The Absolute Definitive Guide To Speeding Up Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 Computers

Over time, computers running the Windows Operating System, be it Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7, begin to go slow. There are various reasons for this. In this article, I am going to provide you with the most common solutions to computer slow-downs.

Just work through this short guide, step-by-step and you’ll eliminate the most common speed problems with Windows computers.

1. Have you got enough free disk space on your hard-drive?

When your hard-drive starts to become full, it leaves Windows with less space to use for temporary work files and the like. So, it’s important to check that there’s enough space and to have an occasional clear-out of anything you don’t need any more.

Open My Computer / Right-click on the C: drive. Select Properties.

You’ll see a pie-chart showing the free space on the drive. Microsoft recommend that you have at least 15% of your hard drive free.

If you don’t have that then you’ll need to do some tidying.

Do do this, first, uninstall any programs you no longer use.

Go to Start / Control Panel / Add Remove Programs. (Programs and Features in Windows 7)

You’ll need to wait for a short while as it builds a list of installed programs. Look through the list for anything your DEFINITELY don’t use anymore. If you’re not sure if you need a program or not, don’t touch it! Click on a program name you want to remove and then click on the Remove option that appears. It will then take a short while as it uninstalls that program. Repeat this process until you’ve uninstalled everything you don’t need.

Once you’ve completed your initial basic housekeeping you may want to really go to town and use a tool like the fantastic CCleaner from Piriform.  It’s a free tool which will scan your computer for files that aren’t needed.  It will also clean up the internal configuration of the computer called the Registry.  CCleaner is also great for preventing programs running at the computer’s start-up, which will slow things down.  Once again, be careful to only remove programs from start-up that you know aren’t absolutely necessary.  You will be still able to run them manually, once the computer has started.

2. Is your data fragmented?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all technical on you! Your data, that’s the files stored on your computer’s hard-drive, documents, photos, videos, audio files, and the inner workings of the operating system itself, are initially stored on the drive in a way that makes it quick and efficient for your computer to access them again whenever you need them. Over the weeks, months and years, how this data is organised on the disk becomes fragmented. This basically means that one of your documents might not necessarily be stored in one continuous region of free space on the drive. It may be split across several different areas. This doesn’t affect the file at all, but it DOES make the computer work a little harder to retrieve all the pieces of the file and re-combine them when you want to work with it. Over time, especially if there isn’t much free space available, more and more files will become fragmented and the system will start to go slower and slower because of this.

So, how can you tidy up these fragmented files?  You’ve guessed it.. A disk defragmentation program!  Now, Windows comes pre-installed with a defragmentation tool which does the job, but I would really recommend trying the free tool, Piriform Defraggler, once again from those nice people at Piriform.

Depending on how big your hard-disk is, and how badly it’s fragmented the defragmentation process may take hours, so it’s a good idea to set it going and go and do something else until it’s finished.

3. Check your computer for viruses and malware.

If you don’t have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software installed I recommend, Microsoft Security Essentials, which is Microsoft’s own free virus scanner.  It does a great job and you pretty much install it and leave it and it doesn’t really get in the way like other scanners can.

I also recommend installing Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, another free tool which scans and removes harmful malware, which can also often slow down your computer.  The free version doesn’t run automatically, so you need to run it, update it and run a scan whenever you want to check things.  I recommend doing this every few weeks just to be on the safe side.

Note: Many of these free tools have more advanced paid versions that the developers would like you to pay for, so be careful when downloading and installing from their pages.  Usually, for most home users, the free versions are perfectly adequate.  Of course, spend your money if you want to, but more often than not you won’t need to.

Check the computer’s RAM memory.

Several years ago, computer Random Access Memory (RAM) was a lot more expensive than it is now.  Many computers came with the bare minimum that they needed and as you’ve added more programs and the operating system itself has constantly updated itself over time, it almost certainly is trying to use more than when you first had it.  If your computer runs low on memory it will constantly write data back to the hard-disk which is a lot slower than it processing this data in memory.  You can usually tell if your computer is doing this because the hard-disk light will constantly flash away.  It may even appear to be permanently on.  This is not good and means that your computer is trying to do more work than it can easily cope with.  Upgrading your computer’s memory is a very quick and easy way of speeding it up and making it run more efficiently.  Use Crucial’s Free Memory Advisor Tool to scan your computer and see if you can upgrade it.  In most cases this will make a HUGE difference to the speed at which your computer runs.  Once you’re on the Crucial site, click the Memory (RAM) section and find the SCAN MY SYSTEM option – and it’ll take care of the rest for you.  All Crucial’s great prices include P&P and the memory arrives incredibly quickly, usually next day, when I’ve used them (which is a lot!)

And that just about wraps up the basics of speeding up your Windows computer.  Let me know how you get on – It’ll be great to hear if this helped you.