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Help! My PC is Too Slow, How Do I Speed it Up?

Help on speeding up your old PC. What to try and what to avoid.

I get asked more often than not, “how do I speed up my old PC ?” This is a rather loaded question, which takes a bit more probing to determine exactly which problem(s) you are facing. The first question to ask is, how is it slow?

  • Is it slow starting up?
  • Is it starting to become slower to run programs that used to run faster?
  • Is it slow to surf the internet?
  • Are programs and software not running like they used to?

As you can see, there are a number of different ways a computer can be slow.

There are a multitude of problems that can affect PC performance.

One problem that is quite common is that newer software is written for newer systems that have newer processors which speed through data faster and more efficiently. Technology is on a constant refresh cycle, by the time you buy a new PC it is pretty much outdated, as new technology is introduced very frequently. There are basically two ways to help you speed up that old PC; hardware upgrades and software optimization.

Hardware Upgrades:

One of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to speed up a computer is to install more, and or faster RAM. Most PC’s are purchased with bare bones RAM due to manufacturers overcharging for this feature, when in fact RAM is really inexpensive at this point in time, and always a good investment. RAM can be installed by anyone handy with a screwdriver and only takes moments to install. Just be sure to purchase the correct RAM and the correct amount that is usable by your PC. That information will be available in your PC’s manuals.

CPU’s are upgradeable in many computer systems as well, and can help gain quite an increase in performance. Unlike RAM, however, CPU’s can be more expensive and require more technical expertise to install.

Another avenue that can give you significant speed increases is to install a SSD in place of your old hard drive. They make a world of difference, but they are more expensive than platter based hard drives, but are well worth it.

Video cards on many desktop PC’s can also be upgraded, these vary greatly in price but can have a huge impact on video gaming and graphics intensive programs.

Other problems that are hardware-related can also affect performance. Malfunctioning video cards, bad cables, overheating due to dirty or malfunctioning fans, the list goes on. These problems should be diagnosed by a professional.

Software Optimization:

I cannot stress enough the importance of having a good anti-virus suite. When purchasing or reformatting a computer’s hard drive this should be the first thing installed. This software also needs to be configured properly for optimal protection. Some internet service providers provide anti-virus suites with the service you already pay for. Comcast offers a version of Norton Security Suite that is free and can be installed on every computer in the household.

The second thing that should be put into action is a good back-up regimen.  If your data gets corrupted by a virus, it is better to have a back-up that’s clean than to have to try to clean a virus from your data. Some viruses will write code into, and corrupt every file that you access while the virus is active.

Something else that is pushed online and in various brick and mortar chain stores is how they can speed up your PC by running their special software.  There is no super fix-all software regardless of what you are told. There are, however many separate programs that are free that do a great job when used together. The main tools that are needed are a registry cleaner, spyware remover, and an uninstaller.

Uninstalling applications that are not used, or that you didn’t mean to install will help free up some space and remove items that you didn’t want. Computer users may often install what is called malware, crapware, or junkware. These programs are often self-installed by tricking you to click on them, or by telling you that a virus has been detected when in fact they are malware. I will cover these types of applications in a future article.

Running a good spyware remover can reveal a bevy of hidden software on your computer that you didn’t know was considered spyware.

Running a good registry cleaner will get rid of junk files that are bogging down your system as well as remnants of programs that have long been removed. Always do a back-up of your registry before deleting anything, this way it is very easy to restore. Most software that cleans registries also provides a way to back it up first.

Beware, there is a huge difference in virus removal, which can be a long involved process-depending on the virus or viruses infecting your system, and simply reformatting your hard drive and reinstalling software.  In the case of viruses, a professional should be consulted. The best practice is to always back-up anything that you deem important. There is an abundance of ways to back-up your data and I can’t recommend doing it enough. I will address various data backups in future articles.

If at any time you feel uncomfortable with any of the above procedures, I highly recommend you talk to a professional. The best techs will always ask multiple questions to try and pinpoint problems, and the better ones even make house calls. A lot of techs are more reasonably priced and have many years of knowledge on the chain stores.

If you have any questions feel free to email me by clicking here.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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