slow-computer

Several Do it Yourself Ways of Speeding up a
Slow Windows Computer

 

Computers tend to slow down over time. Whether your computer has gradually become slower or it suddenly grinds to a halt, then there could be quite a few reasons for that sort of bad luck.

One of the first things you should do is restart your computer to make sure there’s no fragmented memory or poorly designed program hogging computer RAM (Random Access Memory) or CPU time – a reboot will almost always resolve “that” particular issue.

Now if you search the World Wide Web (Google for example), you’ll find a myriad of software programs that promise to do all sorts of magic in speeding up your PC effortlessly, for a few bucks of course.

The best advice I can give you with regards to these programs is stay the heck away from them. Though on the very odd occasion they can make a difference, the majority of the time they cause far more problems than they solve and you end up with more headache’s and a waste of your time rather than just putting up with a slow computer.

The majority of the time, a computer will suddenly slow down because a program is using far too many resources. If it’s slowed down to a crawl, it’s often a case of of a runaway process using 99% of your CPU resources. Or a poorly coded program might be experiencing a memory leak and using a large amount of RAM, causing your PC to constantly swap to disk. Alternatively, an application might be using your Hard Disk a lot, causing other programs to slow down when “they” need to load or save data from or to the disk.

To find out if there’s a culprit causing this problem, open the your computer’s Task Manager. There’s a couple of easy ways to do this – you can right click on your taskbar and click on “Task Manager” or use one of Windows keyboard shortcut combinations – just press “Ctrl+Shift+Escape” on your keyboard and it will pop up.

Depending on the version of Windows you’re running, whether it’s Windows 7 or Windows 10, it may look a little different. For this example I’ll show the Windows 10 version of task manager;

Win10-TaskManager

Click the Processes, App History, Users, Details and Services tabs at the top and look for what is using the most CPU and Memory. If you find an application that is using exceptionally high resources, then try closing it and see how much of a difference it makes. If you can’t close it normally, then click on it in Task Manager and then click the End task button. This will immediately close the application. (Make sure you don’t have anything in that particular application that you’ve been working on and haven’t saved yet)

  • Next try closing System Tray Programs.

This pic is from a Windows 7 system..SystemTrayPrograms

These are programs that are running in the background and quite often, they don’t need to be. If you hover over them, they’ll often identify themselves. If you’re not using that particular program, or don’t “need” it running in the background, then close it. Usually this can be done by right clicking over the top of the program’s icon and selecting Exit or Close. Doing this can often speed up your systems performance in general.

  • Going on from that, the next thing you want to do is Stop Startup Programs. That is, stop programs from starting at boot up that you don’t need running every time you turn on your computer. If you find you do need it during a session, it’s usually a simple matter to just turn it on.

In Windows 10, you do that via the Startup tab in Task Manager I spoke of earlier. In Windows 7, press the Windows Key on your keyboard + R. This will bring up a Run command box that you can type commands into.

startmsconfig

The “System Configuration” box will open in Windows 7 and will look similar to this;

systemconfigurationbox

Click on the Startup Tab, scroll up and down and carefully take note of all the programs under “Startup Item“. This is a list of all the programs / software that loads each time Windows starts up.

When you see something that you don’t need every time Windows loads, then disable it by clicking the box to it’s left and removing the tick. This will disable (not remove or uninstall) the program from starting up and using resources each time Windows is booted. Note that this process is very safe and is totally reversible should you make a mistake by simply going through the same procedure and putting the tick back on. You can’t harm your computer by disabling items in this section.

  • Reducing cutesy things like Animations – Both Windows 7 and Windows 10 make use of a lot of animations after a default install. This can slow things down unnecessarily. As an example, Windows will minimize and maximize windows on your screen instantly if you just disable the associated animations.

Disabling animations is actually quite easy and safe. Here’s how to do it;

On Windows 7, click the Start Button (ORB) and select Control Panel. Now click on the System icon inside Control Panel.  You’ll get a box that looks something like this one. Click on the Performance Information and Tools hyperlink;

Prop

Once you do, the next screen will pop up. Now click on the “Adjust visual effects” hyperlink..

adjustvisualeffects

Almost there, the screen you want to make your adjustments will pop up and look something like this…

performanceoptions

Here’s where you can turn off all manner of “cutesy” effects that do nothing for your computer other than to make things pretty and slow the system down if your computer is getting a bit on the old side.

Feel free to experiment with turning things off. If you want to see how much of a difference turning off “everything” unnecessary for great performance, click on the “Adjust for best performance” radio button, click Apply and be amazed at just how much quicker your computer will perform in general. Again, all of this is totally safe, it can’t “hurt” your computer to experiment and is fully reversible.

  • Give your Web Browser a breather – Most people use their web browser quite a lot, so your browser may just start to get slower and slower the more you use it without giving it any maintenance.

Good maintenance practices include clearing your browsers history cache but even more importantly, use as few browser extensions or add-ons as you can live without. Despite their claims to the contrary, these tend to slow down your browsing experience rather than make it faster and also cause it to use a lot more memory than necessary.

To fix this, go into your web browsers settings and look for “Extensions” or “Add-ons” that you may have installed purposely, or that got installed without your knowledge when you installed some other piece of software without using the “advanced” method of software installation.

  • Virus’s – Malware – Adware may seem obvious as a reason why your computer can start performing slowly, but it’s surprising how many people forget to check and just trust their Anti-Virus to keep them safe.

Well it can’t because the Malware writers are always at least one step ahead of the Anti-Virus companies. For instance, did you know that the Anti-Virus software out there today can’t prevent you from getting infected with arguably one of the worst forms of malware around? I am of course talking about Ransom-ware – all Anti-Virus programs will detect an infection “once it happens”, but by then the damage is done. That’s because different variations occur on nearly a daily basis. But I digress..

To keep yourself safe, always scan your computer with your Anti-Virus and make sure its definitions are up to date before you do. Ensure you always keep it up to date when new releases come out of your favourite Anti-Virus.

My own personal favourite of Anti-Malware software is called MalwareBytes Anti-Malware. After using it for many years myself, I’ve learned to trust it as it  catches a lot of things that other similar products miss. The professional (or Premium) version, with such a small cost is a bargain for the peace of mind it provides!

malwarebytes

The product is available as a “Cure Only” for free but the free version doesn’t protect you in real time like an Antivirus does. For the low price of the (Premium) version though, I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever purchased. AND – it runs well alongside any Anti-Virus with no noticeable negative system performance and in my line of work, I’ve tested it with dozens of Anti-Virus products. Never a problem.

  • Free up some System Drive Disk Space – It’s a well-established fact that Windows will run better if it has plenty of disk space and RAM. If your Hard Drive is starting to get full, your computer “will” start to run considerably slower.

Doing that is actually pretty obvious. Open up your control panel, go through the programs that you’ve installed over the years and get rid of the ones you never use.

Here’s an example from a Windows 7 system…

getridofprograms

Just scroll up and down and uninstall any programs you don’t need. That’s one way to make more space on your Hard Drive to keep Windows happier.

  • Another way is to do a disk clean up using Windows built in Disk Clean-up utility, designed specifically for that purpose.

On Windows 7, open up Windows Explorer, right click on your computers C: drive and select “Properties” – You should get a windows that looks like this…

DiskCleanup-1

Once you’ve clicked on the Disk Cleanup icon, Windows will start to scan the disk looking for files that simply aren’t necessary to keep. Then another screen will pop-up like this one…

DiskCleanup-2Once you’ve clicked on “Clean up system files” as well, Windows will start to scan the disk looking for unnecessary files to keep again. A new box will pop-up that looks like this one..

DiskCleanup-3

After you click on the “Clean up…” button, you will see the following warning;

DiskCleanup-4

Using the scroll bar on the right, scroll up and down and put a tick in everything that doesn’t already have a tick in it and then click the OK button at the bottom of the window to the left of the Cancel button. You will then get a confirmation box pop up. Follow the instruction in the pic below..

DiskCleanup-6

  • Defragment your Hard Drive – Generally speaking, on modern computers, frequent defragmentation of your Hard Drive shouldn’t really be necessary, however in reality it actually is because a badly fragmented hard drive can and often will cause poor performance issues.

The exception to the rule is if you have an SSD (Solid State Drive) – these do not require defragmentation and doing so can actually cause the drive to wear out and fail sooner due to unnecessary excessive writing to it.  Though Solid-State drives don’t need traditional defragmentation, modern versions of Windows will “optimize” them — and that’s fine.

So why do Hard Drives get fragmented. There’s lots of reasons.. One is not enough system RAM so the drive gets written to frequently as Windows creates a Swap File and uses the drive as pseudo RAM. Another reason is copying a huge database or gigabytes of files like modern PC games often have. Unless you have your system set to automatically defragment your hard drive, it’s useful to check every now and then to find out the state of how fragmented your Hard Drive is.  Here’s how to do it..

On Windows 7 for example, click on the Start (Orb) Button, hover over All Programs then click on Accessories >  System Tools > Disk Defragmenter and a window like below will pop up. Follow the instruction in the screen shot below..Defragment-2

Rinse and repeat for any other drives that you may have in your system. Only drives that can be defragmented will appear in the list of the Disk Defragmenter tool.

  • Finally, the BEST two ways to give your computer a new breath of life.
  1. If you have a Mechanical Drive in your computer, like an old IDE or a current SATA hard drive, consider replacing it with a (SSD) Solid State Drive. Though they are still quite expensive, the performance boost they give to computers is huge and highly noticeable.  You may need professional help installing / swapping drives in your machine, as well as cloning your current installation if you’re not technically minded, but most computer shops will do the work for next to nothing if you purchase the SSD drive from them.
  2. Add more RAM (Random Access Memory) – Windows loves RAM and the more you have the better. Purchase and install the fastest RAM you can afford, but first make sure that the motherboard in your computer supports it along with the combinations of RAM Gigabytes.  Seek professional help if you can’t figure this out for yourself before making a purchase.

A WARNINGAs I stated, Windows loves to have as much RAM as possible – BUT – be aware that if your Windows is 32 Bit, then installing more than 4 GB of RAM is totally useless, because 32 bit Windows can only use (and see) up to 4 Gigabytes.  A 64 Bit installation of Windows however is a totally different story. The more RAM the better because a 64 bit Windows installation has the ability to use as much RAM as you can throw at it and that your motherboard supports.

So there you have it folks – Several “Do it Yourself” (DIY) ways of speeding up your computer.

I hope you found this to be an interesting read and got some value out of it.

Till the next time…

Andrew

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