0PC Hardware CPU RAM UpgradeSimple ways to make your PC much faster

There are lots of tips and advice out there on the inter­net about how to tweak the per­form­ance of your PC. Some of them have some use­ful tips, but the vast major­ity are of very little use, either because they are for the wrong oper­at­ing sys­tem, or they don’t apply to your setup, or because they’re just plain wrong. When someone brings a PC to me and says its too slow, before I advise them to upgrade it (and that is always an option) I have a quick look for sev­er­al things that are the lead­ing cause of slow PC per­form­ance. Over 90% of the time car­ry­ing out the vari­ous steps detailed below res­ults in a sub­stan­tial improve­ment and a happy PC user.

Some of the advice provided is very easy to fol­low. Some requires a little bit more tech­nic­al com­pet­ence. If you’re not sure what you’re doing it’s bet­ter to stop and ask than to mess up your sys­tem even more.

1. Anti-Vir­us / Fire­walls etc.

There is an abund­ance of secur­ity solu­tions out there. Some are bet­ter than oth­ers. The most com­mon ones often come bundled with new PC’s. They may be effect­ive, but in my view the “cure” is almost as bad as the “dis­ease”. Suites by big names (e.g. Norton, McAfee) take an appaul­ing toll on the per­form­ance of your PC, and come with a yearly renew­al “tax” to boot. The first thing to do is replace them with an excel­lent and free solu­tion with a low impact on sys­tem per­form­ance: Microsoft Secur­ity Essentials

  • Down­load secur­ity essen­tials for your ver­sion of Win­dows from Microsoft
  • Unin­stall your pre­vi­ous anti-vir­us suite: Go into con­trol pan­el and then open “add/remove pro­grams” or “pro­grams and fea­tures” (depend­ing on your ver­sion of win­dows). Look for and unin­stall any products related to: Symantec, Norton, McAfee, Sophos, Kasper­sky, AVG, Avast, Bit­De­fend­er, Panda, Trend Micro.
  • Note — Wiki­Pe­dia provides a full list of anti­vir­us software
  • Install and update Secur­ity Essentials

1b. Secur­ity

Whilst we’re updat­ing your anti-vir­us pro­tec­tion it is worth updat­ing vari­ous oth­er pieces of soft­ware to reduce the likely­hood of any nas­ties get­ting onto your PC

2. Check for nasties
In my exper­i­ence the large major­ity of typ­ic­al 3+ year old PC’s are infect with some kind of nasty, even if they have had anti-vir­us soft­ware installed.  Before going any fur­ther it is worth check­ing for and elim­in­at­ing any mali­cious programs.

  • Run a full scan with Microsoft Secur­ity Essen­tials and remove any­thing it finds
  • Down­load Sys­tem Ninja and in the pro­cess man­ager tab run the “Mal­Run Des­troy­er” tool
  • If you are still sus­pect there may be mal­ware present, try using one of the free online vir­us scan­ner (e.g. House­Call)

3. Remove old soft­ware that you no longer use

If you have old soft­ware that you nev­er used still installed it is worth remov­ing it. It is occupy­ing disk space which causes a small reduc­tion in per­form­ance, and it is also pos­sible that it has ser­vices or start-up util­it­ies that were installed with it that will be run­ning on your sys­tem all the time using resources for no good reason!

  • Open con­trol pan­el and then open “add/remove pro­grams” or “pro­grams and fea­tures” (depend­ing on your ver­sion of windows).
  • Go thru the list and unin­stall any pro­grams that you are con­fid­ent you no longer need or use

4. Clear disk space and tem­por­ary files

Over time all PC’s build up a col­lec­tion of unnecesary files. These slow disk access, and Win­dows response times. They are easy to clear auto­mat­ic­ally. The first thing to run is a built-in Microsoft tool, and then to be thor­ough, also down­load and use a free utility

  • Click on start, all pro­grams, accessor­ies, sys­tem tools, disk cleanup (or use start: run and type cleanmgr)
  • Wait for the scan to complete
  • On Vista and Win­dows 7 click the “Clean up sys­tem files” but­ton on the win­dow that appears
  • Tick all the options and click OK
  • Down­load and install CCle­an­er
  • Down­load and install CCEnhan­cer
  • Run CCle­an­er
  • Click Ana­lyze
  • Click Run Cleaner
  • If you haven’t already, down­load Sys­tem Ninja
  • Run Sys­tem Ninja and use the “Junk Scanner”

5. Run a disk defrag

This prob­ably wont do a great deal for per­form­ance over­all, but if you freed up much disk space with steps 2 or 3 then it should improve win­dows boot-up time and may make a small dif­fer­ence to respons­ive­ness. Some ver­sions of win­dows carry out sched­uled defrags any­way in which case this wont make any dif­fer­ence, but it cer­tainly can­’t do any harm.

  • Open start: all pro­grams: accessor­ies: sys­tem tools: Disk defragmenter
  • Fol­low the instructions

6. Install or update chip­set drivers

Many PCs I have encountered over the years have used very out­dated, or simply haven’t had any chip­set drivers installed at all. Hav­ing very old chip­set drivers, or rely­ing on the gen­er­ic drivers microsoft builds into win­dows can some­times severely impact performance.

  • Down­load, install and run CPU-Z
  • Select the “main­board” tab
  • Make a note of the first 2 entries in the line “chip­set”. These will be the man­u­fac­turer and model.
  • If the inform­a­tion isn’t clear or help­ful try using Speccy instead
  • Most chip­sets are man­u­fac­tured by: Intel, Via, Sis, AMD / ATi, nVidia, ULi / ALi
  • Go to the man­u­fac­tur­ers web­site and find the “down­loads” sec­tion (click­ing on the man­u­fac­turer name above should take you to the cor­rect area)
  • Search for drivers appro­pri­ate for your ver­sion of win­dows for your mod­el of chipset
  • Down­load and install drivers if you loc­ate them.
  • Restart win­dows

7. Install or update video drivers

This is unlikely to make much dif­fer­ence to gen­er­al win­dows per­form­ance, but it could make a large dif­fer­ence to some applic­a­tions, espe­cially games.

  • If you haven’t already, down­load, install and run CPU-Z
  • Select the “Graph­ics” tab
  • Try to identi­fy the man­u­fac­turer and the mod­el name of your graph­ics chip from the name box, CPU-Z will prob­ably dis­play a logo with the man­u­fac­turer name on.
  • If the inform­a­tion isn’t clear or help­ful try using Speccy or GPU-Z instead
  • The man­u­fac­turer is likely to be one of the fol­low­ing: Intel, nVidia, AMD / ATi / Radeon, Via, Matrox, SiS
  • Go to the man­u­fac­tur­ers web­site and find the “down­loads” sec­tion (click­ing on the man­u­fac­turer name above should take you to the cor­rect area)
  • Search for drivers appro­pri­ate for your ver­sion of win­dows for your mod­el of graph­ics card
  • Down­load and install drivers if you loc­ate them.
  • Restart win­dows

8. A hard­ware issue…

Your PC needs good air­flow to keep cool. Whilst mod­ern PCs are unlikely to crash from over­heat­ing, they instead suf­fer severe per­form­ance degrad­a­tion. The CPU will detect that it is get­ting to hot and will decrease its speed to keep cool. This is an issue that I have very fre­quently encountered with laptops. Desktop PCs are far less prone, but many still suffer.

  • If you have a desktop PC take the case off (unless it is still in war­ranty in which case skip this tip!) and check for dust or fluff in the large met­al heat­sink. Also check for dust or fluff inside the case in gen­er­al. If there is much present I recom­mend dis­con­nect­ing the wires, mov­ing the PC to the open air and care­fully using a vacu­um clean­er (or even bet­ter an air dust­er / com­pressed air) to remove as much of the dust as possible.
  • If you have a laptop or port­able care­fully check the vents in the bot­tom, side and rear of the cas­ing. With some laptops it may also be pos­sible to remove the part of the cas­ing over the area. Care­fully remove any dust or fluff. If there is sub­stan­tial fluff block­ing the vents that you can­’t remove try using an air dust­er. If this fails con­sider tak­ing your laptop to a loc­al expert.

9. Star­tup pro­grams: the most dif­fi­cult, but most effective…

This is the largest and most com­plic­ated part of any PC clean-up pro­ced­ure and as such I have giv­en it a ded­ic­ated post. (com­ing soon!).  In the mean­time, use the Star­tup Man­ager included with Sys­tem Ninja

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