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Slow computer? 9 ways to make it run faster

Slow computer? 9 ways to make it run faster
© Frizzantine | Dreamstime

Anyone who uses a computer has probably experienced this one time or another, a PC that seems to bog down over time. Your programs open sluggishly, web browsing seems pokey, apps are lagging and your computer start up time is worse than you remember.

Even Windows 10 is not immune to these occasional slowdowns, and it could be a bit frustrating trying to figure out what's going on - especially with a relatively new operating system. Before you throw your computer out the door, try these tricks first. They might save you some cash and your sanity.

1. Check your hard drive space and your temporary files

As you accumulate files and programs, your storage eventually fills up. This could potentially slow down your system as it takes longer to search for the data it needs. It is recommended that you have at least 15 percent free space on your operating system drive for optimal performance.

In Windows 10, the easiest way to check for free space is to open Settings >> System >> Storage. This will display all the drives that you currently have with a graphical representation of the remaining free space.

Selecting a drive will show you a breakdown of what kind of system data is occupying it. A category you might want to check first is Temporary Files. In here, Windows 10 could automatically clear all the temp files that the system doesn't require to run, like temporary internet and program files and caches.

(Note: You might have a section here called "Previous version of Windows." It's quite large, about 30GB, but don't delete previous versions if you plan on going back to Windows 7 or 8.1 .)

2. Uninstall programs that you don't use

Uninstall Apps Win10

Most of the time, we have applications we have installed, used once and have totally forgotten about. These programs still occupy hard drive space and may even have temporary files and folders installed. They could even be running in the background, sucking out memory and resources so it is in your best interest to track them down and uninstall them.

To do this in Windows 10, go to Settings  >> System >> Apps and Features. This will list all the programs and apps you have currently installed with their corresponding size. To remove, just click on the program or app then choose "Uninstall."

3. Turn off visual effects

Visual Performance Windows 10

With all its visual effects and gimmicks, Windows 10 could be pretty. Too pretty. If your computer is not up to par, it might struggle to render all the fancy transitions and transparencies, taking resources from the more important stuff.

Thankfully, in Windows 10, you could choose what visual effects to run or even let the system decide for you.

To do this, search for "Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows." On the newly opened Performance Options window, click on "Visual Effects." Here you could cherry pick what effects you want enabled. For best results, select "Adjust for best performance" or "Let Windows choose what's best for my computer."

4. Prevent unneeded Startup programs

If your computer takes its sweet time to start up, giving you the infamous spinning wheel of patience before you could even take control, then maybe there are non-essential programs that are clogging your start-up process.

It's easier than ever in Windows 10 to check your startup. Just open Task Manager, either by right clicking on the task bar then selecting Task Manager or by pressing Ctrl, Shift and Esc. Then go to the Startup tab.

A list of programs that impact your startup times are listed here with columns for publisher, status and impact. To disable a program, just right-click then choose "Disable." Be careful of what you take off though, some essential programs, like anti-virus or firewall software, may not run properly if you disable them on startup.

5. Clean out malware

Another reason your computer may be running slower than usual is malware. This is the worst kind of slow down since malicious programs may be sucking up resources WHILE stealing your personal data. A slow computer is the least of your concerns if this is the case. Removing said malware should be your top priority.

There are free tools online that will assist you in checking and removing malware, spyware and virus infections. One popular tool is ClamWin.

ClamWin is a free anti-virus program that runs only when you want it to. It can work directly with Microsoft Outlook to take control of those nasty embedded viruses in emails before you have the chance to run into them.

You can also schedule ClamWin to regularly scan your computer for viruses, malware, Trojans and more. It's a must-have tool for virus detection.

6. Defragment your drives

Defrag Win 10

If your hard disk is fragmented, then your system will take more time finding the resources that it needs, slowing you down even more. Defragmenting will rearrange the data on your hard disk to make it more efficient.

Windows 10 optimizes and defragments drives automatically according to schedule. If you want to perform a manual defrag, just search for "Defragment and Optimize Drives." Here, you could choose your target drive and click "Analyze" or "Optimize."

7. Hardware solutions

If you have tried all the free system tweaks you could do and your system is still not running as quick as you would want to, then it may be time to look into hardware solutions like adding more RAM (Random Access Memory).

Extra RAM has significantly dropped down in price and adding a stick or two to your system configuration should be cheap and easy. If your computer lags and freezes when you have multiple programs open, adding more RAM will definitely help you out.

Microsoft recommends at least 1 GB for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit Windows 10, but in our experience, 4 GB or more will give you a much smoother system.

8. Restart occasionally

Believe it or not, as simple as it seems, restarting your computer at least once a week does wonders for your system. It flushes out the RAM and ends processes and services that did not close out gracefully. Restarting may be a hassle sometimes but it may be the only thing you'll need to speed up an abnormally sluggish PC.

It may sound like a joke but your IT guy may be on to something when he says "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"

9. Clean your computer, literally

If you have had your computer for a while, chances are dust has accumulated and it is grossly blocking your computer vents and airflow. This might lead to overheating and your computer is slowing down on purpose to lessen the load on your CPU.

A blast of compressed air may do the trick but for heavy duty cleaning, use a specialized vacuum or a blower to get rid of those nasty dust bunnies. Make sure you turn your computer off, let the power drain for half an hour, unplug all the wires, take out any disks in the CD tray then let 'er rip.

More tips you can't miss:

How to tell it's time to get a new computer

How to access the Windows 10 secret Start menu in just two keystrokes

Everything you need to know about Windows 10 S

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