How to speed up your computer

If you noticed your computer running slow, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to dump it in the garbage. This guide will help your PC run closer to the way it did when you booted that baby up for the first time.

Try these steps to improve performance and learn about helpful habits to stop slowdowns. And if you have a Mac, check out our tips for speeding up a Mac, too.

Step 1: Update your computer software

Ensuring your computer’s software is up to date is the one of the easiest ways to possibly speed up your computer. That said, much of your computer’s software could be at the mercy of third-party developers who are less religious than big-name developers like Microsoft and Apple when it comes to issuing updates.

However, to check for software updates while using Windows, you can go to Settings (search for it in the search bar if you don’t see it in your menu), select the Update & Security window, go to Windows Update, and choose Check for updates. the current version of Windows 10 will typically install important updates automatically, but it’s always nice to check and make sure that everything is applied.

Step 2: Delete unnecessary files

Don’t worry, you don’t have to go through your files one by one. There are third-party apps that can help you remove unnecessary files (we’ll go over this in later steps), but the easiest is to use the native cleanup tool that comes with Windows 10.

Start by going to the search bar on Windows and typing in “disk cleanup,” which should bring up the Disk cleanup tool for you to select. Select the drive you want to clean, and then select OK. Look for the Files to Delete section, and make sure all the file types you want deleted are selected. The description will help you learn more about the types of files. When ready select OK again to begin the cleanup process.

Step 3: Clean your vents

Nearly every computer on the market comes equipped vents designed to prevent overheating and increase ventilation. However, computers are a little like laundry dryers, meaning their vents will built up an unwanted excess of dust and lint over time. Clogged vents can lead to overheating of the central processing unit, which in turn can cause poor performance, unexpected crashes, and random reboots.

The simple solution is to clean your vents periodically reduce the risk. You can use a compressed air canister, an item easily obtainable online or at your local office supply store, to flush dirt out of your vents. You could also take your computer apart to do so, but we personally don’t recommend going down that path unless you have previous computer experience doing so.

Step 4: Defragment your hard drive

Saving and deleting files causes your data to be strewn across your hard drive in bits rather than whole pieces. So, when your hard drive wants to find something, it may have to search in multiple locations instead of one, thereby slowing your entire system down. Defragmenting takes care of the mess by organizing your data so your hard drive can spend less time searching for it.

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Windows 10 makes this very easy even for new users with a native defragging process. Simply head to the search bar on your home screen and type in “defrag,” then choose the tool that appears called Defragment and Optimize Drives. This will open a window where you can choose which drives you want to analyze or optimize, along with notifications if a drive looks like it needs optimization. Choose the drives you want, and select Optimize to begin. You can also schedule future optimization.

If you have an SSD, true defragmenting may actually be worse for the drive. Windows 10 will automatically avoid the defragmenting step if it detects that you chose an SSD to optimize.

Step 5: Maintain and optimize your computer with native and third-party software

Third-party software can help remove unnecessary files and browser histories, which will then speed up your computer’s start-up time and unburden your system of time and energy-sucking paraphernalia lurking within your machine. Here are a few recommendations for getting started.

Antivirus software — Viruses are often to blame when your system loses its mojo. Fortunately, you don’t need to shell out any money to get a quality antivirus software. BitDefender, another cloud-based piece of software designed for Windows, performs even deeper scans to identify and eliminate malicious software and red flags. Take a look at other free antivirus recommendations here.

Remove redundancies — Registry cleaners are practical because, as you install and uninstall software over time, your registry gets muddled with outdated and corrupted entries that can provoke system errors and crashes. The solution? Use the easy-to-use Auslogics Registry Cleaner to clean out junk and fix errors. The program selects a default list of drives and items on your computer, swiftly scanning and repairing issues before they become more troublesome whenever you’d like. In case it deletes something you later decide you’d rather keep, you can even go to the Rescue Center under File to restore your files from a backup.

Step 6: Upgrade your system

You’ve tried all our tricks and even reinstalled your operating system, but you’re still not satisfied? It seems like your computer’s hit its limits. It may be time to upgrade.

Memory (RAM)

If you run heavy programs like Photoshop, or just tend to run a lot of programs at once and notice that your system slows down when you switch from one to the other, installing more random access memory (RAM) could make your life easier.

To find out how much RAM you already have, visit your System Information (on a Mac, click on the Apple icon on the top left corner of the screen and then on About This Mac). Next, you must find out how much more RAM your computer can handle and what kind you can install. Crucial and Kingston Technology are good resources to figure out what kind of RAM will work for you at this point.

Solid-state drives (SSDs)

Switching from a regular hard disk to a solid-state drive (SSD, sometimes called a solid-state disk) can make a huge difference in speed and in reliability because an SSD has memory instead of moving parts, making reading data off it much faster than reading it off a hard disk, which uses quickly rotating discs. When you have an SSD, it doesn’t matter whether your file fragments are located in adjacent spots or scattered loosely all over: they’re just as quick to read. SSDs can even purposefully store pieces of files in different places to even out wear. In addition to making it lighter and less energy-dependent, the lack of moving parts also makes SSDs shockproof and more durable, further extending the life of your machine.

If you’re going for an SSD, you’ll need to find out what kind is compatible with your computer. Samsung, Wester Digital, and Intel all have great SSD options to explore, no matter what size you’re looking for. Here’s our list of the top SSDs to help you get started.  Once you’ve chosen your new SSD, you’ll be able to add them to your system yourself using an upgrade kit — with no experience necessary.

Graphics card

If you play 3D games on your computer and have noticed sluggishness, you’ll want to consider upgrading your video card as well. Inexpensive machines tend to come with integrated graphics built into the motherboard, instead of a separate graphics processing unit (GPU), which boasts much more impressive graphics capabilities.

Even if you have a GPU, you might want a faster one, depending on the game titles you’d like to play. Just like with RAM and SSDs, you must first figure out which card will work with the computer you already have, as not all cards will jive with your motherboard. Do you have an accelerated graphics port (AGP)? Most likely PCI Express (PCIe)? Is it integrated into the motherboard or is it a separate card? Investigate before you buy, especially because some video card upgrades also necessitate an upgrade in your power supply.

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