It happens to everyone. You buy a brand new computer, and the first time you boot it up you’re AMAZED at how fast it is. But then… a couple of years or even months go by, and before you know it, the computer struggles to run even basic programs. What happened? Well, there are a lot of reasons why a computer might slow down over time, but I’ve got a list of ten things you can do in Windows that will hopefully get it running more like when you first bought it. And don’t worry, these are all simple and free things you can do right now. Some of these might seem obvious, but others may not. So let’s go.
First and foremost, clear out your startup programs AND services. This has got to be the number one reason for slowdowns over time because think about it. As time goes on and you install new programs, many of them make themselves start up with windows. And if you don’t close them, you’ll have an ever-increasing number of programs just running in the background taking up resources. But don’t think that just because you don’t see many programs in the taskbar that there aren’t many programs running in the background. In Windows 8 and 10, you can open up the task manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc, and going to the Startup tab to see ALL the programs that start up with windows. In Windows 7 and earlier, go to the start menu and run “msconfig” Right-click and disable any that you don’t immediately need all the time. You can obviously just manually run them whenever you want, but they don’t need to start up. Now here’s where most people screw up. Because the startup tab is not the end of the story. Because many programs install what are called “services”, which are still programs that run in the background, but you never see them.
So number two is to go through these startup services and disable any of those you don’t need as well. You can do this by going to the start menu and running “Services.msc”. You’ll get a list of all the services, and any that say “automatic” will start with Windows. What you can do is right-click them, and change the startup type to “manual”, so they’ll only run when the program starts. Keep in mind that you SHOULD be more cautious when disabling these, especially for programs that aren’t necessarily manually run by you. So, for example, disabling the printer service might cause trouble next time you go to print. So only disable services that you know you don’t need running in the background. This is also great for programs that you see starting up all the time, but you can’t find it in the startup list. It’s probably actually a service. Now quickly, kind of as a number “2.5”, this is pretty common sense and goes off one and two, but uninstall any unused programs. This will free up hard drive space, and remove startup junk without having to go through the whole list of startup programs and services trying to figure out what each one does.
Malware and Viruses
Alright number three, another simple one you’re hopefully already doing, is scanning for malware and viruses. If your computer is always running slow for no apparent reason, it’s possible there are hidden malicious software running in the background, doing anything from showing you ads to using your computer resources in a botnet. Now there are both free and paid antivirus options and free versions of paid ones. These include Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, and Malwarebytes. For paid programs, we recommend use Eset Smart Security.
Ok, number four is quick and easy, and that’s disabling windows animations. One of the ways you can do this is to go to the Ease of Access settings window, and check “Turn off all unnecessary animations when possible”. You can also to Control Panel > System > Advanced System Settings > Performance Settings, and adjust which animations to use. You can select for best performance which will disable all of them, or pick and choose. This will probably make the biggest difference on low power computers.
Next, number five is to keep all your software up to date. This includes Windows itself, your graphics drivers, and anything else you use regularly. They are frequently releasing new updates that optimize performance, as well as improve security. Plus, it’s just good practice.
Change Power Plan Settings
Number six. Check your power settings! Especially on laptops, the default may be to have it set to “balanced” or even “power saver”, which are good for conserving battery but will also slow down your computer considerably. Instead, you may want to change it to High Performance, definitely if you’re on a desktop, and on a laptop maybe only when you’re plugged in. So be sure to check that. Ok, now we’re going to get slightly more technical but don’t worry we will try to explain in simple words so you can understand easily.
Hard Disk Errors
So number seven is checking your hard disk for errors. You can do this in a couple of ways. First, you can check the hard drive’s reported health by going to the command prompt, (ctrl + r (windows)) so start menu, type CMD. Then typing in “WMIC”, and then “diskdrive get status”. If they all say OK, one for each drive, it means that there are no immediate serious errors that it thinks at least. If it says something other than OK, then one of your drives could be having issues and you should REPLACE IT. The other way to check for drive errors is to go to command prompt and run the Check Disk command, by typing “CHKDSK /f”, which will search for and try to repair errors on your drive. If you consistently get a lot of errors, again that may mean your drive is failing. This is why you always want to back up. ALWAYS!
Windows File Integrity
Number eight. Check Windows File Integrity. Back at the good old command prompt, type in “SFC /scannow” to run the system file checker, and it will try and find any system files that are missing or corrupted and try to repair them. Now there are a ton of possibilities for error messages it could spit back at you, so if you get one, you’ll just have to Google it yourself to find suitable solutions or you can also send us your error type at email@example.com
ext on to number nine. Check for memory errors. If you have a bad memory, it can cause ALL sorts of weird problems that you might never guess has to do with your RAM. To do this go to the start menu and search for “Windows Memory Diagnostic”. Now careful, don’t click “Restart Now” unless you actually want to restart this second. You probably would rather check on the next startup, and restart whenever you want. After you restart it should just start automatically and tell you if anything comes up. Or if you want to get advanced you can press “F1” to change the test settings, but that’s not really necessary. If you get a lot of errors it could mean that your RAM isn’t seated properly, or one of the sticks is faulty and needs to be replaced.
Most Extreme Option
So number ten is to just nuke it and start over. Reformat the hard drive and reinstall windows altogether. This is obviously the most extreme option, but if you have consistent issues that you can’t seem to fix no matter what, a fresh installation of windows is often the best way to go. Explaining how to reformat and reinstall windows is way beyond the scope of this article so you can check out this article for windows installation.
So next are a couple of bonus options, but these involve actually buying new hardware, so they are not free. First, you can buy an SSD to replace your main hard drive. Sure you could get a small one and just boot Windows off it, but SSDs are much cheaper today to get a big one. there is probably nothing that will make your computer run faster than getting an SSD. Of course, assuming the rest of your computer isn’t ancient. And once you get one, you’ll never want to go back. The other thing you can do is MAYBE buy more memory, depending on how much you have now. If you have 8GB of RAM or less, and you do more than just check your emails and type up word documents, you could probably benefit from getting more. However, we definitely recommend it would be much more beneficial to get an SSD first.