PCs

10 ways to speed up a slow PC

Reseat the CPU and GPU heatsinks

This is more applicable for the desktop, but the same basic principles apply for a laptop.

There's a small possibility that the thermal conduction between your CPU or GPU and its heatsink isn't optimal, causing things to overheat. If you want to make sure that things are fine, you're going to need some isopropyl alcohol and thermal compound.

Firstly, make sure that the heatsink is attached via mounting holes to the circuit board, rather than directly to the chip. If it appears as if there's no obvious way that the heatsink is held down on the chip, it's using thermal glue or thermal tape to form the bond. If this is the case, ignore and move on, it's unlikely these are causing you issues.

After separating the heatsink from the processor, you'll notice some goop that was last used as a thermal interface. Clean it away by applying a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to a clean cloth and rubbing it until it's gone. Apply a thin but consistent veneer of new thermal paste across the top of the chip (application can be made easier by using a scalpel or old credit card to spread the paste), then reapply the heatsink.

Credit: Matt Lauer, royalty free

65 comments
alfredan
alfredan

use krojam cleaner it would be usefull.

Mattaton
Mattaton

I use a vacuum on my PCs. Never had any problem with static or sucking components off the MB. But, what I normally do is use the vacuum and compressed air together. I blow out all the nooks and crannies with the compressed air while the vacuum hose is sucking up all the dust that flies up before it can resettle elsewhere. I also usually use a cloth to wipe off all grilles and fans. Of course, you have to be gentle with the fans. But, if I'm going to take the time, I like to get them as clean as possible.

IT cowgirl
IT cowgirl

Most non IT users are notorious for not doing ANY of these listed items. The first thing I have to do is blow out enough dirt, fuzz and dust bunnies to start a new garden. Its amazing how much stauff accumulates inside computers down here in Texas; especially in the country! Most of these non IT persons do not upgrade until the old computer finally dies a slow and painful, wheezing death! I am still working on computers that I have to upgrade to install XP!!!

dunnamin
dunnamin

If yer suckin' or blowin' inside your machine hold the CPU fan still or you culd turn the motor into a dynamo and send all those volts back into the mb - and they don't like it.

stevenscottoddballz
stevenscottoddballz

I would like to thank Fons for writing this article. Although I AM a competent PC user, (as essex133 puts it), I do like the occasional reminder about how to speed up the computer. When I saw this, I decided to shut down my computer when I went to bed. When I woke up, I opened it, & WOW! I had NO idea how much dust was in there! Thanks again, Fons! As for essex133, there ARE those of us who need an occasional reminder!

tickytack_1999
tickytack_1999

A lot of them will run x64 OS and run rings around a brand new i3/i5 intel box. Sure, it'll only get you XP, but it's cheap enough to upgrade by buying a Win 7 x64 disk. I bought a Gateway E4620S with an intel E6550 chip that blows a lot of the new stuff out of the water. Cost me $129 with XP Pro.

Logginsuck
Logginsuck

iMesh...What are your thoughts on downloading iMesh? I seem to be badly "enmeshed" like a rotten tuna as my punishment, and I can't seem to get online easily. Your thoughts? It's impossible to delete it, it only downloads! kt@H5

founder
founder

We often use a vacuum to "help" keep dust out of the air when blowing out a pc. As far as sucking components off the mb I've never, ever heard of that but then again a lot of wanna be techs have zero common sense. Not really sure how this or re-seating the sinks would make the pc run "faster". There's no such thing as "a good router brand"! Yeah, go buy a Belkin. Children in a man's world.

laseray
laseray

The fastest way to speed up an old PC is to not use windows. This is the first thing you should consider if you know anything about computers.

Robynsveil
Robynsveil

...10 ways to Speed Up a Slow Windows PC. Then the advice would have sort-of made more sense. Because my experience has always been: the best way to speed up a Windows PC is to dump Windows and install some flavour of Linux. Even netbooks (originally running Win7 Starter) see a dramatic improvement in performance with a change of OS. But to most, changing the OS is not an option for a number of reasons. I can accept that. And so, they will have to tap-dance through the re-install Windows thing from time to time. Says something, doesn't it? :)

jr
jr

When cleaning computer fans, it is recommended to hold the fan still while using compressed air or canned air. If the fan is allowed to spin too fast, it can damage the bearings causing premature fan failure. Dirty fans can lose 90% efficiency. You can use a coffee stir straw, or spray tube that comes with canned air for this! 95% of computers that show up have TOO many programs runing simutaneously in the background. We call it the "95% Problem" J.R. Guthrie Advatage Micro Corporation http://www.advantage77.com

karsten
karsten

I don't work in IT but CAD support. Funnily enough users came to me with their Slow woes, instead of asking IT techs and being fobbed off with nonsense jargon. Most IT support don't know anything more than they have been shown. Hardly any ever check the event logs or know how to trouble shoot properly. It's more uninstall, reinstall and hope it works. One of the first things I used to do to a new built CAD PC was defrag it as they always had 25%+ deframentation. The IT Crowd is so funny as it's based on reality. BD In corporate domains old hardware usually doesn't survive. Sometimes its given to users and just written off. I've fixed tons of desktops and laptops and it is usually an issue of cleaning, reseating and using cable ties to replace broken fan assemblies. 'Bugs in the machine' is common problem too. IT departments don't bother much with hardware, but a laptop often slows down just due to fluff. IT give it a shot of compressed air and then declare it dead. I remove the keyboard etc gain access to the fan assembly and open it up. Never fail to find compacted fluff which the fan still spins in. From ouside the fan looks clean and spins (often a bit slower than usual) There is no longer enough air flow over the MB. Good sign for this is a high HDD temp and/or CPU temp. Old thermal paste gets eaten by bacteria that make bubbles so heat doesn't conduct. Lot's of laptops with Nvidia and ATI just stop working as the solder on the GPU mirco fractures. The tip about using laptop desks is good but also check the rubber feet are all there. if one corner is missing even a flat surface with block air. I fix missing feet with extra thick sticky back cloth pads or rubber feet taken from other broken PCs. Dab of super glue and good as new. Not every one can afford a new PC every 3 yrs. An 8 yr old PC can easily do what most people want it for. Installing Linux for research/learning is ok, but for most people I still think it best and easiest to stick with the original OS/Apps. Of course if the Raspberry Pi can be manufactured on a big enough scale.. I think there will be a lot of old PCs being scrapped so if you want to upgrade memory or HDD check out local FreeCycle sites or buy a Raspberry if you can. One of the worst cases of PC abuse I ever saw was at an Oil Refinery. Had to ride my bike out to the place and was supposed to fix/replace the graphics board. It was placed on a table by an open widow in a prefab hut. Opened the grubby filthy unit and just laughed. It had probably gotten very dusty but was now completely covered in oil. I just plled out the plug coiled the wire up and threw it in the bin. Then told them it was NOT to be used and skipped. 2.5hrs travel there 2.5 hrs back for 10 mins support.

RMSx32767
RMSx32767

One of the tech-groups on LinkedIn posted a question asking "What to do if a user comes to you and says the computer is slow.". The interesting bit about the responses is the folk with years of experience responded by stating the first thing to do is talk to the user and ask questions. Those with no, or little, experience immediately begin defragging disks, emptying c(r)ache, deleting history, etc. God forbid the tech-guru engage the user in converation to determine what is meant by "slow", and "is it always slow or only at certain times", "how long has it been slow", etc.

klahti
klahti

Well the first thing I will tell you all as an IT professional is not to assume a user has ANY expertise at all. I work in a area where people buy computers to play POGO, use Facebook, and email. They barely know how to turn them on, so this article was enlightening for users. I know a lot of you talked about not bothering with an 8 yr old system. I know in a primarily Windows world, that is probably a suggestion with some merit. I would like to encourage anyone with an older system with limited resources to consider installing some type of a Linux desktop to get a little more use out of it. It will expand your horizons and expand the life of your older system and best of all Linux OS software is free. You can do almost every general computing task on a Linux machine, using freeware or shareware that is available. Most drivers are installed with the OS. I rarely have to update a driver. Linux works very well and it uses less resources than Windows systems, so your older machine will love it.

ComputerSuperheroes
ComputerSuperheroes

I agree with essex133. Worthless information. We're not noobs. Post something that makes our subscription worthwhile. I guess they needed the ad space.

nrkmann
nrkmann

- Fastest processor for the socket & buss, e.g. I have been changing socket 755 core duo processors to core 2 duo for speed and 64 bit processing. - Max out the memory in both quantity and buss speed. - Max out the HD speed and cache size, i.e. 7200 or 10,000 rpm with 16mb cache. For the SW side, run lean, mean, & clean, i.e. get rid of anything that is not used, i.e. software, startups, toolbars, etc. (lean): updated (mean): anti everything and defrag (clean). Re: Vacuum vs blowing: Three three packs of air at Fry's equals one air compressor at Harbor Freight. In 30 years have never harmed a computer by blowing it out. During Desert Storm we would blow out computers every week or two to get the fine dust out.

tjh1965
tjh1965

I missed out on the fact that the images are not just a slide show . . . each image is a separate page in the article. I take back my previoius comment. Your layout isn't user friendly . . . at least until a person figures out how it works.

slobodan.hajdin
slobodan.hajdin

Is it able to run 64-bit OS? Yes? Try to upgrade RAM (and maybe CPU) and finally ditch 32-bit OS. Do other necessary upgrades (and clean dust). No? Buy new PC able to run 64-bit OS. Be careful! It might well be cheaper then to upgrade existing rig... ;) Everything else is well known among readers here, as essex133 wrote...

tjh1965
tjh1965

This article wasn't about 10 ways to speed up your PC, it simply was an article on why and how to best clean your PC. Nothing wrong with the article, a good reminder on what should be regular maintenance that often doesn't get done.

macaroo_z
macaroo_z

Being in the computer repair business, I can't over state the importance of grounding the nozzle of your air source when blowing out the dust on a desktop chassis. Early in the game, I had to buy a couple of Motherboards because I did not ground the metal nozzle on my portable air compressor. Now I use a couple of alligator clip leads to ground the nozzle to the metal chassis before blowing out the dust.

'techy'
'techy'

A lot of times computer manufacturers put in generic RAM. Which in my experience, they put in 800Mhz of memory when the system can run 1066Mhz.

slefave
slefave

I'm a little disappointed in this post. Now I may have missed something, but I saw one step with lots of directions and suggestions on how to accomplish this one step. What happened to the other 9 steps. Like cleaning the file system out and getting rid of unused software and clearing the registry and removing the temp and temporary Internet files. There are soooo many things that can be done beside cleaning the dust out of the box which should be part of a regular maintenance program. Why not give 10 steps for a regular maintenance program which ppl can do to keep their machine running at optimum performance. Now that would be useful.

bgcr
bgcr

I take the view that whenever anyone goes to the trouble to write something that can help now, next week or in 5 years time it will come in useful. Over the UK winter the "tool" I used most was a McDonalds wooden stirer to clear out heatsinc vents in conjunction with a vacuum. No quick fix for laptops other than dismantle and remove the plug of fluff accumulated in the air vent. Poor ventilation has caused more trouble than anything else on all sorts of machines from * year old XPs (God bless 'em) to 3 grand (pounds that is, not dollars) year-old gamers. Agree with startup and browser fixit options in addition to defrag. Not too proud to fix anything no matter how old it is.

gsmith
gsmith

One thing to keep in mind with memory upgrades is that many computers come with mother boards that support faster than installed from the factory memory. That was to save cost when the system shipped new (and the 533 DDR2 memory was so much more expensive than the 400 DDR2). Sometimes the replacement 533 you just put in there will be slowed to 400 to remain compatible with the "old" memory in the machine. Use the BIOS to see the memory speed with just old memory and just new memory to see if your system might run faster without the older memory in it. If you just bought 2 x 1 gig sticks of 533 to go with your existing 2 x 512 400 - you might be better off with only 2 gig of fast ram instead of 3 gig of slow ram

ambraun
ambraun

I use Directory Report instead of SpaceSniffer The treemaps are too confusing and I uninstall every Explorer toolbar

Guido Cangelosi
Guido Cangelosi

We are hyped to believe that newer is better (or faster, or cheaper ?). So much so that when I look back I remember my "old" pc on windows 3.1 running swiftly. Latest state of the art machine running on memory hogs++ gives me time to take "a cup of coffee" when compiling my 22 projects C# solution - well my old turbo Pascal has found no match these days. As the article is all about "performance" or was it that too much dust can kill your machine FAST with same speed CPU. I would add more parameters affecting you r overall performance on recent machines more than ever before. - disk fragmentation (and compaction) along with file corruption. - registry corruption with lots of redundant keys (do a cleanup) - swapfile corruption or fragmented (create a manually defined contiguous file twice your RAM) - Antivirus - sometime can account for slowness as it checks all your files and often. - Microsft Update - put it to manual and take control of when to update. - number of services and autostart software (are they all needed) some can be put on manual when you are not sure. - Any crawling worms - do a test with safe antivirus - launched manually once a week. - Did you partition your machine in a reasonable way example: 1 huge C: drive with everything there - Poor layout. example: 1 C: drive for system and 1 D: drive for Data and 1 E: drive for your swapfile and temporary files => Better layout on my system I like to separate fixed binary files that do not change with heavily edited files on seaparte partitions whenever possible. Well, here are the 9 ways I wish I had read in the article above. Guido Cangelosi

Shadeburst
Shadeburst

I love Office 2003 and found that Office 2007 and later are productivity killers. So I'll be keeping my old box around for a while. The only change I made was to install more RAM. In 2003, half a gig was enough. But as software gets bigger and bigger, you need more and more RAM. 2Gb works fine for me.

mrjohnpro2
mrjohnpro2

Disable most start up programs except anti virus. Type msconfig into run dialogue box for XP or type msconfig into search for Vista & Win 7. Set antivirus to manual scan only {once per week is ok or eve less} & scan when not using the PC ....scanning hits performance big time. In task scheduler{Vista & Win 7}, disable any auto defragging ..defrag manually when not using PC ..the defragging process affects performance.

francois
francois

If solid state can work on PC upgarde pc with it. Any processor faster than 1 GHZ and ram more than 2 GB is faster than any HDD. Thus put in Solid State Use CCleaner to cleanup and install updates and you got ip to 3X the speed for 1/3 the price of a new pc. The Dust part is also crictical.

pefthymiou
pefthymiou

Performing a clean installation is the ultimate solution that solves most problems. In respond to the above comments there is a software known as Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder that can help you to retrieves your products ID prior formatting. extremelly useful since most people have lost the cds with the s/n. Also i reccomend creating an image of your hard disk as soon as you finish with the formatting/installations

vampyreapocalypse
vampyreapocalypse

Most modern mac programs install daemons, some of the older or more poorly written ones still use StartupItems. And almost all install some sort of App Support folder that in many cases contains tools to unload and and/or delete these. Dragging the app to the trash will NOT accomplish anything other than clearing some filespace. Moreover, a lot of times the App support files will not run without the actual executables that you just deleted. Do yourself a favor and educate yourself about removing Mac programs before willy nilly deleting things. launch daemons that haven't been unloaded and removed will bring your Mac down a few notches in speed, even after you've deleted XYZ app. And no, App Zapper IS NOT a good tool to use...

essex133
essex133

As the vast majority of TechRepublic's articles seem to be aimed towards IT professionals, what is the point in publishing an article called 10 ways to speed up a slow PC? Because there was NOTHING new in that list that any fairly competent PC user shouldn't already know at all!

essex133
essex133

I'm glad that someone has finally confirmed that Norton IS 2012 is no longer a resource hog as Norton used to be in the old days because I have been trying to tell everyone that since I went back to Norton in 2011. But I would dearly love to know who precisely is the we in "We" recommend BitDefender Total Security 2012? Because Scott Lowe says he always uses Microsoft Security Essentials! Although when I tried it, I did not find MSE very reliable/effective at all as it let a trojan install itself on my PC!

mr020radioman
mr020radioman

I agree with a.portman. Some screens have only two lines to read in the brower due to the number of toolbars and check on uninstalled software. There is a great difference between uninstall and delete as CCleaner will take care of this. In addition to updates from Microsoft a check on all drivers can help and last defrag the the registry. Then its time for the dust.

deday34
deday34

How old is too old to try to speed up your computer? I have tried some of these various tips. Before investing a lot more time, is an almost 8 year old desktop worth the effort?

khiatt
khiatt

I just take it outside and use the same compressor I use for my air tools. If you use a little common sense, hold the fans so they don't break and don't put the nozel so close it rips components off the board, you get a nice shiny box.

karsten
karsten

If a heat sink doesn't do its work either because the thermal paste has degraded or dust is blocking the heatsinks fins then the CPU temp will rise into the area where the CPU's temperture sensors cut in and your 2,4GHz CPU throttles back to 133mhz or even 33mhz. It's just like a radiator on a car blowing the cap. BTW. Intergraph brought this to the pentium chips. Old 486's would burn and die. AMD chips still do. Intergraph sued Intel and won damages. That's why dust, bacteria and age make PCs slow down. They just can't handle the heat. A little silicon paste, dust cleanup and mechanical checking of fans is all it takes to speed up old PCs usually. Linux doesn't do anything if a PC is clogged up and overheating. BTW Installing Dos would make PCs fly too.. but what apps run on it nowadays. Linux suffers from the same problem as Unix did. Too many cooks. Even Linus has said this. It's mainly used in unattended servers. the only support needed is a turn it off and on again approach as they tend to run only a few apps. Mainline applications don't run on Linux only browsers etc. There are great free Linux apps but they aren't mainline and there are very few companies using Linux as desktops.

cbci
cbci

to ditch a 32 bit OS if more than 90% of your applications are 32-bit. Like most still are - on the 14th of March in 2012.

ultimitloozer
ultimitloozer

It's a slideshow. There are ten pages of this, not just one and the items you mentioned are included in those other frames.

phil
phil

Recently changed memory on a system which had 4 5300 modules to 2 6400 modules, User thinks its a new machine. BIOS actually reports running them at 667MHz (i know its MT/s but that's what BIOSs say) just as before. Just because hardware checks say their is nothing wrong does not mean that renewing the bits won't make it quicker (particularly with hard disks which get tired).

cbci
cbci

For XP - C: 16G boot(system) drive, D: 8Gb swap(pagefile)+environmental \temp folder and the rest of the drive for E: data and programs. We heard about, and started using, this Linux scheme on XP around '05 and it makes our old 80Gb boxes sing. Plus this "a place for everything and everything in its place" setup makes defragging less of an issue and future cleanup a breeze for non-techies. Plus, for oem boxes, you'll end up with one large user space instead of one partition that fills up too fast and a practically empty partition that the user didn't even realize was there. For the few who don't know the rest of the scheme, here is a couple of more hints: 1. While using NTFS for C: and E:, format the D: as Fat32 which is faster for XP pagefile and; 2. move the pagefile to D: (setting min/max to 4092) before redirecting temp folder. Although the post was about slow PCs, I just want to pass along one more little tidbit, take it for what it is worth. For our Win7 boxes with 500Gb drives, we have been doubling the sizes of C: and D: to 32Gb and 16Gb, respectively and we, naturally, have gone back to NTFS for D:. We have installed these alongside the standard oem with their 2 - ~220Gb partitions and while there has not been huge performance gains, we have noticed far fewer calls about slow program response from the users of the 'special setup' PCs.

gsmith
gsmith

I was wondering the effect of compressing the drive. The CPU would then get 2 (or maybe more) real bytes for every 1 the hard drive had to read (assuming at least 50% compression). The CPU (not the bottleneck) would then be busier having to spend time decompressing.

essex133
essex133

Yes, performing a clean install of the OS maybe the ultimate solution but it takes a great deal of time, if you factor in the need to download and install all Windows Updates, reinstall all your programs plus get their updates and not to mention setting up all your user accounts and other settings from scratch. I prefer to make a system image of the newly installed system AFTER all the Windows updates and programs have been installed and AFTER you have set up all your user accounts and refined all your settings and then to use this to return your PC to the date you created the sytem image. Then you only need to download and install any Windows Updates that have been released since that date, at which point you create another up-to-date system image to use next time!

Nashphil
Nashphil

I gave up on Norton when they started putting the auto install in Shockwave (and SW updates) My novices install it all the time and as our Biz already has an antiV It becomes an extra program running in the background. Isn't the practice of installing something on your computer (sneakly) called Malware? Because of this I will Not use it nor recommend it.

Gisabun
Gisabun

I agree with Palmetto_CharlieSpencer. Not worth to upgrade anything in an 8 year old system [unless you can't afford a new system]. If you have to keep it around for longer, make sure you can boost your RAM to at least 2GB. Judging by the age, your system can't handle Vista or later. Another alternative could be re-installing Windows from scratch. Backup your data, make a note of what you installed, uninstall any apps that temporary relinquish licensing [anti-virus apps and others], wipeout the drive and install Win XP. Re-install your apps and restore your data. You will notice an increase inspeed right there because of no old clutters, very little [if any] defragmentation, no useless files, etc.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Excluding tip #9, all the rest are free to try; your only expense would be time. I wouldn't bother upgrading hardware on a system that old. By the time you add RAM and replace the HD and graphics card, you're halfway (or more) to a new one.

ultimitloozer
ultimitloozer

In most cases if you are still using a mechanical drive, compression will slow the system down and may not even do much for helping with any kind of space issues unless the files are primarily uncompressed data files. Many programs are already compressing their data files and you won't see much improvement because of that. Images (.jpg, etc) will have very poor compression ratios and may actually end up larger than the original. Executables normally do not achieve good compression ratios either. So if this is a system with a single hard drive, your gains will most likely be miniscule if you see any benefits at all.

davidpla
davidpla

Try to replace the HDD with a new or S/H drive before reformatting and re-installing Windows. Saves the backing up, or losing data. Even new drives are quite cheap. And if there is a problem you can always go back to the old drive. Data can be copied from the old drive by putting it in a USB box, or installing it as a D drive in the machine.

khiatt
khiatt

I really have to pay more attention when not using Office apps :)