In this day and age we are blessed with faster processors, hard drives and large amounts of memory, which make our computers run extremely fast. Despite all of this modern technology computers still have their problems and can get clogged up and even become unstable.
As the computer is used, files are written and deleted, programs are installed and uninstalled, and this overtime starts to clog up the computer and its operating system. Many uninstall programs are cleaned up automatically, but not always.
In this article we will look at what you can do to blow the dust out of your machine and make it run as fast as the day you bought it.
1. Clean up old files
We'll start with cleaning up old files installed on the hard drive that you no longer need. In theory, the less data you have installed on the hard drive, the faster it will work.
Just like the cellar in your home, the hard drive magically fills up with all sorts of crap, and it does not disappear by itself. Delete things you never use and will never have a use for. Find files you have stored in multiple locations with CloneSpy or similar software. And remember to empty your recycle bin. If you have many personal files or large amounts of film and music files, you can save these to an external hard drive.
2. Uninstall programs you never use
Software also takes up disk space. In addition, there are some programs that like to start automatically with Windows, which can make your PC run extremely slow.
In Windows Control Panel there is a choice to change, uninstall or delete the installed programs. Go through this list and remove things you are sure that you will not use anymore. If you are unsure of anything it might be smart to search on Google to see what it is.
3. Remove temporary files
Logs and various temporary files not only takes up disk space, they can also affect PC performance. To remove temporary files you can use a free program such as CCleaner, which can also be used to clean up the Windows registry. This register is a kind of database with settings for the operating system and installed software.
In addition, you can also use the Disk Cleanup tool, which is built into Windows. Disk Cleanup can be found in the System Tools in the start menu in Windows 7, and it can be found in Control Panel > System Tools > Administrative Tools in Windows 8
4. Fix hard drive errors
As the computer gets older, it is not uncommon to experience small errors with the hard drive. There may be files placed incorrectly or the hard disk may have bad sectors. Both can affect disk performance.
Sometimes it is therefore wise to check your hard disk for errors. This is done with Windows built-in feature that can be found by right-clicking the disk you want to check and select Properties > Tools > and then select "check".
5. Defragment your hard drive
Think of the hard drive as a big car park. As you save and remove software this leaves big massive gaps and makes it slower for the hard drive find and read files. In other words the files become fragmented. The solution is to reorganise and bunch these these files together again, something we call defragmentation.
In Windows there is a defragmentation utility built in, but there are also many third-party programs that are a lot better. A great program is Defraggler and is available for free download. The built-in feature in Windows can be found in the Control Panel > System Tools > Administrative Tools.
6. Stop certain programs from starting up automatically
As mentioned, there are some programs that like to start up with Windows. Unfortunately, this means Windows can take an extremely long time to load up properly and may slow down overall performance. With the built-System Configuration utility, you can choose which programs can and cannot start up automatically.
To choose which programs can and cannot start up, hold down control, alt and delete simultaneously and select "Task Manager". From there, choose "Start-up" and right click on the program/s and select "Disable" to stop them starting up with windows. You can always re-enable them if needed.
7. Get rid of viruses and other baddies
If you keep your operating system updated, use an antivirus and are fully aware of all the baddies out there on the Internet, it takes a lot to be infected by a viruses or software that spies on you. Nevertheless, it may be smart to scan your entire hard disk regularly to be on the safe side. The unauthorized software that infects your PC can not only damage your files, but also uses large amount of system resources.
Modern security software usually removes both spyware and viruses. For advice on removing viruses and spyware, please take a look at our dedicated antivirus page.
8. Choose less demanding software
If you have followed our tips so far you should have a cleaner and faster PC, but do not stop there, as there are some extra tricks we can teach you.
For Windows, there are several programs that are pre-installed or are essential for a certain task, but some use far more resources than others. Removing programs such as Adobe Reader and install PDF XChange Viewer, as it is both faster and has more functions. Watch videos with VLC instead of Windows Media Player. It can also be smart to replace bulky and heavy security packages with lighter options.
9. Use Windows ReadyBoost
Another extra trick to make your PC run faster is called ReadyBoost. With this feature you can use a USB stick to boost performance - this is a particularly good if you have a small amount of RAM. All you need do is plug the memory stick into an available USB port and selected device on your computer, then select Properties > Ready Boost and follow the on-screen instructions. It is available for windows 8, 7 and Vista.
10. Reinstall Windows to its factory settings
Okay, this may be a bit drastic, but if all the above tips have completely failed and your computer is running terribly slow and is full of errors, then a fresh install may be the only option. A fresh installation will guarantee you the same user experience as when your PC was brand new. If you decide to reinstall, you should copy all important files, documents and images onto a DVD or external hard drive as these will be wiped out with a clean install. When you bought your PC, you were either given a disc with the original factory settings and operating system, or it is installed on the hard drive itself. To restore your PC to its factory settings, it's best to consult the manual that came with your PC.
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