It’s a common scenario: your computer slows down, becomes unresponsiveness with long load times, and makes the simplest tasks frustrating. That’s when you ask yourself — how can I fix a slow computer?

Understanding and fixing a slow computer can seem like a daunting task. Happily, it’s not! This guide will show you how to fix a slow PC with six simple steps, so let’s jump straight in!

Looking to speed up your laptop instead? Check out our complete guide on How to Make Your Laptop Run Faster. 

Why is my computer so slow?

If you notice your computer starting to slow down, it’s likely because you have too many programs running at once. Powering several programs at once takes a lot of processing power, impacting performance and speed. There are two ways to fix this: first, decreasing the number of programs running, and second, increasing your computer’s memory and processing power.

Whether you need to disable some start-up programs, defrag your hard drive, or upgrade your hardware, this article will help you discover why your computer is running slowly and how to fix it.

1. Identify programs that slow down your computer

There are two ways to fix this issue: decrease the number of programs running, or increase your computer’s storage and processing-memory power.

How to find out which programs are slowing down your PC

Your computer might be being bombarded by high-level apps that start automatically and run in the background, or maybe by a program you opened and then forgot to close.

Closing, or even removing unnecessary programs, can instantly speed up a slow computer.

For Mac:

Press Command and Space to open Spotlight Search. Type "Activity Monitor" and press Enter. In Activity Monitor, you'll see which programs are open, and how much CPU and memory they're using. You can close any programs you're not using.

For Windows:

To do this, simultaneously press Ctrl, Alt, and Delete on your keyboard, and select Task Manager. On the Processes tab, you'll see which programs are open, and how much CPU and memory they’re using. You can then close any programs you're not using.


Windows task manager image

If they're programs you rarely use or no longer need, then also consider uninstalling them.

How to disable start-up programs

Some computer programs automatically open when you start up your device. Disabling these start-up programs is another way to speeding up your computer.

For Mac:

Navigate to System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items. To see which programs will open upon start. If you want to remove an item from the list, select the item and click the "-" (minus) button below the list. This will prevent the application for starting automatically when you log in.

For Windows:

Go back into Task Manager, and the Start-up tab will show you any programs set to open when you start your computer. Consider what you really need to open automatically, then turn off the other programs using the Disable button in the bottom corner.

2. Check your web browser and add-ons

If your computer's running slowly while you surf the internet, you should make sure you're running the latest version of your web browser. If there’s an option to install new versions automatically, then enable it.

Another browser hack is to avoid having unnecessary add-ons and extensions. Depending on your browser, you should be able to find a menu called Add-ons or Extensions to view and delete any you no longer use.

For Google Chrome: 

Click on the three-dot menu in the top-right corner. Go to More tools > Extensions. Review the list of installed extensions. To remove an extension, click the Remove button and confirm. Diable an extension by toggling the swtich off if you want to keep it but not use it all the time.

For Microsoft Edge:

Click on the three-dot menu in the top-right corner and select Extensions. Click Manage Extensions to see the list of installed extensions. To remove an extension, click Remove and confirm. Disable an extension by toggling the switch off if you want to keep it but not use it all the time. 

3. Defragment your hard disk drive (HDD)

HDDs save data in small groups across the disk. Over time, different pieces of related data end up spread all over the place. It then takes longer for the system to find each piece of data and bring it back together when you open a program or app.

Defragmenting (or defragging) your HDD will bring related bits of data back together, and speed up your system.

Note: SSDs do not need to be defragmented since their technology is entirely different than HDDs.

For Windows:

To defrag your HDD, click on the Start menu or Windows button, select Control Panel, then System and Security. Under Administrative Tools, click on Defragment your Hard Drive.

Windows defrag hard drive image

You can choose for the process to run on a regular schedule, or you can click Analyze Disk and determine if the process needs to be run immediately.


4. Identify hardware limiting your computer's speed

Identifying and replacing outdated hardware can make an older computer feel brand new! An upgrade can also be significantly less expensive than buying a new computer.

Your storage drive and memory (RAM) are the two key pieces of hardware most related to the speed of your computer. A dated storage drive will slow down your performance, even when defragmented, while too little memory offers limited resources to run multiple programs.

5. Free up hard drive space

A full hard drive can significantly impair a computer’s performance, regardless of the operating system. When the hard drive is nearly full, the system doesn't have enough space to manage virtual memory and temporary files efficiently, which are essential for smooth operation. This lack of free space can cause applications to hang or crash, slow down system processes, and increase boot times. It's generally recommended to keep at least 10-20% of your hard drive capacity free to ensure optimal performance.

To free up space on your computer, start by identifying large files and unused applications. Every operating system provides tools to help you analyze what types of files are consuming the most space. For instance, you can use built-in storage management features to review and delete old files, duplicate files, and large media files that you no longer need. Regularly cleaning out your Downloads folder, clearing old email attachments, and emptying the Trash or Recycle Bin can also reclaim valuable space.

To learn more about freeing up storage space on your Mac read our article on How to Free Up Storage Space on a Mac System.

Another effective solution is to move large files, such as videos, photos, and backup files, to an external SSD (Solid State Drive). External SSDs are fast, reliable, and provide a convenient way to expand your storage without overloading your internal drive. By offloading rarely accessed but important files to an external drive, you free up critical space on your internal hard drive, which can significantly improve your computer’s performance. This not only helps maintain system speed and responsiveness but also provides a backup of your important data, enhancing your overall data management strategy.


6. Upgrade storage with an SSD

The critical difference between a traditional HDD and an SSD is the technology behind it.

An HDD has moving parts, which mechanically move an actuator arm across a spinning platter to find each data portion. In comparison, an SSD accesses data near instantly using flash memory chips, retrieving things like documents, images, and videos more quickly while using less power.

There are several varieties of SSDs you can explore to boost a slower PC. Crucial offers both internal NVMe SSDs and SATA SSDs; however, you'll need to consider a variety of factors first, such as compatibility, your system requirements, and your budget.

External SSDs offer all the benefits of internal SSDs without the need to swap out the drive inside your computer. Plus, they can be used with multiple systems and devices via an external USB cable.

Use the Crucial® System Selector or System Scanner to find the right SSD to speed up your system.

7. Add more memory (RAM)

Unlike the long-term storage of your SSD or hard drive, RAM acts as short-term storage, temporarily holding current data so that it can be quickly accessed.

Think of it as a desktop space where you have laid out the files, notes and tools that you are using right now.

Every time you do one of the following things, you're using RAM memory:

  • Moving your mouse
  • Opening and switching between internet browser tabs
  • Typing an email
  • Creating a spreadsheet
  • Editing photos or videos
  • Playing a game, listening to music, or watching a video

The more RAM you have, the more of these tasks your computer can handle at once. Adding more memory is a straightforward way to fix recurring slowdowns.

Upgrading your memory may sound intimidating, but it's easy. With a screwdriver, your owner's manual and a good how-to-install RAM guide, you’ll have new memory in your computer within just a few minutes. No computer tech or prior knowledge required!

The bottom line — what to do if your computer is running slow

You don't have to make monumental changes to fix a slow computer.

With a few small, manageable changes, you’ll see immediate and lasting results.

These changes and upgrades will make your PC faster, and ultimately save you time, stress and money!

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