How to Speed Up Your Computer

If you are looking for easy ways to boost your computer I can help you with these really simple (but super effective) tips.

They are everything you will ever need to get you computer start faster, run smoother and stable. The shops are misleading you with these ads for newer and maybe faster computers, but the truth is that you simply don’t need them. There is absolutely no difference for the average consumer if it is with 6 or 8 GBs of ram, 2.0 or 2.2 GHZ, or 500GB hard drive instead of 1TB.

Currently there are no slow computers on the market! Even your smartphone is faster than your computer 5 years ago. I will share a secret you will NEVER read on the labels at the shelf – the most important part today of your pc is the operating system + your hard drive (and the slowest). Did you know that almost 99.9% of the hard drives for laptops sold today are 5400rpm, but the average hard drive for standard desktop is 7200rpm?

In this article we will speed up your Windows XP, Vista and 7.

Note: backup your important data and do a system restore point before doing these recommendations!
atanas yanev's computer
Follow These Instructions:

  1. Check for viruses and malware with the latest anti-virus definitions
  2. Scan, repair and defragment your hard drive with built-in defrag
  3. Setup your page file (SWAP)
  4. Tweak visual effects
  5. Check your power settings (laptops only)
  6. Remove unnecessary startup programs
  7. Update all drivers
  8. Stop Windows from indexing hard drives
  9. Stop Windows system restore
  10. Stop superfetch (Windows Vista only)
  11. Free space on your hard drive via disk clean up
  12. Hibernation mode
  13. Check BIOS settings
  14. Install all current Windows updates available
  15. Stop file sharing, computers in network and remote printers
  16. When to Upgrade your PC
  17. Replace your hard drive with SSD!
  18. My personal tips

1. Check for viruses and malware with the latest anti-virus definitions

Keep your computer clean from viruses There is no built in stable virus protection for Windows XP and Vista. 7 is better, but still not the best. You can scan your computer with a dozen of programs – free or paid. We will take a look at the free version of AVG. You can download it absolutely free from http://free.avg.com.

avg free antivirus


Main screen from AVG free edition

update avg free
Please, take a closer look when installing AVG free – it will try to replace your default search provider and add its toolbar – simply uncheck them on installation. When you have installed it you might need to restart your computer. The most important part is to keep your virus definitions up to date – start AVG, go to Tools -> Update.

This will download (note: your computer have to be connected to internet!) latest virus definitions so you will be protected from all current known viruses. Remember to update virus definitions at least once a week! Best will be to set a schedule for that. Go to Tools -> Advanced settings -> Schedule -> Update definition schedule. Set it to whatever you like, but at least once every 7 days. Also AVG will give you additional protection – it will scan all your incoming emails, will check websites in real time for Trojans, will block already installed software that might be spying you. This is so far the best free anti-virus solution I’ve found.

For malware protection there is an awesome software “Malwarebytes”.

malwarebytes protection

malwarebytes home screen

It is absolutely free and you can download it online here http://www.malwarebytes.org. This software will scan for and remove any malware installed on your computer.
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2. Scan, repair and Defragment your hard drive with built in defrag in Windows XP/Vista/7

windows7 builtin scan defrag
Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 are equipped with awesome disk scanner and hard disk defragment software.
Go to My Computer -> Right click on the drive you’d like to scan or defrag -> Select Properties -> Tools -> Choose defragment or scan disk. hdd scan options

Run at least twice a month the disk scanner – it will try to locate and fix broken allocations and prevent from future errors. It is highly recommended to scan for bad sector once in a month or two. It will isolate bad sectors from the file system table (whether it is NTFS or FAT16/FAT32). If you wonder what is the main reasons for data loss – it is bad sectors.

Defragment your hard drive at least once every two weeks – the hard drive is the slowest part of your computer and storing hundreds and thousands of files is really time-consuming and complex. Defragmentation is actually rearranging the files on physical drive for faster seeking, reading and writing.

The built in defragmenter in Windows is good and will do the job, but there is better external software. Diskepeer. It is free for 30 days, so you can try it out right now, download it from https://www.condusiv.com/landing/diskeeper/.

If you’d like to use other free defrag software you can take a look at Auslogics Disk Defrag.

Auslogics Disk Defrag homescreen

Auslogics Disk Defrag

It has a free version, which is working good as is, no need to upgrade to the paid version. You can get it from here http://www.auslogics.com/en/software/disk-defrag/.

Defragmenting your hard drive will definitely boost the system.
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3. Set your paging file (swap) to be fixed size

Windows XP, Vista and 7 are using your hard drive as a backup RAM via large file, called paging file, or swap file. Basically if you are running out of RAM Windows will not shut down or freeze but will use hard drive – it will allocate the required size and will start to use hard drive as a RAM device. To give you a clue how bad this is: DDR3 reads data at 6400MB per second. 7200 rpm sATA hard drive reads data at max 100MB per second. Again: hard drive is the slowest part of your PC.

The problem is that the auto-sized paging (SWAP) file is usually above 1GB. There are three ways to choose from:
– get more RAM,
- set the swap file to reasonable size in well defragmented disk
- disable the SWAP file totally if you have over 3GB of RAM.

The SWAP file in Windows 7 is called “virtual memory” and can be managed via Control Panel -> System -> Advanced system settings -> Advanced Tab -> Performance (Click on Settings) -> Advanced – > and finally Virtual Memory section with clickable button CHANGE.

swap file settings for windows 7

swap file settings for windows 7

The most common rule is to use 1.5 x RAM. For example if you are with 1GB of ram you can set your SWAP file to 1536MB. Initial size and maximum size should be the same. Then click SET, restart your computer and enjoy your beer. This will not give you instant boost, but surely in long term will be better for your computer’s overall performance when is on full load.
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4. Remove all windows visual effects and run classic theme

Did you know that Windows 7 is way faster than XP? No? Well, almost everybody is using all of the new fancy visual effects and modern themes with transparency, fade in and out etc. This takes much more CPU resources, RAM and HDD usages than super clean and classical Windows XP theme.

Did you know that your Windows 7 might act and look absolutely the same as Windows XP? By default your Windows 7 is installed with the most heavy and resource consuming theme, just like my laptop as you can see from the photos above.

To get instant boost you can change your theme to classic, stop most from the visual effects (yeah, I do know that you’ve paid a lot for you Windows 7 or Vista license to feel and look modern).

Windows visual effects To stop the visual effects from your computer go to Control Panel -> System -> Advanced system settings -> Advanced Tab -> Performance section – click on “Settings”. visual effects for windows 7

There are 4 options to choose from:

  • Let Windows choose what’s best for my computer
  • Adjust for best Appearance
  • Adjust for best Performance
  • Custom

To test the difference click on custom and check ALL options. Beautiful but slow, right? Then uncheck ALL and restart again. Slow? No? But ugly? Maybe. Go again to custom and check the options you would like to keep.

Classical Windows Theme windows classic theme selector

To change your theme in Windows 7 right-click on your desktop, choose personalize, scroll to bottom and select “Windows 7 basic” or “Windows Classic”. You will have to log-off to see the changes. There are other predefined themes also, if you don’t like the classic one you can try the others.
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5. Check your laptop’s power settings

laptop  power options
If you are using laptop you can get better performance disabling all “save battery” options. In Windows 7 go to Control Panel -> Power Options -> select High Performance (once when you are on battery and once when you are wired).
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6. Remove any unwanted startup programs

how to start msconfig
To see what programs and services are loaded on startup go to start menu and type “msconfig” and hit Enter. msconfig options

Go to Startup tab and take a look at what is being loaded. Got Samsung phone a year or two back but the slowest program ever – Kies – is still executed on startup? Uncheck it! Do this for all programs you don’t need. Go to Services and Uncheck even drivers for peripheries you are not using, such as old printers and scanners, your previous phones etc, networking services if you are not in network. This will definitely speed up your startup time and will greatly lower your overall PC load.

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7. Update all drivers

New driver versions are being released almost weekly, including for older devices like video cards and sound cards. New drivers are fixing problems, compatibility problems, adding new features.

Did you know that buggy driver for your LAN card can get your system unstable and painfully slow? This is due to that Windows is trying to handle the work of you LAN, literally guessing every single millisecond if the device is working properly. I’m pretty sure that you’ve seen the message: “windows has found new driver and will try to install its drivers automatically”. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Go to the manufactures websites and download and install the latest drivers – you can’t go wrong with that. Just make sure you are downloading drivers for your Windows version (check and for 32bit or 64bit).

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8. Stop Windows from indexing hard drives

disable disk indexing
Windows tries to scan and index every single file on the hard drive, which is very slow process and is running at… when it decides!

Windows is trying to guess what is the best time to do this, but is not perfect and the results are awful. Go to My Computer, right click on your main hard drive and click properties. At the bottom you will see checkbox with label “allow files on this drive…”. Uncheck it and restart your computer.

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9. Windows System Restore

system restore
System restore is a good thing. Saved my life many times while I was messing with the registry or other system files. But the best is to create restore points when you want to, not when your windows is telling you to. Go to Control Panel -> System -> System protection. Click on “Configure” and decide what to do – to lower the hdd space allocated for restore points or disable them at all. Note that you will be able to Create restore points manually.

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10. Stop SuperFetch for Windows Vista

Windows Vista is trying to act smart preloading all programs that is thinking you might use in the future. This slows down greatly your CPU, RAM and HDD.

Type “services.msc” in your start menu to list all services, double-click on Superfetch service and select “disable” for startup type.
superfetch disable

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11. Free space on your hard drive, use Disk Cleanup

windows disk cleanup Keep your hard drive with at least 10GB of free space. Run the built-in disk cleaner frequently to free up some space and remove temporary junk files, dump files, IEs browser cache and other stupid files. Go to My Computer -> Right click on the drive you would like to clean and hit Properties. Select “Disk Cleanup”. Hit Clean Up System Files and your are done.

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12. Use hibernation mode

windows hibernate mode
Did you know what hibernation is exactly? Hibernation is to pause Windows in a manner that is very useful if you are frequently shutting down and starting your computer. Basically Windows will copy your RAM to your hard drive, then will go to “deep” sleep mode. When you start your computer it will load almost instantly – no need to load all services, settings and everything. Windows will copy the data from your hard drive to RAM in a second or two.

That’s how I’m saving around 5 minutes per day (4-5 boot cycles), multiply by 365 days = 1825 minutes per year. Or that is almost one full day in the year of looking at the “Windows is loading” screen. So use hibernation instead of shut down. Not exactly speed booster, but time saver.

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13. Check your BIOS settings

biosWhen you turn on your PC there is a screen with instructions how to go in BIOS menu. F2, F5 or something like that. When you are there you can look around – if you are not using parallel port (haven’t seen anybody using it for maybe 10 years now) disable this, disable any built in video or sound card if you are using externals, stop everything you don’t need. You can’t broke anything permanently – there is always option to “restore default settings”. Check if there are performance settings – boosting your CPU speed with 10% or similar, enabling more cache etc.

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14. Install all current Windows updates available

update windows 7
Microsoft are known for their constant hot/important/critical updates. Daily. They are trying to fix bugs and performance issues. That is why it is so important to keep everything up to date. Go to your start menu and hit “Windows Update”. You can set to download them automatically, but I’d rather prefer to update things manual.

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15. Stop file sharing, looking for computers in network and remote printers

Click on the start menu, type in the box “file sharing” and hit Enter.
Turn off EVERYTHING if you are not using these services. disable file sharing

Pay special attention to Public Folder settings – turn this OFF! You don’t want someone to upload infected file or something, right?

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16. When to Upgrade your PC

If you are working on some old archaic CRT monitor – replace it immediately. Nowadays LCDs are cheaper than shoes. I’m with 23″ LCD and it totally rocks, my productivity went up with at least 25% due to the higher resolution and the beautiful picture. If your keyboard and mouse are old – go get new one, the most ergonomically you can find.

Did you know how the computer companies are stealing your money? If you are using 4 years old computer you will not be able to upgrade its CPU or ram – the sockets are changing now every 3 years.

Basically my recommendations are as follows:

  • if you are with lower than 2GBs of RAM – upgrade. RAM is as cheap as beer, go get as much as possible.
  • if your CPU is lower than 1.5GHZ – go get a new one, do not look only at the GHZ – this is a marketing trick – look at CPU’s cache and other numbers, not only GHZ.
  • if your PC is older than 4 years and you are no more comfortable with it – get a brand new one, there is no option for upgrading.

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17. Replace your hard drive with SSD!!!

solid state disk drive
Did you know that there is a new type of hard drives? They are called SSD and are faster than you can imagine. They are working entirely different than the normal hard drives – there is no moving mechanics, only chips, just like in your phone or camera. Getting SSD will increase your PC speed by at least 500%!

SSD will boost:

  • computer startup time
  • copy/paste timings
  • programs will load faster
  • access time to your SWAP file will decrease drastically

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18. My personal tips

  • Setting your swap file to load from different hard drive (physical, not logical one). If you have other drive – test this.
  • Removing any unused programs – almost every program leaves some services active, even when you don’t need them. My favorite players are mobile phone software – Nokia, Samsung, Apple – they are always leaving at least one service running constantly. Look around in their options and turn off startup, services and everything that you don’t need loaded all the time.
  • Reinstall your Windows once in a while. I do know it is hard and time consuming, but it is worth. Backup all your data, create a list with currently installed programs and specific settings. Format your hard drive and start a clean installation. There is almost no case when overwriting Windows will help with anything. When something is wrong – it will stay wrong. Start from scratch.
  • Do not use any of these softwares claiming to fix your PC with one click. Do not use any of these “ohhh your registry seems very broken, let us fix this”. They are never working as they are stating.
  • If you are ok with Windows XP do not upgrade to Windows 7. Don’t listen to those that say it is old or broken. Every IT guy in the world wants to sell you something – maybe commissions for selling Windows are great, I don’t know.
  • You can’t go wrong testing something. Click around your computer options, do not do something you are not sure what it is for. If you don’t know – use google to find out or ask in the forums.

FAQ Table

Symptoms: Solutions:
Very slow pc boot time;
Programs are starting very slow;
Slow copy-paste
Defragment your hard drives.
Programs are hanging and/or crashing often;
Computer is very slow;
Check for viruses and malware;
Update all programs and install latest Windows Updates
My computer is constantly crashing Reinstall or Repair Windows
Computer is slow and getting blue screen (BSOD) all the time Check your hardware – start with testing your RAM, motherboard, CPU

Programs to test your system

The following programs are for testing your computer’s performance after you have done all steps.

Memtest – test your RAM for errors. Use it when you think your RAM is broken.

3d Mark – Best performance checker, especially if you are gamer. Useful for CPU/GPU testing.

Bookmark this website and come back once a month – I’m adding constantly tips for speeding up computers, laptops and servers.

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