Windows

Five tips for speeding up a slow PC

When PC performance slows to a crawl, a few simple techniques can make a huge difference. Jack Wallen explains the first steps he takes to perk up a sluggish system.

We've all experienced it. That PC you know should be zipping along but isn't. You add more memory, but it's still barely chugging. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to troubleshoot those ailing machines. Here are five steps you can take to help your machines run much faster.

1: Defragment

This one should go without saying. However, I am always surprised at how few people regularly do this -- or how many IT admins neglect to set up machines to do this regularly. Regardless of which Windows desktop OS you use, make sure you either manually defragment or set the machine up to automatically defragment. When machines get too fragmented, they suffer serious performance degradation. Usually, the built-in Windows defrag tool works fine. If you are looking for something a little better, try Defraggler. It can work on a whole disk or just a part of one.

2: Clean up the disk

Have you ever filled up a disk to 100%? If that disk contains both your OS and your data files, your machine is going to come to a screeching halt. One of the first things I check on a machine that's running slowly is how much of the hard disk has been used. If there isn't roughly 10% of the hard disk free, it's time to clean house. One of the tools I like is CCleaner. It quickly clears out all temp files for you. Once that's done, it's time to attack the obvious locations: Recycle Bin, Pictures, Music, Videos. Once you have cleared those out, you can remove old Restore Points and Shadow copies (from System Restore) and installed programs from your Downloads directory. If that doesn't clear up enough space, it's time to start removing unused applications.

3: Clean up the registry

I've seen plenty of machines get bogged down simply because of errors in the registry. Of course, the registry isn't something just any old user (or administrator) should attack. Instead, you want to use an application whose purpose is to clean up the registry. One of my favorite tools for that task is, again, CCleaner. When you run CCleaner, make sure you back up your registry (it will prompt you to do this). Then, run it a few times. The first time through, it won't catch all the errors. It usually takes about three times before all errors are removed. Once you've removed those errors, you might want to reboot to ensure the process is complete (and the machine is back to speed).

4: Remove spyware/malware

This one always shocks me. If you are using a Windows operating system you BETTER have anti-malware on board or your machine is sure to get bogged down in the muck and mire of spyware. I tend to lean toward Malwarebytes for this. But don't just use the free version. It's good, but it doesn't include any sort of scheduler. And we know end users are horrible about running maintenance applications. For this, you will want to spend the coin to make sure your anti-spyware is up to date and running on a schedule.

5: Check the disk for errors

With a machine that's aging or whose hard drive has seen excessive use, sectors on that drive can wind up bad. To remedy this, you'll need to issue a command and reboot your machine. The command I generally use is chkdsk X: /f /r (Where X is the drive letter you want to check). The f switch tells the command to automatically fix errors and the r switch locates bad sectors and recovers readable data.

Other solutions?

These steps aren't foolproof, but they're the first ones I take when a Windows-based PC is showing signs of slowing down. Do you have other means? What tools or tasks do you use to reverse this "aging process"? Share them with your fellow readers.


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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

231 comments
alfredan
alfredan

use krojam cleaner it would be usefull.

Geetanjali99
Geetanjali99

The disk cleanup tool cleans areas having unnecessary files like temporary internet files(which makes visited web pages open a little faster), Temporary Windows files(temporary buffer for all programs),Recycle Bin, etc. and thus creates additional space. Here, in the link below, are few easy and simple steps to speed up your pc without any kind of complications : http://techwikasta.com/2012/06/pc-basics-speed-up-your-pc-in-a-simple-way/ It helped me a lot! Thanks

Crunchii
Crunchii

My daughter put me in charge of resolving why her computer was slowing down (2 years old only). I tried following some of the advise in this thread but it hardly helped the boot time and hard drive. I installed a slowpc fighter tool from www.spamfighter.com/SLOW-PCfighter and it found a lot of duplicate content and registry errors but only allows me to automatically delete some (wants me to buy to fix everything). Are these programs ok to automatically remove junk files and stuff like this or should I go after it manually? Would like to keep this computer for 3 more years :)

jmamike
jmamike

As we all know, Trojan and spyware could make pc running slowly, If feel pc run slower than before, it is necessary to run Anti-virus software immediately.(http://www.trojanremove.info)

annaalcorn
annaalcorn

If you want a faster computer, then you need to free up some disk space, use an anti-spyware, clean up your registry, and defragment your files. Actually, all of the options given above are helpful in improving a computer???s performance. Computers become slow for certain reasons, but oftentimes, they are just cause by too much unnecessary programs and applications, full recycle bin, faulty registry, and fragmented files. So, if you want to improve your computer, you better take a look at its settings and remove unnecessary stuff.

XxcastxX
XxcastxX

My computer was running really slowly for some reason. I saw a commercial on tv for something called PC Health Advisor. I was initially wary because it sounded like a scam, but I used the trial and it really sped things up. It does alot of registry cleanup and cache emptying that I found gave a large speed boost to my computer. I found the program at www.fixmypcfree.com. It's legit!

speedypcnet
speedypcnet

Another solution can be used to improve computer's speed and performance, and this is Speed up PC. It is easy-to-use, fixes DLL errors, solves problems in Windows Database and lets you manage Windows Startup items. It can also help clean, optimize and maintain computers using a variety of Microsoft Windows operating systems. Use Speed up PC and you'll see the difference of the quality you aim for your PC.

Madsmaddad
Madsmaddad

Would it be possible to redo this post updated with our most valuable sugegstions. I agree that it is in the wrong order, as I like to cleanup before I defrag etc. I also agree - was it in this post? - that I should charge my neighbours for assistance, But in the past I have referred them to Dave next door who is retired and has the time. Now that I am nearly retired I am willing to help but on my terms. With the lady up the road whose machine is not running, but sort of crawling, I am creating a list of things to investigate and what order to do them. It looks like this at the moment. my first five steps would be to: pre 1. Check the size of the disks and how full they are. Use Task manager to get a feel for memory usage. 1. remove excess programs via the control panel program. 2. Clean up the desktop of folders and excess garbage. 3. run ccleaner 4. using something I found in my investigations, - rename ntbtlog.txt to .old - F8 on bootup and enable boot logging in options. - reboot, then look at new ntbtlog.txt to see what occurs. What else would you suggest?

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

I know most people are not pack rats like I am, but I have gotten systems to move more quickly by dumping in an old hard drive and putting page files etc. on the second drive so the hard drives work less and share the load. I also notice you forgot to mention Internet Explorer and most people forget it is a real hog. If you are unwilling to get rid of it, trim its wings, by reducing all its caching and saving. You may even get a third party application that automatically dumps all the IE trash when you exit.

g-man_863
g-man_863

Another critical speed tip is to dump bloated anti-virus programs in favor of leaner, meaner ones. McAfee and certain versions of Norton put a bigger load on system resources than many people realize. I've found that removing these and replacing with AVG speeds things up, especially on budget PCs running slower processors or minimal memory. Even a more nimble anti-virus software usually benefits from tweaking. Scanning of web pages prior to loading often slows down surfing. When deciding if this feature should be disabled, weigh the benefits of faster Internet performance against increased risks on a case-by-case basis. I've also found IO Bit's Advanced Windows Care to be a quick, easy fix for PC speed. The free edition is easy enough for a novice to use and (unlike CC Cleaner), I've never had an issue where it damaged the registry by over cleaning it. The upgrade (paid) edition is worth it for more advanced users who want additional performance without spending hours on geek tweaks.

terry.sanderson
terry.sanderson

All these 'performance enhancers' will give you a few percent speedup at best. But how many times have you seen users running XP SP3 with 256M of RAM. Even 512M is pushing it these days with all the fixes, Antivirus and Antispyware applications, etc. Give your users 2G and don't bother with cleaning the registry. C'mon! TerryS.

michel
michel

lately, I have "repaired" many laptops AND desktops just by removing dust from the fans/heatsinks. newish processors will react to the heat by throttling power/speed, so it's absolutely not obvious if you are not monitoring cpu speed .. M

ivoyhip
ivoyhip

Over heat will also slow the PC

Artty Sie
Artty Sie

1) check hard disk - if it is faulty then all else will be in vain 2) delete files before defrag, so you can use gained space Similarly, remove malware before performing a reg clean. As stated by others, removing some system related files or reg entries (userinit.exe) may render your system inaccessible.

Mr. Fix
Mr. Fix

It doesn't happen often but every single one of these procedures has the potential for catastrophic failure. People have even complained that they lost all their documents after running the Windows Disk Cleanup routine. What can you say, except, "Didn't you perform a backup of your files first?"

Mr. Fix
Mr. Fix

The fact that your readers will doubtless read your suggestions, acknowlege they are all sound advice but then doubtless follow them, LINE FOR LINE, is frightening! One should never, ever, EVER try to defragment a hard drive before first verifying that it's both physically and operationally HEALTHY and what purpose could it possibly serve to defragment junk that you're only going to delete later, especially considering that the garbage that typically accumulates on a drive can be highly fragmented? Also, if the free space level of a drive happens to be below 15%, it may not even be possible to run the defragmentation routine at all.

NexS
NexS

Painting it red. Red goes faster.

RB1955
RB1955

I've been using an all-in-1 suite, System Mechanic Pro, since ver 3 & now on ver 10, with few problems. While I don't like spending hours/week on pc maintenance, this suite does many of the maint tasks I don't have the time to handle on the three pc's in our house. The SM Pro version has a built-in anti-virus and firewall also. (SM10 Pro is available at www.iolo.com ). Once in a while they will offer a low price subscription extension, typically 2/3 off original price. Last, the suite is legal for 3 pc's per license. I found this suite does NOT do it all, so every 3-6 months I use the WiseCleaner registry cleaner and disk cleaner (available at www.wisecleaner.com). Both are free.

polderboy
polderboy

What a crap. I don't have a registry, my disks doesn't need defragmenting, disk errors are automaticely detected and resolved and spyware/malware are very, very rare. The reason is, I 'm running a professionel OS: Linux

JonathanPDX
JonathanPDX

Always make sure ALL Applications are closed before clearing temp folders Some places I check are: C:\Windows\Temp folder - Which doesn't always get emptied, and sometimes will contain files from ages ago which don't need to be there. C:\Documents and Settings\UserID\Local Settings\Temp folder - Another place that may retain unnecessary files and folders which may collect over time and slow system. C:\Documents and Settings\UserID\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.Word folder - C:\Documents and Settings\UserID\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.Outlook folder - C:\Documents and Settings\UserID\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.MSO folder - These folders are usually cleared when clearing the cache in Internet Explorer, but you must be sure to specify that OFFLINE CONTENT (or files) be deleted as well. Clearing the IE cache is probably one of the biggest things that gets neglected by users.

Andy Strolger
Andy Strolger

Often overlooked: Delete Sent Mail then empty Deleted Mail, particulary mail items that contain pictures or videos.

Epodair
Epodair

Great tips- any suggestions for a Mac?

mullachv
mullachv

Thanks Jack for the post. On #1, defragment, I have found it to be useful to run multiple defragmentations, one after the other - usually 2 or 3 followed by a reboot.

brad
brad

I have found that most users have duplicate pictures and videos on their PC. Sometimes in the temporary download folder, or in their personal "Videos" or "Pictures" library. In most of these cases, the fastest way to free up some space was to use a Duplicate File finder software to locate and remove duplicate media files. Doing so requires the customer's input, so it takes a long time.

WetCoastDrew
WetCoastDrew

If your PC is slow to boot, you also try and boost the number of CPU's and amount of memory used at boot. Go into MSConfig | Boot tab | Advance Options and ensure if you have a multi-core setup to select max CPU and add check to Max Memory (should default to max memory installed).

partsguy1
partsguy1

another thing that is greatly forgotten or not known by the casual user is the Virtual Memory/Page File... to defragment the area that is in use for that you have to go into system properties, advance tab, perfomance-settings, advanced, virtual memory, change... once there set choice to no paging file or move the paging file to another partition... once the current paging file is changed... then do a defrag of the partition/drive it was on... thus defragmenting the Virtual Memory/Page File portion of the drive/partition....

bellnhook
bellnhook

Files stored on the desktop are loaded into memory at bootup; sometimes this fills up memory before the computer is asked to do anything else! Keep files off the desktop and recommend users take advantage of shortcuts, if needed...this is huge speed-booster!

netvicious
netvicious

Disable the themes services and remove all the ring and bells of effects in the Screen Control Panel addon.

koredyte
koredyte

A general ideal practice is to always seperate the OS partition from the user file's disk. Also, the disk partitioning utilities that ships with windows vista and windows 7 provides even more flexible ways to create additional partitions for user files and an important folder like the Program files that consumes space. You can mount the program files elsewhere on another partition. This always ensure that your OS partition size is always kept small and manageable and doesnt increase whenever an installation is done. Olukorede Aguda

medbiller
medbiller

That really slowed me down plus I don't do that many searches anyway. When I do search I use the dog and just wait a few seconds more.

GrizzledGeezer
GrizzledGeezer

This is trivial, but I find that as the swap file on my W2K machine gets larger, the machine runs more slowly. A restart -- usually needed once a week -- clears things. I agree about the clean reinstall. It will often resolve all sorts of problems. Unfortunately, it can require days of work if you have a lot of installed apps.

laseray
laseray

Get Linux, dump windoze. That automatically makes your PC faster and you never need to defrag or use anti-virus (save money). So get a clue and use a better operating system first.

zstern
zstern

This list has been posted 500 times on 500 different websites. No new information here.

simple.fatima
simple.fatima

chkdsk X: /f /r, isn't working. its giving "" 'chkdsk' is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file. "" error to me. (On windows Vista) (I replaced X with C)

roy.evison
roy.evison

Yes the above measures are fine and it is surprising how many users neglect maintenance but less surprising when you remember how microsoft presented NTFS as not requiring regular defraging, etc.Still they left it on the system tools, I wonder why? Roy.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

I would ask a question and if you did my advice would be [b]Never Trust any Software to play in the Registry.[/b] Col

stopchaos
stopchaos

Wise disk & reg cleaners have rendered several pieces of software useless ... older ver & new ver just yesterday ... FEAR says remove it ... ?

Bo Tym
Bo Tym

.. Congrats. on topic for a minute here: When doing a fresh install (we assume the attempted repair/recovery of the OS was unsuccessful) I like to set the pagefile to a constant size (min and max values are the same) then defrag, making sure that the pagefile is not fragmented. Then I procede with AV and windows/driver updates, defragging every so often. If possible I will even use a USB 2.0 port with a flash drive for the pagefile. End result; all the OS files will be nice and close together which will equate to faster responce from the machine. As a maintenance routine I like to wipe all of the temp files/IE temp/user temp. I'll run a Disk Cleanup, and then a Defrag, then a CHKDSK. I feel that getting rid of all the useless data in this manner results in a faster defrag which then translates in to a faster CHKDSK. Just imo though.

DNSB
DNSB

I've used a utility called TFC.exe which automates cleaning out temporary files. Only issue is that an AV program was unhappy with a program busily deleting those files.

frwagne
frwagne

Use of the Desktop for conventient storage can get out of hand. A few years ago I encountered a user complaining strongly about his slow computer. His desktop was full of folders, and those folders were FULL of large spreadsheet files - hundreds of MB in each folder. I explained the situation, cut and pasted the folders to a structure off the root of C:, and created shortcuts to the folders on his desktop. He was amazed at the difference - even more so after a defrag. I explained that having live data files on the destkop was like carrying his grandchildren around with him to show off, instead of carrying photos of them. He got the picture - told me later that the solution worked on his home PC as well....

babycody
babycody

I have thought about doing this, but would the partition for the OS need to be C:? I do not want to change the default drive letter from C: to D: everytime I install a new program. I have heard of this being done, and wondered why computers do not come from the factory like this.

jdavis
jdavis

Up until search 4.0 I would agree with you, but this version does have some value particularly if you use Outlook. It searches your PST files and presents the individual mail/calendar items within the search results. I have found this particularly useful. (I probably store too much in the PSTs rather than saving it as a file). And the v4 indexer is much less intrusive than in previous versions, throttling itself way back when user activity is detected. In my situation the benefits outweigh the costs.

Sudsy100
Sudsy100

Yup . . . it always helps quite a lot. The other obvious maintenances and tweaks are no-brainers for sure, but disabling indexing always improves my performance.

blarman
blarman

The indexer does take a lot of system resources - especially on XP and Vista. They got a lot better in 7, but unless you use the search feature or store a LOT of documents locally, this is one to disable.

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

The original list may not be completely new, but there is a lot of good information in the subsequent comments. Of course, if you already know everything, you are a most fortunate fellow.

NMowatt
NMowatt

Make sure you are typing it correctly. chkdsk is a valid command. Try type chkdsk /? from the command prompt. The program resides in the c:\windows\system32 directory.

RipVan
RipVan

But it would not surprise me a bit if Bill took money from some developer to leave it off and let them handle it. Lack of such a tool in an operating system that DESPERATELY NEEDS such a tool is not an oversight. (I guess we are talking NT here.) The defragmenter that you do get from MS is not particularly good. Maybe Bill developed a crappy one on purpose, too...

Slayer_
Slayer_

If you do the remap, so that the folder C:\Program Files Actually references D:\Program Files Programs won't know the difference. In the other way, when you install a program, always choose custom and change where it installs. Only a few programs don't allow themselves to be seperated, like virus scanners. I traditionally install OS and scanner tools and such, things that always need to be running, services, etc. To my C drive. Games, files, documents, etc. I install to a different drive. This keeps the excess programs away from the OS and makes rebuilding the computer much easier.

simple.fatima
simple.fatima

Ok, It is working. Actually, i was executing this command right from user account, one have to change directory to c:\windows\system32. (cd c:\windows\system32) And also open command prompt as administrator. Thanks.

roy.evison
roy.evison

That's an inventive bit of cynicism, congrats!