Windows PCs don’t have to slow down over time. Whether your PC has gradually become slower or it suddenly ground to a halt a few minutes ago, there could be quite a few reasons for that slowness.
As with all PC issues, don’t be afraid to give your computer a reboot if something’s not working properly. This can fix quite a few problems and is faster than attempting to manually troubleshoot and fix the problem yourself.
Find Resource-Hungry Programs
Your PC is running slow because something is using up those resources. If it’s suddenly running slower, a runaway process might be using 99% of your CPU resources, for example. Or, an application might be experiencing a memory leak and using a large amount of memory, causing your PC to swap to disk. Alternately, an application might be using the disk a lot, causing other applications to slow down when they need to load data from or save it to the disk.
To find out, open the Task Manager. You can right-click your taskbar and select the “Task Manager” option or press Ctrl+Shift+Escape to open it. On Windows 8, 8.1, and 10, the new Task Manager provides an upgraded interface that color-codes applications using a lot of resources. Click the “CPU,” “Memory,” and “Disk” headers to sort the list by the applications using the most resources. If any application is using too much resources, you might want to close it normally — if you can’t, select it here and click “End Task” to force it to close.
Close System Tray Programs
Many applications tend to run in the system tray, or notification area. These applications often launch at startup and stay running in the background but remain hidden behind the up arrow icon at the bottom-right corner of your screen. Click the up arrow icon near the system tray, right-click any applications you don’t need running in the background, and close them to free up resources.
Disable Startup Programs
On Windows 8, 8.1, and 10, there’s now a startup manager in the Task Manager you can use to manage your startup programs. Right-click the taskbar and select “Task Manager” or press Ctrl+Shift+Escape to launch it. Click over to the Startup tab and disable startup applications you don’t need. Windows will helpfully tell you which applications slow down your startup process the most.
To disable animations, press Windows Key + X or right-click the Start button and select “System.” Click “Advanced System Settings” on the left and click the “Settings” button under Performance. Choose “Adjust for best performance” under Visual Effects to disable all the animations, or select “Custom” and disable the individual animations you don’t want to see. For example, uncheck “Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing” to disable the minimize and maximize animations.
Lighten Your Web Browser
Go into your web browser’s Extensions or Add-ons manager and remove add-ons you don’t need. You should also consider enabling click-to-play plug-ins. Preventing Flash and other content from loading will prevent unimportant Flash content from using CPU time.
Scan for Malware and Adware
To be extra safe, scan your computer with an antivirus program. You should also scan it withMalwarebytes, which catches a lot of “potentially unwanted programs” (PUPs) that most antivirus programs tend to ignore. These programs try to sneak onto your computer when you install other software, and you almost certainly don’t want them.
Free Up Disk Space
Defragment Your Hard Disk
You shouldn’t worry about defragmentation most of the time. However, if you do have a mechanical hard drive and you’ve just put a lot of files on the drive — for example, copying a huge database or gigabytes of PC game files — those files might be defragmented because Windows hasn’t gotten around to defragmenting them yet. In this situation, you might want to open the disk defragmenter tool and perform a scan to see if you need to run a manual defrag program.
Uninstall Programs You Don’t Use
Open the Control Panel, find the list of installed programs, and uninstall programs you don’t use and don’t need from your PC. This can help speed your PC up, as those programs might include background processes, autostart entries, system services, context menu entries, and other things that can slow down your PC. It’ll also save room on your hard drive and improve system security — for example, you definitely shouldn’t have Java installed if you’re not using it.
Reset Your PC / Reinstall Windows
On modern versions of Windows — that is, Windows 8, 8.1, and 10 — it’s easier to get a fresh Windows installation than ever. You don’t have to get Windows installation media and reinstall Windows. Instead, you can simply use the “Reset your PC” feature built into Windows to get a new, fresh Windows system. This is similar to reinstalling Windows and will wipe your installed programs and system settings while keeping your files.
If your PC is still using a mechanical hard drive, upgrading to a solid-state drive — or just ensuring your next PC has an SSD — will offer you a dramatic performance improvement, too. In an age where most people won’t notice faster CPUs and graphics processors, solid-state storage will offer the single biggest boost in overall system performance for most people.