Why is My Computer Slow and How Do I Fix It?

Slow Computer Frustrated

Usually, your PC slows down because it isn’t running efficiently. There’s only so much processing power, memory and storage space available and the key to speeding up your computer is optimizing all three.

If you find yourself restarting your PC and it still slows down over time, then there’s a good chance of one of the following reasons affecting it:

  • Your environment is too warm – If your computer starts to overheat, it will decrease its performance to compensate. This decreases the risk of damage and enables a faster cooling process.
  • You need to update – You can experience a loss in performance if you fail to keep your Windows and driver updates up-to-date.
  • There is too much going on – You PC won’t be able to optimize its performance if it is working with too many programs and the disk is at 100%. This usually happens because there are too many startup apps and processes running in the background.
  • You don’t have enough memory – PCs use RAM to store all active programs while they are running. Too much data in the memory will result in a sluggish PC.
  • You’re running out of hard drive space – When your hard drive fills up, it lacks room to hold necessary temporary files that can prevent data loss.
  • You might have a virus or malware – Malware, including viruses and worms, consume a computer’s resources and hamper its performance.

Before You Start (IMPORTANT!)

One of the keys to successfully troubleshooting your PC is identifying the cause. But if you follow these techniques carefully, nothing bad will happen because we’ve tested all these tips on countless machines!

Nevertheless, you should take precautions by backing up your system. At the least, create a restore point so that if anything goes wrong, you can always revert any changes.

Restore Point Windows

Get your Computer Back Up to Speed

To get your computer running at its best, try these 15 simple tips:

-Upgrade your memory to a more efficient type or increase the memory size

-Overclock your CPU by increasing its core frequency and voltage

-Keep requests from programs in RAM out of the hard disk and improve performance with an SSD

1. Upgrade your computer’s RAM and get a fast SSD to work and browse faster.

The two limiting factors to any office PC or laptop are its RAM and hard drive.

Upgrading your Memory

Your PC’s memory has a limited amount of physical space (RAM) where you can store programs while you work with them. Think about RAM as your computer’s short-term memory. For most modern computers, you really don’t want to be operating with less than 8GB of memory and 16GB for handling most situations.

  • Resource intensive applications like video editing, games, Photoshop and programming apps take up a lot of space so it would be good to keep track of those.
  • Browsers can use more more memory and this increases the more tabs you have.

The typical symptom of insufficient RAM is sluggish performance. This type of issue occurs when your PC needs to constantly shuffle things in and out of its short-term memory. The result is annoying cycles with load times and general freezing that lasts up to a few minutes at a time.

And picture of two sticks of RAM.

It is easy to find 8 GB of RAM these days for under $50 If you have a laptop, it may be difficult or impossible to upgrade the RAM; make sure your laptop can be upgraded before purchasing it.

PC owners have an advantage when it comes to RAM usage. Open up your PC’s case and find the slots where you can add more RAM (if there are any). Make sure that your new module is compatible with the specifications listed for your computer, or ask somebody knowledgeable about the type of machine you’re upgrading to help you pick a right one.

Upgrading Your Storage

Your computer’s long-term memory, the hard drive, is your biggest limiting factor. This is where Windows, programs you use regularly and all of your personal files are stored. When you want to load or open something like Spotify or your favorite images on your computer, the hard drive needs to look for those bits and bytes before transferring them

More than 80% of personal computers still have a mechanical hard drive. The platter, which rotates like a vinyl record or DVD laser head, is accessed by the read/write head in much the same way and is thus slow to respond.

When shopping for a new desktop, it is important to look for one with an SSD. An SSD is the next generation of storage in computers. No moving parts means that when you are looking at files on your computer, they will show up instantly without waiting — and applications will run much faster because there’s no need to wait as the drive spins up.

SSD Storage

Although the prices on solid state disks may be higher than mechanical hard drives, you’ll find that they are worth the investment. A 250 GB SSD can be purchased for as little as $100 — and even inexpensive hard drives will greatly improve your outdated PC. Make sure your laptop or desktop is upgradable before buying one, however. Two great side effects of going from a mechanical disk to an SSD are less power consumption and longer battery life for laptops.

2. Upgrade your Graphics

For those who are gamers, designers or video editors, your graphics card is the heart of your computer. But, if you’re playing games such as ‘Grand Theft Auto 5’, ‘Ark: Survival Evolved’ or ‘Dark Souls 3’ and it’s not running smoothly or looking as great as it does in their trailers, your GPU may be the culprit.

Laptops are out of the question for an upgrade because the GPU is built into the motherboard. Desktop computers, on the other hand, can be easily upgraded with new graphics cards.

Graphics Cards in PC

If you are looking to upgrade your GPU, market leaders NVIDIA and AMD have a range of options.

3. What is Defragmentation and What Does it Do?

Mechanical hard disks, in addition to being painfully slow, are also susceptible to a phenomenon called “fragmentation.” The more programs and files you use, copy or move, the more cluttered your disk becomes — and the harder it is for the read/write head to open or store your data.

Defrag your disk by locating the Start menu, typing in Defrag and hitting Enter. Click “Optimize,” and this might take a while.

Searching for the Defragment and Optimize Drives app in the Windows menu for Windows 10

Defragmenting PC Windows 10

4. Disabling Start Up Tasks Through Windows Task Manager

Boot up time can be frustratingly long for those of us who use our computers every day. It is often because your computer has too many programs trying to start at the same time. To find out which ones are loading, open Windows Task Manager and take a look around the list of running startups.

To get to the list of apps that are loading when your computer starts up, go to Task Manager in Windows. Click on Startups and see which programs automatically launched as soon as you turned it on.

Start Up Task Tab

To prevent an app from launching at startup, use the right-click menu. For example, the screenshot below shows a disabled Epic browser installer and another disabled Greenshot screenshot taking program.

Now those were some simple examples. What about entries that are not immediately clear? In these cases, Google is your friend. You can easily find these articles on a forum or technical website to help you decide whether you need them or not.

5. Update your Software/Hardware Drivers

Your PC is made of over 100 components. These include the Wi-Fi receiver, processor, graphics card, and power button. Together they collectively create a complex system that miraculously functions properly with no guidance or support.

A powerful driver is the backbone for your computer. These drivers, which are small and complex pieces of software that control the way components work, drive everything from CPU to graphics cards. However as with any type of software, drivers can be faulty or not deliver on their full potential.

6. Update your Operating System

Microsoft frequently releases new updates to the Windows operating system. These include security updates, but some are performance-based as well.

Windows 10 is not free, but it’s the most secure operating system there is. Windows 7 will lose access to security updates soon, and so if you don’t want to risk the vulnerability of your device you should upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 today.

But regardless of the version of Windows you’re running, make sure it is up to date. You can find out which version of Windows you have by navigating to Settings>System>About in your OS menu.

Windows 10 Specifications

7. Is the Registry Cleaner For You?

The registry is a crucial part of your Windows operating system. Many entries could be found in the registry invalid or just empty, so many “registry cleaners” exist to delete them or fix them as needed.

Windows Registry

But 99.999% of the time, using a registry cleaner has no impact on PC performance. Sure, Windows constantly accesses the registry, but this filesizes is about 100 to 200 MBs which even a 10-year-old PC can process in fraction of a second. Deleting a few entries from the registry does not affect speed whatsoever

Despite this warning, many professionals recommend cleaning the system registry every once in a while. However, if you are not suffering errors as a result of having missing executable keys, there is no need. We recommend leaving the database alone, and if you do experience an error following Windows to take care of it on your own.

8. How Your Performance is Affected by Viruses and Malware

Viruses, adware, malware, spyware, and Trojans not only pose a security risk but they can also have a negative affect on your PC’s performance. Performance is one of many reasons to employ an antivirus software in order to eliminate both the threat and any slowing down that may result from their presence.

9. Clean Your PC Physically

For years, PC and laptop fans are blowing air in and out of these devices. A family of dust bunnies is thriving inside the machine! The slow down or even stop the fans which traps heat leading to poor performance and frequent crashes making your fan a necessary item for purchase.

That’s why I occasionally open up my desktop computer case and laptop keyboards to catapult dust bunnies out of the system with a gas duster (keep a vacuum handy). And while you’re at it, you might as well make your monitor and keyboard shine, too. There are many cleaners designed specifically for this.

Consider a change in desk habits for your next work session. Make sure to position your device in such a way that it is not fully obstructed by other objects, where cool air can easily reach the vents. Next, place both laptops and desktops on hard surfaces with no floor covering or bedding nearby if you’re using them in that area.

12. Kill Background Running Programs

RAM (memory) is a limited resource, and even computers with lots of it can only handle so many tasks at once. If you have several programs running in the background which are not being used – when you’re not using them – they will compete for memory from more important tasks.

You can prevent programs from running background by manually closing the program. Here’s how to do that in Windows 10:

  1. Open your Settings and select Privacy.
  2. In the menu on the left select “Background Apps”
  3. To stop all apps from running in the background, turn off the toggle next to Let Apps Run in Background. To stop individual apps from running in the background, disable their respective toggles.

13. Try Windows’ Built-in Troubleshooting

Windows includes built-in optimizers in the form of troubleshooters. These utilities offer suggestions to improve performance by using a few simple tweaks.

  1. Select “Update & Security” from your settings.
  2. Select Troubleshoot from the menu on the left. The troubleshooting options will analyze your computer’s performance and offer solutions if any issues are detected.

14. Change Your Visual Settings

Disabling stylish visual effects can improve performance on Windows. To do this, access the Performance Options section of your Control Panel from the Start button or by typing “control panel” in a search box and pressing Enter.

  1. To find this setting, type adjust the appearance option into your Cortana search bar or directly into the start menu and press enter to open performance options.
  2. Windows 10 contains an “Adjust for best performance” feature to make your computer run as smoothly as possible. You can either let Windows optimize automatically or enable and disable individual adjustments.

15. (Advanced Tip) Increasing Your Virtual Memory

Virtual memory is a kind of halfway zone between your RAM and the long-term storage of your hard drive. Your computer allots part of the space on your hard drive to handle less-active processes, freeing up space for whatever you’re doing right now in your RAM.

If you are getting a message that warns “Your system is low on virtual memory” or have to increase it for other reasons, try this approach. But be advised that since these steps can only help advanced users who know their way around their computer we do not recommend following these instructions unless you are equipped with the necessary knowledge and understanding of computers.

Additionally, your hard drive may become too busy switching between tasks to run at full speed. To avoid this problem, we recommend you use less virtual memory by limiting the programs that are running in the background and dedicating a chance for each program to have the spotlight when it is open on your machine.

Window 10 allows you to reduce memory usage by adding virtual memory:

  1. Select “System” in your Settings
  2. Select ‘About’ from the menu on the left. From there, select ‘Sysinfo.’ If you don’t see this option, expand your window to make it appear in the list of settings.
  3. This will take you to the System settings in the Control Panel. To be taken to the Advanced system settings, select these options under  System Properties on your left.
  4. Open the Performance Options window by clicking the Settings button in the Performance section.
  5. Open the Advanced tab and select Change
  6. Uncheck the box next to “Automatically manage paging file size for all drives” and instead click on “Custom size”.
  7. At the bottom of window, note Recommended and Currently allocated amount. Set initial size to Recommended amount if smaller than Current allocation. Maximum value should exceed Current allocation but not be as much as Recommended allocation
  8. Early computers with very limited memory required that you give instructions in steps. You can use this same formula to calculate your Initial and Maximum virtual memory: Set the Initial size as 1.5 times your current RAM, and set the Maximum size as triple your current RAM.
  9. For example, 4 gigabytes of RAM is equivalent to 4,096 megabytes. With this amount of memory space available, set the initial size as 6,144 megabytes and the maximum size as 18,432 megabytes.
  10. After you’re done, confirm by clicking OK. Then restart your computer.

Clean Up Your PC and Hard Disk

In this section we’ll cover how to free up hard disk space by removing unnecessary files, programs and other digital junk from your computer. We’ll show you how to clean out your hard drive and migrate programs to cloud storage for easy access when needed.

1. Using Disk Cleanup

Whenever you use your PC, it leaves behind data. Temporary files are created by all the programs and they stay around like digital waste such as windows update files, files generated by the programs you use, and cached data from apps such as browsers.

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways for handling thisclutter.

First, you install the built-in Windows Disk Cleanup tool which deletes basic clutter from your PC. To launch it in any version of Windows (including Windows XP, 7, Vista, 8, and 10), right-click on your desktop and select New/Shortcut. Type in the following text:

%SystemRoot%\System32\Cmd.exe /c Cleanmgr /sageset:65535 &Cleanmgr /sagerun:6553

Cleaning Shortcut

Name the shortcut “My new PC cleaner” (or whatever name you prefer). Then, right-click on it and select Run as Administrator. You’ll find all the files to delete in that location, so just untick all of the boxes unless you are sure what a file is or need them for some reason.

After a while, the superficial digital clutter should disappear and you can use deeper cleaning options.

  1. Windows 10 offers a way for you to clean up old upgrade files. These files can be major if you’ve been upgrading from Windows 7/8 to Windows 10 or on newer version of 10 after an older version. You can find this option by opening your start menu and clicking “Settings”. From there, go to System and select Storage.
  2. Third party software options are available although not always recommended as they can come with bloatware of their own as well.

2. Remove any Unnecessary Large Files

When you download a large file on your phone, do not forget about it. You can use Windows Explorer to find the overall largest files across your entire hard disk. Open up Windows Explorer and click in the search field. From here, select Gigantic and this will list the larger than 100 MB files for you to look at.

Find Large Files Windows

3. Delete Programs You Don’t Use

You could probably get along without any unnecessary software programs installed on your PC, which would make it run faster and better. To remove leftover installation files, go to your Windows Control Panel, click Programs then click Programs and Features. Go through the list of software and uninstall anything you don’t need.

Uninstall Programs Windows

4. Check Your Hard Drive’s Health

Any file on your hard drive can be damaged if your PC loses power or crashes. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly check the disk’s integrity. To do that, click the Start button and type “CMD”. This should bring up a search result for Command Prompt, right-click on it and select Run as Administrator.

The administrator command prompt

To fix your hard drive, enter chkdsk /f /r and hit Enter. Confirm the prompt: “Are you sure you want to scan your disk on next reboot,” then restart your PC. Depending on the size of your disk, this check and repair process could take more than an hour.

5. Look Into Investing in Cloud Storage

If cleaning your phone or computer and uninstalling apps isn’t giving you the space you need, you may want to consider uploading some of your larger files to a cloud service- such as OneDrive or Google Drive. Cloud services are intended for use if hard drive space is at capacity on your mobile device or personal desktop, but will take longer to

6. Clear Your Web Browser’s Cache

Your browser creates a lot of files that, individually are not very large, but all aggregate when you have a lot of them. These include:

  • Cookies – small files that share information or websites remember your user preferences, though other cookies track you around the internet.
  • Cache – your browser keeps files and other resources from the various web pages you visit and stores them in a cache.
  • Your browser may lag and run slow if you don’t clear cookies or empty your cache. Clearing cookies improves your browser speed and performance, while emptying the cache forces your browser to load fresh copies of websites so that you see only up-to-date content.

If you had time to clean out your browsing history, it would be a good idea. This does not affect the speed of your computer; but will help protect your privacy.

Update Your Programs

A study demonstrated that over 52% of the applications installed on PCs are outdated. Such statuses can be a result of people ignoring updates or that the applications don’t include an updater. Though the computer tips we’ve gathered are crucial for any machine, your old apps carry unique risks. Updating them if possible can lead to a safer and faster PC.

Keep Your PC Clean Regularly To Avoid Hassle

Now that we’ve covered the most important steps for keeping your machine clean and tuned, it’s good to repeat these every month. If taking time out of your day to keep you computer in order sounds like too much of a hassle, then read on for some tips on how to reduce this upkeep.

  • Before installing any software, determine whether you actually need it and will regularly use it. If not, uninstall the program after your finished using it.
  • Remove the programs you no longer need from your computer by going through the list of installed programs.
  • I try to create a full PC backup after I clean install Windows and configure everything. That way if something goes wrong, I can just go back to the last time it was working.
  • Use an Antivirus or computer management software like Advanced SystemCare to scan your system occasionally for files you don’t use or that may be dangerous to your system health.

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