Speeding up your PC won't just make it faster – it will be more secure, less buggy, and more enjoyable to use.
Even better, no matter how slow your PC is running, getting it back up to speed is usually quite straightforward. As you're about to see, you can use plenty of quick, easy, and (mostly) free tricks and tools.
So, don't worry about bringing it to a repair shop – they'll probably just use this list anyway! And then charge you for three days' work.
Use this guide instead, and you'll notice a difference immediately.
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- Speeds up your PC’s startup by identifying unnecessary programs and pausing them until you actually need them.
- Monitors and automatically fixes over 30,000 common problems that can cause performance issues and errors.
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1. Check for viruses and malware
Viruses and malware (including spyware, adware, and much more) are probably the most well-known causes of a slow PC.
They can infect every file, program, and drive on your device, eating up resources, slowing everything down, and creating huge risks to your security.
The best way to stop this from happening is to install a comprehensive antivirus on your PC that blocks any malicious files from being downloaded. However, if your PC is slowing down, it might already be infected. So you need an antivirus with excellent scanning capabilities that can detect every kind of malware.
The best antivirus solutions for Windows will detect and automatically remove any viruses and malware already slowing your computer down and protect you from future risks. They also come with a host of security tools to keep you safe online and boost your PC's overall performance.
2. Remove all the bloatware
Unfortunately, many PC manufacturers think we want our PCs to come with a bunch of useless pre-installed apps that we'll never use (commonly known as "bloatware" or "crapware").
You may not have noticed them on your device. But they're probably there, running in the background, eating up resources, space, and battery power (if you're on a laptop).
To find bloatware on your PC:
- Open up Programs and Features on your Start menu.
- Scroll through and see if there's anything you don't recognize – that's probably bloatware.
- Uninstall as you see fit.
To speed the process up, sort the programs by "Recent", and you'll see everything in the order they were installed. Go to the end of the list, and you'll find the pre-installed bloatware from the day you bought your PC.
3. Remove any other unused programs
While you're removing the bloatware from your PC, it's a good time to do a general decluttering.
If you've had your PC for some time, it's probably full of programs you stopped using long ago. Or just used once, and then forgot about. Many of these could still be running in the background without you noticing.
The process is the exact same as removing bloatware. However, rather than a once-off, you should remove unused programs once or twice a year. Look for things you haven't opened in more than three months and decide if you still need them. (While writing this, I took a look and found a dozen such programs on my own PC and removed them all).
Removing unused programs will free up space, reduce the load on your CPU and battery, and let your PC run more smoothly.
4. Pause resource-intensive programs from running in the background
Even after removing old, unused programs, the ones you keep will often run in the background when you don't need them. And they could be draining considerable resources.
If your PC suddenly slows down:
- Open Task Manager.
- Click the Processes tab and sort the programs in ascending order to see which are using the highest percentages of CPU and memory.
- Right-click any resource-intensive programs within Task Manager and select End Task.
Avoid disabling any programs that Windows needs to function. Anything that has Microsoft as its publisher should be kept running. But if you're unsure, Google each item to learn what it does.
I also suggest leaving any antivirus, VPN, and system optimizer tool running.
5. Stop unnecessary programs running at start up
Many programs on your PC will also be set to run at startup by default, even though you don't need them to (Spotify does this, for example). This creates significant drag every time you turn on your device.
To identify every program running at startup:
- Open Task Manager again.
- Click Startup. You'll see every item that runs when you power up your PC and how much processing power it uses.
- Go through the list and click Disable on anything unnecessary.
Once again, avoid disabling any essential Windows programs, antivirus, VPNs, or system optimizer tools. Doing so ensures you never forget to turn them on later.
To speed things up, System Mechanic automatically identifies and blocks unnecessary programs from running at startup (alongside many other cool features).
6. Run a regular disk cleanup
Over time, your PC will get slowed down by lots of tiny bits and pieces of old data, broken or temporary files, outdated programs, incomplete downloads, and much more. Eventually, these will combine, overlap, and amalgamate into a mass of giant "monster files" that clog up your PC.
The result is slower processing times, a rapidly draining battery, and growing frustration every time you use your PC.
You can remove most of these files manually by finding them in folders or using the built-in Windows Disk Cleaner tool in your PC's Control Panel. However, this could take hours – and you'll probably only find a fraction of the files slowing down your device.
Instead, I suggest installing System Mechanic on your PC and letting it do the disk cleanup automatically. It identifies over 50 types of hidden junk files and removes them automatically on a set schedule, so you don't have to constantly remind yourself. It's far more comprehensive than Windows and much easier to use.
Also, as a ProPrivacy reader, you get 70% off your subscription.
7. Delete old, unwanted, and temporary files
You probably have a lot of old files clogging up your PC that you don't consider junk – but also don't need. Think about all the random stuff you download from the internet every day. All the photos and videos you're storing in folders throughout your PC. The email attachments. Forms you had to print and sign.
Removing these old files will massively speed up your PC.
If you've never deleted old files from your PC, set time aside for a big decluttering. Then schedule time each month to review your downloads and decide what you want to keep – and what can be discarded.
Lastly, Switch to secure cloud storage for your photos and videos (if you don't already). That way, you can keep important files and ensure they're easily accessible without slowing down your PC.
8. Empty your recycle bin
A quick and easy step that you probably forget to do.
Empty your recycling bin every couple of weeks, because it can quickly fill up with old files, programs, discarded photos, movies, etc., that you thought you'd deleted but forgot about.
I just looked at my recycle bin, and there was stuff dating back months in there!
To empty your recycle bin, right-click and select Empty Recycle Bin. Done! On to the next step.
9. Make sure everything on your PC is up-to-date
You'll usually be told to keep your operating system, drivers, apps, and programs for security reasons – to ensure you're protected from the latest malware.
But keeping up with the latest versions of everything on your PC also keeps it running smoothly, as software is often optimized over time to be more lightweight and efficient.
Windows will notify you whenever an update is available for your operating system. For everything else, keep an eye on your emails for updates or set them to update automatically any time the manufacturers release a patch or a new version.
10. Defragment your hard drive (HDD only)
Over time, your hard drive gets very messy, as the data it's storing constantly gets moved around, broken up, and reassembled – in a word, fragmented.
"Defragmenting" your hard drive basically means re-organizing the data, reassembling it, and putting everything back into an orderly system. More modern Solid State Drives don't need defragmentation (doing so can also damage them), only older mechanical Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). Also, recent versions of Windows (starting from 7) will automatically defragment your HDD on a set schedule, usually once per week.
However, you can still manually defragment your HDD if you're worried there's an urgent issue slowing it down.
To manually defragment your HDD:
- Go to My Computer and right-click Windows (C) – the default name for your hard drive.
- Click Properties > Tools.
- Navigate to Optimize and defragment drive. Click the Optimize button.
- In the pop-up screen that opens, select any HDD and click Analyze. (You'll be blocked from analyzing any SSDs as a safety precaution).
You'll get a report on how defragmented it is – anything over 5% is bad. Finally, click Optimize to defragment the HDD.
11. Restart your PC regularly
If you're like most people (including me), you leave your PC running 24/7. But by doing so, you're letting a huge amount of background processes, software, tasks, and open pieces of data build up – putting a massive strain on your CPU.
When you properly shut down your PC, all of this stops.
When you boot it back up, it will have a lot more free memory and will operate much faster. And if you've already implemented some of the steps above, restarting your PC (especially an old one) can feel like using a whole new device.
12. Optimize your PC's power settings
Did you know Windows has a few "power plans" that dictate how your PC balances performance, speed, and energy consumption? Most PC users don’t.
The default setting is Balanced, which, as the name suggests, finds the optimum balance for performance and energy consumption – but is not the fastest setting.
To speed up your PC, you should choose the High Performance option. While it uses more energy, everything will run much faster. If you're using a laptop, make sure you can plug it in.
To change your PC's "power plans":
- Open Control Panel and select Hardware and Sound.
- Click Power Options. You'll have a choice between the default settings and creating your own.
- To create your own, select Create a power plan. Choose a pre-existing setting as your baseline, give your plan a name, and then click Next.
- In the panel that opens, you can customize various settings that will boost your PC's speed and overall performance.
Note: If you're using a laptop, it's much faster to open the battery icon on your Windows tray and, under Power mode, move the slider closer to Best performance. This will make your laptop run faster, but also drain your battery much quicker.
13. Adjust or disable visual effects
Recent versions of Windows pack a lot of sleek graphics and animations, like shadows, fading effects, and much more. While they're impressive and give everything a modern feel, they're usually unnecessary and slow everything down.
If you're okay with a less flashy interface, it's really easy to adjust or remove these graphics and speed up your PC:
- Go to Control Panel and select System and Security.
- Click System and choose Advanced system settings.
- In the Performance tab, navigate to Settings.
- Choose between Adjust for best performance (all visual effects will be removed) or removing individual graphics and animations based on your preferences.
14. Adjust or disable Windows' search indexing
Every Windows PC keeps an up-to-date index of everything stored on your drive, which makes searching for files, programs, apps, and everything else on your PC much quicker and easier.
But, automatically building and maintaining this database takes up valuable system resources. The result: your PC is much slower, especially if it's an older model or you use a lot of modern programs.
Adjusting or turning off search indexing is easy enough:
- In the Start menu, use the search box and type in "index".
- It will suggest Indexing Options Control Panel – open this.
- In the pop-up window that opens, choose Modify.
- A new window, Indexed Locations, will open.
- Select any drives on your PC that you don't need indexed.
If you ever change your mind, follow the same process and reselect everything you want to turn back on.
15. Remove unnecessary browser extensions
If your internet browser is running slow, it might not be an issue with your PC. You may have too many extensions running in the background.
We all install browser extensions, use them for a while, then completely forget about them. But over time, like everything else, these build up and start eating resources. Removing unused and unnecessary extensions goes a long way to speeding up your browser. It also makes your browser safer (old, out-of-date extensions make you vulnerable to cyberattacks if they're compromised).
Removing extensions is easy. On Google Chrome:
- Click the puzzle-shaped icon at the top right corner of your browser (you'll probably already have some extension shortcuts there, too).
- Click the 3 dots next to any extension you're removing.
- Press Remove from Chrome.
The process is basically the same for Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and every other PC browser.
16. Limit the open tabs on your browsers
Another bad habit we're all guilty of: opening a million tabs on our browsers and just leaving them running in the background.
But like browser extensions (and everything else on your PC, really), having too many open tabs eats up resources and battery power, slowing down your PC.
Luckily, this is a simple fix – close all your tabs!!!
Of course, keeping too many tabs open is a difficult habit to break. If you struggle, consider installing a browser extension that limits the number of tabs and windows you can open at any time (but only if you're going to use it!).
Not only will this speed up your browser, but it will make you much more organized, too.
17. Optimize your browser
Once you've removed any unnecessary browser extensions and broken your bad tab habits, you should also ensure your browser is running optimally.
Like your PC, over time, your browser collects and stores vast amounts of data and temporary files – which build up and eventually start slowing it down. To ensure that doesn't happen, follow these steps:
- Clear your cache: Unless you need your browsing history, you should wipe it regularly.
- Clear cookies and temporary files: While deleting your browsing history, ensure you're also wiping anything else you don't need for your browser to run.
- Delete incomplete downloads: Although downloads are stored on your hard drive, it's still good to clear any incomplete downloads from your browser, in case any data has been stored.
- Restart it: Just like restarting your PC, shutting down and reopening your browser creates a hard reset, clearing any built-up data and programs running in the background.
Clearing caches and removing temporary files is basically the same on every browser. It only takes a few minutes, and you should do it a few times a year. So you remember, set a reminder every couple of months.
18. Disable Cortana
Windows' built-in personal assistant is a handy tool for some and a huge annoyance for others. But regardless of how you feel about Cortana, one thing is universally true: it uses a huge amount of your PC's resources.
So, if you're not using Cortana, removing it can make a big difference in speeding up your PC. Unfortunately, Microsoft has made removing Cortana much more difficult since the release of Windows 10. You'll need to edit your system's registry, which requires some technical know-how.
19. Upgrade your PC's hardware components
If you've tried every step so far and it's made no difference, you might need to upgrade your PC's hardware.
Doing so requires a bigger investment and some technical experience. So, you should bring your PC to an expert rather than trying it yourself. However, here are a few suggestions for hardware upgrades:
- Graphics Processing Unit (GPU): Upgrading your GPU will give you a much better gaming experience and streaming in HD.
- Add an SSD: While more expensive than HDDs, SSDs are much more efficient and can massively speed up your PC.
- Add more RAM: Especially on older devices, adding more RAM helps your PC manage more simultaneous tasks and modern programs that need a lot of processing power.
However, before spending a lot of money and time upgrading and adding to your PC's hardware, try Iolo System Mechanic instead. It works in real-time, running in the background and constantly optimizing the RAM, CPU, and hard drive performance – making them more efficient and faster.
20. Reinstall Windows
If all else fails, consider completely rebooting Windows and starting fresh with a new version.
Completely reinstalling Windows on your PC is simple enough, and you can do it from home. However, it takes a few hours, and you need to back up everything in advance. You'll be completely wiping your hard drive, so anything stored or running on it will be removed – including all your files and programs.
Before going any further, back everything up on an external drive or cloud account.
When you're ready:
- Navigate to your PC's Settings.
- Click Update and Security.
- Select Recovery.
- Click the Get started button on the panel that opens.
You'll have two options: Keep my files (which only removes your apps and settings) and Remove everything (which completely wipes your hard drive). I suggest the second option, as it's the most comprehensive and more likely to work.
However, even if you choose "Keep my files", you still need to back everything up just in case of an error.
Speeding up your PC can be easy, inexpensive, and stress-free.
Follow the steps outlined in this guide, from the easier to the more complex, and restart your device after completing each step – you'll see a huge difference immediately.
Then, it's just a case of regular maintenance, decluttering, and good habits.
Don't forget to try System Mechanic (with 70% off!) to speed the process up even more – by having the most complicated steps down for you.
Frequently asked questions about speeding up your PC
Is antivirus software necessary for speeding up my PC?
Antivirus software is only necessary for speeding up your PC if it's infected with viruses or malware. But you will only know if your PC is infected if you have an antivirus installed.
The best antivirus software for your PC can detect any viruses and malware slowing down your PC and automatically remove them. This will help speed your PC up by reducing infections and other issues.
What's the fastest and most efficient browser for my PC?
Google Chrome is the fastest and most efficient browser for Windows PCs. It's also the most user-friendly: you can easily customize it, change settings, clear your cache, and much more to make it even faster.
How often should I defragment or run a disk cleanup on my PC?
You should defragment your hard drive any time it becomes more than 5% fragmented, and run a disk cleanup every month.
However, system optimizer tools like Iolo's System Mechanic will automatically complete both processes whenever necessary, so you don't have to worry about remembering (or forgetting).
Is it safe to uninstall unnecessary programs from my PC?
Yes, it's safe to uninstall unnecessary programs from your PC. In fact, it's recommended, as doing so will often speed up your PC and boost its overall performance.
If you want to remove programs from your PC, but you're not sure it's safe to do so, open Task Manager and look up every program running on Google. It will tell you which are necessary and which are safe to remove.