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Speed Up a Windows PC

Last night I was working in a very slow Windows laptop. That gave me the opportunity to write this article.

Below I will list all the available methods to speed up your Windows machine.

Having a slow computer is not something most users want and like.

Virus/Malware Infection

The first thing you should check is for virus or malware .Most of malware are designed specifically for making computers slow and unresponsive and to decrease the computer’s performance.This could be the most common reason for PCs slowing down. The best thing for this is to run a PC anti-malware utility, such as Malwarebytes.

Also, scan your secondary storage devices to make sure that they are clean as well. In some cases, you may need to run a utility that starts at boot-up.

Make sure to install and follow best security practices, have your antivirus suite always up-to-date to avoid getting infected in the future.

Note: Run one antivirus program is running on your PC. An antivirus’s resident protection takes a lot of resources. So having more than one antivirus program would bring about a significant reduction in your computer’s speed.

Uninstall Unwanted or Bloatware Programs

Computers are coming with preloaded software you never use. Some of these programs run background processes at startup even though you are not using them. The best method to use is either Windows Program and Features from Control panel or an application called Revo Uninstaller. Removes leftover registry entries and program files in the recycle bin. Includes a handful of tune-up tools tool.

Remove Unnecessary Startup Programs

Startup programs are the programs which start automatically each time a user logs on. Not only do they result in a slow startup, but they also run in the background, until you close them manually, continuously consuming valuable system resources (CPU and RAM) while they are running. So, disabling unnecessary startup items results in both a faster startup and a more responsive computer, as these applications not running continuously means more RAM and CPU will be available for the operations you perform on the computer.

To disable unnecessary startup programs, click on the Start button and type msconfig. This will start the System Configuration utility. The System Configuration dialog will pop up. Click on the Services tab and disable all the applications that you think are not essential on your computer’s startup. Leave anything from Microsoft, your computer manufacturer maker, or well-known software sources like Apple or Google. Changing anything in System Configuration will require a reboot to take effect.

Note: Keep in mind to not disable your security products as that will make your computer more susceptible to getting infected.

Startup Manager or Autoruns for Windows are also a way to clean up these programs.

Delay Windows Services at Startup

Disabling Services from msconfig will also speed up your boot time. Click on the Start button and type Services alternatively you can look in the administrative tools section of your control panel. Finding the service you want to delay right-click on it and choose Properties (or just double-click it), change the “Startup type” drop-down to “Automatic (Delayed Start)”, close the dialogue and then go on to the next item.

Note: You shouldn’t delay services that deal with Windows functions or networking.

In some cases this can significantly improve the initial bootup time.

Delete Temporary Files

Temporary files are stored in your computer as Windows operates. Windows includes a built-in disk Disk Cleanup. This scans your system for unnecessary large files such as program installers, temporary Internet files, log files and more. The larger amount of data was taken up by Temporary Files the slower your computer will become. An alternative method is to run a third-party cleanup software. You can use CCleaner to clean them. You can also schedule a disk cleanup to ensure that it happens automatically.

Hard Drive Space

System speed is not only dependant upon CPU and RAM. If your hard drive is above 95% full, you will notice that your system is slowing down dramatically, this happens because Windows require empty space for swap files to increase in size and also as space for temporary files. It is imperative that the more cluttered and filled a hard drive is, the more difficult it is to read. To solve this issue, delete unnecessary data or move it to external storage devices or alternatively run the Windows built-in disk Disk Cleanup or CCleaner. If you cleaned your computer and still is out of space it is time to take a look at what might be causing it. An awesome utility I am using is WinDirStat. It will show you exactly what is taking up so much space on your machine, organized by folder, file type, and much more. Armed with that information, you can start deleting stuff you don’t need and getting some of that disk space back. For more information, check out our feature on how to analyse, clean out, and free space on your hard drive.

Hard Drive Defragmentation

When Windows stores a file on your hard drive, it does not look for a single place to store your file as a whole. Instead, it stores the fragments of the file randomly, storing them at whatever empty space it can find the quickest. Due to this, the fragments of a single file can be scattered all across a hard disk. A hard drive that has many files distributed like this is called as fragmented. This results in slower file access times because Windows needs to find all these pieces and put them together before the file can be accessed.

Defragging tidies everything up and blocks a program’s bits together so that the reader heads don’t have to shuttle back and forth to read a whole executable or data file. While this is less of a problem with today’s huge hard drives and copious RAM, a slow system can still benefit from defragmenting the disk.

Windows 7 comes with a built-in defragger that runs automatically at scheduled intervals. The default is set to run Wednesdays at 1:00 AM, when most of the computers are usually turned off, so it never got defragged. If you are in a similar boat, you can either change the scheduled defrag, or defrag on demand. Just type defrag in the Windows Start Menu search bar, and click on Disk Defragmenter. The version of the utility is improved in Windows 7, and shows more information about what is happening on your disk than Vista did. Alternatively there are two amazing replacements Defraggler and Smart Defrag.

A defragmented hard drive will increase the speed and performance of your computer.

Note: If you have a solid-state drive (SSD), you should consider defragmenting everything except this drive. Defragmentation of SSDs are usually destructive and you don’t want that.

Hard Drive Errors

Over time, as you use your computer, chances are that some errors might creep in your hard disk which negatively affect your computer’s performance. The best way to solve this issue is by using the built-in Disk Check utility available in all versions of Windows. To use it, execute chkdsk /r in the Command Prompt. Remember to open the Command Prompt as an administrator. It might prompt you to restart your computer. Execute Y to restart your PC. The chkdsk/ r command scans your computer’s hard drive for errors and recovers readable data. Depending upon the size of your hard disk, this step might take some time. This step might increase your computer’s performance phenomenally if there are a lot of errors on your hard drive.

Use a Registry Cleaner

The Windows Registry is a place which keeps information about all installed programs and active system files on your system. Over time, as you install and uninstall programs, the Registry can get filled with useless entries which might increase its size making it difficult to read (unless you used Revo Uninstaller and CCleaner mentioned above). This happens because most uninstallers don’t remove the program’s Registry entries during an uninstall. Also, the larger the Registry is on your computer, the more time Windows will take to start. Frequently cleaning your registry you might notice a significant increase in your computer’s speed and performance.

Restart your Computer frequently

This is assuming that you continuously use your computer for long periods of time. Each time when you close a running program in Windows. it frees the memory that the program was occupying. However, it may so happen that some parts of the memory do not get freed which results in less system resources available to you to use which ultimately results in a slower PC. When you restart your computer, these occupied spaces in the memory get freed. Although, this memory issue has been somewhat fixed in recent versions of Windows, it still is a good idea to reboot your computer at least once a day.

Update your Computer

Ensuring that your computer’s software is up to date is one of the easiest things you can do to increase the speed at which your PC operates. That said, a lot of your computer’s software could be at the mercy of third-party developers who don’t always bring their A game like Microsoft does when it comes to issuing updates.

You can check for software updates in Windows by clicking Sart\Control Panel\System and Security\Check for Updates. Follow the on-screen steps to install the updates.

Having all the updates ensures that your computer is running the best possible version of your operating system and your hardware is being utilized by the best possible code. Also, an updated operating system makes you more secure against future intrusions by performance reducing malware.

Repair protected Windows system files

As you use your computer, it is possible that one or more system files get damaged or get corrupted which might effect your system’s performance in a negative way. Thus, it is important to check that all your system files are original and behaving as they should. The best way to check your operating system’s files is through the System File Checker. To run the System File Checker, open Command Prompt as an Administrator and execute sfc /scannow. This command will check all your system files and if it finds that some of them are modified or corrupt, it will replace them with the original. This step can take anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes but is one that you should perform especially if your system has ever been infected by a virus.

Visual Effects

The visual effects that make your computer look beautiful also slow it down considerably. So, if you want to get the best performance out of your computer, you should disable all these visual effects. To do so do the following:

  • Click Start and type sysdm.cpl.
  • Go to the Advanced tab in the following Window and click on Settings in the Performance section.
  • Then encircle Adjust for best performance. If you want to use visual styles and themes, check it (located at the very end of the list).
  • Click on Apply to apply the changes.

Disabling visual effects could lead to a considerable improvement in your system’s performance especially if you are on Windows 7 or Windows Vista and using the Aero interface without a graphic card.

Desktop Background Frequency

If you do not use a solid colour for your desktop wallpaper, make sure it is refreshing at least every 30 minutes. To do so do the following:

  • Click Start\Control Panel and under Appearance and Personalization Group click Change Desktop Background

Either increase the frequency or chose a solid colour you like. Changing the background frequently could slow down you machine.

Disable sound schemes

Whenever you perform an action in Windows, a sound is played to indicate it. Although it leads to a better user experience, it also contributes towards slowing your PC down. To make your PC a lean work machine, you should disable these sounds. To disable these, open Sounds from the Control Panel or alternately type mmsys.cpl in the Run dialog box. Go to the Sound tab and select “No Sounds” from the Sounds scheme dropdown list and click Apply.

Disable Windows Search Indexing Service

The Windows search indexing service scans all the files and folders on your system and stores information about them in a database to make searches faster. Naturally, this results in consumption of resources. If you don’t use Windows Search often or are willing to trade faster searches for a faster computer (as you should), disable the indexing service. To disable it, execute services.msc in the Run dialog box. In the work area on the right side, locate Windows Search service and double click on it. In the following Properties dialog box, select Disabled from the Startup type dropdown and click OK. Restart your computer. Your searches will be slow but your computer will be faster than ever.

Clean Up Your Vents

The vents on your PC are there to prevent overheating and promote ventilation. However, computers are a little bit like the lint trap in your dryer, meaning that over time their vents can fill up with unwanted dirt and dust. Dirty vents can lead to overheating, it is possible that it is causing your computer to run slowly, crashes, and random reboots. This is because most modern processors slow down when the computer is overheated to allow the computer to cool down.

To prevent your computer from overheating, make sure that the cooling fan works properly and that there is no dust clogging the air vents as it will prevent air flow which will result in poor cooling. Clean your computer’s case with a light brush and place it somewhere where it can be effectively cooled by air. If you use a laptop, a cooling pad might be of help or you could use a can of compressed air to clean out your vents. Just hold the can upright and a few inches from your vent and press to release a short burst of air. Repeat until your vents are clean. If you are not comfortable performing this task, you can always pay a visit to your local PC repair shop.

Action Centre’s Troubleshooter

Action Centre is represented by a flag icon in your PC’s system tray. You click that or just type Action Centre in the Start button’s search box. Action Centre looks at error reports for errors you have encountered, and check s for solutions. It can identify out-of-date hardware drivers and software updates that may speed up your PC. From the Action Centre control panel, drop down the Maintenance section, and click the Check for solutions link.

Virtual Memory

There is a large data with file in hard disk which is reserved for virtual memory to store temporarily. Many applications use it frequently. So system needs to access many data for main memory. So, the speed to access a file is a very important factor in computer speed. Generally, Windows default is to manage virtual memory by the system, it can adjust according to the requirements. But this will bring about the additional burden on the system so that system runs slowly. In view of this, it is best for the user to define the minimum and maximum virtual memory in avoid frequent change. To set the virtual memory, right click My Computer\Properties\Advanced System Settings from the left menu and then click on Settings under the Performance group. Then click on the Advanced Tab and click on Change button at the bottom of the window.

Another way to to free memory when you closed programs.

Use ReadyBoost

Perhaps you don’t want to jump into the solid-state game right away but would like some of the benefit that can be had from flash-based storage and if you are running a computer that does not have enough RAM, using a flash drive with the ReadyBoost technique can and will give you significant improvement in speed. As with ReadyBoost, your flash drive becomes a cache that stores files that you might immediately require giving you faster access times than if those files had been stored on a hard disk.

The flash storage device that you choose to use for ReadyBoost should meet the following specifications set by Microsoft:

  • Capacity of at least 256 MB, with at least 64 kilobytes (KB) of free space
  • At least a 2.5 MB/sec throughput for 4-KB random reads
  • At least a 1.75 MB/sec throughput for 1MB random writes

Note: ReadyBoost depends upon the condition of your flash drive and was intended to increase speeds of devices which were short on RAM. If you already have a sufficient amount of RAM, chances are that you might see very little to no improvement in speed by using it. Also if you are already using an SSD as your system drive, ReadyBoost won’t be available, since there would be no performance gain).

If Windows doesn’t think ReadyBoost will provide a performance gain, it will tell you and won’t let you enable it.

Install More RAM

RAM contains all files of the currently running programs that are immediately required by the computer. Accessing files from the RAM is much faster than doing the same from a hard disk. This means that more the RAM you have, more the programs you can run without compromising on speed. Installing more RAM has always been an effective way of speeding up your computer, and that hasn’t changed. RAM upgrades do not cost much these days,  it is a simple procedure and are one of the best ways to speed up a slow computer.

Install a bigger, faster hard drive
Just as with RAM, your PC needs storage headroom, with Windows itself and so many application programs creating so many temporary files. If you have 95% of your hard drive full, you should probably upgrade.

Install a Solid State Drive
One of the best upgrades you can make to your computer is to install a solid state drive, which has super-fast read times that can speed up your startup considerably.

Although solid state hard drives are a lot faster for writing and reading data than older optical hard drives, their heavy price is something that keeps them out of the range of many. Still, if you do manage to get one for your PC, the change in speed will be shocking.

An even faster choice would be an SDD, and you can now get one with 120GB for just under £100.00. One good strategy is to use the SSD for Windows and conventional hard drives for applications and data.

Reinstall Windows
This is one of the more popular methods and should only be used if all the methods mentioned above fail to bring any significant increase in your computer’s speed.

If you haven’t reinstalled Windows in a long time, the system has got bogged down with useless clutter in a way that no amount of tweaking will fix its condition. Then, reinstalling Windows is the only option.

Reinstalling Windows brings about a definite increase in speed but gives you a new PC without all your software and customization. Modifying it according to your needs will take a lot of time though but that is something you must sacrifice for a faster PC.

If you use Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, you can refresh your PC without affecting your installed apps and settings. To refresh your Windows 8 PC, open Update and Recovery by going to Change PC Settings from the Settings button that appears when you move your mouse pointer to the right side of your screen. Under it, click Recovery. Then under Refresh your PC without affecting files, click Get Started.

Upgrade to Windows 8

If startup time is your concern, I can offer no better advice than to upgrade to Windows 8. The interface takes sometime to get used to, but have overstated the usability aspect of Microsoft’s new desktop OS. I have dual-boot and I end up using Windows 8 more than Windows 7 as everything just seems faster. Also touch-screen users will see additional benefits on Windows 8.

Faster Alternatives Programs

If you use applications that require too much computing power to operate, you are better off replacing them with applications that do the same job as them but faster. Few resource hogging applications that you can replace are:

  • Most resource intensive antivirus software can be replaced with the lightweight Microsoft Security Essentials.
  • Microsoft Office can be replaced with OpenOffice, an open source alternative that also has loads of amazing additions.
  • Adobe Reader can be replaced with the free Foxit Reader.
  • The newer versions of Internet Explorer are pretty fast. However, if you have been using an older version, it is time to upgrade IE or replace it with either Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.

Hardware Conflicts

Open Device Manager to see that all the connected hardware are functioning properly. If you find a hardware conflict, take the necessary steps to resolve it. If the conflict cannot be resolved, disconnect the problematic hardware until you find a solution.

High Performance Power Scheme

If you are running your computer on a battery and notice that it is running slow, change the power scheme to high performance to increase system speed in some circumstances. Keep in mind that it will increase the amount of power consumed by your computer. To change the power scheme, open Power Options from the Control Panel.

Tweak Your BIOS

When you first set up your computer, your BIOS is set up to make things a bit more convenient for you, but once you are all set up, those things can be disabled. If you hold the DEL key when you start up your computer (or whatever key your BIOS tells you to enter setup), you can turn on the “Quick Boot” option and move your hard disk to the top of the boot priority list. The Quick Boot setting will turn off the tests your computer runs when it first turns on, and the boot priority tweak will tell your computer not to look for CDs, thumb drives, or other media when it first starts, which will get you booted into your OS quicker. If you ever need to boot from CD though, you will have to go back into the BIOS and change this again before you do.

Disable Unused Hardware

Your computer loads a lot of drivers when it first starts up, some of which you might not even use. Head into the Device Manager from the Start Menu’s search box, and look for anything you are not using.

Bluetooth controllers, modems, and virtual Wi-Fi adapters are common. Right-click on the entry you want to disable and hit “Disable”.

Note: Remember to only do this with things you don’t actually use but if you use Wireless Hosted Networks, you will need to keep those virtual Wi-Fi adapters enabled.

Remove Unnecessary Fonts

Since the dawn of time, Windows has loaded fonts at startup and slowed down the boot time. This is less of a problem than it used to be, but it can still slow you down a bit. Windows 7 have over 200 fonts at startup; even more if you have installed Microsoft Office. An average user does not use more than five fonts, so you can hide them to speed up that process. In Windows 7, open up the Fonts folder from the Start Menu’s search box, and check off all the fonts you don’t need. Then click the “Hide” button in the toolbar. This way, if you ever want them, you can bring them back, but Windows won’t load them at startup.

Note: Just removing a couple fonts probably is not going to make a difference to the performance of your machine, you will probably need to get rid of a few hundred.

Alternative Tune-up Software

Avanquest Fix It Utilities 11 Pro, £31.00 www.avanquest.com/uk
iolo System Mechanic 10, £28.00 www.iolo.com
IObit Advanced System Care Free 3, FOC www.iobit.com
Glary Utilities, FOC www.glaryutilities.com


Trying the tips in the list will give you one of two results. Your computer runs much faster than it did before or you make zero progress. If your PC is still believes slow, it may be time to consider upgrading. Every system has its limits. Hopefully you performed the tasks on the list and prolonged the life of your computer.

Disclaimer: All software is mentioned in this article have been tested in advanced and doesn’t harm anything on your computer, use it at your own risk though.

Please leave your comments below with your thoughts or share alternative methods are not listed above so I can check them out and possibly add them to this article.


Experienced IT Consultant working and living in the UK. In early years he was born and raised up in Greece and been to the UK since studies. He is passionate with technology, gadgets and computers, he really likes the internet and IT in general.

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