How to Fix a Slow Computer & Programs Running in the Background

By James Wright

Over time, due to prolonged use, a multitude of files and programs, computer malware or spyware, or just the effects of age, a computer will eventually begin to slow down. There are many factors that can contribute to how well a computer performs, and a few things you can do to help get your computer running faster again to regain some of that steadily decreasing productivity -- or just lower your steadily increasing frustration level!

Step 1

Check your computer for updates. On most Windows computers, you will see the Windows Update on your list of programs. On Macs, you can click the apple icon in the upper left of your screen and select Software Update. Many updates will help fix bugs and performance issues. Keeping your computer up to date will ensure it's working with the latest and most efficient version of your operating system.

Step 2

Go through your list of installed programs and remove any you don't need. While most of these programs may not directly use up any of your RAM (Random Access Memory), removing them will help free up disk space. If some of these programs are in your list of startup applications, it may help your computer start up faster.

Step 3

Check your list of startup applications. For many computers it can be found in the list of programs under the category called Startup. This is a list of applications that load automatically when your computer starts up, and they take up your computer's resources until they are loaded. If you see any on the list you do not want to start up, simply remove them from the list.

Step 4

Look at your list of applications currently running. Either right click on the menu bar and click Task Manager, or press the Control, Alt and Delete keys simultaneously. From here you can see what programs are currently running and what processes are currently running. If you see any you do not want, you can click on them, then click End Task. Be very careful to only end processes you know, as ending an unknown process could cause errors.

Step 5

Perform maintenance on your computer by using the Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter. These are usually found in the System Tools folder in your application list. Using these on a regular basis can help keep your computer running smoothly and help your applications run faster. If you haven't run them for an extended period of time, they may initially take a little while to finish.

Tips & Warnings

  • While there are a few good ways to help get your computer running more quickly again, the best method is prevention. Keep your computer's hard drive clean, don't let too many applications run in the background, and perform maintenance (such as the disk cleanup and disk defragmenter) on a regular basis to keep it running smoothly.
  • While there are many methods to help speed up a computer or keep it running well, age and use will eventually take its toll on your computer. If you require more speed, more memory or disk space, you may need to eventually purchase a new computer.
  • Be wary of free programs claiming to clean your disk, your registry or perform other actions. Many of these programs may not work, and may actually cause damage to your hard drive or files. Always research any program before using it.