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How to Make Your Laptop Run Faster

Looking to speed up your laptop? Check our tips on cleaning your hard drive, deleting temporary files, installing more memory, and cleaning up your system to get the most out of your laptop.

Identify programs that slow down your computer

If you have programs that use a lot of resources, you need to decide if they’re worth the resources they’re using. These could be high-level apps that you’re using, or it could be items that start automatically that you don’t use, or a program you opened previously and have forgotten about.

Some programs use very few resources when they’re idle. Others, especially if they’re checking the internet for updates or working on a task, can use a lot of processing power and a lot of RAM storage. There are then fewer resources for other programs to use. This can make switching between programs slow, and even data updates slow in some apps.

To see which programs are using the most resources, press the Ctrl, Alt, and Delete keys at the same time. Select Task Manager. On the Processes tab, you can see the items that are currently open and how much of the CPU and Memory each is using. You can then close programs that you’re not using to reallocate resources to programs you are using.

Clean up your disk

Cleaning your disk will remove files that are no longer needed and can be safely deleted. It also deletes temporary files and empties the Recycle Bin.

To perform a Disk Clean up, follow the procedure below:

  1. Click on the Start menu or Windows button
  2. Select My Computer or Computer
  3. Right-click on the drive you want to clean. This is usually the C: drive.
  4. In the dialog that appears, there will be a representation of how much free space there is on your disk. If the free space is less than 20% of the total size of the disk, click the Disk Clean up button.
  5. Verify the disk you want to clean. The computer will calculate how much space will be freed up.
  6. Check all the boxes, then click OK

Windows 7 Disk Cleanup for OS pop-up window

A clean hard disk will allow your computer to find files faster.

Uninstall unused programs

Many computers come with programs and apps pre-installed; you might not even know they’re on your laptop. Or, you downloaded an app that you don’t use any more. Deleting these programs can free up disk space so your system can find the files you want faster. 

To uninstall programs, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Start menu or Windows button
  2. Select Control Panel
  3. Click on Programs
  4. Under Programs and Features, select Uninstall a program
  5. Select programs you’re not using and click the Uninstall button

The computer will not show the Uninstall option for programs that are necessary to run the system.

Windows 7 Uninstall a program pop-up window

Prevent start-up pgrograms

Computers can also come with programs set to start automatically in the background. These can be programs you want and use occasionally, but not start automatically.

To prevent programs from starting automatically, follow this procedure:

  1. Right-click on empty space on the taskbar
  2. Select Start Task Manager
  3. Select the Startup tab
  4. Look through the list of programs for items that don’t need to start automatically. Right-click on any programs you want to prevent from starting automatically
  5. Select Disable

Depending on how many programs you prevent from starting automatically, you should see a faster start up time. After start up, there will also be an increase in speed because you’ve freed up resources that are no longer running these programs in the background.

Delete temporary files

Every time you visit a site on the internet, a temporary file can be installed. After you’ve left the site, these files are no longer needed. They continue to take up room on your storage drive, so deleting them will free up space.

Follow these instructions to delete your temporary files:

  1. Click on the Start menu or the Windows button
  2. Select Computer or My Computer
  3. In the left-nav bar, click the small arrow to expand the files on a local drive, usually C:
  4. Expand the Windows folder
  5. Select the Temp folder
  6. Select the first file in the list, hold down the Shift key, then select the last file with yesterday’s date
  7. All the files before today will be highlighted. Press the Delete key

With the freed-up space, your storage drive will be able to find your files faster.

Windows 7 Temp folder

Install a solid state drive

If your laptop has a hard drive (HDD), consider changing it for a solid state drive (SSD). An SSD can speed up your everyday tasks by up to six times.1 SSDs use flash memory to eliminate the moving parts present in HDDs, allowing the computer to find files faster.

For laptops, SSDs are more durable and energy-efficient. Most laptop makers are using SSDs for new laptops because they are more durable, lighter weight, and use less battery power than hard drives.

Add an external drive

If you aren’t ready to upgrade your internal HDD, you might want to consider purchasing an external hard drive, or an external SSD that plugs into your laptop with a USB cable.

Add more RAM

Laptops with insufficient memory can struggle to keep up with even the simplest tasks. Follow these steps to see how much RAM is currently installed in your computer, and if your computer will benefit from adding more.

  1. Click Start or the Windows button
  2. Select Computer or My Computer
  3. Right-click on your main drive, usually C:
  4. Select Properties
  5. Under System, see how much Installed memory (RAM) there is

You can then use this link to find out if your computer needs more memory.

Windows 7 System pop-up window

Defragment the hard drive

If your laptop uses a hard drive, it might need to be defragged. Because HDDs access information sequentially, having information in multiple places (fragments) increases the time the drive takes to access the information. Defragmenting (defragging) your hard drive moves data that is on the drive into a logical formation, making it quicker to access.

Find out how to defragment your hard drive.

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 the location of 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 add-ons and extensions that you don’t want.

Remove dust

One of the most overlooked ways to speed up your laptop is to clean it. When dust collects in the fan it obstructs air flow and causes the computer to overheat, the system automatically reduces performance to stay cooler. Besides wiping off the keyboard and case, use compressed or canned air to blow dust out of the fan vents. Use short bursts of air to avoid damaging the fans.

The bottom line

The time spent waiting on a slow computer is frustrating – and it all adds up. You don’t have to make monumental changes to fix a slow laptop. Just a few small, manageable changes that deliver immediate and lasting results. Cleaning your disk, uninstalling unused programs, preventing programs from starting automatically, deleting temporary files, installing a solid state drive, adding an external drive, adding more RAM, defragging the hard drive, and removing dust.