Customers often ask us questions like “How do I speed up my computer?” or “My computer has become very sluggish, what can I do?”. This article is going to show you 5 ways any Windows user can do just this using software that is either included on your PC already or available for free online.
By following these simple steps, you will help to revitalize, maintain and boost a deteriorating operating system.
1. Disk Cleanup
The Disk Cleanup utility is already installed on your computer and will delete any unwanted data such as temporary internet files, system error reports, empty the recycle bin etc.
To access the Disk Cleanup utility:
- Clink on the Windows start button (Bottom left hand corner)
- Then “All Programs”
- Then “Accessories”
- Then “System Tools”
- Finally click “Disk Cleanup”
Alternatively you can search for it using the Windows search bar, this is also located by pressing the windows start button.
- First click on the Windows start button
- Then type “Disk Cleanup” in the search bar that pops up just above the start button
- Finally click Disk Cleanup
When the utility opens, select which drive you want to clean up. In most cases it will be the C drive that has the operating system installed so select this one and windows will calculate how much space you can free up.
A new dialog box will pop up allowing you to select which folder/files you would like to delete. Usually the temporary internet files use the most space as your web browser caches files to enable it to access commonly used web pages faster.
Once you have checked/un-checked the desired boxes press OK and confirm you want to permanently remove the files, after a few minutes the process will complete and the dialog box will close.
Another useful aspect of this utility is the programs and features section under the “More options” tab, this will allow you to remove any unwanted or unused programs installed. In affect this is another way to get to the add/remove programs application in the control panel.
2. Malicious software removal (Malware)
Spyware and Adware can cause your computer to become sluggish and unresponsive. Spyware is malicious software that collects sensitive data without your permission, such as websites visited and even passwords.
Its extremely important to run a scan for this software once a week especially if you use online banking or make regular purchases online.
Most antivirus software facilitates spyware removal, however I recommend that you use Two different programs to ensure you are up to date with all virus/spyware definitions. AVG Free 2012 is a freeware antivirus application with built in spyware removal tools, it can be downloaded here.
Ad-Aware is another excellent spyware removal program which can also work as an antivirus application. Both of these pieces of software have the option of running a “Smart Scan” instead of a full system scan, this will significantly reduce the scanning time by targeting the most likely places malicious software may be hidden.
Ad-Aware can be downloaded from the Lavasoft website here.
3. Disk Defragmenting and Error Checking
Overtime, your hard disk will fragment due to installing/uninstalling software, this is because of the way information is stored and how it is accessed. Fragmenting only affects performance of mechanical drives that have moving parts, it does not affect SSD’s (Solid State Drive), defragmenting an SSD can cause permanent damage.
Consolidating fragmented files on your hard disk will improve overall system performance and increase hard drive response times.
The Disk Defragmenter can be accessed in the same way as the Disk Cleanup utility:
- First click on the Windows start button
- Then on “All Programs”
- Then “Accessories”
- Click “System Tools”
- Finally click on “Disk Defragmenter”
Once open, click “Defragment now” and select which volumes you want to defragment. In most cases this will be the system drive, you can also defragment other drives/partitions if you wish to do so.
Once you have selected the desired volumes, click OK and it will begin to defragment. The time scale of this process will differ greatly depending on the amount of fragmentation on the drive.
Data packets need to be physically moved from one location to another and placed in order for efficient access, this can sometimes take up to Two or Three hours. Do not turn off your machine during this process, it may result in data corruption.
Alternatively I would recommend using IObits excellent disc defragmenter “Smart Defrag” here for free.
After a successful defragment, you can also check the disk for errors. This can be accessed via the “My computer” icon.
- Click on your Windows start button
- Then on “My computer”
- Right click on your system drive
- Click “Properties”
- Click the “Tools” tab
- Click the “Check now”
- Check the “Scan for and attempt to recover bad sectors” box
- Check the “Automatically fix file system errors” box (It may already be checked)
- Click “Start” to begin the process
If there are any bad sectors found it will automatically try and recover them, bad sectors can significantly slow disk performance, recovering them is vital for optimal disk performance.
4. Disk Partitions (Advanced)
Explained basically, a partitioned hard disk is one physical drive split into multiple parts. The reason “Advanced” is in the heading is because sometimes multiple partitions can slow down performance due to the hard drive having to access different areas.
Generally speaking, having Two partitions per drive is sufficient. One for the OS (Operating system) and one for data storage. By keeping the two separate, the system drive will be (in theory) less fragmented.
The data storage partition is where you would want to save all your files, i.e downloads etc. This partition wont be accessed as much as the system partition, therefore the adverse effects of fragmentation wont be detrimental to the overall system performance.
Hopefully the manufacturer/system builder of your computer will have already done this for you, all you need to do is use it in the correct way. Making sure you have a dedicated partitions for data storage and for the OS.
Making sure you have “Automatic Updates” turned on will ensure you have the latest hotfixes and security updates for your OS, whether it be windows 7, Vista or XP.
Microsoft release regular updates to most of its OS’s (Even some of the older ones) to ensure up to date compatibility and general performance improvements.
Of course a sure fire way to improve speed on a higher spec machine would be to make sure you have the latest operating system available, Windows 7 in this case, soon to be windows 8!
If these basic steps are followed you should notice an overall improvement of your machine.
Please let me know your thoughts on the methods covered here and any additional suggestions to speed up your computer in the comments below.