you have a major brand name computer from Dell, Lenovo, HP or Sony, you can go to their website and look up your computer’s model. Drivers and BIOS updates will often be listed under the support section. Download the latest BIOS and launch it as you would any other executable program by double-clicking it. In most cases, it will compare the version you currently have with the version it will be installing and ask if you want to proceed. If there is a significant version gap, you might want to proceed, If there isn’t you can likely hold off on the update.
When updating your BIOS, it is extremely important you do not turn off the computer. Make sure the computer is on and do not touch any keys until the update is complete. Generally, the update should only take a few minutes. The PC will restart on its own to apply the changes and when you get back to the Windows login screen, you can login as normal. Update complete.
Update Your Computer Hardware Drivers
A driver is a piece of software that tells your hardware how to run. You will have motherboard chipset drivers that control everything on the motherboard, and you will also have drivers for specific hardware devices such as the Ethernet and Wifi network adapters, video cards and audio devices. As with the BIOS, you may not have the need to update any of the drivers unless you are experiencing problems. Driver updates can fix bugs that reduce system crashes. You will see the most benefit from updating your graphics drivers regularly. Visit the manufacturer of your graphics card or visit the major brand name PC manufacturer and get any driver updates directly from them.
Installing the new driver is as easy as double-clicking the update you have downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.
Uninstall Unnecessary Programs
Are you a software hoarder? Each time you install a program, it takes up space on your hard drive–but even worse–it probably adds additional processes that run in the background when you boot the machine or perform normal day to day computing. Go into your Control Panel under Programs and Features (Apps and Features in Windows 10) to audit the software running on your system. Remove anything you know you no longer need or use.
Check Your Computer’s Temperature
Heat is the devil when it comes to computing. When your chips and drives get hot, they run slower and eventually either fail or cause your computer to shut down. You can download a free tool called Speccy to check your computer’s temperatures. Try and make sure everything stays below 60C.
If you find your system is running a little hot, look into the Metro Duster to keep your fans, grill intakes and overall computing environment clean.
Add More RAM And A Solid State Drive
Hands down, the best way to improve computer performance is to install additional memory and move away from slow, spinning hard drives to a Solid State Drive (SSD). You can use the Crucial Advisor Tool to see how much memory you currently have and how much you can add to your system. RAM is cheap and we recommend at least 8GBs or more if your motherboard and Operating System will support it.
Solid State Drives are more expensive than their spinning counterparts. You should check to see how much space you have on your current drive to determine how large of an SSD you’ll need to replace it with. If you have a secondary, large capacity spinning drive you can keep installed in your desktop for archival storage, a 250GB or 500GB SSD should be just fine for your needs. If you have a laptop, you can use an external USB drive to access your archival data when you need to. Find a Solid State Drive here.
Installing a new SSD is easy. Many drives you buy will come with software you can use to clone your existing hard drive and copy that image over to the new drive.
To Improve PC Performance, Find Your Performance Score
Do you know what your Windows Performance Score is? If you want the fastest, most reliable computing experience, you need to know where to focus your time and money. What makes a computer run good? What makes it run fast, not crash and what will give you the best overall computing experience when you sit down in front of your machine to work or play games?
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Computing Experience
Below are some of the tips we have for making sure the computer hardware and software you’re running is giving you the best experience you can possibly have. There should always be a strong emphasis on the hardware you have installed. Use these tips to give yourself a good computing foundation.
Use The Best Hardware You Can Afford
Starting with the best hardware is key to improve PC performance and speed. When buying a computer from a major brand name manufacturer such as Dell, choose a computer from their business class line. You’ll spend more on the desktop or laptop you select, but the specs of the machine will be higher. If you’re building your own machine, do not skimp on hardware. Get a brand name power supply such as Antec, Corsair or Thermaltake. The same goes for the motherboard and RAM. Buy hardware that has a reliable reputation and avoid the cheaper brands.
Check Your Windows Performance Score And Work To Fix It
In Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, the Windows Experience index can be accessed by clicking Start and then Control Panel. In the search box, type Performance Information and Tools, and then in the list of results, click Performance Information and Tools.
Microsoft has removed this feature in Windows 8.1. But you can still get your Windows Experience score in Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 by running the test manually. First, navigate to your Command Prompt icon and then right-click it and select Run As Administrator. If prompted, type your admin password.
At the command line, type Winsat Formal and then hit Enter. The test will take a few minutes to complete. Next, go to your search box and type in %WINDIR%\Performance\WinSAT\DataStore and hit Enter.
Locate the most recent file with Formal Assessment in the title and then double click it.
The file that opens will contain the above information. You can clearly see your overall system score, as well as the individual scores of the components in your computer. To improve PC performance scores, target the hardware in your system that is producing the lowest scores and update that equipment.
Thirty Day PC Bootcamp Checklist
PCTechBytes is providing this daily checklist to gradually help you improve PC performance and the overall health of your computer. While some of the things in the list below will not apply to everyone, we tried to compile a broad list of computer tips that focuses on some of the perils and pitfalls we come across in our computer forums each day. Print it out and pass it along to family members.
Day 1— On day one, we want to make backups. At this point, before we do anything else, we just want to make sure we can grab any important data and get it off of the computer. Usually copying the Documents, Desktop, Pictures, Music and Favorites folders is enough. But if you want to go a step further, open the Computer icon on your Desktop, click the C: drive and copy the entire Users folder. This will copy all of the user accounts on the computer at once. We recommend using an external USB hard drive for this. If you have a lot of pictures and videos, create use Google Photos on your computer, tablet and smartphone to store your most valuable memories on the cloud for free.
Day 2— Now that the backup is done, we need to make sure we have all of our security updates. Visit Microsoft Update by clicking on the start button. You can normally find a link to Microsoft Update right in the Start menu. If not, visit the Microsoft Update website. Download and install all critical updates. This will probably include IE 10 and a service pack or two, depending on what Operating System version you’re running.
Day 3 — Install and update your Antivirus. If you do not have one, we recommend Microsoft Security Essentials. Once you install one of these, be sure to scan your hard drives. It’s important to make sure you have only one antivirus program install on your PC, so if your computer came with a free trial version or McAfee or Symantec, uninstall it. If you have Windows 10 installed, rest assured, you already have Windows Defender built-in!
Day 4 — Uninstall any unnecessary programs. Depending on how old your PC is, you probably have a lot of programs installed you never use. These programs could be an unnecessary security risk if they have not been updated. You can remove them via the Control Panel’s Programs and Features section. If these are programs you have purchased, you might want to make sure you have the serial numbers and disks in case you want to reinstall them later.
Day 5— Run Disk Cleanup to get rid of temp files and other junk that is cluttering your hard drive. Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Cleanup.
Day 6— Defrag your hard drive. Now that you have run Disk Cleanup and removed old programs run Disk Defragmenter from the same System Tools folder as above and it will re-organize your drive and speed things up. Note: If you have a Solid State Drive (SSD), do not defrag your hard drive, as it is not necessary.
Day 7 — Download a second web browser. Having the Edge browser alone is dangerous. If it quits working, you may lose access to the Internet. Having a couple extra choices, like Firefox and Chrome could save you. Download and install them, even if you never plan on using these browsers.
Day 8 — Run CCleaner, a free program to clean your computer registry while making it faster and more secure.
Day 9 — Change your passwords. You don’t need to be a security fanatic. But you really should change your passwords every few months. Develop a password strategy that works for you.
Day 10 — Reboot your computer. If you’re the type of person that leaves your PC on 365 days a year, take a moment to reboot. You may be amazed to see Windows Update install critical patches at this time.
Day 11 — Clear your web browser’s cache. The process will differ slightly depending on what what browser you use. In IE, open the browser and go to Tools, Internet Options and under the General tab, look for Browsing History and click Delete. You will see several options. Check Temporary Files and History. Cookies are optional, as these contain information you may or may not want removed.
Day 12 — Run a thorough scan of your hard drive. You hard drive might be failing and you don’t even know it! Windows comes with Check Disk, a built-in tool that looks for file-system and physical defects on your computer’s drive. Access it by opening my Computer and right-click the C: drive. Click properties, then select the Tools tab. Under Error Checking, click Check Now and select both options to repair and scan. It will ask to reboot to perform the scan. Do it before bed, as it could take an hour or more.
Day 13— Remove unnecessary startup programs. Go to Start>Run and type msconfig and hit OK. Under the start-up tab, uncheck any programs you know do not need to start each time your computer boots. This will not remove them, only prevent them from leeching memory. You can always launch those programs manually if you need to. Windows 10 users can simply type Startup in the search box. Right-click to disable unnecessary programs that are having a high-impact on your performance.
Day 14 — Visit Microsoft Update. You should now configure Windows to automatically download and install updates. If you choose not to do this, make sure you visit update every couple of weeks. Typically, they patch on the second Tuesday of each month, but you might be missing a critical update that was pushed through early.
Day 15 — Install a Standard user account for yourself and for your children. You can configure Parental Controls to limit their access to bad websites. The limited user account will thwart them from changing the settings back. The Parental Controls are under User Accounts in the Control Panel. You must be an Administrator and the user must be a limited user account to enforce this correctly. An added benefit of Standard User accounts is security. Malware is less-likely to infect your computer if it also does not have administrator rights.
Day 16 — Reboot your router and modem. Shut down your PC, then unplug your router and modem. Wait a few minutes, then plug them back in starting with the modem, then the router. Power up the PC. You have just power cycled your network!
Day 17— Blow out your fans. The front grill of your computer case will eventually get clogged with hair and dust. You should vacuum this area off, then take a can of compressed air and blow out your CPU, Video card and power supply fans. This can prevent your computer from locking up, running sluggish due to heat and extend the life of your computer. Remember to also clean all around the computer and to shut-down and unplug the computer before doing anything.
Day 18 — Uninstall Java and update Adobe Reader. These programs will frequently have security issues. You can launch Adobe Reader through your Start menu and look under Help to search for updates, or better yet, remove Adobe Reader and install FoxItinstead. If you don’t use Java, remove it from your PC–you can always get it back later.
Day 19— Invest in an offsite backup company. Depending on your needs, use a service like Carbonite or Mozy to backup your computer online automatically. The price is around $5.00 per month. But it is well worth the money. If you don’t want to use a paid service, Look into Onedrive by Microsoft and Google Drive by Google for free online storage. If you already have Microsoft or Gmail accounts, you already have access to these cloud storage services.
Day 20 — Create a System Restore Point. A System Restore point can revert your system back to that very point in time in the event your computer crashes due to a serious file system or driver error. Manually creating a System Restore point when things are running smooth ensures you have a safe place to return to in a dire situation. While this is not as necessary as it once was, it doesn’t hurt. Type System Restore in your search box to create a restore point.
Day 21— Look into OpenDNS. Your router uses your ISP’s Domain Name Service, which is the Internet’s way of matching up IP addresses with website names. OpenDNS gives you control of this service. You will have the ability to set times of day the Internet is used, the websites that are allowed, etc. Some even say it’s faster. If you decide to switch, you can obtain the OpenDNS server numbers from them after you create your free account, and then log into your router and replace the current DNS server address with the OpenDNS address.
Day 22— Scan for spyware. Despite our best efforts, you may have spyware residing on your computer. Download the free version of Malwarebytes and run a scan to make sure you’re clean.
Day 23 –It’s that time of the month again. It’s been almost two weeks since your last backup. Copy that Users folder to a CD, DVD or thumb drive and take it to work or a family member’s house.
Day 24 — Organize your Desktop. Remove shortcuts, create new folders and put icons in them that relate to each other. A Desktop can be a beautiful thing when you can actually see it!
Day 25— Run Disk Cleanup again. You probably have temp files and a Recycling Bin filled with trash since your last cleanup. Disk Cleanup should be run twice a month. Defrag every three months. Remember, if you have a Solid State HDD, do not defrag your hard drive.
Day 26— Get a SPAM email account. If you use your standard-issue email account given to your by your ISP, consider having a couple Internet email accounts. Microsoft Outlook and Gmail are the best. You can dedicate one of these to a personal email, and a second to SPAM. Whenever you need to sign-up for something online, give them the address of the second account to spare your Inbox from onslaught.
Day 27— I’d rather NOT be phishing. Phishing is a ploy used by SPAMMers to trick you into clicking links in emails. These links appear to go to legitimate websites, but really attempt to steal your information or install viruses on your computer. If you see these emails, remove them from your Inbox and alert family members and friends, as these often come in spurts that hit everyone.
Day 28— Download OpenOffice if you do not have Microsoft Office. Applications like OpenOffice and Gimp are great alternatives to expensive commercial programs like Office and Photoshop. You can also use Google Docs, which has a suite of Office-like apps for free.
Day 29 — Clean your mouse, your desk and your printer. Seems like something you probably already do, but have you looked behind your monitor lately? Keeping dust bunnies out of your components will save you time and effort later.
Day 30— We talked a lot about backing up, updating your computer and general security tips. Integrating these practices into your daily computing life will make you a better computer user and a responsible Internet user, as your computer will be more secure and not an unknowing participant that infects other computers. We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on how to improve PC performance. Be sure to Follow Us Online to get more great new tutorials to help make your PC experience a pleasant one.
We’d also like for you to join our online tech community. It’s free. There’s no better way to improve PC performance than by asking one of our resident geeks.