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Several Do it Yourself Ways of speeding up a Slow Windows Computer

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Andrew Leniart
Helping others to help themselves..
There are many software programs on offer that will claim to magically speed up your computer. The best advice I can give you is to avoid them like the plague, because they will often cause far more problems than they solve. Try some of these "do it yourself" tips instead.

All computers tend to slow down over time. Whether your computer has gradually become slower or it suddenly started to grind to a halt, there could be a few reasons for that sort of bad luck.


One of the first things you should do is restart your computer to make sure there's no fragmented memory or poorly designed program hogging computer RAM (Random Access Memory) or CPU time - a reboot will almost always resolve "that" particular issue.


Now if you search the Web (using a search engine like Google for example), you'll find a myriad of software programs that promise to do all sorts of magic in speeding up your PC effortlessly, for a few bucks of course.


The best advise I can give you with regards to these programs is stay the heck away from them. Though on the very odd occasion they can make a small difference, the majority of the time they cause far more problems than they solve and you end up with far more headache's and waste of your time than just putting up with a slow computer.


Closing Task Hungry Processes


The majority of the time, a computer will suddenly slow down because a program is using far too many resources. If it's slowed down to a crawl, it's often a case of a runaway process using 99% of your CPU resources. Or a poorly coded program might be experiencing a memory leak and using a large amount of RAM, causing your PC to constantly swap to disk. Alternatively, an application might be using your hard disk a lot, causing other programs to slow down when they need to load or save data from or to the disk.


To find out if there's a culprit causing this problem, open the your computer's Task Manager. There's a couple of easy ways to do this - you can right-click on your taskbar and click on Task Manager or use one of Windows keyboard shortcut combinations - just press Ctrl+Shift+Escape on your keyboard and it will pop up.


Depending on the version of Windows you're running, whether it's Windows 7 or Windows 10, it may look a little different. For this example I'll show the Windows 10 version of task manager;



Click the Processes, App History, Users, Details and Services tabs at the top and look for what is using the most CPU and memory. If you find an application that is using exceptionally high resources, then try closing it and see how much of a difference it makes. If you can't close it normally, then click on it in Task Manager and then click the End task button. This will immediately close the application. (Make sure you don't have anything in that particular application that you've been working on and haven't saved yet)


Next try closing System Tray Programs.

This next screenshot is from a Windows 7 system.



These are programs that are running in the background and quite often, they don't need to be. If you hover over them, they'll often identify themselves. If you're not using that particular program or don't "need" it running in the background, then close it. Usually this can be done by right clicking over the top of the program's icon and selecting Exit or Close. Doing this will generally speed up your systems performance.


Disabling Startup Apps


Rather than closing those processes and tasks every time you reboot your computer, the next thing you'll want to do is stop them from starting up every time you turn on your computer. If you find you do need it during a session, it's usually a simple matter of just starting that program.

In Windows 10, you do that via the Startup tab in Task Manager I spoke of earlier. In Windows 7, press the Windows Key on your keyboard + R. This will bring up a Run command box that you can type commands into.


The System Configuration box will open in Windows 7 and will look something like this;



Click on the Startup Tab, scroll up and down and carefully take note of all the programs under the Startup Item column. This is a list of all the programs / software that loads each time Windows starts up.

When you see something that you don't need every time Windows loads, then disable it by clicking the box to its left and removing the tick. This will disable (not remove or uninstall) the program from starting up and using resources each time Windows is booted. Note this process is very safe and totally reversible should you make a mistake by simply going through the same procedure and putting the tick back on. You can't harm your computer by disabling items in the Startup Tab.


Disable Non Needed Animations


Reducing the cutesy things like Animations - Both Windows 7 and Windows 10 make use of a lot of animations after a default install. This can slow things down unnecessarily. As an example, Windows will minimize and maximize windows on your screen instantly if you just disable the associated animations.


Disabling animations is actually quite easy and perfectly safe. Here's how to do it:


On Windows 7, click the Start Button (ORB) and select Control Panel. Now click on the System icon inside Control Panel.  You'll get a box that looks something like this one. Click on the Performance Information and Tools hyperlink;




Once you do, the next screen will pop up. Now click on the Adjust visual effects hyperlink..



Almost there, the Performance Options screen you want to make your adjustments in will pop up and look like this...



Here's where you can experiment turning off all manner of "cutesy" effects that do nothing for your computer other than to make things pretty and slow the system down, especially so if your computer is getting a bit on the old side.


Feel free to experiment with turning things off. If you want to see how much of a difference turning off "everything" unnecessary is for great performance, click on the Adjust for best performance radio button, click Apply and be amazed at just how much quicker your computer will perform in general. Again, all of this is totally safe, it can't "hurt" your computer to experiment and is fully reversible.


Clear your Web Browsers' Cache & Disable Add-Ons


Give your Web Browser a breather - Most people use their web browser a lot, so your browser may just start to get slower and slower the more you use it without giving it any maintenance.

Good maintenance practices include clearing your browser's history cache but even more importantly, use as few browser extensions or add-ons as you can live without. Despite their claims to the contrary, these tend to slow down your browsing experience rather than make it faster and cause it to use a lot more memory than necessary.


To fix this, go into your web browsers settings and look for Extensions or Add-ons that you may have installed purposely, or that got installed without your knowledge when you installed some other piece of software without using an advanced method of software installation.


Check for Hidden Malware


Virus's - Malware - Adware may seem obvious as a reason your computer can start performing slowly, but it's surprising how many people forget to check and just trust their Anti-Virus to keep them safe.

Well it can't because the Malware writers are always at least one step ahead of the Anti-Virus companies. For instance, did you know that the Anti-Virus software out there today can't prevent you from getting infected with arguably one of the worst forms of malware around? I am of course talking about Ransomware - all Anti-Virus programs will detect an infection once it happens, but by then the damage is done. That's because different variations occur on nearly a daily basis. But I digress...


To keep yourself safe, always scan your computer with your Anti-Virus and make sure its definitions are up to date before you do. Ensure you always keep it up to date when new releases come out of your favorite Anti-Virus. But don't just rely on your Anti-Virus software to catch everything. No one Anti-Virus product can catch all the nasties.


I strongly suggest using Anti Malware applications as well. My own personal favorites are MalwareBytes Premium and SuperAntiSpyware. As a MalwareBytes Premium user for many years myself, I've learned to trust it as it tends to catch a lot of things that other similar products miss. As does SuperAntiSpyware. 


Here's a screenshot of both of them in action..


Both MalwareBytes and SuperAntiSpyware are available as a "Cure Only" for free, but the free versions don't protect you in real-time like an Anti-virus does. For the low price of the paid versions though, I think they're a couple of the best software purchases I've ever made. AND - both run well alongside any Anti-Virus I've tried them with, without causing any noticeable negative system performance issues and in my line of work, I've tested them both, running side by side with real-time protection enabled with many Anti-Virus products with never a problem.


Give Windows More Disk Space


Free up some System Drive Disk Space - It's a well established fact that Windows will run better if it has plenty of disk space and RAM. If your hard drive is starting to get full, your computer will start to run considerably slower.

Doing that is actually pretty obvious. Open up your control panel, go through the programs that you've installed over the years and get rid of the ones you never use.


Here's an example from a Windows 7 system...

Just scroll up and down and uninstall any programs you don't need. That's one way to make more space on your hard drive to keep Windows happier.


Another way is to do a disk clean up using Windows built-in Disk Cleanup utility, designed specifically for that purpose.

On Windows 7, open up Windows Explorer, right-click on your computers C: drive and select Properties - You should get a windows that looks like this...

Once you've clicked on the Disk Cleanup icon, Windows will start to scan the disk looking for files that simply aren't necessary to keep. Then another screen will pop-up like this one...

Once you've clicked on Clean up system files as well, Windows will start to scan the disk looking for unnecessary files to keep again. A new box will pop-up that looks like this one..

After you click on the Clean up... button, you will see the following warning;

Once you click the Disk Cleanup Tab, you will be back at the following window..

Using the scroll bar on the right, scroll up and down and put a tick in everything that doesn't already have a tick in it and then click the OK button at the bottom of the window to the left of the Cancel button. You will then get a confirmation box pop up. Follow the instruction in the pic below..


Check for Fragmentation on your Hard Drives


Defragment your Hard Drive - Generally speaking, on modern computers, frequent defragmentation of your hard drive shouldn't really be necessary, however it actually is because a badly fragmented hard drive can and often will cause poor performance issues.

Note: The exception to the rule is if you have an SSD (Solid State Drive) - these do not need defragmentation and doing so can actually cause the drive to wear out and fail sooner due to unnecessary excessive writing to it.  Though solid state drives don’t need traditional defragmentation, modern versions of Windows will optimize them — and that’s fine.

So why do hard drives get fragmented? There are lots of reasons.. One is not enough system RAM so the drive gets written to frequently as Windows creates a swap file and uses the drive as pseudo RAM. Another reason is copying a huge database or gigabytes of files like modern PC games often have. Unless you have your system set to automatically defragment your hard drive, it's useful to check now and then to find out the state of how fragmented your hard drive is.  Here's how to do it..

On Windows 7 for example, click on the Start (Orb) Button, hover over All Programs then click on Accessories >  System Tools > Disk Defragmenter and a window like below will pop up. Follow the instruction in the screen shot below..

Rinse and repeat for any other drives that you may have in your system. Only drives that can be defragmented will appear in the list of the Disk Defragmenter tool.


Give the Inside of your PC Case a bit of a Vacuum


Dust accumulating inside the case of your computer can also affect its performance, because dust in its cooling fans make it run a lot hotter than it needs to and can cause it to slow down.


Regardless of how clean an environment you use your computer in, all computers will accumulate a ton of dust inside their cases over time. That's because the fan that cools your computer's Power Supply doesn't blow hot air out of the computer, rather it's designed to suck cool air in, and along with that air, any particles of dust that are floating around.


Note: If you don't feel fully comfortable in doing the following procedure yourself, get the help of a friend who is or, seek help from a professional.


To give the inside of your computer a good clean up, unplug it from its power source and open the case up. (Take care not to touch any of the electrical components inside with your hands lest you zap them with static electricity.)


Grab your vacuum with a small plastic nozzle attached and suck out any dust that's accumulated inside the case. Pay particular attention to the fans and where the CPU (Central Processor Unit) are. Be gentle, you don't want to disturb or break anything in there!  Once done, close the case back up, re-attach your computer to power and fire it up again. See if that makes a difference to its performance. If nothing else, it might run a little quieter and almost certainly a lot cooler.


Finally, the BEST two ways to give your computer a new breath of life...


1.  If you have a Mechanical Drive in your computer, like an old IDE or a current SATA hard drive, consider replacing it with a SSD. Though they are still quite expensive, the performance boost they give to computers is huge and highly noticeable.  You may need professional help installing / swapping drives in your machine, as well as cloning your current installation if you're not technically minded, but most computer shops will do the work for next to nothing if you buy the SSD drive from them.


2.  Add more RAM - Windows loves RAM and the more you have the better. Purchase and install the fastest RAM you can afford, but first make sure that the motherboard in your computer supports it along with the combinations of RAM Gigabytes.  Seek professional help if you can't figure this out for yourself before making a purchase.


A WARNING - Windows loves to have as much RAM as possible - BUT - be aware that if your Windows is 32 Bit, then installing more than 4 GB of RAM is totally useless, because 32 bit Windows can only use (and see) up to 4 Gigabytes. A 64 Bit installation of Windows however is a totally different story. The more RAM the better because a 64 bit Windows installation has the ability to use as much RAM as you can throw at it and that your motherboard supports.


So there you have it folks - Several "Do it Yourself" (DIY) ways of speeding up your computer.

I hope you found this to be an interesting read and got some value out of it.


Andrew Leniart

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9 Comments
 
LVL 8

Expert Comment

by:Senior IT System Engineer
What about installing SSD and upgrading the RAM?
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LVL 12

Author Comment

by:Andrew Leniart
Hi Senior IT SE,

Thanks for your comment.

Both suggestions are there..  see the article towards the bottom under heading..

Finally, the BEST two ways to give your computer a new breath of life...

Best two ways of speeding up a computer are suggested as SSD drives and more/faster RAM.

Cheers..

Andrew
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LVL 51

Expert Comment

by:Jackie Man
Three more points to add.

1. Upgrade the broadband network to fiber optic if it is available and you are affordable;

2. Do not install two antivirus apps with real time monitoring; and

3. Do not use Internet Explorer ("IE") unless the specific websites require IE.
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LVL 12

Author Comment

by:Andrew Leniart
Thank you for your comment and additions Jackie.

I must say I'm a little surprised at your suggestion to avoid the use of Internet Explorer however. Many would argue that it performs faster than probably its largest counterpart - Google Chrome, and can actually be a lot less resource hungry if many tabs are opened :)

That said, my browsers of choice are Google Chrome first, Firefox second and the occasional use of IE 11.x .. I have to be honest and say I've never really experienced any speed issues when using IE and just happen to prefer the UI that Chrome and Firefox provide me.

Curious as to why you would suggest avoiding IE unless absolutely necessary though. Can you elaborate?

Best..
1
 
LVL 51

Expert Comment

by:Jackie Man
Curious as to why you would suggest avoiding IE unless absolutely necessary though. Can you elaborate?

Since Internet Explorer is integrated tightly to the OS, any compromise by malware in IE will immediately affect the use of the computer and it will be time consuming to troubleshoot and fix from my experience.

Even the most techno savvy guy might accidentally click a link to install malware and there are many known and unknown vulnerabilities for IE and you cannot just reset IE to remove the malware.
1
 
LVL 51

Expert Comment

by:Jackie Man
I use Google Chrome for most of the time whereas when I need to download media, I will switch to Firefox.

IE will be used if I need to download software from Microsoft Volume Licensing portal.

Finally, some video streaming website will work best with Safari and Firefox are best with different kinds of add-ons.
2
 
LVL 12

Author Comment

by:Andrew Leniart
A valid point there with regards to IE being tightly integrated to the OS, thus more prone to attack.

Thank you for your continued input Jackie.
1
 

Expert Comment

by:Arkel Thompson
Thank you very much, Andrew Leniart for that very informative and thorough article. Keep up the good work.
1
 
LVL 12

Author Comment

by:Andrew Leniart
You're very welcome Arkel and thank you for the compliment, I appreciate it.
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