Quick and simple tips for an effective solution to supercharge your system
They say breakups are the worst. But we beg to disagree – Suffering from a slow and unresponsive computer is by far the worst experience you can have. More so because often you either don’t know if it can be fixed or you’re worried you’ll mess up your system even more by trying. (And sadly, you can’t afford to resort to physical violence either)
Well, we assure you there are several quick and safe tips you can use to optimize Windows and give a shot of adrenaline to your aging (or not) PC or laptop. There could be multiple reasons why your computer has slowed down to a crawl. And the reasons can arise from both software level and hardware-level issues:
- Your storage is running out of space
- You have too many unnecessary programs hogging system resources
- You have malicious programs wreaking havoc in the background
- You have outdated system files and drivers
- Dust and insufficient cooling are limiting your performance
- And finally, you are due for a hardware upgrade (relax, it won’t cost a bomb)
Let’s get to it then, shall we? You probably don’t have time to waste if you’re looking for ways to speed up your Windows computer.
1. Free up Space on your Disk
Over time, your hard disk can get filled to the brim and cause Windows to slow down as a result. The thing is, your hard disk, especially your boot partition (the C: drive, in most systems), needs a degree of free space to breathe and will start to slow down in daily tasks if it doesn’t have around 15-20% of free space. It’s recommended to keep at least 10% of your C: drive free, at the bare minimum.
To do this, you can start with running the Disk Cleanup utility present in Windows by default. Simply type disk cleanup in your Cortana search bar, next to the Start button, and open the utility. It will ask you the disk partition you want to clean up. Go ahead by selecting the C: drive and follow the simple on-screen instructions to free up much-needed space on your boot partition.
It’s a good practice to also Defragment your hard disk regularly. It helps to fix some slowdown issues which have arisen over time, due to related files spread over the disk, hence creating fragmentation. By optimizing your drive to periodically run the defragmentation utility, you ensure peak performance for your system. By the way, you can ignore this step on your SSD. (We’ll talk about SSDs later). You can open the defragmentation utility directly by right-clicking any drive partition, navigating to ‘Properties’ and then the ‘Tools’ tab, and clicking the ‘Optimize’ button.
The utility will show you the defragmentation status of all the drives and you can choose to run the optimization process for the fragmented drives. You can also schedule regular defragmentation runs from the same screen.
The next step to clear space on your disk is to uninstall unwanted programs. You’ll be surprised to know the number of applications you had forgotten about and which serve no purpose other than occupying precious storage space. To view the list of all installed programs, locate ‘Add or remove programs’ in the search bar. You’ll be able to sort all installed programs by Size and Install date as well, to better help you decide which programs you don’t need anymore.
2. Reduce the number of startup programs & Background processes
One of the most glaring areas in terms of system slowdown is boot time. You might remember your brand-new laptop booting up in an instant but now takes a lifetime to make it to the desktop. This is because, over time, Windows build up the number of programs that get loaded on startup, needlessly increasing the boot time.
A majority of these programs don’t need to be loaded on startup. You can always launch them as and when you need them. To keep only the most essential programs in the startup list, head over to the ‘Task Manager’ by right-clicking the Taskbar or simply by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Navigate to the ‘Startup’ tab and disable the programs you’re confident you don’t need every time Windows boots up. The screen also shows you the last boot or BIOS time at the top right corner for your reference.
Another useful tip to free up system memory (RAM) is to go through the programs running in the background, shown in the ‘Processes’ tab. Start by sorting the programs by memory and finding the ones using the most amount of system RAM. You can figure out the programs that you’re not actively using and closing them by right-clicking them and selecting ‘End task’. It’s best to do a google search for the programs you’re not sure about. You don’t want to close a necessary background process.
3. Root out possible malware & other infections
In today’s hyper-connected age, it’s downright impossible not to catch malware or a virus while browsing the web or by accidentally bringing it over from an infected USB drive. Malware can be of several kinds- some sit on your drive and hamper the performance of the system and some are targeted to encrypt your files, accompanied with a ransom note, essentially rendering your files unusable unless you pay the scammers to decrypt them (or you could just give up on your data and just format your entire drive).
There are viruses lurking in cyberspace as well that, once on your disk, end up replicating themselves and start throwing pop-up messages unexpectedly or start launching unknown programs or simply making your system unresponsive. A potential sign of viruses on your system is weird sounds coming from your hard disk. Sometimes encountering Blue Screens of Death (BSODs) can also mean your system is infected with viruses.
A simple and free solution to get rid of malware and viruses is by running a quick scan from the ‘Virus & threat protection’ screen. It’s best to do this after running the update using ‘Virus & threat protection updates’ section.
Sometimes you might not see improvement in your system performance even after a scan. At that point, you can try free software like ‘Malwarebytes’ to further scan the system and root out malware, spyware, and ransomware.
4. Update Windows & Drivers
Keeping Windows up-to-date is essential to ensuring you have the latest Windows version in terms of security and performance. Often newer Windows builds have patches that fix persistent security flaws and performance drawbacks in the previous builds. Hence, it’s imperative to make sure your system is set to regularly update Windows.
To do this, head to the search bar and navigate to ‘Check for Updates’ section in the Settings. It’s possible that in the past, for some reason, you might have paused system updates. If that’s the case, you would be able to see a ‘Resume updates’ button on this screen. Even if updates weren’t paused, it might be possible that Windows Update settings are set to not automatically install updates or not install certain major updates without your express permission.
Check the status on this screen and after selecting automatic update download installation, the system will download and install any pending updates.
The next step you should consider is updating System Drivers. Drivers are software that establishes successful communication between your hardware and Windows. Having outdated drivers can sometimes limit the performance of your components and in some cases, even cause fatal BSODs, crashing the system unexpectedly and repeatedly.
You’ll need to head to ‘Device manager’ from the search bar and look for any exclamation signs next to any listed devices and components. Go to the respective device and right-click and select ‘Properties’. Then select the ‘Driver’ tab and click on ‘Update driver’. You can select ‘Search automatically for updated driver software’ and the system will check online and download and update the latest driver for you.
5. Keep your computer physically clean and cool
Both your desktops and laptops are prone to accumulating dust inside them, no matter how high-end your system is. Dust and grime are inevitable and will always be there after prolonged use. PCs and laptops have cooling fans working constantly, on-air intake and suck in a fair bit of dust as well, which settles on both the intake vents & fans and, on the motherboard & components inside.
For desktops, it’s comparatively simpler to remove dust from the cabinet. Ensure the PC is unplugged and then simply open the side panels (if possible), and blow compressed air on the accumulated dust (from a safe distance). After you’re satisfied that you’ve done your best, use a vacuum to suck in the dislocated dust. You can use a soft, lint-free cloth to remove the dust from the intake and exhaust fans. For deeper cleaning, you can clean the heatsinks of your processor and graphic card after removing them from the motherboard (if you know what you’re doing).
For laptops, it’s a little more complicated as you need to remove the panel from under it to reach the motherboard and onboard components. Once you’ve comfortably and successfully done so, you can use a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the dust accumulations from tough-to-reach places. Ensure everything is perfectly dry before closing the panel and powering the laptop on.
While you’re at it, it’s a good practice to clean your keyboard and display as well. You can use special cleaners or a homemade isopropyl alcohol solution with a lint-free microfiber cloth.
6. Spend a bit on Hardware Upgrades
While all the above steps are sure to give a performance boost to your system, you might be overdue for an SSD and RAM upgrade if your beloved PC or laptop is showing signs of age. Today’s applications and internet browsers demand a minimum of 8GB and a recommended 16GB of system memory (RAM).
Go check your total system memory in Task manager. In the Performance tab, you can see the total RAM and the Processes tab will show you the amount of RAM being used currently. Check this percentage amount during idle and heavy workloads. If it’s regularly being reported as more than 75-80%, and you’re experiencing unusually slow window-opening and application-launching speeds, it’s time for a RAM upgrade.
A pair of RAM sticks rated for 3000 MHz usually won’t cost you more than $45 to $70, depending on whether you have a laptop or a desktop.
And lastly, making the switch to an SSD (Solid State Drive) from the age-old Hard Disk Drive will give you the most tangible speed boost, both during the boot time and while using the system for day-to-day tasks. You can get a 250GB SSD from Samsung or Crucial for as low as $50. It’s more than enough to keep your Windows OS and a few most used applications. You can keep the rest of your data on your existing HDD.
If you really don’t want to spend on your old computer, there are still some free optimizations you can go for:
- Switch to High-performance mode in Windows Power options
- Cut down on features like Visual features, One Drive Syncing, Search indexing, Windows Tips & Tricks, Cortana
- Check your hard disk for errors using the CHKDSK tool
- Ensure the Page file size is set to Automatic
- Lastly, you can choose to restore Windows to a recent Restore point in case of a sudden system slowdown
And there you have it! Six (and some) simple and effective tips to speed up your slow Windows computer. Make sure to try out each of them and you’re bound to squeeze that last performance drop out of your system!