A slow computer can be really frustrating and even affect productivity in a work setting. Lucky for us, there are several simple steps you can do to help speed up a sluggish system:
1) Run a Virus Scan on Your Computer
One of the common causes of a conspicuosly slow computer is the invasion of a computer virus or two. Some viruses clog up computer memory and really slow down the computer. The best way to resolve this is to update your antivirus program and run a full virus scan of your computer. It is also best to use an anti-rootkit program (like Sophos Anti-Rootkit) to detect and remove tricky types of viruses that hide deep in the computer’s system. Anti-spyware programs (like Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware) can also detect some types of viruses that cannot be detected by standalone antivirus software.
2) Disable Unnecessary Startup Programs
Startup programs are those that automatically run in the background whenever Windows starts up. A lot of these are really unnecessary and just take up precious memory. The easiest way to disable these is by using a free program called Ccleaner. Open the program, go to Tools, and select Startup. Pick out the programs you don’t need to always run in the background (like a program updater or a media helper), then click the “Disable” button on the right side. This doesn’t delete or uninstall the program, but turns it off at startup.
3) Free Up Wasted Space
Dwindling disk space can also make your computer run slow. You can free this up by deleting old unnecessary files like temporary files, old log files, Recycle bin records and such. Ccleaner is a program that’s mainly designed to do that task for you. In the default Cleaner window, just pick out the items you want to clean (default settings work fine), then hit “Run Cleaner”. You’ll be surprised to discover that you have hundreds of megabytes (or even gigabytes!) of space just lying around in your computer.
4) Uninstall Unused Programs
Too many programs installed on the computer take up precious space and can make your system run slow. To reduce the number of programs on your computer, go to Start Menu > Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs (for XP or Vista users) or Programs and Features (for Windows 7 users). This will show a list of all the programs on your computer, with information on their size and perhaps when they were installed or how frequently you use them. Uninstall non-essential programs you don’t plan to use in the future, like an old version of a software you’ve updated or a computer game you tried but didn’t enjoy so much. To do this, just select the program and click the “Remove” button (for XP), or right-click the program and select Uninstall (Vista and Win 7). Be sure that you know what you are uninstalling – you don’t want to end up missing important programs. To be on the safe side do a backup or create a system restore point before you uninstall any program.
5) Adjust the Paging File Size
When the computer is running out of system memory (stored in the RAM chip), Windows allocates part of the hard disk, called the paging file or swap file, to store memory data. This is what is called the virtual memory. A paging file that is too small or too big can both cause the computer to run slowly. As a general rule, it is best to set the size of your paging file to 1.5 times your RAM – for example, if you have 256 MB of RAM, your paging file should be 384 MB. To adjust the paging file size, go to Start > Control Panel > Performance and Maintenance > System. Look for Performance under the Advanced tab, then click Settings. Under Virtual memory, click Change. Select the drive that contains the paging file, then click Custom size. Type the desired paging file size in megabytes (minimum and maximum) in the boxes, then click Apply and OK.
6) Adjust the Display Settings
Fancy visual effects like Windows Aero and animated windows also cost precious memory. To change this, go to Start > Control Panel > Performance and Maintenance > System. Under the Advanced tab, look for Performance and click the Settings button beneath it. In the Performance Options window that appears, go to the Visual Effects tab, and select “Adjust for best performance”. Then click OK.
7) Defragment Your Hard Drive
Over time, a computer’s hard drive becomes heavily fragmented. Data and files are written on the drive in a non-contiguous manner, which makes it longer for the computer to access them. Accessing programs and files become slower because of this. To defragment your drive, open My Computer, right-click the drive you want to defragment, click Properties, and under the Tools tab select Defragment. The Disk Defragmenter window will appear. In XP, you can click Analyze first to check if your drive really does need defragmenting. If a message appears and says that you should defragment the volume, pick Defragment Now. In Vista and Windows 7, just click Defragment Now. This might take long, so do this only when you don’t plan to use the computer for a couple of hours at most.
8) Upgrade or Add More RAM
Sometimes tweaking your computer’s settings can only do so much, and the best thing to do is to add another RAM card or to replace your RAM with a higher-capacity one. If you’re unsure how to do this, it is best to consult someone who knows how. The RAM card should be compatible with your computer’s motherboard, or else it may lead to more computer problems. Proper precautions should also be followed when tinkering with the insides of the computer – you don’t want to cause damage where there is none. Replacing RAM cards on laptops is especially more tricky.