10 Ways to Speed Up a Computer

By Kenny Soward

Over time, your Windows computer slows down. When you install more programs--and some junk--you unwittingly add tasks to your Startup menu, causing your computer to become slower during the boot phase. The latest programs are resource intensive and will bog down your computer if you do not plan for hardware upgrades. And as you open and reopen files, your hard drive will become fragmented, leading to longer wait times while referencing files. Together, all of these add up to a great deal of frustration. Learn 10 ways to keep your computer running optimally.

Defrag Your Hard Drive

To defragment your hard drive, first reboot your computer in Safe Mode. Do this by rebooting your computer and pressing "F8" several times during the boot. You will be given several boot options. Choose "Boot Windows in Safe Mode." Once your system has booted, click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. In the Disk Defragmenter dialogue box, click "Defragment."

Remove Malware

Browsing the web can be a dangerous prospect these days. You can pick up malware at every turn, which slows down your Internet browsing experience. One piece of free software to rid yourself of malware is Spybot Search and Destroy. Go to the Spybot home page (see link in Resources). Download the latest version. Double click the EXE download and the program will install itself. When the program opens, you will be asked several questions and given a choice to immunize your system. Click "Next" through all options until Spybot opens to the main scanning page. Click "Look for Problems" and wait for the scan to complete. Once the scan is complete, you will be presented with a list of problems Spybot found. Click "Fix Problems." Once Spybot has completed fixing the problems, turn off your computer for 5 minutes, turn it back on and rerun Spybot to ensure your system is completely clean.

Install Memory

As you install more resource intensive programs, you may need to install more memory. To find out how much memory you have, click Start > Control Panel. Double click on the System icon. Consult your user's manual to determine how much more memory you can install and also how to install it. For standard-sized PCs, this usually requires removing the case and installing the memory onto the system board. For laptops, there is a panel beneath the laptop that can be removed with a Phillips head screwdriver and installing the memory in the provided slots.

Remove Unused Programs

In Windows XP, click Start > Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs. You will be presented with a list of programs. Browse the list of programs and remove unnecessary ones by highlighting the program and clicking "Remove." In Windows Vista, click Start > Control Panel > Programs > Features. You will be presented with a list of programs. Browse the list and remove unnecessary ones by highlighting the program and clicking "Uninstall."

Remove Programs from the Startup Menu

To remove unnecessary Startup programs, click Start > Run. In the Run text box, type "msconfig." You will be presented with a System Configuration Utility. Go to the Startup tab, and uncheck any programs you do not want to run at Startup. Restart the computer after making your changes.

Use an External Drive for Personal Documents

Having your personal documents on the same drive as your programs can cause some disk thrashing or overuse of the main drive. Purchase an external hard drive and reorganize all your personal documents--items located in My Documents, for example--there. This has several advantages. External hard drives are easy to connect via a USB port and, should your system crash, your personal files will not be effected. While it is a bit cumbersome if you are a laptop user, it will also create a dividing line between your personal documents and programs.

Try a Different Web Browser

If you use Microsoft Internet Explorer exclusively, you may experience some slow web browsing. This is because many spyware and malware programs attack Microsoft Internet Explorer specifically. Install Mozilla Firefox (mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/upgrade.html), Safari (apple.com/safari/download/) or Opera (opera.com).

Turn off Visual Effects and Fancy Graphics

Right click on My Computer > Properties > Advanced System Settings (Advanced in Windows XP) > Performance > Settings. Choose the option "Adjust for Best Performance."

Update Your OS

Allow Windows updates to occur automatically so that you know you are getting the most up-to-date operating system changes. In Windows Vista, click Start > Control Panel > Windows Update. Click "Check for Updates." This option ensures that Automatic Updates is turned on. For Windows XP, click Start and browse to Control Panel. Double click on Control Panel and browse to System. Double click on System and browse to the Automatic Updates tab. Make sure Automatic Updating is turned on.

Reinstall Operating System

If nothing seems to work to speed up your computer system, try reinstalling your operating system. To reinstall your operating system, first relocate your personal files to an external hard drive--this is much easier if you have all of your personal documents on an eternal drive as there will be no need to relocate these documents. Locate any additional software licenses and EXE files you may need to install after reinstalling your operating system. Locate the operating system disks that came with your computer, and slide Disc 1 into the DVD drive. Restart your computer and follow the prompts until the operating system has been reinstalled.