Wondering why your laptop is so slow?

Laptops can slow down for various reasons, so it takes some troubleshooting to figure out what the issue is. You may even find that it’s a build-up of several problems that’s slowing you down.

A few common causes:

  • Program issues
    • Resource-heavy programs
    • Automatic start-up programs
    • Maintaining unused programs
  • Hardware shortage
    • Not having enough storage
    • No external SSD
    • Needing more memory
  • Maintenance needs
    • A disk that needs cleaning
    • Needing to defrag your HDD
    • Using an old version of your web browser
    • Dusty ventilation
    • Not regularly restarting your laptop

How to speed up an old laptop

Before you go shopping for a new laptop, follow this step-by-step guide to learn why your laptop is slow and how you can resolve some of the issues your device might be facing.

1. Identify resource-heavy programs

The first step in speeding up an old laptop is to look at the programs it’s running. Programs can take up a lot of processing power, which will impact your laptop’s performance and speed. Some programs use very few resources when they’re idle; others use a lot of processing and memory power. Discovering which programs could be slowing down your laptop is the first step.

To see which programs are using the most resources on a PC:

  • 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, memory, and disk each is using.
  • You can then close programs you’re not using to reallocate resources to programs you are using.

If you have resource-heavy programs, you need to decide if they’re worth keeping, considering the impact they are having. If they’re not worth keeping, it may be best to permanently remove them.

2. Prevent start-up programs

Laptops often have programs that are set to start in the background automatically when you boot up your laptop. These are often programs that you’ll only use occasionally, meaning you won’t want them to start every time you turn on your laptop.

To prevent programs from starting automatically, follow these steps:

  • Press the Ctrl, Alt, and Delete keys at the same time.
  • Select Task Manager.
  • Click the Startup tab.
  • Look through the list of programs and right click on any you don’t want to start automatically.
  • Select Disable.

Depending on how many programs you prevent from starting automatically, you should see a faster start-up time. After starting up, your laptop should also run faster because you’ve freed up the resources that were running these programs in the background.

3. Uninstall unused programs

Many computers come with programs and apps pre-installed; you might not even know they’re on your laptop. Or you may have downloaded an app that you don’t use anymore. Deleting these programs can free up disk space so that the system can find the files you want more quickly.

To uninstall programs on a PC, follow these steps:

  • Open the Control Panel.
  • Select Programs and Features.
  • Right click on the program you want to remove and select Uninstall then follow the directions.

Note: Your computer will not show the Uninstall option for programs necessary to run the system.

4. Find out if you need more storage

Storage is essential for your laptop and plays an integral part in its speed and performance. When required, your processor will retrieve a file from your drive so you can carry out a task.

If your laptop has a hard disk drive (HDD), consider upgrading it to a solid state drive (SSD). An SSD can speed up your everyday tasks by up to six times as they use flash memory instead of the moving parts in HDDs, allowing the computer to find files faster.

Most laptop manufacturers use SSDs in their new laptops, either in SATA or NVMe form, because they are more durable, weigh less, and use less battery power than hard drives. Even if you have an SSD, it may be worth upgrading, especially if you're continuously getting messages about maxing out your storage.

To find out how much storage your laptop has:

  1. Click the Windows button and type Settings.
  2. Select System.
  3. Followed by Storage.
storage usage

You’ll get an overview of how much free space you have and what file types are taking up most of your storage capacity. If you don’t have much free space, you may consider deleting files or installing a drive with more memory.

If you choose to install a 2.5-inch SATA SSD or an NVMe SSD in your laptop, the installation process is fast, and you’ll instantly notice the results.

How to install a Crucial PCIe NVMe, part 1 of 4

5. Add an external drive

If you aren't ready to upgrade your internal storage, a quick and easy way to expand your storage is adding an external SSD. External storage plugs straight into your laptop via a USB cable, giving you tons of space in a matter of moments.

An external SSD can make a laptop faster by freeing-up space from your internal drive which will allow your laptop to retrieve files faster and more efficiently. They’re also great if you’re regularly on the go, or need to access files on multiple devices.

6. Check if you need more memory

Your laptop's RAM (random access memory) is vital to determining your system's performance, so adding more RAM can help to speed up a laptop.

Laptops with insufficient memory can struggle to keep up with even the simplest tasks. Upgrading your RAM will instantly increase the speed, performance, and responsiveness of your system, making multitasking much more seamless.

Follow these steps to see how much RAM is in your laptop:

  1. Press the Ctrl, Alt, and Delete keys simultaneously.
  2. Select Task Manager.
  3. Open the Performance tab and open the Memory window.
  4. You'll see how much RAM is in use and how much is available. The overall RAM capacity is in the top right corner of the window.
task manager image

It's hard to know how much RAM your laptop needs but, under regular use, if the available option is less than 25% of the total, it may be worth considering an upgrade. There are multiple generations of RAM, including the DDR3, DDR4 and DDR5, which generally offer performance improvements .

But be aware: newer generations of RAM will not fit in older systems. Before upgrading, you will need to check which RAM hardware is compatible with your device. The Crucial System Scanner can do that quickly.

And thankfully, upgrading your laptop's RAM can be done in 10 quick steps, so you should be able to get the issue fixed in no time.

How to install Crucial memory into a laptop

7. Clean your disk

Cleaning your disk will remove files that are no longer needed and can be safely deleted. It also deletes temporary files and empties the Recycle Bin.

To perform a Disk Clean up, follow these steps:

  1. Type Disk Clean up into the search box on the taskbar.
  2. Open the Disk Clean up app.
  3. Select the drive you want to clean. This is usually the C: drive.
  4. Under Files to delete, select the file types you'd like to remove, or click on a file type to see a description.
  5. Once you’ve checked the boxes for all the files you’d like to remove, click OK.

You should find that your computer is able to find your files more quickly.

8. Defragment your hard drive

This step is only applicable if your laptop uses a hard drive rather than an SSD. If you already have an SSD, you can skip this step.

You may need to defragment a hard drive because HDDs access information sequentially; having information in multiple places (fragments) increases the time the drive takes to access the data. Defragmenting (defragging) your hard drive moves data on the HDD into a logical formation, making it quicker to access.

9. Optimize your web browser

If you notice that your laptop is running slowly when you’re on the web, check that you have the most recent version of your web browser installed. Although the location of version information varies by browser, there will always be an "About" selection to show you. If there is an option to install new versions automatically, then 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 you don't want.

10. Remove dust

Some laptops become slow because of dust build up and one of the most overlooked ways to speed up your laptop is, simply, to clean it.

When dust collects in the fan, it obstructs airflow and causes the computer to overheat; the system will automatically reduce performance to stay cooler. In addition to wiping off the keyboard and case, you can use compressed or canned air to blow dust out the fan vents. Use short bursts of air to avoid damaging the fans.

11. Restart your laptop regularly

Leaving your laptop on is convenient but uses a lot of memory resources. Restarting your computer regularly closes programs you've forgotten about and are running in the background. Restarting also clears the memory cache and triggers any updates or patches waiting on a restart.

Be sure to restart correctly:

  1. Open the Start menu.
  2. Select Power, followed by Restart or Shut Down. Unless something has gone very wrong, always perform the proper restart or shut down process before pressing buttons, pulling out power cables, etc., as these won't do your system any good.
documents menu image


Simple steps to a faster laptop

The time spent waiting on a slow computer is frustrating — and all that time adds up. You don’t have to make monumental changes to fix a slow laptop. Just a few small, manageable fixes can deliver immediate and lasting results.

If the steps in this guide haven’t helped you to speed up your laptop, it may be worth speaking to a technician or considering replacement, but this should be a last resort.


  • Why do laptops slow down over time?

    There are many reasons why laptops become slow over time. Running unnecessary programs,  lack of memory, shortage of storage, dusty fans, overheating, using old web browsers, and more.

  • Will an external SSD make my laptop faster?

    Adding an external SSD to your laptop can improve system performance as it will enhance load speeds, free up storage for other system resources, and generally improve the laptop's overall speed.

  • Will more RAM speed up my laptop?

    RAM (random access memory) temporarily holds data for active applications so that information can be retrieved quickly while you use your laptop. Therefore having more RAM will allow you to multitask on multiple apps while facing fewer load delays.

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