How to Speed Up Your Computer – A Step By Step Guide for 2024

How to speed up your computer is a question plenty of people have. If your computer is running slow, though, it’s often not due to its age but to common issues that accumulate over time.

Here, we explore the reasons for your computer’s decreased performance and offer practical steps you can take – so, here’s how to speed up your slow computer.

Why is My Computer So Slow?

When a computer starts to slow down, it’s not always clear why. Many of us have experienced the frustration of dealing with a sluggish computer, whether it’s taking ages to boot up, programs are running at a snail’s pace, or files are taking forever to open.

Before you attempt any fixes, though, you need to understand the root causes of this sluggishness. Here are some common reasons why your computer might not be performing as efficiently as it once did.

  • Lack of Regular Maintenance: Computers require regular maintenance to function optimally. Neglecting simple tasks such as cleaning out old files, updating software, or running periodic diagnostics can lead to a gradual buildup of issues that slow down performance.
  • Outdated Hardware: Technology advances rapidly, and over time, your computer’s hardware may become outdated. Components like the processor, RAM, and hard drive have a significant impact on performance. As software applications evolve to utilize more resources, older hardware may struggle to keep up.
  • Software Issues: Problems with software can also bog down your computer. This includes running too many programs at once, having too many startup items, or dealing with outdated or corrupted software. Malware and viruses are particularly notorious for causing significant slowdowns.
  • Overloaded Storage: A hard drive that’s near capacity can significantly slow down your computer. When your storage is almost full, your system struggles to find space to operate efficiently, leading to slower response times.
  • Background Processes: Sometimes, applications and system processes run in the background without your knowledge. These can consume CPU and memory resources, leading to reduced performance.

Identifying the specific issue or issues affecting your computer is the first step toward finding the right solution to how to make your computer faster. This process involves looking at your computer’s hardware and software environment and understanding how you typically use it.

Once you pinpoint the issue, you can apply targeted solutions to speed up your machine.

Basic Troubleshooting Steps

If your computer is running slow, there are several basic troubleshooting steps you can take to improve its performance.

These steps, showing you how to speed up a slow computer, are straightforward and can make a noticeable difference.

Check and Close Unnecessary Background Processes

Background processes can consume a significant amount of your computer’s resources, leading to slower performance.

To check these processes on Windows, open the Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc).

Look for applications or processes that are using a high percentage of CPU or memory but aren’t necessary for your current tasks.

You can select these processes and click “End Task” to close them. This can be highly effective if you want to speed up Windows 10.

Task Manager in Windows.

On a Mac, use the Activity Monitor, which can be found in the Utilities folder in your Applications. Much like in Windows, you can see which processes are using up the most resources and close them if they’re not essential.

Mac Activity Monitor

Restart Your Machine

Restarting is often the first thing to do to boost your PC’s performance. If you don’t restart your computer for a long time, background apps will keep piling up, using up your processing power and potentially slowing down your PC’s performance.

Restarting your PC will close down the system, stop non-essential tasks, and clear memory space, reducing system strain. Choosing other options like hibernate or sleep won’t reset your computer or clear programs running in the background.

Many software updates will require a restart to complete, so restarting will ensure your system is up to date, and it can also help prevent issues like software glitches.

Clear Temporary Files and Cache

Over time, your computer accumulates temporary files and fills up the cache, which can take up space and slow down your system.

To clear these on Windows, you can use the built-in Disk Cleanup tool:

  • Search for “Disk Cleanup” in the start menu
  • Select the drive you want to clean
  • Then, choose the file types to delete

Disk Cleanup for Windows.

On a Mac, you can find cache files in the Library folder. You can access this folder by selecting “Go” from the Finder menu, then “Library.” Be cautious and only delete files from folders labeled “Caches.”

Cache in Library

Organize Desktops and Files

A cluttered desktop can have a surprising impact on your computer’s speed, especially during startup. Try to minimize the number of files and shortcuts on your desktop to speed up your PC.

Organize your files into folders and store them in appropriate locations like Documents, Pictures, or other directories instead of on the desktop. Regularly archiving or deleting files you no longer need can also help.

Remember, these are just initial steps to improve your computer’s performance. They can help with minor slowdowns, but if your computer is still running slowly, you may need to look into more advanced solutions like software updates and hardware upgrades or to even seek professional assistance.

How to Speed Up Your Slow Computer – Software Optimization Tips

How to speed up your slow computer maintenance essentials

Optimizing your computer’s software is a key step in improving its performance. Here’s how you can do it.

Update Operating System and Applications

You should make sure to keep your operating system and applications up-to-date. Updates often include performance improvements, security patches, and new features, which can enhance the overall functioning of your computer. They also fix known bugs, which may be causing your system to slow down.

On Windows, go to “Settings,” then “Windows Update,” and click on “Check for updates” to update Windows.

For other applications, check their respective options or help menus for updated settings.

Windows Update

Click the Apple menu on Mac, choose “About This Mac,” then click “Software Update.”

For applications downloaded from the App Store, updates can be found in the App Store‘s “Updates” tab.

Software update in Mac

It’s good practice to regularly check for updates, as some may not be installed automatically. This ensures you’re running the most up-to-date versions of your software, which are typically the most efficient and secure.

Uninstall Unused Programs

Over time, you may accumulate programs you no longer use. These can take up valuable disk space and run background processes that sap your computer’s resources, leading to reduced performance.

Uninstalling these programs frees up disk space, which can significantly improve your computer’s speed and efficiency.

On Windows, go to “Control Panel” > “Programs” > “Programs and Features.” Then select the program you want to uninstall and click “Uninstall.”

Uninstall a program Windows

On Mac, drag the unwanted application from the “Applications” folder to the Trash, and then empty the Trash.

Make it a routine habit to periodically review your installed programs and remove those that are no longer needed. This not only declutters your software environment but also simplifies management and reduces the risk of software conflicts – and it’s a key step for how to speed up a computer with Windows 10.

Manage Startup Items

Many programs are designed to start automatically when you boot your computer. While this might be convenient for some essential applications, having too many startup items can significantly slow down your computer’s boot time.

On Windows, open the Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc), go to the “Startup” tab, and disable programs you don’t need to start automatically.

Startup items in Windows

On Mac, go to “System Preferences” > “Users & Groups,” select your account, and then go to “Login Items” to manage startup applications.

By managing these startup items, you can ensure that only essential programs start automatically. This will lead to faster boot times and less strain on your system’s resources during startup. It’s about finding the right balance between convenience and performance.

Optimize Your Web Browser

Ensuring your browser is performing optimally can make a big difference if you find your computer is running slow. Make sure you have the latest version of your web browser installed.

Updates often come with security patches, bug fixes, and performance improvements, so if you can install updates automatically, it’s wise to ensure the option is enabled.

Having too many browser extensions can also use up a lot of memory and can significantly affect your PC’s performance.

  • If you want to remove Chrome extensions, go to the extension you want to remove and right-click on it.
  • To find all your extensions, go to “Manage Extensions” and select the ones you want to remove. If you find any unfamiliar extensions, they may be malware.

Regularly clearing your browsing history, cookies, temporary files, and cache can also help to optimize your browser.

  • On Chrome, go to the main Chrome menu, click on the history, and then select “Clear Browsing Data.”
  • Next, select the browsing data you want to clear and click on “Clear Data.”

In addition, make sure to close tabs that are not in use to reduce memory consumption.

Run Disk Cleanup and Defragmentation Tools

These tools help you free up space on your hard drive and organize your files more efficiently, which can improve overall performance.

The importance of the Disk Cleanup tool can’t be overstated. A cleaner, less cluttered hard drive can improve your computer’s performance, as it allows the operating system to access files more efficiently.

Disk Defragmentation is particularly important for computers with traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). Fragmentation occurs when pieces of files get scattered across the disk.

Defragmentation reorganizes these fragments, making it easier and faster for the HDD to access data. It’s not necessary for solid state drives (SSDs), though, as they store data in a different way.

On Windows, search for “Defragment and Optimize Drives” in the start menu, select your drive, and click “Optimize.”

Defrag Windows

macOS uses a different file system that doesn’t require defragmentation under normal usage.

Hardware Optimization Tips

Upgrading your computer’s hardware can be a game-changer for its performance. Here’s how different upgrades can impact your system and how you can decide if they’re needed.

Identify the Need for a Hardware Upgrade

Before diving into upgrades, it’s crucial to determine whether your computer actually needs them and whether underpowered hardware is the reason why your computer is slow.

Here’s how you can identify if an upgrade is necessary:

  • Performance Bottlenecks: If you notice your computer is consistently sluggish, especially when running specific applications, this could indicate your current hardware is insufficient.
  • Resource Monitoring: Tools like the Task Manager on Windows and Activity Monitor on macOS can help you track your computer’s resource usage. High and consistent usage of RAM or disk space is a clear sign that an upgrade may be beneficial.
  • Age of the Computer: Consider the age of your device. Older computers might not support the latest hardware upgrades, and their overall performance may not be significantly improved, even with new components.

Impact of Hardware Upgrades

Upgrading your computer’s hardware is a key strategy for boosting its performance. Here are some of the upgrades you can make and the impact they can have on your performance.

Hardware Upgrade Impact on Performance
Increasing RAM (Random Access Memory) Improves your computer’s ability to multitask and handle data-intensive applications. It’s particularly beneficial if you frequently run multiple programs at the same time or use resource-heavy software.
Upgrading to an SSD (Solid State Drive) Improves the speed of your computer. SSDs offer faster data retrieval, leading to faster boot times, application launches, and overall system responsiveness.
Upgrading the Processor (CPU) Enhances overall performance, improves multitasking efficiency, and ensures compatibility with newer software and operating systems.
Adding or Upgrading a Graphics Card (GPU) Significantly improves gaming and graphics performance, supports multi-monitor setups, and enhances video playback quality.
Installing Additional or Faster Storage Provides increased storage space, enables efficient data management, and speeds up data access with faster drives.
Enhancing Cooling Systems Maintains optimal operating temperatures, prevents thermal throttling for sustained performance, and extends component lifespan.
Upgrading the Power Supply Unit (PSU) Offers reliable power delivery to all components, improves energy efficiency, and contributes to overall system stability.

Choosing the Right Hardware Components

Selecting the right hardware components is essential for a successful upgrade. Here are some general tips to guide you in making the best choice on how to make a laptop or computer faster.

  • Compatibility: Before buying any components, make sure they are compatible with your system. This includes checking the type of RAM and the SSD or HDD connections your computer supports.
  • Quality vs. Cost: Opt for components from reputable brands. While they may be more expensive, they usually offer better performance and longevity, making them a worthwhile investment.
  • Future-Proofing: Consider opting for slightly more advanced components than you currently need. This approach can ensure your computer remains useful for a longer period, handling future software updates and tasks more efficiently.

Maintaining Your Computer for Optimal Performance

Computer maintenance for better performance involves a combination of regular software updates, physical cleaning, vigilant security practices, and consistent performance monitoring.

Keeping your operating system and applications updated is one of the most important steps in this process. Software developers frequently release updates that introduce new features and, more importantly, include performance improvements and security patches.

These updates can greatly improve your computer’s performance and protect it against vulnerabilities.

The physical cleanliness of your computer is also important. Over time, dust and debris can accumulate, especially in the fans and vents, leading to overheating and reduced performance.

Regularly cleaning your computer’s keyboard, screen, and internal components, such as fans for desktops, can prevent this. It’s also important to make sure your computer is placed in a well-ventilated area to assist with cooling and prevent heat buildup.

Keeping an eye on your computer’s performance can help catch issues early. Tools like the Task Manager on Windows and the Activity Monitor on macOS provide insights into resource usage, such as CPU and memory.

Noticing changes in your computer’s behavior, like slower boot times, application lag, or frequent system crashes, can be indicative of underlying problems.

Addressing these issues promptly can prevent them from escalating and help maintain your computer’s performance over time.

Security is another important part of maintenance. Malware and viruses not only pose serious security threats but can also considerably slow down your computer.

You need to install reputable antivirus and anti-malware software and keep it updated. Regular scans for malicious software and exercising caution with emails and downloads can further safeguard your computer.

Here’s a handy list of antiviruses you can rely on. For more info and thorough comparisons between the top antiviruses on the market right now, head over to our guide to the best antivirus software.

Antivirus Software Test Results Starting Price Max Devices Supported Compatibility Free Version Top 3 Features
TotalAV – 6/6 for usability
– 100% malware detection rate
$29 (annual, first year) 3 Windows, Mac, iOS and Android Free scan – Zero-day cloud scanning
– PUA protection
– Browser manager & cleaner
Norton 6/6 for protection and usability $19.99 (annual, first year) 1 Windows, Mac, iOS and Android 7-day trial – 100% Virus Protection Promise
– 2GB cloud backup
– Hacking protection
TrendMicro – 6/6 for performance
– 100% malware detection rate
$14.89 (annual) 5 Windows, Mac, iOS and Android 30-day trial – Blocks dangerous websites
– Safeguards against email phishing scams
– Dark web monitoring
ESET No Independent Tests $39.95 (annual) 3 Windows, macOS, and Android 30-day trial – Sensitive data encryption
– Password management
– Network and smart device protection
Avast 6/6 for protection, performance, and usability Free 1 PC, Mac, Android, iPhone, iPad Free-forever plan – Advanced ransomware protection
– Permanently deletes sensitive files
– Web Shield blocks dangerous downloads and websites

More Cybersecurity Guides and Resources

Following good security practices is essential for ensuring your device operates effectively and your information and hardware are protected. Here are some additional cybersecurity guides from our network to help protect your system from all kinds of online threats.

Professional Help and When to Seek It

If your computer remains persistently slow despite basic fixes or shows signs of hardware failure like frequent crashes and overheating, it’s time to seek professional help.

If you’re facing complex issues like suspected malware infections or are unsure about handling hardware upgrades, consulting with a professional for accurate diagnosis and repair is a good way forward.

You can contact your computer’s manufacturer if it’s still under warranty and the issue is covered or locate a local computer repair shop if there’s one in your area.

The Bottom Line – What to Do If Your Computer is Running Slowly

Poor PC performance often isn’t down to age but results from lack of maintenance, outdated hardware, software issues, overloaded storage, and unnoticed background processes.

If you’re asking, “Why is my PC so slow?” follow the tips in our guide, and you should see rapid improvement. Maintaining your machine with tasks such as cleaning out old files, updating software, and running diagnostics is the best way to speed up your slow computer.

FAQs – How to Fix a Slow Computer

Why is my PC extremely slow?

Does increasing RAM increase PC speed?

How can I make my computer run 100% faster?

Is it safe to use automatic PC cleaning and optimization software?

What are the best free tools to speed up my slow computer?

Can antiviruses speed up PCs?

How can you free up disk space?

References

Related Questions

Related How To’s

Related Terms

Marshall Gunnell

Marshall, a Mississippi native, is a dedicated expert in IT and cybersecurity with over a decade of experience. Along Techopedia, his bylines can be found on Business Insider, PCWorld, VGKAMI, How-To Geek, and Zapier. His articles have reached a massive readership of over 100 million people. Marshall previously served as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and technical staff writer at StorageReview, providing comprehensive news coverage and detailed product reviews on storage arrays, hard drives, SSDs, and more. He also developed sales strategies based on regional and global market research to identify and create new project initiatives.  Currently, Marshall resides in…