Speed up your computer

Breath new life into your computer

It can be hugely frustrating when your once fast computer slows to a crawl, but it happens to almost all of us at some time. Luckily, there are several things you can do to get your computer back up to speed.

1. Give your hard disk a spring clean

Over time, your computer can get bogged down by lots of small files it no longer needs. Windows includes a tool that can round them up and get rid of them. To launch Disk Cleanup , Go to the Start menu, click All Programs > Accessories > System Tools and then click Disk Cleanup.

You will be presented with a list of types of files you have the option to delete. You can safely tick any of these boxes. Just make sure there’s nothing in your Recycle Bin that you want to save, or any Offline web pages you want to keep, first. Once you’ve ticked the types of files you want to delete, click ‘OK’ and wait a few minutes while the tool does its job.

2. Defragment your hard disk

The more you use your computer, the greater the chance that the hard disk will become fragmented. That means that different types of data that work best close to each other on the disk get spread out, meaning that your hard disk has to do more work to find everything it needs. The way to solve this problem is to regularly defragment (“defrag” for short).

Go to the Start menu, click All Programs > Accessories > System Tools and then click Disk Defragmenter. First, select all the hard disks on your system (or at the very least C, where all the computer’s system information is usually stored) and click ‘Analyze’. After a wait, this will tell you whether the disk(s) need defragmenting. If they do, click ‘Defragment’. Depending on the size of your hard disk, how much data is stored on it and how defragmented it is, you may be waiting between a few minutes and a few hours for the process to complete.

3. Scan your computer for malware

The term “Malware” covers all sorts of software that can harm your computer and steal information from you. Viruses and spyware (programs that snoop on what you’re doing) are two common types of malware that infiltrate your PC and slow it down while potentially causing other types of harm too.

Regularly scanning your computer for malware can help keep it clean and speedy. There is a wide choice of anti-virus and Internet security software available, just make sure you go for a trusted brand. Microsoft also offers a free program called Security Essentials, which offers protection for free but lacks some of the tools more advanced users may want.

4. Uninstall programs you no longer need

If you have been using you computer for some time, you may have installed programs you no longer need. These take up hard disk space and, in some cases, keep running in the background, slowing down your PC.

To remove unneeded programs, click ‘Start’ and then ‘Control Panel’. In Windows XP, double-click on ‘Add or remove programs’, or in Windows Vista and Windows 7 click ‘Uninstall a program’. This will display a list of the programs installed on your PC. Use this to remove any that you’re certain you no longer need. If you’re not sure, it may be best to leave it be until you’ve checked that you definitely do not need it.

5. Repair Disk errors

Faults on your hard disk can cause your computer to slow down. Windows has a built-in tool for fixing these problems.

To find it, click ‘Start’ and choose ‘My Computer’. This will display all the disks connected to your computer. Starting with ‘C:’ (usually a computer’s ‘main disk) right-click the disk and select ‘Properties’. Select the ‘Tools’ tab and click ‘Check now’. Check only the box for ‘Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors’ and then click ‘Start’.

6. Give your computer a memory boost

RAM (Random Access Memory) is your computer’s “short term memory”. The more it has to work with, the faster it will run. RAM is cheap these days, meaning that you can get a speed boost relatively inexpensively.

If you don’t feel confident with opening your computer and modifying it, it’s best to rely on an experienced friend or a computer repair shop. Do make sure you ask around for a number of quotes first though, to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

7. Give your PC a ‘ReadyBoost’

If you’re using Windows 7, you can add extra RAM to your system without having to physically install extra memory. This is a much easier thing to do. Simply insert a USB flash drive into a free USB port on your computer. Click ‘Start’ and ‘My Computer’. Now find the flash drive on the list of drives and right-click it. Now click ‘Autoplay’. This will reveal some options. Choose ‘General options’, then ‘Speed up my system’. Now select ‘Properties’ and choose the ‘ReadyBoost’ tab.

You now have the choice between using the whole of the flash drive to give your system extra memory (select ‘Dedicate this device to ReadyBoost’), or if you want to reserve some space on the drive for shared files, click ‘Use this device’ and then select how much space you would like to be used by ReadyBoost.

8. Stop unneeded programs from running in the background

One of the fastest, easiest ways to speed up your PC is to make sure that only programs you need are running in the background.

To do this in Windows XP, press the ‘Ctrl’, ‘Alt’ and ‘Del’ keys together, opening the Task Manager. The safest thing to do its to stick to the ‘Applications’ tab. This will list all the programs currently running. Select any that you don’t need and click ‘End Task’ to close them.

With Windows Vista and Windows 7, press ‘Ctrl’, ‘Alt’ and ‘Esc’. This will open the Task Manager. Go to the ‘Applications’ tab. This will list all the programs currently running. Select any that you don’t need and click ‘End Task’ to close them.

9. Switch off fancy graphical effects

Windows Vista and Windows 7 have graphical effects built in that can be attractive to look at but can really slow your computer down. These effects are collectively called ‘Aero’ and it’s easy to disable them.

To switch off Aero in Windows Vista, right-click your computer desktop, click ‘Personalize’, then click “Window color and appearance”, click “Open classic appearance properties for more color options” and finally select ‘Windows Vista Basic’ and then ‘OK’.

To switch off Aero in Windows 7, right-click your computer desktop and click ‘Personalize’. Then, scroll through the available themes and select ‘Basic theme’.

10. Install a new graphics card

This is another tip that may require the help of an experienced computer repair person but can been a great way of getting extra speed out of your machine. Using a dedicated graphics card takes the strain off your computer’s central processor by taking on the work of displaying graphics on screen. If you play a lot of games or watch a lot videos, you may find this is makes your experience a lot more pleasurable.

If you’re unsure which card to get, ask an experienced friend or an expert at a computer store for advice. This will make sure that it is the right choice for you and will work with your computer.

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