Why Is My Computer Running So Slow? 18 Tips To Help You Speed Things Up

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We all know the frustration of the dastardly cog forever spinning on our computer screen. But often, we don’t understand what’s causing the computer to run so slow.

So, we’ve put together a short guide showing you eighteen simple steps to speed up your computer.

Restart

Timeless advice, because it works. Rebooting your computer at least once every day helps the computer work at its fastest.

 The number one step when a computer is running slowly – always restart.

Disable Start-up Programs

Computers often open programs during the start process. If this is the case, a simple reboot will not help; it may just add to the frustration.

 Access your computer’s start-up manager to check which programs open. Then, disable the applications which you do not use.

Close Background Programs

Processor-heavy applications can run in the background despite not necessarily being required. You should check your computer’s ‘Task Manager’ to see if a single program is using unnecessary capacity.

If you identify a culprit, either close the program normally; or, force quit via the ‘Task Manager’ to free up space.

Check Security Software

Antivirus and Spyware Protection programs also run background scans – such scans will slow down computer performance.

 If this is the case, step away from your computer while the scan is in progress. Once complete, the computer should run more quickly.

Be sure to scan for viruses on a frequent basis, but if computer performance is affected too often, modify the frequency. Or, schedule scans to suit your usage habits.

Delete Temporary Files

When you run a program, the computer will store temporary files on its hard drive. Removing these files will free memory and boost computer performance.

Most computers have a built-in ‘disk clean-up’ feature, which will remove the files the computer does not need.

But you can also delete temp files manually. To do this on any Windows machine, click on the ‘Start Menu’ and search %temp%.

Pressing enter should open the ‘Temporary Files’ folder, from which you can manually delete all files.

Uninstall Unused Programs

Today’s PC’s have hundreds of programs you will simply never use.

To check which programs are installed, open your computer’s ‘Control Panel’ and review the ‘Features’ or ‘Applications’ page – review the list and remove the programs you do not recognize.

The programs required to run the computer’s hardware should either be listed under the publisher’s name or will be a Microsoft program. Do not delete these files as they are essential to your computer’s operating system – but everything else can go.

Run Up-To-Date Software

Running old software versions can cause computers to run slower. So, check you have the latest software update installed.

If your computer struggles while you browse the internet, ensure all browser plugins are updated, as well.

 Top Browser Tips:

  1. Use as few browser extensions as possible
  2. Remove add-ons
  3. Enable pop-up blockers to prevent flash content from loading

The above tips will stop the browser from absorbing unnecessary computer processing power and will enhance performance.

Check Hard Drive Space

Typically, modern computers require a minimum of 250GB of storage to run smoothly; ideally, you'll have more than 500GB. Sufficient room ensures space for all of your  files – as well as for other processing activity.

If your computer is low on storage, or you frequently run into performance issues, consider upgrading to a hard drive with increased capacity.

Alternatively, switch from a hard drive to a solid-state drive as this can considerably improve computer processing speed.

Defragment Your Hard Drive

Modern computers shouldn’t need manually defragmenting; this is usually a background process. 

Solid-state drives, on the other hand, do not need to defrag at all (though they will occasionally run a background optimization process).

However, if your computer has a mechanical hard drive and you have just imported a significant volume of files – potentially causing your computer to run slowly – consider running the defrag process.

Open the defragmenter tool, run a scan, and your computer will tell you if you need to defrag manually; or not.

Increase RAM

If you’re still frustrated by the slowness of your computer, consider adding more RAM.

The general baseline is:

  • A minimum of 1GB RAM for a 32-bit system;
  • A minimum of 2GB RAM for a 64-bit system.

*Keep in mind that this is not nearly enough for most modern computer users.

Your computer uses Random Access Memory (RAM) to execute tasks in open programs. This is why – when you have several programs open at the same time, or you’re processing a large file – you may see the deathly spinner.

The tell-tale sign your computer does not have enough RAM.

You can increase RAM with an additional memory stick, or you could opt for an entirely new memory unit.

The best advice is to review how you use your computer and, if you frequently carry out large tasks or you require multiple programs to be open at the same time – make sure you have enough RAM.

Check for Viruses

Viruses will affect computer performance, and the first action every computer owner should take is to install antivirus software.

If you do not have the software, acquire it. Then, you’ll have active and ongoing protection.

In the meantime, you can also use a free virus scanner to check for – and remove – existing threats. In turn, your computer will run quicker.

Check for Malware

Spyware and malware is another unfortunate characteristic of today’s connected world and a frequent cause of slow-running computers.

Antivirus scanners only achieve so much, and we suggest scanning for malware on a frequent basis; a simple, free malware scanner will do.

Disable Animations

Computers use many animations to enhance the user experience. However, these can slow performance. 

By navigating to ‘Visual Effects’ in ‘Advanced System Settings’ and selecting ‘Adjust for best performance,’ you can disable such animations – this, in turn, might boost computer speed.

An alternative is to choose which animations to keep; and which you can live without.

Check for Computer or Processor Overheating

When your computer or processor becomes too hot, it runs more slowly to mitigate the excess heat.

Overheating stems from several possible sources, so check the airflow into the unit and clean both the casing and fans; dust and dirt will often accumulate, obstructing the airflow.

But these types of problems are easily fixed.

Reboot #2

If you’re still experiencing issues, try rebooting for a second time. It may be the computer needs a quick refresh, now you’ve fixed the underlying problem.

Or, Start from Scratch

Where a second system reboot does not work, a system refresh might: resetting the computer erases all existing files, software, and drivers.

So, can rid the computer of an unknown issue.  

Now, re-install an up-to-date version of your operating software, plus other programs and drivers, and review computer performance.

Once complete, you should be able to determine whether your issues are software-related; or if they’re down to something else entirely.

Inspect the Hardware

Where nothing else has worked, the problem could be to do with the hardware.

An old hard drive, a dysfunctional CPU, a RAM problem, or a motherboard issue will significantly impact computer speed – as will any other failing component.

Several programs run hardware diagnostics, reviewing computer performance, and highlighting underlying hardware concerns.

Maybe It’s Time to Buy a New Computer…

Computer software advances at a rapid rate. Plus, each new update is specially designed for the latest machine.

As such, after five years or so, it might just be your computer can no longer handle the latest software; and so, runs slowly.

If your machine is five years old or more, now’s the time to accept: either it’s going to run slowly, or you need to upgrade.

If you’d like more specific detail on why your computer is running slowly, click on one of the topics below:

Think it's time for a new computer? Answer these 6 questions to know for sure.