What would you say if your car got slower with every month you drove it? What would result in an insane global recall, outcries, and potential lawsuits is the norm in the PC world. As time goes on, PC’s become slower.
PCs can become slow for a variety of reasons: the hardware might be overheating, some drivers may be off or outdated, or your PC might just be clogged up by running too many programs. Sometimes, all you need is to give it a good shut down and restart. But when that doesn’t work, you’ll need a more active approach. We’ll show you how with the most in-depth end-to-end guide for fixing it that you’ve ever seen. But before we start…
…a few words of warning: and how to prepare!
Some of our tips and guides tackle areas of your system that are quite critical. If you follow our guides to the point, nothing bad will happen as we’ve tested everything on countless machines.
However, think about Murphy’s Law and back up your system. At the very least, create a system restore point. To do that, open the File Explorer, right-click on This PC and select Properties. From here, click on System Protection in the top left corner and create a restore point. If anything goes awry, this is where you can always return to and revert all settings.
How to Speed up and Clean Up Your Computer
1 – Work and browse faster: Upgrade computer RAM & get a fast SSD
There are two major limiting factors to any office PC or laptop: its RAM and its hard disk.
Your first limitation is your PC’s available physical memory — the “RAM” or Random Access Memory — where your programs are held once you start them. In other words, it’s your PCs short-term memory.
These days, 4 Gigabytes of RAM should be the bare minimum to run a PC. That’s mostly the fault of two types of applications:
- First: Any elaborate application like video editing, PhotoShop, or programming.
- Second: browsers. Fire up Google Chrome and load up 10 of your most popular sites: You’ll see RAM usage skyrocket to more than 2-3 Gbyte easily. That leaves barely enough room for Windows itself, let alone any other program.
The result: As your PC needs to shuffle things in and out of its short-term memory, things become frustratingly slow. This is where all the annoying loading times and freezes come from. Our advice: Upgrade your memory if you’ve got anything less than 4 Gbyte.
Unless you’re playing games or working with insanely large files, 8 GByte should be fine. RAM comes cheap these days, with prices starting as low as $30 for a 4 GB module. If you’ve got a laptop, make sure it’s upgradeable (in many cases, it’ll be difficult to impossible, unfortunately). Desktop owners are a little luckier here: Open up the case and find the right slot to add or replace your existing memory bank with a larger one. Check out the specifications of your PC to make sure it fits (or ask a knowledgeable friend to help you).
Upgrading to an SSD
Your second biggest limiting factor is your PC’s long-term memory: the hard disk! This is where Windows, your programs and all your personal files are stored. Any time you load something, say Spotify or your favorite photos, the hard disk needs to look for those bits and bytes — and transfer them in your RAM (see, it all plays together!).
More than 80% of PCs out there still have what’s called a mechanical hard disk drive (HDD). It’s essentially a rotating platter that gets accessed via a moving read/write head (think CD/DVD/Blu-ray player or vinyl). In contrast to all other PC components that process your data, this mechanical approach is painfully slow. Your RAM or CPU might be sitting there, boring itself and idling, while the disk is still busy spinning.
Our advice: If you can, invest in what’s called an SSD (Solid State Disk). It’s the “successor” to your hard disk, but is 100% fully digital — no moving parts, instant access to all the bits. An SSD should increase your read and write speeds by a factor of at least 10 . Windows will load faster, your files will open instantly, and your programs run significantly smoother.
While prices are still a bit higher than those of mechanical hard disks, you won’t regret the investment. Again: Make sure your laptop or PC is upgradeable and get the upgrade as soon as you can. A 250 GB SSD can be had for as little as $100. Even the lower end and more budget-oriented disks will breathe new life into an aging PC. Trust us on that.
Neat side effect: Going from a mechanical disk to an SSD also results in less power consumption and more battery life on laptops.
2 – Play & edit faster: Get a great GPU
Are you a gamer, designer or video editor? Well, then RAM, hard disks or even the processor (CPU, Central Processing Unit) aren’t your top concern. Your graphics card is what’s responsible for how well your PC handles video editing or plays games. If GTA 5, The Witcher 3 or Ghost Recon don’t run as fast or look as gorgeous as in their trailers and instead stutter like a 1930s flick — it’s because of your graphics card.
On laptops you’re completely out of luck, as the GPU (graphics processing unit) is soldered to the mainboard. No chance of upgrading that. Desktop PCs, however, can be easily upgraded.
Both GPU market leaders, NVIDIA and AMD, have something for everyone in their lineup:
- For Full HD Gaming / Rendering: Starting at $100-150, the GeForce 1050/1060 series or Radeon 460/470 series offer great gaming experiences at Full HD resolutions (1920×1080).
- For 1440p / Higher-End Gaming / Rendering: If you want to play Full HD with the graphical settings in your games completely maxed out, or if you’re playing on a screen with WHQD resolution (2560×1440), then better get a Radeon 480 or a GeForce 1070/1080 (in the $300-$500 price range).
- For 4K / Ultra High-End Gaming / Rendering: These days, 4K is where it’s at. Only NVIDIA has something in their lineup for all those hardcore gamers who want to run games at a stunning 4096×2160 resolution. The only cards capable of hitting 4K gaming at a smooth framerate are the 1080 Ti (starting at $700), or the Titan X(p) if you’re willing to pay $1300 to get the absolute best of the best there is (even if it is just an extra 5-10% bump in performance). To be on the safe side, deep-pocketed hardcore gamers should probably get 2 1080 Tis or Titan Xs to play literally every game at a buttery smooth 60fps.
Bonus tips: if you’re deep into gaming, we’ve know 9 ways to boost your gaming rig. Check it out.
3 – Defragmentation: What is this? And is it still a thing?
We’ve explained the differences between the slower HDD and the lightning fast SSDs above. Well, if you’re still rocking a mechanical disk despite being painfully slow, it will also suffer from a phenomenon called “fragmentation”. To sum it up: The more programs and files you use, copy and move, the more cluttered the bits and bytes on your disk become — and the more the read/write head has to work in order to open or store your data.
The solution: Defrag your disk by opening up your Start menu, typing in Defrag and hitting the Enter key. Click on Optimize to start the process — and be patient, this might take some time.
4 – Optimize Startup by Disabling Startup Items in Windows Task-Manager
Is your PC taking a bit too long to boot up? It might be loading up way too much stuff that you don’t need right after turning it on. Sanity-check the list of things that run automatically using a hidden, yet effective method: The Windows Task Manager.
To go through the list, right-click on your Windows task bar (it’s the bar in the lower bottom of your screen where all your application icons are found) and select Task Manager. Go to Startup and look at the items listed here:
In this example, it’s quite evident that the Epic browser installer or the screenshot-taking tool Greenshot don’t need to start up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. you fire up your computer, right? You can launch those yourself. To turn those off, right-click on it and select Disable.
Ok, now those were some super easy examples. But what about those entries that aren’t immediately clear, such as NVIDIA Capture Proxy? Well, Google is your friend in those cases. Simply look these entries up online and chances are you’ll find them explained in some forum or on a technical website. This should help you decide whether you need them or not.
5 – Use a patented method to reduce the daily slowdown
Many programs like iTunes or PhotoShop install software components that run every time your computer is turned on — and oddly even at times when you’re not using them. Those are:
- Services: They provide basic functionality like keeping products up to date. For example, Adobe Reader installs an “Adobe Updater” that frequently checks for update.
- Scheduled Tasks: Background applications that come with Windows or software you install. These tasks are mostly used to perform actions at specific times or in certain situations. For example, Dropbox uses a scheduled task on your PC that checks for updates every day at 5:50pm.
- Startup items: As we’ve mentioned above, these are additional programs that launch every time you turn on your PC. But while services and scheduled tasks run mostly hidden in the background, startup items tend to be more “visible” as most of them show up in your taskbar.
There are many reasons why your PC gets slower over time, but in short you’re looking at quite the strain caused by applications:
- Less memory is available for active processes -> your PC becomes sluggish!
- Higher stress causes more heat and requires energy consumption -> your PC runs slower to prevent overheating and your laptop runs out of battery sooner.
- Windows focuses on these background tasks and not on what you’re working on or your game.
Now that we’ve established the root and the effects of the typical PC slowdown, what can you really do about it?
Well, you could turn off all startup applications (which is quite safe). But in order to catch everything on this list and return your PC to its day-1 performance, you’d need to uninstall programs (even those you might love or need). You’d need to dig deep into your system and manually turn off services, scheduled tasks and more — and then turn them on again in case something goes wrong. Not exactly an ideal situation.
At AVG, we’ve solved this problem with a now-patented technology called “Sleep Mode”. It detects which programs slow down your PC and freezes all the resource-eating components mentioned above.
Sleep Mode shows you these resource eaters in an easy to understand list. Then it lets you, well, “put them to sleep”.
Now, the cool thing about this method: You don’t need to uninstall or forcefully turn off things you might need. They’re all just frozen, if you will, granting you a dramatically revived system. Now here comes the critical part: Once you launch an application, say Google Chrome in the example above, our Sleep Mode turns it all back on again — and turns it back off once you’re done using it. Use Sleep Mode on as many applications as you can and you’ll notice a considerable speed improvement, particularly if you have a lot of heavy apps installed.
6 – Overclocking your CPU or GPU? (EXPERT TIP!)
Your processor and graphics card work at specific “clock” frequencies. For example, a Core i7 6700HQ clocks from 2.6 GHz base and boosts up to 3.5 GHz. GeForce Titan X(p) runs at just over 1500 MHz. hat clock frequency determines how many operations per second your hardware can perform. “Overclocking” is a method of increasing these frequencies in order to achieve higher clocks.
Overclocking increases the stress and heat for your PC’s hardware. Proceed with care.
Now, overclocking isn’t as dangerous as it used to be. In most cases, your CPU or GPU simply turns off and Windows freezes before any damage occurs. Still, overclocking increases stress and temperature for your hardware and should only be done when you know what you’re doing. So do this at your own risk.
- Overclocking the CPU: Unless you’re doing a lot of CPU intensive tasks like multimedia editing or running countless of applications at the same time, you won’t feel the difference of an overclock. For those who want the absolute maximum performance, try Intel’s own Extreme Tuning Utility. Here you can quite easily adjust the CPU clock speed, but we’d advise you to increase it only in steps of 50 MHz — and then test system stability in your extreme scenarios (editing, gaming etc.) — before improving it further.
- Overclocking the GPU (only for gamers): Your gaming performance is mostly dependent on the power of your graphics chip — even more so than on how much memory your have or how fast your processor is. In almost all cases your graphics chip is the bottleneck that causes stuttering gameplay. To improve performance, you may want to run the graphics card beyond its factory speed setting — or in other words: overclocking! In the GPU world, you can overclock both the processing chip and the memory speed using various tools like MSI Afterburner. Now, on our gaming PC (with two Titan Xp graphics cards), we managed to clock the GPU by 200 MHz and the memory by 500 MHz before things got unstable. However, the benefits were noticeable: Gaming performance climbed by yet another 15% and guaranteed the best possible frame rate and picture quality on even the most demanding games.
But again, this is something you — even as experienced users — have to experiment with: Not all chips are created equally and thus react differently to overclocking. Plus, your cooling solution is another limiting factor. We were able to achieve these clocks using a water-cooled solution. When working with a traditional fan setup, you might be running into thermal issues much sooner.
Note to laptop users: Overclocking is also possible if you’ve got a dedicated graphics chip, such as the GeForce GTX 965M (above) or a Radeon Pro 460. However, thermal issues are even more prominent here as heat is less likely to dissipate in such small enclosures. That’s why in many cases you won’t be able to push the clocks past 100 or 150 Mhz. Plus, due to the increased power draw, battery life will definitely suffer.
7 – Update your drivers
Your PC comes with more than 100 built-in components. You’ve got the Wi-Fi chip, the processor, the graphics card, the power button, and scores of other bits and pieces for making things happen. It’s a complex system that miraculously works.
All those components are controlled by device drivers. These are essentially small, yet complex pieces of software that control the way the different components work. And just like every piece of software, drivers can be faulty (especially early versions) or fail to extract the full potential from your hardware.
8 – Should you use a registry cleaner?
The web is full of so called “Registry Cleaners” and tips on how to clean up a registry in order to speed up PCs. And the registry is a crucial part of your Windows operating system. In many cases, it contain hundreds of thousands of entries, out of which probably thousands might be invalid or just empty. Registry Cleaners look them up, and delete them or fix them in some cases.
But to be honest with you: 99,999% of the time using a registry cleaner has no impact on your PC’s performance. Sure, the registry is loaded every time you turn on your PC and is constantly being accessed, but that database is about 100-200 MB in size, which even a 10 year old PC can process in a fraction of a second. Deleting a few entries does not impact speed whatsoever. Admittedly, it’s a bit like hygiene, as even some Microsoft employees have elaborated in the past: In rare instances, some missing keys might cause error messages upon startup. But unless you’re experiencing these errors there’s no need to run a registry cleaner.
Our advice: Leave the database alone. Windows does a good job of taking care of it. And if you do have an error, make sure you go with a professional registry cleaning tool.
9 – How viruses, Trojans, adware or any form of malware affect performance
Viruses, adware, malware, spyware and Trojans aren’t just a major security risk, some of them literally kill your PC’s performance. If your PC is running slow, despite all your noble efforts, you might need to consider running an antivirus on your system, as some virus may be eating all your processing power. Read more about how viruses affect performance or go ahead and download our award-winning antivirus protection today.
If your PC is running slow despite all your best efforts, check for malware.
10 – Physically cleaning your computer
With your PC or laptop fans blowing air in and out of the system for years, chances are there’s a whole family of dust bunnies thriving inside your device. These slow down or even stop your fans, which traps heat leads to poor performance or frequent crashes.
That’s why I frequently open up my PC case and laptops to use a gas duster to catapult dust bunnies out of the system with compressed air (keep a vacuum handy).
And while you’re at it, you might as well make your computer screen and keyboard shine, too. There are many cleaners specifically designed for this.
How to Clean Up Your PC and Its Hard Disk
1 – How to Perform a Disk Clean Up
Every day you use your PC, its programs, its browser or its games, you leave behind a plethora of digital waste. That’s because all programs on your PC create some form of “temporary files” — files that the programs need in order to operate, but forget to get rid of once you’re done using them. Those might be:
- Temporary setup and program files
- Old Chkdsk files
- Setup logs
- Windows Update & Windows upgrade leftover files
- Windows Defender leftovers
- Temporary internet files & offline web pages
- System error memory dump files
- Windows error reporting files
- Thumbnails & user file history
Luckily, there are quite a few options to get rid of this clutter.
First, you can use the built-in Windows disk cleanup tool which deletes the basic clutter on your PC. To launch it in any version of Windows (including Windows XP, 7, Vista, 8, and 10), right-click on your desktop and select New/Shortcut. Type in the following text:
%SystemRoot%\System32\Cmd.exe /c Cleanmgr /sageset:65535 &Cleanmgr /sagerun:6553
Name that shortcut “My new PC cleaner” (or whatever you prefer). Is the shortcut created? Then right-click on it and select Run as Administrator. Select all the files you find there or check the descriptions so you know what you’re deleting, though in most cases none if this is necessary to your day-to-day.
After a while, the most superficial digital clutter should be gone and we can move on to some deeper cleaning options:
- Windows 10, confusingly, offers another area which helps you clean up old upgrade files. These can be huge if you’ve upgraded from Windows 7/8 to Windows 10 or from one version of 10 to a newer one. You can find it if you click on your start menu, then on the settings icon and go to System. Under Storage, click on your hard disk and select Temporary files. This is where you can find some additional clutter, including the aforementioned backups.
- Professional tune-up software: At AVG, we’ve noticed that the built-in methods barely scratch the surface of the junk hidden away on your hard disk and in your system folders. That’s because most programs like iTunes, Office or Chrome create their own junk which Windows doesn’t know how to delete. But we do, and our engineers built the cleaning methods for over 220 programs straight into AVG PC TuneUp. Let us tune up your PC for you.Go to the Free Up Space section and move through all the features piece by piece to delete all the wasteful temporary files our tool can find. Often times you’re looking at GBytes of uselesss data that can now be used for new programs, music, photos or basically anything useful for you.
Our disk cleaner removes the following types of additional leftover files:
- Crash reports: Windows produces information when your PC has crashed, but this is only useful to software engineers. Can be easily deleted.
- Cache files: These are temporary files left on your disk by programs and Windows.
- Thumbnails: Temporary thumb files created and displayed by Windows Explorer.
- “Recently used files” lists: Many programs, including Windows, create lists of files you recently opened. And while that’s quite convenient, it’s also a privacy risk.AVG Disk Cleaner does a great job of cleaning out this once and for all.
- Gaming. Leftover files from the gaming platform Steam, such as installers for DirectX or Visual C++ Redistributable files; they’re no longer needed after you’ve installed and launched the game you downloaded.
- …and much much more.
2 – Free up space on your hard drive by deleting huge files
This happens all the time: You download a massive file or a huge video from your phone — and forget all about it after a day or so! A good way to find the largest files across your entire hard disks is built right into your Windows Explorer. To do it, open up your explorer and click inside the Search field. From here, click on Size and select Gigantic. This will then list all files larger than 100 MB.
3 – Uninstall applications you don’t need
You might have apps on your PC you barely use or need anymore, slowing down your PC and wasting disk space. To get rid of them, go to your Windows Control Panel and click on Programs and Programs and Features. Go through the list and make sure things you don’t need get uninstalled:
That was the uncomfortable method, as in many cases you might not know if you need the program or when you’ve used it the last time. Our own AVG PC TuneUp makes this a bit easier for you.
Its Uninstall Manager has a simple functionality that allows you to search for:
- Rarely used programs
- Recently installed programs
- Large programs
- ..and more.
Simply open up PC TuneUp, click on Uninstall Unused Programs and then Filter List.
In this example, there’s a long-forgotten game (Dying Light) that’s I’ve finished and now simply eats up more than 20 GB. A good candidate for uninstallation!
4 – Test your hard drive’s integrity and health
Any file on your HDD or SSD can get damaged if, for example, your PC loses power or crashes all of a sudden. That’s why, it might not be a bad idea to thoroughly check your hard disks integrity once in a while. To do that, click on your Start button and simply type in the letters CMD. This will bring up the search result Command Prompt. Right-click on it and select Run as Administrator.
A black command line will show up. Type in chkdsk /f /r /b and hit Return. Now confirm that you want to scan your disk upon the next reboot and then restart your PC! Depending on the size of your disk, this check and repair can run for more than an hour. But in the end, you’ve either fixed some hard disk problems, repaired critical files or at least know that everything is OK.
5 — Use cloud storage if your’re running out of local space
If all of our cleaning methods mentioned above simply didn’t give you the space you were looking for, you might want to consider uploading some of your larger files, photo albums or documents to a cloud services, such as OneDrive or Google Drive. While accessing these might take a bit longer than locally, it’s a last resort if you’re consistently running low on hard disk space.
How to Update Your Applications
Our studies have shown that more than 52% of applications installed on PCs worldwide are out of date. Sometimes it’s due to people ignoring updates. Other times it’s because the applications simply don’t include a working updater.
Now why do we bring this up in our ultimate guide to speeding up PCs? Simple: Old apps can cause stability and performance issues.
We’ve written up a specific guide on how to update your apps, so be sure to check that out.
In short: Use an automatic software updater or manually go through the list of apps and make sure they’re all on the latest version to increase your chances of getting a smoothly running OS.
Going forward: Keeping it clean and fast
Now that we’ve established the most important tuning and cleaning steps, here’s a piece of advice: You should to do this on a regular monthly basis. Sounds like a hassle, right? Well here are a few good habits which should reduce the upkeep you need to do to keep a healthy PC:
- Before you install any piece of software, think long and hard if you actually need it or plan to use it regularly. If you just need it once, remember to uninstall it.
- Go through the list of all your installed programs and decide if you still need all of these.
- Last, but not least: I frequently create full PC backups after I clean-install and configure my PC. If anything goes wrong, I go back to that previous state. I’ll show you how this works in a later post!