If it seems like your PC is running more slowly than when it was new, it might not be your imagination. Computers really can slow down with age, but not because the hardware itself gets older or wears out – it's the software that bogs things down over time. Older computers can struggle to run newer programs that are optimized for efficiency on more recent computer models.
How to speed up your slow PC
While you can't magically make what's old new again, there are ways you can decrease the lag on your older desktop or laptop computer. Below are seven ways to restore your computer to its original speed.
1. Prune your startup apps
Over time, you'll add more and more programs to your PC's list of startup apps – the programs and processes that run when Windows starts. Not only does this slow down the startup progress, but it adds to the number of programs continually running in the background.
The remedy? Review the list of startup apps on your PC and disable ones that use a lot of memory or processor power.
2. Use fewer tabs in your browser
Surprisingly, web browsers are memory hogs. So running more than a few tabs can dramatically affect the overall performance of your PC.
It's easy to lose track of your browser's open tabs and have dozens up at once. But if your computer routinely slows down during the day, be mindful of your open tabs and keep them to a minimum. Here's how to check on your open tabs:
- Start your PC's Task Manager by right-clicking the taskbar and choosing "Task Manager."
- Select the arrow to the left of your browser to expand the entry. This will show you all your open tabs.
- Chrome users can do this through the browser's built-in tab manager by first clicking the three-dot menu in the top right corner of the window.
- Choose "More Tools."
- Select "Task manager."
- A list of currently running programs will appear. Click on a single program to select it.
- When the program is highlighted, click the "End Task" button that appears.
3. Schedule anti-malware scans
It's important to scan your PC regularly for viruses and other malware. You can adhere to a scheduled scan that your antivirus program chooses for you, but that might be in the middle of the day when you're working, bogging down your PC even more.
So consider scheduling your own scan for a time that works for you. To do this, start your antivirus software and look for its scan schedule. Adjust it so it always runs late in the day at lunchtime or another time when you're not actively using the computer.
4. Restart your computer regularly
Most people put their PC to sleep at the end of each day, so it starts faster in the morning and is automatically set up with whatever projects you had been working on the day before. But always putting your PC to sleep deprives it of the ability to do necessary house cleaning and flush out fragmented memory.
Always putting your PC to sleep deprives it of the ability to do necessary house cleaning and flush out fragmented memory.
To get the best performance out of your computer, restart the PC at least once every few days. You don't need to do this daily, but twice a week will keep it running at peak efficiency.
5. Pause OneDrive
OneDrive is a convenient cloud storage service included with your Microsoft 365 subscription. However, its constant synchronization can slow down your system. If you need the most performance from your PC possible, consider pausing OneDrive, which you can do for two, eight, or 24 hours at a time.
- Click the OneDrive icon in the system tray in the lower right corner of the Windows desktop.
- Select "Help & Settings."
- Click "Pause Syncing" and then choose how long you want to pause.
6. Install an SSD
If you have an older PC that isn't equipped with a solid-state drive (SSD), then no single thing will improve your computer's performance more than upgrading to an SSD.
This isn't a simple upgrade because it involves replacing your old system drive with a new one, reinstalling Windows, and then reinstalling all the programs you usually use. But an SSD can make your computer boot in seconds rather than minutes and start most programs almost instantly. It's a much more noticeable speed improvement than even upgrading to a new CPU.
7. Use ReadyBoost
If you have an older computer – especially one without an SSD – it might benefit from a Windows 10 feature called ReadyBoost. This tool lets you use a USB flash drive as additional memory.
In terms of overall speed improvement, it's similar to adding additional RAM to a free socket on your computer's motherboard but much easier. Here's how to do it:
- Insert a USB flash drive in an available USB port on your computer.
- Open File Explorer and right-click the USB drive.
- Choose "Properties."
- In the Properties window, select the "ReadyBoost" tab. Now, check to see if Windows can use this flash drive.
- If it can, click "Use this device" and follow the instructions to set up the drive as additional memory on your PC.