I got to thinking about a question the other day simply because of the fact that someone that I was helping over the phone with their computer issues asked me a similar question. It went a little something like this, “So this computer is five years old and it is running really slow. Any way you can make this computer run a bit faster? We don’t have any money in the budget to purchase a new computer…”. Yes, I did help the person out by performing a few steps to give the computer some ‘new life’ which I will talk about further down in this post. Not a week goes by where I don’t see or hear some type of TV commercial or online marketing ad, or magazine article with the heading “Speed up your computer!” or “How to get your computer running like it is brand new”. Everyone has their own ideas of how to get a computer running like it is brand new. In the end, they always suggest to buy or run some maintenance software which more often than not, does NOT help with improving the performance of the computer. Sometimes they recommend to buy hardware upgrades. But what actually works? How can you actually improve the performance of your computer without spending any money or installing additional software? Lets take a look at some of the things you can do that actually helps to speed up your computer again, shall we?

There is one thing the I need to address first. Yes, there is one (and I repeat, only one) thing that I recommend you spend money on to help increase performance in your computer, and that is to upgrade the memory in your computer\laptop.

Adding more RAM installed in your computer actually does increase performance in your computer. But is it worth the cost? It depends. If your computer is more than 5 years old I do not recommend that you purchase anything for it. You really should start looking for a new computer. The computer should support DDR2-type or DDR3-type memory. Anything older than that becomes too expensive to upgrade. Last, your computer should have at least 2GB installed. Unless you are doing some serious video editing or gaming, there is no real need of having more than 2GB of memory. Don’t spend the cash if you don’t need to.

***I do not ever, EVER, recommend anyone to purchase software that claims to help speed up your computer (cough Norton Tools cough!) and I never, EVER, recommend that anyone go to a website that claims to speed up your computer because they are both a rip off (I am talking about you, …).
Lets move on to talking about the stuff you can do to speed up your computer for free…

Number #1: Run the Disk Defragmenter at least once per month.
This single step takes care of a great deal of performance issues in almost every computer. To run Disk Defragmenter, click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. Let it run during a lunch break or overnight at least once per month. Also, make sure to run Disk Defragmenter AFTER you make any changes to the computer such as install a new program or delete a bunch of stuff.

Number #2: Set the Virtual Memory cache to “System Managed”.
This is something that is still a problem in Windows XP. Windows really does know how to handle memory. But when a specific limit is placed on how Windows is allowed to manage the virtual memory, you can start seeing errors like “Not enough memory” or “Virtual Memory is too low”. By default, Windows XP and Windows 2000 sets the virtual memory limit to 1.5 times the amount of RAM installed in the computer (including virtual machines installations of Windows XP!), but Windows 7 automatically has virtual memory set to system managed. The process for making this change is the same in Windows 7 and Windows XP. To change this setting:

  • Click Start. Right click on “My Computer”, choose Properties.
  • Click on the Advanced tab.
  • Under Performance, click the “Settings” button.
  • Click on the Advanced tab.
  • Under Virtual Memory, click “Change” button.
  • Make sure the C: volume is highlighted. Click “System Managed Size” bullet option, then click the “Set” button.
  • Click OK. A warning appears onscreen to let you know to reboot the computer.
  • Click OK to close the Performance Options window, then click OK to close the Computer Properties window. Reboot the computer when prompted.

Number #3: Clear out all of the junk data in %TEMP%.
What is %TEMP%? This is the temporary files folder that Windows ‘dumps’ temp data into. FYI about Windows – Windows never cleans up the TEMP folder on its own. Over the years, it is possible to use up a lot of disk space with just temporary file data. It is a good idea to clean out this folder from time to time as some common programs rely on this folder to work. Also, old data can be too old or become corrupt and make a program run slower. To clean out the %TEMP% folder in all versions of Windows:

  • Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Command Prompt
  • Type “%TEMP%” without quotes, hit enter.
  • Windows Explorer will open in a new window displaying the temporary files folder. Delete all of the files you can in this folder, then empty the Recycle Bin. **Some files are locked. Don’t worry if you cannot delete all of the files.

Number #4: Remove programs from the computer that you do not use.
Get rid of the software that you don’t use any more. This will help to clean up disk space, and may also remove some services from starting up when you boot the computer (there by increasing computer performance). If you bought a different printer, make sure that old printer software is removed. For example, you used to own an HP printer. Last year, you threw out that HP printer and bought a Lexmark printer but the HP printer software is still installed. Remove the HP software. The correct way of removing software from your computer is through the Control Panel.

  • In Windows XP, click Start > Control Panel. Change to “Classic View” in the left navigation bar and double-click on “Add\Remove Programs”. Highlight a program from the list and choose “Change”, “Remove”, or “Uninstall” to go through the uninstall process for that particular program.
  • In Windows 7, click Start > Control Panel. Under Programs, click on “Uninstall a program”. Highlight a program in the list and choose “Change”, “Remove”, or “Uninstall” to go through the uninstall process for that particular program.

Number #5: Remove all browser toolbars from the computer.
This includes the Bing Bar, Google Toolbar, Yahoo! Toolbar, etc. Toolbars make your web browser slower, which unfortunately is by design. Get rid of them to reclaim your browser speed! To remove a toolbar app, follow the same steps to remove an application in step #4.
Number #6: Delete all cached data stored in your web browser.
All web browsers save a copy of all website data in a folder on your computer as you visit a site. Browsers do this to attempt to speed up the browsing experience by not having to re-download the same data all the time. There is usually a limit set for how much data it will actually store on your computer, but most browsers do a terrible job of cleaning up the old data. Every once in a while, you should clear out the browser cache data on the computer. Doing this will make your web browsing experience faster. Deleting the cache data may also help resolve any issues you could be having, or have had at one point in time, with a particular web site (such as errors or other problems). To do this in your web browser, click on an appropriate link below:

Number #6: Remove entries from the Startup tab in the MSCONFIG tool.
MSCONFIG is the System Configuration tool. You can disable services and other advanced things. The Startup tab is the most interesting feature because it displays all programs that run when you boot up the machine. You should remove any program from the list that you don’t use or don’t recognize as this will help to boot the machine faster, and not have a bunch of unknown programs run all the time. WARNING: If you don’t know what the program name is, do a Google search first BEFORE removing the entry from the Startup tab. To open the MSCONFIG tool:

  • Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Command Prompt.
  • Type “c:\windows\system32\msconfig.exe” without quotes and hit enter.
  • The System Configuration tool will appear onscreen. Click on the Startup tab and start looking at the program list.

Number #7: Make sure your antivirus software is set to run virus scans overnight, and actually let the scans run at that time!
Go back and read one of my previous posts for a reason on why you should do this. I can’t leave any instructions on how to do this because of how many different anti-virus apps are out there. You will have to find out how to do this by yourself. Sorry…

Number #8: Keep your Software Up-to-date!
Run Windows Updates, Microsoft Updates, Adobe Flash Player updates, Adobe Player updates, etc. This should be a given. Always make sure that you are running your computer and programs will the latest security and software updates. This makes sure your computer is as secure as it can be. Security updates also fix bugs and flaws, such as those that cause memory leaks (which eat up memory in your computer and can cause it to crash).

So, that concludes this extremely long post on how to speed up your computer. This is a pretty comprehensive list of some steps you can take to make your computer faster, as well as more secure and updated. Do you have more tips on how to speed up your computer? Post your tips in the comments area!