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How To Fix a Slow Computer

It’s a common scenario: your computer begins to slow down with unresponsiveness and long load times, making the simplest tasks frustrating. That’s when you ask yourself — what’s the best way to speed up my computer?

Understanding why your computer starts to slow down and how to fix the problem can seem like a daunting task. Happily, it’s not. This guide will show you how to fix a slow PC, with easy-to-follow steps that can be done in minutes, delivering instant results!

Why is my computer or laptop running slow?

If you notice your computer starting to slow down, it’s likely because you have too many programs running. Powering several programs 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.

For help with a Mac or laptop, see our guides for speeding up a Mac and laptops.

1. Identify programs that slow down your computer

If you rely on programs that use a lot of memory and processing power, it’s best to evaluate your memory allowance and daily consumption and compare that information to the memory demands of those programs you use most often. Sometimes your memory is being hoarded by high-level apps that start automatically and run in the background, or maybe by a program you opened and then forgot to close. Removing or closing these programs can speed up your computer and even create more space on your drive.
 

How programs use up your resources

Some programs use very few resources while they're idle. Others can use a lot of processing power and RAM, especially if they check the internet for updates or work on background tasks. This leaves fewer resources for other programs.

Think of this like a budget. Some programs may use a large proportion of your budget, leaving you with little power to complete other tasks. This will result in lagging, delays when switching between programs and slow data updates in other apps.

Remove unnecessary programs

To speed up a slow computer, close unnecessary programmes. To do this, press the Ctrl, Alt, and Delete. Select Task Manager. On the Processes tab, you can see what is open and how much of the CPU and memory it’s using. You can then close programs that you are not using.

Windows 7 task manager pop-up window with lots of processes running

Disable start-up programs

Computers often have programs enabled that start when you power on the computer. Or, there are programs that were needed on the initial start-up, that aren’t needed any longer. Disabling these can fix computer lag problems. To see what programs are starting when you turn on your computer, press the Ctrl, Alt, and Delete keys at the same time. Select Task Manager. On the Startup tab, you can see the items that are set to open as soon as you start the computer. Consider what you really need to open when you start up and disable the other programs.

2. Check your web browser and internet connection

If you notice that your computer is running slowly, check to make sure that you have the most recent version of your web browser. Although where the information varies by browser, there will be an About selection to show you the version number. If there is an option to install new versions automatically, enable it. Having too many add-ons and extensions can also slow your web browsing. Again, it depends on your browser, but you should be able to find a menu called Add-ons or Extensions that will allow you to delete any that you don’t want.

3. Defragment your hard disk drive

If you have a hard disk drive (HDD), as opposed to a solid state drive (SSD), it saves data in small groups in various places on the disk. Over time and use, different pieces of related data can end up spread all over the disk. It then takes longer for the system to find each piece of data and bring it back together for use when you open a program or app. Defragmenting (or defragging) your HDD can speed up this process, bringing related bits of data back together and thereby decreasing the time it takes for the system to find the data it needs.

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

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

Hand pointer hovers over the defragment your hard drive link in Windows 7’s system and security pop-up window

4. Identify hardware that can slow down your computer

Identifying and replacing hardware that is due for an upgrade can make an older computer feel brand new again. 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. With too little memory, you will only have limited resources to run multiple programs, while using a dated storage drive can slow down your computer even if it's recently been defragmented.

5. Upgrade your storage with a solid state drive

Your computer's storage drive is responsible for storing the things you use every day, such as your operating system, programs, documents, pictures, and music. Think of this as your computer's long-term memory. Comparable to a physical file cabinet, it is a place to store files you want to keep — even when your computer is turned off. When your storage drive becomes out of date or runs out of space, it will make a noticeable impact on your computer’s performance.
 

Why an SSD helps speed up your computer

The critical difference between a traditional hard drive 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. However, an SSD accesses the data digitally with flash memory chips, retrieving data like documents, images, and videos more quickly while using less power.

There are several varieties of internal SSDs you can explore to replace a slower drive. Crucial offers both NVMe SSDs and SATA SSDs to help you speed up your computer; however, you'll need to understand the difference between SSDs before making any purchases. Deciding what's best for you depends on a variety of factors, such as compatibility, your system requirements, and your budget.

External SSDs, such as the Crucial X8, are a relatively new version of solid-state drives. 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® Advisor or System Scanner tools to find the right SSD to speed up your system.

Crucial solid-state drive (SSD) installed in a computer

6. Add more memory (RAM)

Unlike the long-term storage of your SSD or hard drive, your 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 memory:

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

Why does adding memory help your computer run faster

The more RAM capacity you have, the more tasks your computer can handle quickly at once. Adding more memory is a straightforward way to fix recurring slowdowns when using or switching between apps.

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.
 

Crucial RAM installed in a computer

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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