My computer is running slow, steps to speed up performance

Making your computer run faster can be an arduous task, but there are certain steps you can take to ensure your PC is running as quickly and efficiently as possible. We have put together this list to show you some easy ways you can speed up your workstation and make it run faster, or determine the reason for it running slow. If you are having trouble with your slow-running computer, then this page is for you. It should be noted that if you have a computer that starts slow or has a slow internet connection, you may need to look to other sources to resolve those issues. You can also find a guide to speed up your internet here.

Step 1 – Reboot

The first step to take when your computer seems to be lagging is to simply reboot it before following the steps noted below. Rebooting your PC can fix many different problems, and is the simplest way to speed up your PC.

Step 2 – Check which background programs are running.

A very common reason for a slow-running computer is that programs keep running in the background, meaning you could have multiple different programs running at the same time drawing from the capabilities of your computer. You are also able to manage and disable any startup programs that come on in the background when you start up your workstation.

Step 3 – Delete temporary files

Even using your PC normally while running programs, your computer will store temporary files on the hard drive. Removing these files could improve the performance of your desktop computer

Windows computers

There is a handy tool called Windows Disk Clean-up which will delete temporary files and any other files which you likely no longer need on your computer. You can also go through your computer manually and delete any temporary files that you do not need, or applications you are not currently using.

In order to do this:

  • Open the “Start” menu, or press the Windows key, then type %temp% in the Run field.
  • Press Enter and a temporary folder should open.
  • You can delete any files found in this folder. If you recognize any files, and they cannot be deleted, or they are unable to be deleted as they are currently in use, they can be skipped.

Free up some hard drive space

First, see that there is at least a spare 200–500 MB of hard drive space available. This will allow the computer to have room for the swap file to grow and give room for temporary files. Bad, corrupted or fragmented hard drive Check the hard drive for errors If you have a Windows computer, you might want to run a ScanDisk or similar program which will allow you to see if there is something physically wrong with the computer’s hard drive. How to use Microsoft ScanDisk: On a macOS computer, access the Disk Utility program, and then use the First Aid option to check the hard drive for any errors. To open Disk Utility:

  • Click the Launchpad icon on the dock.
  • Open the Other folder.
  • Click Disk Utility to open the program.

How to make sure your hard drive is not fragmented: There is a program called Defrag which will help ensure that data is arranged in the best possible order on your hard drive. Test hard drive There are many other software tools to test the hard drive for any errors by looking at the SMART of the drive.

Step 4 – Scan your computer for viruses

If your computer is infected with one, or multiple viruses, this could hinder the performance and make it run more slowly. It is important that your computer has good antivirus software installed, but if not, you could run Trend Micro’s free program House call online utility. This will scan and remove any viruses which are currently on your computer. We also recommend that you install an antivirus program for protection against any viruses. You can find out more about disaster protection and recovery here.

Step 5 – Scan your workstation for malware

The slower performance of your PC could be due to spyware and malware, which is a big cause of many different computer problems. This includes limited performance, which is why even if an antivirus scanner is installed on your desktop computer, we also recommend running a malware scan alongside. You can get a free version of Malware bytes to scan your computer for malware.

Step 6 – Hardware conflicts

You should verify that the Device Manager does not have any conflicts. If they do exist, you can resolve these issues as they could be causing your problem.

Step 7 – Update your operating system

An outdated operating system may be the reason your computer is running slowly. Updating your desktop computer system regularly means keeping up to date with any improvements to the operating system, and keeping your PC running optimally.

Step 8 – Disable any browser plug-ins

If your computer seems to be running especially slow when you’re using your web browser, consider disabling any browser plug-ins, add-ons or extensions. The process for this will depend on the browser that you are using, but simply deleting any tabs that you have open so that you are only using a couple at a time will improve performance.

Step 9 – Update your drivers

Updating your drivers regularly could be the difference between a slow and fast computer. Out-of-date drivers can cause an assortment of issues.

Step 10 – Reboot the computer again

Once you have made all the changes above, reboot your computer.

Step 11 – Run a registry cleaner

If you have a Mac computer, you don’t need to carry out this step and can skip to the next as there is no registry in macOS. Running a registry cleaner is not usually recommended, but if you have followed all of the above steps and your computer is still running slow, it may be something you want to try.

Step 12 – Memory upgrade

If your computer is more than two years old, it may be a case of not having enough free memory for your desktop computer to run optimally. We suggest that computers have a minimum of 2 GB of memory (RAM) for a 32-bit system, and 4 GB for a 64-bit system. When your PC has enough free memory for programs to run within memory, your computer doesn’t need to swap information which is stored in memory to the swap file. This means your PC will be running optimally, and not lagging while trying to operate.

Step 13 – Upgrade your hard drive

One of the biggest restrictions of any computer is the hard disk drive. Many computers come with a standard hard drive, which can be upgraded to a solid-state drive (SSD) that will dramatically improve the performance of the computer. This can be slightly technical, so we would suggest either following a guide or having a specialist do this for you.

Step 14 – Ensure your computer or processor is not overheating

Computers overheating is a common problem which can cause a decrease in the performance of your PC. Using your workstation for long periods of time on a surface that does not encourage airflow can cause your PC to overheat, meaning the systems do not operate automatically, which can in turn reduce the speed of the processor to help compensate for heat-related issues. It is also very common for dust, dirt, hair or any other unwanted particles can constrict the airflow to your workstation, in turn causing it to overheat. It is important to make sure you are cleaning your computer from debris and ensuring the fans remain unobstructed.

Step 15 – Increase or upgrade the processor speed

Increasing the speed of your processor (otherwise known as CPU) can improve the performance of your computer. There are two options for increasing processor speed: either overclocking or upgrading. Overclocking is when you increase your processor’s speed beyond what it is designed to run stably. This process does increase the speed of your processor, but most likely not by very much, and usually results in a 10% or 20% speed increase at the most. Some processors are capable of being overclocked and some are not, meaning you would need to find the specifications for the processor currently in your desktop computer in order to determine if it can be overclocked. One thing to keep in mind is that an overclocked processor generates much more heat than a regular one, and therefore requires a much more powerful heat sink and fan which works to pull the heat away from the processor, dissipating it in the process. There is also a safer alternative to overclocking, which is upgrading the processor in your workstation.

Step 16 – Erase your computer and start over

If you are still facing issues with your PC running slowly, another option is to reinstall the operating system – or erase your entire device and start over. Erasing your entire device and reinstalling the operating system can increase performance by getting rid of old software or drivers. It also verifies that there aren’t any software related issues causing your computer to be slow. As computers age, it may be a case of needing an update. Most computers more than five years old tend to perform slower than new ones. If this is the case, and you have tried everything above, we would recommend considering purchasing a new computer.

If you need help

If resolving IT issues is not your strong point, or you just don’t have the time. Synergy-UK are more than happy to assist with your local IT support and IT services. Feel free to get in touch for more information.

Sam Ashford
Sam Ashford - Author

Hey, I'm Sam Ashford! I have 20 years of experience in the IT industry. I have worked as a security analyst, trainer, and writer at Synergy-UK for over ten years.

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