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How to Fix a Slow Computer

When your computer begins to slow down, and unresponsiveness and long load times become the norm, what’s the best way to solve the problem? Fixing a slow computer can seem like a daunting proposition, but it’s not; our guide will show you how to make fixes that can be done in minutes and instantly deliver lasting results.

Click here if you’re looking for how to speed up a Mac®.

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.

How programs use up your resources

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.

Remove unnecessary programs 

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.

Windows 7 task manager pop-up window with lots of processes running


Disable start-up programs

Computers often have programs enabled that start when you power on the computer. Or, there are programs that were needed on the initial start-up, but aren’t any longer. To see what programs are starting when you turn on your computer, press the Ctrl, Alt, and Delete keys at the same time. Select Task Manager. On the Startup tab, you can see the items that are set to open as soon as you start the computer. Consider what you really need to open when you start up and disable the other programs.

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 where 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.

Defragment your hard disk drive

Defragmenting, or defragging, your hard disk drive (HDD) can decrease the time it takes for the system to find each piece of data it needs to run programs and apps. Those pieces of data are stored on the hard disk before they’re moved to RAM so the program can access them.

If you have an HDD (as opposed to a solid state drive), the system records data in small groups in various places on the disk. Over time, there can be different pieces of data that are all related, but they’re spread out over the disk. It then takes longer for the system to find each piece of data. Defragmenting your disk will speed this process up. Find out more about defragmenting your hard drive.

To defrag your disk, click on the Start menu or Windows button, select Control Panel, then System and Security. Under Administrative Tools, click on Defragment your hard drive. You can select the process to run on a regular schedule, or you can click Analyze disk and determine if the process needs to be run immediately.

Hand pointer hovers over the defragment your hard drive link in Windows 7’s system and security pop-up window

Update hardware that can slow down your computer

Identifying hardware that might be due for an upgrade can not only make an older and slower computer feel new again, but can also be significantly more cost efficient than purchasing a new computer.

Two key pieces of hardware related to the speed of a computer are your storage drive and your memory (RAM). Too little memory, or using a hard disk drive, even if it’s been defragmented recently, can slow a computer down.

Upgrade storage with a solid state drive

Your computer’s storage drive is responsible for keeping the things you use every day, such as your operating system, programs, documents, pictures, and music. When it becomes out of date or slows down, it will make a noticeable impact in the performance of your computer.

Why an SSD helps speed up your computer

The key difference between a traditional hard drive and a solid state drive is the technology behind it. An HDD mechanically moves an actuator arm across a spinning platter to find each portion of data. An SDD, however, accesses the data digitally with flash memory chips. This allows SSDs to retrieve data like documents, images, and videos more quickly while using less power.

Use Crucial® Advisor or System Scanner tool below to find the right SSD to speed up your system.

Crucial solid-state drive (SSD) installed in a computer

Add more memory (RAM)

Unlike programs or videos that are permanently stored on the storage drive, memory stores data that is currently being used, allowing it to be retrieved quickly, functioning as a pool of resources for your system to get things done.

Every time you do one of the following things, you’re using memory:

  •  Moving your mouse
  • Opening tabs and surfing between them in your Internet browser
  • Typing an email
  • Creating a spreadsheet
  • Editing photos or videos
  • Playing a game, listening to music, or watching a video

Why adding memory helps your computer

The more memory you have, the more resources your system has at its disposal, meaning it can do things faster and handle more things at once. Adding more memory is a straightforward way to fix problems with slow performance when switching between apps and slow response times.

It’s easy to add RAM (memory) by looking at the Crucial® Advisor or System Scanner tools to see what products are compatible with your system. 

Crucial RAM installed in a computer

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 computer. Just a few small, manageable changes that deliver immediate and lasting results.

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