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Speed-up a slow PC

Updated on May 11, 2013

How Slow is your PC?

f you are like most people, you will no doubt have noticed you computer seems to have slowed-down a bit since you first had it.

This can be down to the fact that, over time, your operating system has probably downloaded several megabytes of updates. Add to this, all those programs you may have bought/downloaded and installed and the multitude of photos, music & documents that you have put on your hard-disk, and it's n wonder your computer is taking longer to boot-up or to load programs.

Other factors can include insufficient memory, or a failing hard-drive. As a rule of thumb, Windows XP will boot on a PC with 128Mb Ram, but will run VERY slowly. It runs best on 512Mb, and can handle up to 3.5Gb. On the other hand, Windows Vista/7 needs at least 2Gb to be usable,  and 3.5Gb to run at full-tilt.

Luckily for you, the process of restoring some (if not all) of the lost speed is easier than you might think. Basically it involves 4 stages, these being Back-up (making a copy of those important files), Clean-up (removing the debris), Update (are you running out of date software & drivers?) and finally, Diagnostics (not as scary as it sounds).


The most important thing to do BEFORE you attempt to start cleaning & updating your computer is to move all of the photos, music, video & documents you want to avoid loosing onto either an external hard-disk or 1 or more USB pendrives. This is as easy as plugging-in the device, then opening 2 instances of 'My Computer'. In the first one, locate the files you want to save, in the 2nd, open-up the device you are backing-up too. Now, all you have to do is to drag and drop the files across from your 'source' drive to your 'destination' drive. This may take several minutes depending on how much you have to copy.

Don't forget your emails. If you use Mozilla Thunderbird, then you can download a free utility called 'MozBackup' from HERE. This will allow you to backup/restore not only your emails, but your FireFox browser settings as well.

For MS Outlook, Outlook Express & Windows Mail, try THIS, it isn't free, but you will only need it for a couple of days.

BEFORE you back-up your emails, open-up your email client & empty all of your 'Spam', 'Junk', and 'Deleted Mail' folders. These can account for a significant amount of disk-space.


This is where we start to get our hands 'dirty', in so much as you will be removing unused programs, emptying 'bins' and generally freeing-up space on the hard-drive.

First things first,we need to have a look in 'Start->Control Panel->Add/Remove Programs (or if using Vista/7 'Programs and features'). Look at each of the installed programs and uninstall any that you haven't used for at least a year (DO NOT however, uninstall any Windows updates or drivers).

Locate and right-click on the 'Recycle bin' icon. In the menu that appears, select 'Empty Recycle Bin', then click 'Yes' when asked 'Are you sure?'. We will repeat this step near to the end of this section. Next open 'My Computer' (or if using Vista/7 'Computer'), right-click on the icon for the 'C:' drive & in the drop-down menu select 'Properties'. A box will appear, in the bottom half of which, is a diagram of the selected drive in pie chart formation, the free space is indicated by a magenta-coloured slice. Just to the right of this is a box marked 'Disk Cleanup'. Click this, then make sure all the boxes are 'ticked' before clicking on 'ok', at this point, Windows will automatically remove all the files in the folders that have been selected.

Once this is complete, click on the 'Tools' tab at the top of the box. Among the tools listed is ''Defragment Now'. This is Windows built-in defragmentation tool (basically, when you are working on files such as documents, every time you click 'save' the computer attempts to place the file back in the 'hole' it occupied on the hard-disk. If the file is too big, then it will get split-up and saved to two (or more) parts of the drive. What defragmentation does is to move all the parts of a file to a 'hole' big-enough to fit it all in). There are several 3rd-party defragmentation tools available if you don't want to use the built-in one

You have now removed unwanted/unused programs & defragmented your hard-disk, now you can begin the process of updating things.


From time to time, your computer's maker will release new drivers that make the computer more stable, or fix issues caused by Windows updates. One reason for a slow computer may be down to obsolete drivers. This is easy to fix. If you bought your PC 'over the counter' you should find either on the case, or in the manual, the make & model number. By googling the makers' name, you can locate the makers' website. Here, you will usually find a link to 'Drive Downloads' or 'Support', from within here you can search the model number and download the latest drivers. Some of these files may be in '.zip' format, so a trip to Ninite is worthwhile. Whilst you are there, why not use the one-for-all installer to install 'Ccleaner', 'Malwarebytes' and any other programs you might find useful.

If you can't find a model number, or the PC was shop-built, then a trip to HWinfo to download 'hwinfo32' is in order. This is a powerful little utility that will identify the make & model number of not only your mainboard, but your graphics card as well. Note these down then close HWinfo, and google the mainboards' maker. Just like looking for drivers for an over the counter PC, you will be able to visit the makers' website and search by model number.

There are a few 'automated' driver checking programs such as 'Device DR' and 'Driver Agent', some of these are free, others have a trial version (which usually means it will identify which drivers need to be updated, but won't download them for you), and the rest are paid-for. Speaking from a personal point of view, I found the paid-for version of 'Driver Agent' to be extremely good at its' job, I ran it on several of my customers machines and it had no trouble in locating and downloading the drivers I needed.

For graphics cards, just follow the paragraph above.

That's it, all you need to do is another quick clean-up (without 'defrag' this time), and you are ready for the final stage.


For this, you will need either 'Ccleaner' & 'Malwarebytes' (install from 'ninite'), or IOBit 'Advanced Systemcare from HERE (this is an alternative to 'Ccleaner').

Run Malwarebytes first, making sure to update it. Malwarebytes is a powerful anti-malware program, and by running it first, you will remove any 'nasties' that your antivirus software may have missed.

Next-up is either 'Ccleaner' or 'Advanced Systemcare'. When you run these, they check the registry for broken links to programs and libraries, if they find any problems, just click the 'fix' button. Make sure to re-run the scan, fixing any new errors as they crop-up. When you do a re-run, and encounter no new errors, then you know you have fixed all the problems.

To maintain your system's new-found performance-gain, it is worth carrying-out a full clean-up every month. That way, the process will take less time & there is less chance of a build-up of 'rubbish' on your PC.

Clearing the clutter left by updates

When Microsoft fire-out updates to their O/S's, they always leave behind a trail of backup files on the system just in case you need to uninstall the update in question. These can soon amount to quite a large chunk of drivespace.

Luckily for Windows 7 users, Microsoft has included a command that will remove all the backup files left behind when you install a major Service Pack (SP).

To clean these files off your PC->

Click 'Start', then 'All Programs'. Look for the 'Accessories' folder & in there you will find 'Command Prompt'. Right-click on this & selsct 'Run as administrator'.

When the command prompt opens, enter the following command -

dism /online /cleanup-image /spsuperseded

This will remove the backup iles left by an SP install. In my case, it freed-up 1.3Gb of drive space.

Turning-off unused services.

Windows runs a lot of services that just trundle along in the background & use-up CPU time, memory & (in some cases) harddrive space.

One of these is the 'hibil' service which controls the 'hibernation' mode in Windows 7. This kicks-in when you shut the lid on your laptop & writes an image of the memory & pagefile onto the harddrive. This is what makes a laptop fire-up really quickly. Obviously, this is not a function that is used a great deal on a desktop PC, so it can be turned-off.

You need to run 'Command prompt' as administrator (see previous section). Once the command prompt is up, type in the following command -

powercfg.exe -h off

This will disable the hibernation mode & can free-up around 6Gb of drivespace.


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