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How to speed up Windows – the ultimate guide

Speed ​​up your computer

Computers slow down over time and what was once a fast system can become slow and annoying after a couple of years. A new computer always impresses with how quickly it starts up and how quickly programs run, but it becomes noticeably slower after a period of use.

It’s frustrating when the computer takes several minutes to start up or shut down, and eventually the computer can become so unbearably slow that you find no other way out than to buy a new one.

Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to avoid going that far and parting with your hard-earned cash. In this guide, we’ll go through a series of steps to revive your computer, and make it feel almost as fast as when it was new. This makes it last longer before it needs to be replaced, and makes it less annoying to work with.

These tips are written for Windows 7 and later, but Macs with OS X have roughly the same problems and the solutions are similar.

Method number one: Spring clean Windows

One of the reasons an aging computer takes so long to start up and shut down is all the programs, utilities, and system add-ons you have installed. By cleaning out unnecessary programs and other things, Windows can become significantly faster at startup and also get more working memory for other programs.

Click the arrow to the right of the Taskbar that shows the Action Center, where icons for various background programs and services that start when Windows starts are located. Some are essential – like antivirus software – while others may not be needed at all or at least not all the time.

Right click on each icon and if there is an option for Settings, select it and deselect it to start the program automatically when Windows starts. You may need to open some programs first before accessing the settings.

Programs that do not need to be running constantly, you can simply turn off and then only start if they are needed. For example, it could be Google Drive.

Then press the Windows key and Renter msconfig and pressure OK. Select the tab Services and click on Hide all Microsoft services to see a list of the third-party services you have installed. There may be services here that you can do without, so click out of the box next to them to disable them. Firefox, for example, does just fine without the Mozilla Maintenance Service.

Under the tab Start (on Windows 8, the Task Manager opens) there are a lot of programs that run when Windows starts. Knowing which ones you can disable isn’t that easy, but you can google the name to try to find ones that are neither necessary nor helpful.

If you have a hard drive, it can be useful to run a good defragmentation program. Windows has the feature built in, but third-party software is often better. A good and free alternative is Iobit’s Smart Defrag.

The most thorough cleaning is to reinstall Windows. Then you get rid of all unnecessary programs and other junk that the computer has accumulated over the years.

For older versions of Windows you need an installation disc (or installation disk), but in Windows 8 there is a built-in recovery function that makes the job easy.

Drag the mouse pointer to the top right corner of the screen to bring up the hotkeys (or swipe from the right edge if you have a touch screen) and select Settings. Then click on Change computer settings -> Update/restore -> Recovery and finally on Get started during Restore your computer without affecting your files.

Your personal files such as photos, music and documents are preserved while the system itself and all programs are restored to the basic installation of Windows. Programs that were installed through the Windows Store will be reinstalled automatically, but other programs that you want to keep will need to be reinstalled manually.

Restore Windows
Remove everything and restore Windows to return your computer to its original performance.

There is also a more powerful option: Remove everything and reinstall Windows. Then all files are deleted and you must therefore have a fresh backup of your personal documents which you then copy back to the disk after the reset. But a fresh backup is still always recommended.

Method number two: Update everything

Old versions of programs, drivers, and Windows can make your computer run slower than necessary. For example, buggy drivers can cause Windows to behave strangely, crash or run slowly. Graphics card drivers are frequently updated with bug fixes and performance improvements, and it’s always a good idea to make sure you have the latest version. Although Windows updates happen automatically, you can manually go in and check for uninstalled updates. For example, non-essential updates are not installed automatically, but can still be good.

Driver Booster
Driver Booster keeps all installed drivers up to date and avoids extra options when new versions are installed.

Drivers are programs that give Windows the ability to use hardware such as graphics cards, sound, printers, scanners, web cameras, and so on. Keeping all of these updated can be a time-consuming and annoying job. A shortcut is to use a tool like Slimdrivers or Driver Booster Free. They keep track of updates for all installed drivers and can download and install them automatically. Both are also free.

Method number three: Free up free space

Your computer’s hard drive slows down as it fills up with a lot of data, and uninstalling programs and deleting unnecessary files frees up space and can make Windows run faster. Programs like Ccleaner, Anti Tracks Free Edition and Advanced Systemcare 7 Free can all help find space thieves and clean up the disk.

However, there are both good and bad ways to use these tools. Select a few items and clear them, making sure to back up the changes. If the computer works as it should without problems after the cleanup, select a new small group of items and repeat the procedure. Otherwise, restore the backup. If you instead try to clear everything at once, you won’t have a clue where a possible problem lies.

Many computers have far too many programs installed. Often these are old programs that are no longer used, and just take up unnecessary space and system resources. You can go to the control panel yourself, open Program and uninstall programs you know you no longer need.

Advanced Systemcare
Advanced Systemcare 7 Free can clean up and optimize your PC, increasing performance.

A better option is to use a third-party tool like Iobit Uninstaller, Revo Uninstaller, or Wise Program Uninstaller. They are better at cleaning out programs because they both remove the programs and clean up any changes they have made to the Windows registry and elsewhere on the hard drive.

Some programs install a lot of files in Windows and this can have a negative impact on the computer’s performance. To keep Windows as fast as possible, you should install as few programs as possible. You obviously need third-party software, but in many cases there are portable versions that don’t install any files into Windows but run from their own folder.

A good source for these is portableapps.com. There are portable versions of many popular programs and you can get pretty far without having to install anything. Some programs require an installation, such as Adobe’s Creative Cloud, but they are in the minority. There are also other websites that collect portable software versions.

Method number four: Install better software

Sometimes you can improve your computer’s performance by installing better software. For example, the difference between Internet Explorer 8 and Google Chrome is huge. Even in Windows 8 with Internet Explorer 11, Chrome is faster and the browser we recommend for high performance.

Small lightweight programs are often faster than large, heavy programs with many functions. Do you really need Word or is Wordpad enough for your writing needs? Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 takes up 3 gigabytes of disk space, but Libreoffice or Kingsoft Office only takes up about 300 megabytes. For Adobe Photoshop Elements you need 4 gigabytes of free space, while Paint.net takes up 40 megabytes and Gimp 150 megabytes. Check alternativeto.net to find alternative programs to the big giants.

Switch to better programs
Use alternative programs that are faster – for example, Chrome instead of Internet Explorer.

The speed in games largely depends on how high a resolution you run, as well as how many special effects you have activated. In many games, you can turn down certain effects and change the level of detail, which can speed them up so they run better on slightly older hardware. The settings that affect performance the most vary in different games, so you’ll either have to experiment or google what other players have discovered. Often there is also a difference between graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD.

Method number five: Upgrade the hardware

The previous four methods can freshen up your aging computer, but of course there’s a limit to how much they can help: Your computer can never be faster than it was when it was new. A computer with a couple of years behind it may not be able to play the latest games or run programs you want to use with acceptable performance. A five year old machine will have problems with even Windows, unless it was a real monster when you bought it.

Therefore, a hardware upgrade may be required to increase performance and allow the computer to tap into newer models.

Many older computers suffer from too little working memory. Today, 2 gigabytes is an absolute minimum, but older versions of Windows only handled a maximum of 4 gigabytes. You can check the type of memory you need and how much you can install with guides on the various manufacturers’ websites, such as crucial.com. If you can install more memory, this is usually the cheapest and best upgrade for your computer and the difference in experience can be like night and day.

Depending on the type of computer you have, installing more memory on your own can be anything from incredibly easy to quite complicated, but if you’re unsure, local stores and service technicians can usually help for a fee.

An ssd (solid state drive) is another very good choice to increase the performance of your PC. If you get one, you must first clone your old hard drive to it. With a desktop computer you can usually plug it into a free hard drive slot, while for a laptop you must have a usb adapter or an external chassis.

The latter can still be a good investment because after the upgrade you can install your old hard drive in the chassis and use it as a backup drive or similar. There are several programs that can clone a drive, but Driveimage XML is one of the better ones and is free.

Upgrade to an ssd
Replacing an old-fashioned magnetic hard drive with an SSD is a great way to speed up an old computer.

Getting a new graphics card is a great way to speed up games, but has a marginal effect in most other applications (except for professional applications such as 3d and video editing that use graphics card acceleration). If you still want to go for it, you should check that you have enough space in the chassis to install the card you have chosen, and that the power supply has enough power to power it.

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