A slow computer can hamper any progress you’re trying to make in games, work, or when you’re using programs to express yourself creatively.
It can feel impossible to get things done on a slow computer since problems can cause anything from stuttering responses to outright freezing. There are lots of steps you can take to speed things up, though.
Why Is My Computer So Slow?
Always start with the most straightforward fixes before moving on to the more difficult ones. Wiping and reinstalling your operating system is much more challenging and more time-consuming than ensuring your computer is getting the proper airflow, for example.
Before You Begin
Before you start working on your computer to determine what’s slowing it down, do some essential maintenance to ensure it’s running at its peak performance.
Many people forget to clean out their computers regularly. Unfortunately, this gives dust a chance to build up and hinder the components inside the case. Dust can make the computer run less efficiently by trapping heat and even interfering with the parts in the worst-case scenario.
Unplug your computer, open your computer tower and use compressed air to blow the dust away from its interior. Take out any removable filters, clean them, allow them to dry thoroughly, and replace them.
Check to make sure that your computer is located in a spot where it’s getting plenty of airflow. You don’t want it sitting right by a heater or any other heat source.
Doing these basic maintenance steps will ensure that your computer is set up to perform at its best possible performance.
Restart Your Computer
Some people leave their computers on at all times. While it’s okay for the most part, a simple restart may improve your system’s performance.
Run a Virus and Malware Scan
Unfortunately, some computer slowdowns are caused by malicious files that have made their way onto your computer. Sometimes you can have a virus and not even know it’s there because it’s working silently in the background.
That’s why it’s so important to keep active virus protection running on your computer.
Do a full system scan rather than a quick scan or a targeted scan. You want every file on your computer checked. Once the scan is done, take the suggested steps to quarantine or remove any malicious files that the virus scan finds.
It would be best to run scans for spyware and other malware that aren’t viruses or infections. Some of these come bundled with other programs. Many antivirus programs have options to remove spyware, but you can also use spyware-specific programs.
Targeting viruses and spyware for removal is an excellent habit to get into, and it wouldn’t hurt to set up automatic full scans to run monthly. You might find that doing this speeds up your computer on its own.
Check Your Temperatures
Extreme temperatures can keep your computer running more slowly than it would in ideal conditions. Monitor your GPU and CPU temperatures to ensure that they aren’t exceeding the safety guidelines established by the manufacturers.
You can do this either with built-in monitoring software or third-party programs.
Checking your temperatures is especially important if you run demanding programs like high-quality games, CAD software, or specific creative software. These will increase the heat output of your system because they’re harder to run.
Keep up your monitors in these programs because temperatures can rise and fall quickly as you switch from one program to another.
If your temperatures are higher than they should be, lower the performance of your graphics card, undo any overclocking, and reset your BIOS to default settings.
Update Your Operating System and Other Programs
Keeping your programs up to date means you have the most optimized versions of your software and, often, bug fixes or patches for exploits. Check your operating system, graphics card software, and any major programs you regularly use for updates. Install them when they become available.
Manage Your Programs
Running too many programs at once can also slow down your computer. Work on this by adjusting the startup programs and by closing additional programs when you run resource-heavy applications.
To adjust your startup programs:
- Open your Task Manager.
- Click on the “Startup” tab.
- Right-click on any programs that you want to remove from startup and choose “Disabled.”
You can see the level of impact a program has on your startup process next to each of them. Programs with a higher impact are more important to disable.
When you run programs like AAA video games or video processing software, close unnecessary programs that you aren’t using. This will give your computer more resources to use on the heavy programs instead of wasting them on what you aren’t actively using.
You should also regularly delete programs that you don’t use from your computer.
Maintain Disk Space
The unwanted red color that appears when a disk drive is close to full is a sign that you need to do some maintenance. Disks that are too full don’t perform as well and can slow your computer down. Delete files and empty the recycle bin to give your drive more space.
If you find that you’re regularly running out of space on your drives, it might be time to install a new hard drive. There are a couple of different kinds to consider, depending on what your system can take.
- Traditional hard drives (HDD) are the slowest type of drive, but they’re also the cheapest per gigabyte. They’re great for storing media files on.
- Solid-state drives (SSD) transmit information more quickly. They’re a bit more expensive, but they’ve also come down in price in the last couple of years.
- M.2 drives are plugged directly into your motherboard and are the fastest standard disk drives available. These are great for programs that you regularly use which benefit from a fast data transfer rate.
- OS drives require the most cleanup and maintenance. If you’re running out of space in your OS drive, you can move the programs using a symlink (symbolic link/junction directory link) to create another drive on the same PC. This will make free space available without affecting functionality or compatibility.
If you want to automate the deletion of files you don’t need, consider using Storage Sense. It’s a Windows program that gets rid of cluttered files for you.
- Click “Start.”
- Choose “Settings.”
- Choose “System.”
- Click “Storage.”
- Switch Storage Sense to “On.”
- Click “Configure Storage Sense or Run It Now.”
- After making your selections, click “Clean Now.”
Remove Visual Effects
Windows 10 uses some visual effects to make the operating system look good. However, these have an impact on how your computer behaves. Getting rid of them might speed up your system.
- Type “Performance” into the Windows search bar.
- Click “Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows.”
- Click the “Visual Effects” tab.
- Choose “Adjust for best performance.”
- Click “Apply.”
Try performing your usual tasks when you’re done to see whether it makes a difference for you. If not, you can always turn them back on.
Defragmenting Your Hard Drives
Defragmenting your hard drives is a necessary maintenance step that might help improve your computer’s performance.
- Type “Defrag” into the Windows search bar.
- Click “Defragment and Optimize Drives.”
- Highlight the first drive you want to defragment.
- Click “Optimize.”
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each drive you need to defragment.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to defragment solid-state drives or M.2 drives. You should only do this on a standard hard drive.
Check for Hard Drive Problems
Sometimes your hard drive can be damaged or corrupted. These problems might have a massive impact on your performance. Run ChkDsk to see if Windows can identify issues with your hard drive.
- Right-click on the start menu and choose “PowerShell (Admin).”
- Click “Yes” to launch PowerShell.
- Type “
chkdsk c: /x /r” but replace C with the letter of the drive you want to check.
- Press “Enter” and let the utility run.
In these commands, X dismounts your drive. R attempts to fix any problems that are found.
You can also right-click a drive, choose “Properties,” and then click “Check” in the Tools Tab, but you won’t be able to set your parameters to repair and dismount the drive.
One issue you may encounter is that it won’t dismount and run on your OS drive. Close any programs interfering with the operation of the utility.
If you want to scan the drive where your OS is installed, use a Windows Recovery Tool to perform the check. Start your computer up with the Recovery Tool and follow the prompts to repair and diagnose computer issues.
Check for Memory Problems
RAM problems can create issues for your computer, including slowing it down. Check for RAM issues, especially if you’re experiencing blue screens or random shutdowns.
- Type “Windows Memory Diagnostic” in the search bar.
- Click “Restart now and check for problems.”
- Wait for results once the computer performs the scan and restarts.
If you have memory problems, you might need to replace the damaged memory with undamaged RAM.
Perform a System Restore
Sometimes changes to your system affect how quickly it can run. If you want your computer to run faster and the slowness you’ve noticed is recent, restoring to an earlier point might fix whatever is causing it.
- Type “Control Panel” in the search bar and click “Control Panel” in the list of programs.
- Type “Recovery” in the Control Panel search bar.
- Click “Recovery” and then “Open System Restore.”
- Click “Next” in the Restore system files and settings area.
- Click on a restore point.
- Click “Scan for affected programs.”
- Click “Close” and “Next.”
- Click “Finish.”
System Restore works best to speed up your computer if the slow performance is related to an installed app or program. Sometimes it isn’t on by default. If that’s the case, there won’t be any restore points available.
Turn on system protection in the Recovery area of the Control Panel if it isn’t on so that you have the option to restore your computer in the future if needed.
Reinstall Your Operating System
Reinstalling your entire operating system takes a while, requires a lot of planning, and will need you to reinstall and reconfigure all of your programs. However, it also gives you a clean slate and is an excellent last attempt if the other steps haven’t worked to make your computer perform more quickly.
Back up all your data on drives that you aren’t using. Next, wipe and format the hard drive you want to reinstall Windows on. Use external Windows installation media to start the process of reinstalling the operating system.
Once you’ve followed the steps to install the operating system, reinstall the drivers for your motherboard and other hardware. Make sure your virus protection is enabled and update all your hardware and software as needed.
If your computer is still running too slow, the chances are that your hardware is your actual problem.
Before You Consider New Hardware
Your motherboard is the base of your computer and connects your components. Some of them also support overclocking, which can help your computer run faster.
Remember to keep a close eye on your temperatures with any overclock. Always try upping frequencies a slight notch and do so in many steps to achieve your maximum stable threshold. Do read about the settings and compatibility beforehand.
Research a lot about each of the components you’re going to overclock individually before you even start. It comes at a risk and should be the last resort before component replacement assuming you’re new to this.
If you still haven’t been able to speed up your computer, consider this final call before buying new hardware or a complete system overhaul: set up an appointment to have your computer examined.
A genuine computer technician can diagnose the system and give you a better idea of the problem. Maybe he can overclock your system for you.
Of course, there is only so much that you can change or fix about your computer without upgrading your hardware. Your CPU, RAM, GPU, Drives, and motherboard all significantly impact how quickly your computer performs. One slow part can keep the entire computer from achieving peak performance.
Your central processing unit is the core of your computer. Its clock speed tells you how fast it can go, while the number of cores that it has tells you how many different tasks it can handle.
Typically, for the same architecture and generation, the higher the number of cores and the higher the clock speed, the better your performance.
If you upgrade your CPU, it might handle more tasks or put more power into the tasks you already have.
RAM is the short-term memory of your computer. It holds information that needs to be used quickly so that the data can show up on your screen. The more RAM you have, the more short-term information your computer can hold.
DDR-4 RAM is faster than DDR-3. A higher frequency (3600 MHz over 3000MHz) also performs more quickly than a lower frequency RAM. The frequency determines how many times the read-write cycle can occur in one second.
For high-end graphic design programs, CAD programs, or gaming, your GPU is essential. The higher its clock speed and memory, the better it can perform. You can also adjust your GPU with its built-in software most of the time to improve its performance.
Always check for compatibility between parts before purchasing new computer hardware. For example, some newer CPUs might not work on an older motherboard.
Many things that speed up your computer are free, easy to do, and built into Windows. Once your computer is working more quickly, continue defragmenting your disks, checking for errors, running virus scans, and cleaning your PC case to keep it fast.
Staying on top of computer maintenance will make sure your computer runs at its peak when you need its best performance.