How to speed up your PC

It’s a familiar situation for countless PC users: you love your trusty old computer or laptop but it seems to be getting slower and slower. It takes longer to power up, programs take longer to load, and overall performance just isn’t what it used to be.

The easy answer is to dump your old PC and buy a new one. But what if you can’t afford it? Or what if you’re not ready for Windows 8, the new but very different operating system that’s installed on all the latest machines? Well, luckily all is not lost. There are a few things you can do speed up your computer and put off its demise for a few more months. Here are some suggestions:

1. Check the storage space

Start out by checking the free space on your hard drive. You do this by clicking on the Windows Start button and selecting Computer (Windows Vista or Windows 7). Windows XP users can double click on the Computer icon on the desktop.

Once you have identified your hard drive – often designated as Drive C – right-click on that drive and select Properties. You will see a colored disc, indicating the amount of Used space and Free space. If the free space is less than 10% of the total capacity, then that’s probably a contributing factor to the slowdown.

However, if your free space is rapidly diminishing, all is not lost. You may be able to free up additional space by deleting files or programs you no longer use. (See below).

Something to keep in mind: if your total hard dive capacity is less than 100GB, you might want to start thinking about upgrading your computer anyway. Even mid-performance laptops now come with 500GB of storage space. If you handle a lot of media files or are still using XP or Vista and are thinking about an upgrade, then you will need the extra space.

2. Delete old files and programs

Go through your main folders and delete files you no longer use. Particularly look for videos, Photoshop files, or anything else that eats up lots of space.

Also, uninstall programs you don’t use anymore. Older computers have a habit of accumulating unnecessary software and programs – everything from that Barbie game your daughter hasn’t played in years to copies of out-of-date tax software.

To do this, go to the Windows Start button and choose Control Panel. (Windows XP users will see it under Settings.) Select Uninstall a program or Add or Remove Programs, depending on your version of Windows. Run down the list of programs. If you see one that you recognize and you know you don’t use it, click Uninstall. If you are unsure about a particular program, then leave it alone.

3. Delete temporary files

Every time you visit a web site, your computer stores information so next time you visit, the page will reload faster. This information is stored in temporary files, which have a tendency to mount up, clogging space and possibly slowing down your computer.

Go back to the hard drive Properties window, as described in 1. above. Click on Disk Cleanup. After running some checks, your computer will present a window with options for clean up. Check the box against Temporary Internet Files, leaving the other boxes unchecked. Click OK.

4. Keep your software up-to-date.

Microsoft periodically releases special security updates that can help speed up your computer by closing possible security holes. In Windows, make sure automatic updating is turned on.

5. Scan for viruses, spyware, etc.

Finally, after deleting old programs, files and temporary files to free up space and making sure you have the latest software updates, you should run up-to-date security software to check for viruses, spyware and other bugs. If you have been having trouble with e-mail – it’s slow and unstable – then that’s usually a sign that viruses are present.

If you don’t have security software installed, buy or download software from one of the reputable security firms. Stay away from companies that offer online software to run free security checks. They will usually present you with an incomprehensible list of problems and then suggest you buy expensive software to “fix” the problems.

Once you have taken these five steps, your computer should be noticeably faster. If everything works out, repeat these steps every three months or so to maintain optimum performance.

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