Is your PC a little sluggish but don’t know how to fix it? Read on to find out legitimate ways to improve performance without installing more software or signing up for anything strange on fishy websites.
There are many ways that you can speed up your computer, some with simple tweaks, and others requiring advanced knowledge or hardware upgrades. In this article I will show you the best ways to speed up your PC.
(As always, if any of this is beyond your skills or comfort level contact a local trusted geek to help you out. They shouldn’t object, especially if you pay them a decent wage. Freelance geeks should be able to do anything a major tech retailer can do, and possibly for a fraction of the cost.)
Uninstall Unused Programs:
Although you are not using some of the programs on your PC, having them stick around can cause performance issues. From using up precious disk space to starting up automatically and running silently in the background, they can start to slow down your PC. Go to Control Panel -> Add Remove Programs and remove all programs that you don’t need or use anymore. If there are entries you are not sure if they are needed, it’s okay to leave them.
Java is one of the worst offenders for leaving old versions behind, so only keep the latest version! This applies to any software, unless you need an older version for a specific purpose.
NOTE: This is for traditional hard drives only. Solid State Drives should NOT be defragemented. SSD’s do not suffer a performance hit from having to read a file from multiple locations due to how they are made. Defragmenting an SSD will only shorten its lifespan!
What is a defragmenter? First let’s cover fragmentation. As you save and delete files, you take up and remove space on your hard drive. Saving files writes the file in whatever the first open free space is. Deleting files removes the file from its spot on your hard drive. So, after periods of saving and deleting files you will get free spaces spotted throughout your drive. Then when you save files, they can then span across multiple of these open spaces. This slows your PC down as instead of a single read, your hard drive has to search for all pieces of the file before you can use it.
This is where a defragmenter comes in. Defragmentation software reorganizes the files on your hard drive to make them as continuous as possible and even move commonly used files to the start of the disk, so it takes less time to find them. These processes can greatly improve your computing experience.
Windows has this tool built in called Disk Defragmenter, and it can be found under:
Start-> Accessories->System Tools-> Disk Defragmenter
For light users, defragmenting can be done once a month, but if you create and delete a lot of files, you will want to move to a weekly schedule. You can also set up a schedule so its automatic, however when it is running, you will noticed much slower performance as it is trying to rearrange your files while you are using them. I recommend to set it up to run when you can leave your PC alone for a while.
Disable Start Up Programs
In the past number of years, more and more software has come with the feature to start up when Windows starts. This is designed to have the program in memory and ready for use whenever you decide to use it. However, if this is enabled for a number of programs, start up can be painfully slow as all of the applications try to load at the same time to be ready for use.
Go into any application you know of that does this and disable the feature.
To go a step further, you can also edit start up items, but this method requires you to be very knowledgeable about your machine.
Open msconfig by searching for ‘msconfig’ in your Start menu. This will open an administrative program where you can tweak your boot and start up items. Generally you will only want to modify items in the start up tab. It is safe to disable any item that clearly describes a program you installed. DO NOT UNCHECK things like Microsoft Windows Operating System, but feel free to disable iTunes, Steam or other applications you don’t use regulary. If this causes anything to not work correctly(Adobe software commonly hits this from my experience), you will need to re-add the item and reboot.
Disable Windows Features
Another advanced technique is to disable unused features of Windows. Again, use caution when doing this. Do not attempt to make changes here unless you know what you are doing!
Under Add and Remove Programs in the Control Panel, you can click ‘Turn Windows features on or off’. This will bring you to a screen where you can enable and disable different parts of Windows. This will help speed up your PC by ensuring Windows only loads what it needs to.
I personally disable Tablet features as I use a pen tablet for digital art and have found the tablet functions to get more in the way than help. A word of warning though, some features are tied closely to others, so items like Media Center may warn you that it will break other applications if you disable it. So you may or may not be able to disable everything you hope to.
Upgrade Your Hard Drive
From looking at PC’s for sale in stores and online I see that the 5400RPM HDD is still one of the most common drives to have installed on a prebuilt PC. They work just fine, but upgrading to the next speed up will make a night and day difference.
Hard drives come in a variety of speeds that are faster then 5400RPM. I only have experience with 5400 and 7200RPM drives but they can also be 10000, 10500 and even 15000RPM’s. The faster the hard drive can spin, the faster it can find and read your data. I have found 7200RPM drives to give the best bang for the buck performance increase as although I am sure the 10k+RPM drives are faster, generally their prices were many times that of a 7200 drive.
A solid state disk drive is a drive that is based on a form of flash memory. These have no mechanical parts so there is nothing that has to seek the physical data on the disk. Most SSD’s have greater read than write speed, but that is determined by model and price range. A good SSD will give you the greatest performance boost as it allows data to flow in and out as fast as possible. The only downside is that currently they are much more expensive per GB than traditional platter based HDD’s. However, you could easily get one large enough for your OS and programs and use slower storage for your files to get the best of both worlds.
Bridging the gap between SSD and HDD, there is the SSHD. This is a hybrid of both drives where there is a portion of fast flash based storage mixed with traditional platter drive technology. This allows for a hardware based best of both worlds as they balance use of the platter and flash memory. As you would expect, it does not perform as well as a stand alone SSD, but does perform much faster than a traditional HDD.
If your PC has less than 4GB of RAM you should consider upgrading it to have at least this much. Windows 7 needs between 1-1.5GB of RAM itself and depending on the applications you use, they can take a hefty chunk as well, especially if you multitask and leave multiple programs open at once. If you edit photos or video, you may need 8GB of RAM. However, anything more than that and you are entering professional territory. That is you wont see a return on your investment unless you are seriously taxing your system and working with multiple large files at the same time and editing photos with a large number of layers etc.
Not necessarily a last ditch effort, reinstalling Windows is known to speed up your PC. Over years of use and installing/uninstalling programs Windows ends up slowing down. It’s just the nature of how it works. If you aren’t tech savvy enough to do this yourself, consult a local geek to help you out.
Purchase A New PC
If your machine is a few years old and the tweaks to Windows listed above don’t help, you may want to skip the hardware upgrades and purchase a new system. Pay a local trusted geek to consult your current PC as well as your needs. They should be able to let you know what can be done to your current machine and if you should purchase any upgrades or if it’s time to buy a new PC. They may even be able to build one for you or at least direct you to a trusted brand or current sales.
Do you know of any other great ways to speed up your PC that I didn’t mention? Let everyone know in the comments below!