Editor's Note: This article last updated September 21, 2015.
There are many items that can slow down your computer or laptop such as spyware, malware and viruses, which your computer will pick up. You should also consider the fact that if your computer is getting old and software is getting outdated, this too will inhibit your PC from doing what it is supposed to. Even new, out-of-the-box computers come with a load of programs on them. Manufacturers think you need them all, and you almost always do not. Some of these will continually run in the background and, in turn, slow down your system.
While keeping your computer hardware up to date and your anti-virus software current can help mitigate some of the problems your computer will encounter, what else can you do to speed up your system? We break down a few tips to help boost the performance of your PC.
We can't stress enough how important it is to rid yourself of these nasty bugs that can slip into the cracks of your virtual life. Spyware can cause pop-ups as well as collect personal information without letting you know or asking for permission. This puts your computer and your information at risk. Spyware also can also instruct your home computer to send harmful emails to your friends and family. These are just a few of spyware's tricks. Make sure you use a reputable spyware remover to take care of the problem.
Free Up Disk Space
The Disk Cleanup tool is a great way to help free up space on your hard disk and improve performance. A few things Dick Cleanup can do are:
- Remove temporary internet files (which generally take up the most space).
- Empty the Recycle Bin.
- Delete programs you never use.
- Remove Windows Temporary files, such as error reports.
- Backup files you never access.
Disk fragmentation slows the overall efficiency of your computer. As you install and uninstall programs and save and delete files over the years, these actions create small empty gaps among the other data on your hard drive. After a while, new information is no longer stored in blocks, but in the nooks and corners of your hard drive. As a result, your computer must work harder to piece certain parts of the data together by scouring the hard drive. Disk Defragmenter consolidates these files and folders so that they occupy one single space on the disk. Run this when:
- You add a large number of files
- Your free space totals 15 percent or less.
- You install new, large programs or a new OS.
ReadyBoost was introduced with Windows XP, and there are multiple videos on Microsoft's website that instruct you on how to use ReadyBoost. This tool basically uses a USB flash drive or memory card to introduce a level of memory that functions somewhere between RAM and your hard drive disk for storing non-volatile memory. ReadyBoost works better on systems that struggle to open and maintain the speed of certain programs. It will enhance your computer, but only if you have a hard drive that is at capacity or a system that is several years old. Otherwise, you are not going to notice much of a difference.
Repair Disk Errors
In addition to Defragmentation and Disk Cleanup, repairing disk errors can optimize the performance of your hard drive and your system. As you use your hard drive, it can develop bad sectors, making it hard or impossible to save files and write data to your hard drive. By running the Error Checking utility, you can scan and repair bad sectors. To run this utility, follow these steps:
- Close all open files and programs.
- Click Start, and then click Computer.
- In the Computer window (My Computer), right-click the hard disk you want to search for bad sectors, and then click Properties.
- In the Properties dialog box, click the Tools tab.
- Click the Check Now button.
- In the Check Disk dialog box (called Error-checking in Windows 7), select the Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors check box, and then click Start.
- If you find bad sectors, choose to fix them.
Remove Start-up Fluff
Using MSCONFIG allows you to shut down all programs that automatically start when your computer boots up. Many of these programs, like anti-virus applications, legitimately need to run in the background. Others, such as MSN Messenger, only think they do but they just make start up time longer. To shut down the programs you don't need to run, take the following steps:
- Click start and go to Run.
- Type in MSCONFIG in the box.
- Click the Startup tab.
- You will then be shown a list of all the startup items that run when the computer boots up. Select the programs you want to shut down.
Always double check to see if you need a program before stopping it. In most cases, if you don't recognize it, it doesn't need to be there.
More RAM means a faster feel to opening files and easier multitasking. For every program you open, your computer uses RAM; if you have multiple programs open at once and lack sufficient memory, everything will slow down. Upgrading RAM is fairly inexpensive these days, and it can drastically help your computer. There are help videos on the web to show you how install additional memory, or you can take it into the shop and have them do it there. Be warned: It's much more expensive that way.
Regular maintenance, like running the Defrag and Disk Cleanup utilities, as well as running spyware removers, should ideally be done once or twice a month, depending on how often you use your computer. All these tips can come together to help your computer be more efficient and give you an optimized computer experience without severe lag times.