How to Make Your Computer Faster
Over time, it is a common complaint that computers seem to behave more slowly. As more and more programs are installed than uninstalled, bits of orphaned code are left in the system's registry, causing it to balloon to many times its original size. Many people resort to purchasing extra RAM in an effort to make their computer run faster, and are disappointed with the result. For many applications, extra RAM may not improve the perceived speed of a computer at all. Often, the key to a faster computer can be found in software, rather than hardware. The easy steps in this article can easily help restore a computer to its previous speed.
1. Defragment the hard drive
When new data is written to a hard drive, the first available portion of the spinning platter is written on. If this space is not large enough, the hard drive continues the file on the next available section. Over time, this can result in files that are broken into many different fragments, resulting in slower performance when the files are read. All versions of Windows ship with their own defragmentation utilities, or for greater speed and flexibility, a third party utility such as Diskeeper (http://www.diskeeper.com) may be used.
2. Remove unneeded startup programs.
Over time, it is common to see many programs installed on a computer that lose their usefulness, such as software for mobile devices that are no longer used, or software that is more of the fun variety such as weather monitors. Prevent them from starting by using the MSCONFIG utility. In Windows XP, hit Start, then Run. Type "MSCONFIG" (without quotes) in the window and hit Enter. In the window that appears, click the Startup tab. Uncheck any programs that do not need to be launched automatically when the computer starts up, and hit OK.
3. Scan for viruses and malware.
If the computer started responding slowly recently, the cause of the problem may be viruses or malware, malicious programs that run in the background and are often installed without permission. A number of solutions exist that can scan for and remove these, such as ZSecurity (http://www.zsecurity.com) and TrendMicro Housecall (http://housecall.trendmicro.com). Some of these solutions are free, but a modest fee is generally charged for the best ones.
4. Clean the registry.
When programs are installed on the computer, information that is necessary for those programs to run properly is added to the Windows system registry. Unfortunately, when those programs are uninstalled, much of this information is not completely removed, causing slowdown. CCleaner (http://www.ccleaner.com) is a free utility that can remove this unneeded data from the registry, along with temporary files and other unnecessary items, speeding up the computer and increasing hard drive space.
Advanced (should only be attempted with assistance from a professional):
5. Reinstall Windows.
After many years of using a computer that is running the same installation of Windows, formatting the hard drive (stripping it of all data) and reinstalling Windows may be the most effective way to speed the computer up. When doing this, it is important to ensure that your data is completely backed up. For this reason, it may be advantageous to perform this step along with step 6, which is purchasing a new hard drive.
6. Purchase a new hard drive.
Because a hard drive reads and writes data on rotating platters and the CPU and RAM transfer data as quickly as electronics can move, the hard drive is always the slowest component of a computer system (aside from the optical drive). Additionally, the hard drives that can be purchased from electronics retailers double in size, and increase greatly in speed, every 2-3 years. The hard drive is also often the first component of a computer that stops working properly, due to the fact that it is a mechanical component. Purchasing a hard drive and reinstalling Windows are best done together, because the old hard drive can be left in the computer for data storage, allowing you to back up the important files from your previous installation at your leisure, knowing that you will not need to erase the drive until you are positive that all of your crucial files are safe.