“My computer is running too slow, can you help me speed it up?”
Ever since Windows PCs gained traction in homes and offices worldwide, this has been the catch-cry of almost every user. Your new PC feels wonderfully fast and responsive, but before too long, becomes frustratingly slow. Read on for the best techniques to clean up, speed up and optimize your Windows PC, desktop or laptop.
Many Windows performance issues, update failures, and internet connection problems stem from 3rd party security software. Most store-bought PCs ship with a trial version of McAfee, Trend or Norton, will regularly pop up and coerce the user to subscribe to the service to maintain the security of the PC.
Third party security software carries risks and performance penalties. The design of these programs is such that they need access to run at the deepest level of the system. Any problems or exploits in that code can be used as a pathway for the types of attacks that they’re trying to prevent. The large installation size and RAM use of these programs mean that most PCs actually struggle to run them effectively and keep them updated without the user noticing the performance cost. Unfortunately, a slow to respond or out of date third-party security suite offers little real world protection.
Windows offers a complete, built-in and fully featured security suite that runs seamlessly, with no performance penalty. Uninstalling that third-party security suite should automatically re-enable Windows Defender. When your PC is protected by Windows Defender you are receiving comprehensive protection for your system, files, and online activities from viruses, malware, spyware, and other threats. Windows Defender is part of Windows and already installed on your PC, and there are no subscription costs ever.
Windows Defender is included as part of Windows 10 and 8, and a lighter version called Microsoft Security Essentials is available for download for Windows 7. Enabling the inbuilt security options are the primary step to recover performance and security.
Remove Unused and Unnecessary Software
Most PCs tend to come preloaded with a lot of extra, factory installed software. For the majority of users, this software will forever sit on the PC or laptop, unused, costing you space and performance.
Much of the preinstalled software on any PC can safely be removed without risk to the user. Windows runs best in a clean state- fewer installed programs frees up resources, increases your security and reduces problems with Windows Updates. Review the list of programs in your control panel, and uninstall the following:
- Manufacturer preinstalled software- Look for the PC’s brand listed as the publisher and date that matches the age of the laptop. Basically, all tools, documentation, assistants, health monitors, update managers, recovery media creators, HDD protection, connection managers, configuration assistants, and value-added packages can safely be removed.
- Search assistants, unrecognized browser extensions and toolbars.
- Software associated with old, unused printers.
- Unsupported software such as Quicktime and Flash players.
- Unused software such as older CyberLink installations, old PDF managers, games, game managers, and start button assistants.
- Drive optimization, cleaners, defragmentation and system performance tools.
Remove Unused Web Browser Extensions
Modern web browsers allow the installation of small programs called extensions. Many are useful, such as ad blocking extensions, however, some are malicious and can take over searches, home pages and inject advertising into your browsing.
Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox can all be easily reset back to their default settings. This will disable extensions and customizations that may have been causing performance issues. Follow these links to quickly reset the most common browsers:
Scan for Malware
Many seemly innocent website advertising links and downloads can leave behind malware on your system. Running a specific tool to remove malware from your system often results in performance gains and removes possible threats to your security. It will locate many PUPs [potentially unwanted programs], malware related registry keys and much more.
Malwarebytes is an excellent tool for this purpose. It will be used once only and then uninstalled to avoid ongoing prompts to swap from the free version to the paid version. Follow these steps for the best experience:
- Download and install the free version of Malwarebytes.
- Open the program from the desktop icon, selecting Scan Now.
- Ensure all items found are selected, and allow Malwarebytes to quarantine/remove them.
- Restart the PC and then uninstall Malwarebytes using the tool located in the Start Menu under the Malwarebytes folder, or from the Control Panel to avoid ongoing prompts regarding the trial nature of the program.
Disc Space Management
The Recycle Bin is a storage area for deleted items, allowing you to retrieve them if needed. However, items sitting in the recycle bin still take up space on the hard drive. Thankfully, reclaiming this space is simple:
- Open the Recycle Bin from the desktop icon or the Search Bar.
- Select Empty Recycle Bin.
The Downloads folder of most PCs can hide a lot of easily reclaimed space. Open your downloads folder [C:\Users\Your_Name\Downloads] and look for any application/program files that have been downloaded here. Once used, the installer program can be deleted and the program stays installed.
Windows 10 also offers built-in storage management tools. Using Storage Sense is recommended to automate the future emptying of the Recycle Bin, and removal of temporary files.
- Open Settings from the Start Menu.
- Select Storage from the System Menu.
- Turn on Storage Sense.
- Set it to run every month under the “Change How We Free Up Space Automatically” link.
Disable Startup Programs
Many Windows programs have add-ons that run as soon as Windows boots up, regardless of if you ever use the program. Unfortunately, running excessive startup processes uses a lot of resources and is unnecessary in most cases. Review your startup apps and disable any you don’t need, such as fax reception agents, or the iTunes or Skype helpers.
- Open Settings from the Start Menu.
- Type “Startup Apps” in the search bar on top of the Settings menu, and select it.
- Review and switch off any unneeded items.
Check for Windows Updates
Updated PCs are secure PCs. The bulk of Windows Updates are security patches, with semi-annual feature updates also occurring. Most update-related issues occur due to avoidance or interruption of update installation, either by a user or third-party security software.
- Open Settings from the Start Menu
- Select Update and Security
- Select Check for Updates
The key to trouble-free updates is allowing them to happen in a timely manner. Regularly shutting down or restarting your computer at the end of the day will allow outstanding updates to be regularly processed. This should avoid forced restarts during times you’re using the PC- a common occurrence due to a backlog of delayed Windows Updates.