Slow Computer Fix: How to Speed Up a Windows Computer in 2024

If you switch on your computer and have time to make a cup of tea while it logs in, then this article is for you.

Slow computers are fixable. There are some straightforward tricks you can do, not only to speed up your computer but also to pinpoint where the issue is, which is just as helpful. Additionally, using antivirus software to prevent and handle viruses, malware, and malicious software is crucial for maintaining computer performance.

Slow performance is frustrating. We are all busy people. Hitting a traffic jam on the morning commute is painful, as are slow computers.

So, how do you fix a slow computer? A laptop is much like a car and needs regular maintenance.

In this guide, we will walk through some straightforward commands you can run to help identify why your computer is slow.

Once you know where to start, it’s all straightforward, and all our tips are completely free, including the software tools you can download that also help.

Identifying the Causes of a Slow Computer

Common Causes

  • Too many programs running at startup affecting memory and processing power
  • Resource-hungry applications
  • Full or fragmented hard drive
  • Outdated software and drivers
  • Malicious Software
  • Insufficient RAM: Insufficient random access memory (RAM) can lead to programs competing for memory and processing power, potentially causing the computer to slow down, freeze, or crash. Identifying the need to add more RAM and managing RAM usage by closing unnecessary applications and browser tabs can help improve performance.
  • Any device over five years old is going to have issues.

How to Diagnose

Identify Resource-Hungry Applications Using Task Manager

If your computer is running slow, Using Task Manager to give you a snapshot of how much memory and processing power any piece of software uses on your computer is a great place to start.

  • To access Task Manager, click on the Search bar at the bottom of the screen type, type Task Manager, then select Task Manager from the top of the list.

  • Once you click Task Manager, you see the following screen, which shows all the software you currently have running and how much memory and processing power it uses.

  • The first column shows what application is running on the computer, and the second column shows how much of the CPU (processing power) is being used; in my case, 7% of the CPU is being used, which is low and reasonable (I don’t have a slow computer!). The next column is how much memory is being used by the computer again; in this case, 55% of the memory is used, which is also good; just under half of the memory is still available for other programs.
  • Are there any running applications that use a lot of memory or CPU, and you don’t need to run them? You can also click on any of the columns to sort them from highest to lowest to help pinpoint which applications are taking up a lot of resources. Should the application be running? Are you using it, or has it been running for weeks?
  • If your columns show anything above 90% CPU or memory usage, this will cause you problems. Any new applications you start will not have any available CPU or memory.

Free Solutions to Speed Up Your Computer

Close Unnecessary System Tray Programs

  • In addition to viewing applications running in Task Manager, you can also see what programs are running in your system tray (the icons are in the bottom right-hand corner by the clock). Usually, there is a battery icon (if you’re on a laptop), a speaker symbol, and a Wi-Fi symbol. Selecting the up arrow after these items will show you other applications that are also running and using more memory.

Stop Programs Running on Startup

  • When a computer first logs in, Windows will automatically have a pre-determined list of programs to start automatically. These programs automatically start using memory and CPU power and will affect the computer’s performance. You can see what programs the computer starts automatically by clicking on the symbol below within Task Manager.
  • If you notice some programs starting up that you no longer need, you can right-click the program and choose Disable to stop the software from starting up and using Memory or CPU. Be careful what programmes you disable here that are set to start automatically, and only disable items you are sure you no longer need to start automatically. If you don’t understand the program, search it on Google to see what it does.
  • Not all programs need to run from startup; disabling unnecessary startup programs can increase your processing power.
  • Allowing only the most used programs to start automatically will speed up the boot time of your PC. It will stop unnecessary files from taking up processing power.

Update Windows, Drivers, and Applications

  • It is also essential that your computer is kept up to date with any software updates from Microsoft. Microsoft releases updates to their operating system at various times throughout the month, and it can fix known issues or bugs discovered in the operating system.
  • To see if your operating system is set to receive updates automatically again, click on the Search bar, type check for updates and click on check for updates at the top.

  • From this screen, you can check for updates or see if your computer has the latest updates as soon as they’re available.

  • In my case, they are Off at the moment; these should be on (don’t worry, we handle our updates with other software, which is why the operating system updates are set to Off)

Delete Unneeded and Temporary Files

  • Using the Disk Cleanup tool
  • Disk Cleanup is free software that has already been installed on your computer. Again, click on the Search box and type Disk Cleanup.

  • Select Disk Cleanup from the top of the list, and here you can remove files the computer no longer needs; it also shows you how much space they are taking up on your computer on the right-hand side. You can click on Clean up system files to delete temporary files and free space from here. Freeing up storage space by removing unnecessary files and apps can help alleviate slow running and manage resource usage efficiently.

Adjust Power Options

  • Optimising power settings for better performance
  • From the Windows search bar again, type Edit Power Plan and select it from the top of the list.

  • From here, you can set it when your computer goes to sleep and when the display goes off; changing this will help determine how long it takes to wake up when you leave your computer for some time.

Uninstall Programs You Don’t Use

  • Programmes you no longer use, starting automatically or using disk space, can be removed by clicking on the Search bar at the bottom, typing add or remove programs, and selecting the program from the list.

  • You can remove any programs running on your computer that you no longer need by clicking on the three dots and choosing to uninstall

Additional Tips for Cleaning and Speeding Up Your Computer

Optimise Your Web Browser and Check for Malicious Software

The Internet browser can also be slow because of the burden of files and cookies it stores from the websites you visit. You can clear this no matter which browser you use (Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox).

If you google the name of your internet browser and select delete temporary files. For example, Google “Microsoft Edge Clear temporary internet files”, and the instructions will pop up.

Internet browser extensions can also slow down your internet browsing as they use memory and processing power. You can view the internet browser extensions you are using by googling “Microsoft Edge Manage Extensions.”

Some internet browser extensions you will need to keep; for example, if you have a password manager that automatically logs you into websites, you want to keep it running.

You might want to remove others, such as Spotify browser extensions, to save resources.

Regularly Restart Your Computer

Your computer accumulates many temporary files and programs that use memory even though you might not have used them for weeks. It is always advisable to reboot your computer every couple of weeks, as this clears all the running programs stuck in memory but not being used.

Recommended Free Programs for Computer Optimisation

CCleaner

  • CCleaner is a utility program designed to clean potentially unwanted files and invalid Windows Registry entries from a computer. It is known for its ease of use and effectiveness in freeing up disk space by removing temporary files, tracking cookies, and system logs. CCleaner also offers features for uninstalling programs, managing startup items, and finding duplicate files.
  • CCleaner is a free software tool that can be downloaded to “CCleaner.”

Other Trusted Free Tools

  • Your Windows computer also has more built-in tools to help fix your computer’s performance. If you click on the search bar, type “disk defrag,” and click on Defragment and Optimise Drives at the top, this is a great tool to organise all your files into order on your hard disk. Your Windows computer can store files all over the hard disk drive, and this tool places them all in a continual tidy order. Don’t worry. You won’t lose any of your files or be unable to find them. Your computer will be the same; it will just be in a place quicker for the computer to access.

When Free Solutions Aren’t Enough

Hardware Upgrades

  • It may well be that you have tried all the above tips and tricks, and the computer’s performance is still slow. In this case, upgrading your computer to a newer model might be time-consuming. We recommend replacing your device every 3-4 years. Think of it in terms of driving an old car; it will be as fast or modern as the latest.
  • If you identify that your computer is running low on memory or has low disk space, you can upgrade the memory by installing more memory into the computer. Memory is relatively cheap at around £40 for an additional 8Gb RAM. However, you need to check that you have space on the computer to add more memory. All the memory slots might already be full, and there is no physical slot to add more memory. You can find out how much memory you have installed by typing Device Specifications in the Windows search bar and seeing how much memory you have as per the picture below.

Professional Help

If you are still struggling to diagnose a computer’s performance, you might need professional help. We can help with this at Leap IT, or most high streets have a PC Repair shop that would be more than happy to look at it.

If you seek professional help, always consider the cost compared to buying a new computer, which will permanently fix the problem. Additional memory might cost you £40 to purchase and £30 for a professional to install it, and that would be £70 towards a new device, which might be a better option.

Conclusion

In this article, we have reviewed several tips to help you diagnose a slow computer fix. From looking at programs running slow, shortages of memory in the computer and also full hard discs that can cause a slow computer

One final tip for keeping your computer running smoothly is not installing software you don’t need. Many downloads try to install additional software that takes up resources on your computer. For example, installing an HP Ink Jet printer will also install a lot of HP software on the device so they can stay in touch or offer to sell you ink when it is running low. Try to just install the actual printer drive to make the printer work, not all the bloatware that comes on this disc.

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