Slow Computer? Ten Ways to Speed Up Your PC

Let’s face it: the longer you use a computer the slower it gets. It’s not because your hardware is dying, at least not most of the time. There are many reasons your computer slows down. Before buying a new computer, try the following to increase performance.

Scan your computer for viruses. You never know what you’ll find, and usually it’s fairly easy to remove one once you’ve located it. If you don’t have a virus scanner installed, you should. McAfee and Symantec’s products are both good. Make sure to schedule an automatic virus scan at least once a month. There are also some free virus scanners online; while some of them may only scan your computer but not clean any viruses, you really don’t need them to clean anything until you actually find a virus. Or, once you find a virus with a free scanner, if it doesn’t clean it out you can always look up the virus name on a search engine and look for a guide on removing it manually. There are plenty of options.

Scan your computer for spyware and adware. This will also solve any problems you’re having with random ads popping up out of nowhere. Spyware is any software that sends information about what you’re doing on your computer to a third party. Adware is software that tracks your actions and pops up ads that might pertain to you. Both are extremely annoying and, if you have enough of them, can slow down your computer. There are many free spyware and adware scanners available. I use Spybot: Search & Destroy myself, and Spyware Blaster has also been recommended to me; Ad-Aware Pro costs money but works well. Additionally, keep a firewall running to block spyware and adware from getting to your PC in the first place. Again, both McAfee and Symantec have firewall software, if you don’t like the one that’t built into Windows XP (or you don’t use Windows).

You might have very low disk space on your hard drive. If your available disk space is below 1 GB or so, you should uninstall some programs you don’t need or delete files you’ve downloaded or otherwise copied to the hard drive. If you can’t find anything you are willing to get rid of, it’s time to buy a bigger drive.

If you have a lot of installed programs, there may be too many processes running in the background. Uninstall some programs that you find are running all the time, whether or not you are using them. An example would be an instant messenger program, but those won’t really slow down your computer much.

Additionally, if you have a lot of programs running in the background, try adding more memory to your computer (this is the only one in this list that will definitely cost you money). If your computer takes forever to load Windows, this may be the problem. Essentially, everything has to be in memory before your CPU can use it. Since you’d need a lot of memory for that to work, Windows sets up “virtual memory” on your hard drive, and data from virtual memory is swapped into your physical memory when it needs to be accessed. The downside to this is that hard drives are pretty slow compared to memory speeds, so the more physical memory you have the less virtual memory you’ll need, and the faster programs will run.

Defragment your hard drive. When data is stored in thousands of little fragments on your hard drive, it takes longer to read the data than when it’s all in one giant string. Defragmenting takes all your fragments and recombines them. You should do this every now and then to optimize your hard drive’s speed.

If you see particular programs running slowly, try reinstalling them. They may have gotten corrupted.

If you don’t absolutely need your cookies (files your Internet browser downloads to remember information on websites), clear them out every now and then. Some of them can significantly slow down your browsing. Depending on what browser you use, you can clear cookies in the options. It should be fairly easy to find.

If you have one, use the recovery CD that came with your computer. Most of the time it’ll fix any problems you are having.

If none of the above steps works, and you are desperate, reformat the hard disk. Formatting a drive erases everything on it, so make sure you backup important data to another computer (if you have a network) or to CDs or DVDs. You can reformat and install Windows with a Windows XP CD, but only if you have the full version, not the upgrade version.

Remember that reformatting will always fix any problem, unless it has to do with defective hardware. If you suspect a hardware problem, either isolate the device yourself or have a technician do it, then just replace the broken part. (Some hardware replacements, such as the motherboard or hard drive, may require you to reinstall Windows.)

So before you go and buy your next computer, consider that there may be nothing wrong with your old one. Why go out and spend all that money now? If nothing else, a few months down the road you’ll get a better PC for the same amount of money.

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