June 18, 2024

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Why is my computer so slow? Tips to improve your PC performance

6 min read

(Pocket-lint) – If you’ve been using a PC for a while then you might find that it’s slowing down and not running like it used to. Over time your computer may get clogged up with files, apps and more. You don’t necessarily need a new machine though, there are ways to improve performance with relative ease.

We’re here to help with a few tips and tricks to speed up your computer and ease your misery. We’ve written before about how to optimise your PC for gaming, but for day-to-day use there are some things you can do too. 

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Adjust your start-up settings

One thing that naturally happens over time is the number of apps installed on your PC will increase. This can have a knock-on effect as a lot of these apps will try to run at a start-up. 

So when your PC is loading into Windows all these apps are trying to load and not only making the boot process take longer but also potentially hogging system resources once you’re in Windows. 

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One easy way to counter this is with tweaks to your start-up settings. 

  • Click CTRL+SHIFT+ESC on your keyboard to launch Task Manager
  • With Task Manager open find the Startup tab 
  • Search through the list of apps and look for anything that you don’t use regularly
  • Right-click on the offending apps and click disable

Alternatively, in Windows 11 you can access these settings by clicking the start button and searching for Startup apps. Click that system setting and you can then go through and turn apps on and off.

This will stop those programs loading whenever Windows starts up, but it doesn’t mean you can’t use them if and when you need to. Click to open the apps as normal if you need them and they’ll function perfectly fine. 

Turn it off and on again

Yes, it’s a cliche but it also makes a difference. If you find your computer is running slowly then try turning it off and on again. If you’re regularly leaving it running and not turning it off then the memory is likely getting clogged up. 

Simply turning it off for a while before trying to use it again can make a surprising difference to performance. 

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End apps that are ruining performance

Another source of your problems may well be some apps that are hogging system resources and processing power. Google Chrome is renowned for using a lot of RAM but you might discover that there are other apps you’re using that are tying your computer up. 

One way to tackle this is to simply quit them. Closing an app might not be enough though as sometimes even when closed apps will continue to run in the background.

Background activity will slow down your PC, especially if your system is already limited by the amount of storage space, the capacity of your RAM or simply by ageing components. 

When you open Task Manager pay attention to the processes of each app and how much of each of the things it’s using. Chrome might be using a lot of RAM but other apps may be impacting CPU usage or your GPU. If you see one app using a high percentage of any of your PC parts, then right-click it and click to end the task. 

  • Press CTRL+SHIFT+ESC to open Task Manager
  • Click on the app you want to kill
  • Right click and look for the option to “end task”
  • Click that to shut the task down and force close the app
  • If that doesn’t work, right-click again and click on “go to details”
  • Then right-click again on the app and click “end process”
  • You’ll then see a warning that this will close everything down
  • Click to confirm

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Reinstalling or resetting Windows

It might seem like a drastic option, but one way to get your PC running nicely again is to reset or reinstall Windows.

A fresh installation of Windows takes care of many of the problems that might be slowing it down in the first place. It’ll wipe out apps you don’t need, remove problematic files and free up memory. It is drastic as you’ll need back up anything that’s important, reinstall apps you actually need or want to use and more. However, it can be a worthy step. 

You can take the drastic step of formatting your Windows drive and reinstalling Windows from a USB stick or just resetting Windows via the standard options. We’ve written before about how to do that and it’s fairly simple. 

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Upgrade your storage

Obviously, another way to speed up your PC is to upgrade your components. We’ve written before about which components you should consider upgrading to improve performance. One of these is your storage.

The latest NVMe drives help with speeding up a PC by giving you faster load speeds which include quicker file transfers, faster Windows boot times and more. 

You will need a relatively new motherboard to make the most of this as it’ll need to work with M.2 NVMe drives. If you bought your machine in the last few years then you might find that’s the case. Buying one of these drives, then cloning and moving Windows onto it and moving away from traditional HDD or SSD storage can make a big difference. 

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Update your drivers

Staying on top of updates to drivers and firmware is an important part of PC maintenance. We’d recommend ensuring you run Windows update regularly and check for updates if you haven’t recently. 

  1. Hit the Windows Start button
  2. Type “updates” to search 
  3. Click on Windows Update Settings
  4. Tap to check for new updates 
  5. Install any updates you need

While you’re doing this, we’d also recommend updating your graphics drivers and checking for updates for your motherboard manufacturer and from Intel or AMD

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Adjust for best performance

As standard Windows is designed to give you a visual treat with the best appearance. This means it looks great but doesn’t necessarily run with optimum performance. One solution for a slow computer is to adjust for performance over quality. 

Follow these steps:

  1. Press the Windows Start button
  2. Type “appearance and performance”
  3. Click on “Adjust the performance and appearance of Windows”
  4. Look for the setting that says “adjust for the best performance”
  5. Select that and click apply
  6. On the advanced tab click to check that best performance is set for programs and not background tasks

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Free up storage space

Another problem that comes with age is full drives. When you’re regularly using your PC you’re obviously downloading a lot of files, whether you mean to or not. You might be installing apps and software, downloading images and videos, filling up your cache as you browse the web. Even simply running your PC and updating software can fill up your storage and slow things down. To combat this you can turn to Windows settings to clean up unwanted files and free up storage space. 

Click to follow our guide on doing this:

You can easily check to see if you’re running low on space by just opening Windows Explorer and checking your drives, but with Windows 11 you can also check storage with these steps:

  1. Select the Start button
  2. Click the settings cog
  3. Click on system and then storage

That will then show your drive and how it’s being used with apps, photos, documents and temporary files. If you spy that temporary files are taking up a large portion of storage space then clearly things need addressing. 

One quick tip here is you can click to turn on Storage Sense. Storage Sense is designed to automatically remove files you don’t need and free up storage space. 

With more space on your drive you should see some improvement. 

Writing by Adrian Willings.

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