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You might have noticed that your computer has never been as fast as it was when you first got it. But do you know why our devices slow down over time? Many of us have a number of misconceptions about sluggish PCs, so let’s crack these open and find out how to actually speed things up.

There are myths about slow computers that still get rehashed to this day: keeping too many files slows your machine down; you need to buy as much RAM as possible Avoid These 7 Common Mistakes When Buying A New Computer Avoid These 7 Common Mistakes When Buying A New Computer I built a new computer a few years ago. I’ve always considered myself above average in the tech field, but looking back, I have a few regrets with the system I built - some of... Read More ; viruses are designed to make everything run sluggish. In actuality, these statements aren’t true. Although they do have nuggets of truth contained within, it’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Common Myths

Let’s run through some common misconceptions about slow computers. First, however, it’s worth pointing out that you shouldn’t feel foolish if you’ve believed or acted upon them. They’re “common” for a reason and in the past I’ve been under the impression that some of these were correct too.

Also bear in mind that the majority of these misconceptions won’t have actually harmed anything, although they might have caused you to misuse your time or money. But don’t worry about that now: let’s dissect them and see what we can learn.

Misconception 1: Malware is the reason for a slow computer

While it’s certainly true that being infected with viruses and spyware 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer We would like to think that the Internet is a safe place to spend our time (cough), but we all know there are risks around every corner. Email, social media, malicious websites that have worked... Read More can slow things down, more often than not you won’t notice much of a difference if your system has been infiltrated. These programs are designed so that you won’t notice them. The developers don’t want you to realise there’s something untoward going on, else you might attempt to remove it. Malware is mostly designed to steal your information – for as long as possible.

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If you do suspect foul play, the best thing to do is to check your machine’s health. In fact, this is something you should be doing regularly; daily is best. We ran a comparison of some free anti-virus tools Free Anti-Virus Comparison: 5 Popular Choices Go Toe-To-Toe Free Anti-Virus Comparison: 5 Popular Choices Go Toe-To-Toe What is the best free antivirus? This is among the most common questions we receive at MakeUseOf. People want to be protected, but they don’t want to have to pay a yearly fee or use... Read More , checking the performance and interface of products such as AVG and Microsoft Security Essentials. More recently, we also reviewed Avast Stay Protected From Every Type Of Malware With Avast Free Antivirus Stay Protected From Every Type Of Malware With Avast Free Antivirus Comprehensive malware protection doesn't need to cost a fortune. Many reputable free antivirus programs are equally effective as paid ones, and avast! Free Antivirus stands with the best Windows antivirus programs. Read More  separately. Be aware, that you should only ever use one anti-virus program; not only do multiple anti-virus programs not make your computer safer, they can also cause software conflicts.

Misconception 2: Clearing personal data from your hard drive will boost performance

Most often, clearing personal data from your hard drive won’t speed up your computer. This could mean your photos, videos or music – no matter how huge these files might be, it doesn’t matter one bit. Unless…

There is one caveat to this. If your drive is dangerously low on space (like only a couple of GB being free), then your computer will drastically slow down. This is because most programs need room to dynamically grow and decrease in size, usually through the creation of temporary files. If there’s no room on the drive to store these, your system will crawl.

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To overcome this, you can delete some of your files or invest in a new drive. You don’t even have to ditch your current drive if you don’t want to. Just get an external drive, attach it to your system and offload some of your less-often accessed data on there.

Misconception 3: Replacing and upgrading components is guaranteed speed

While you might think buying a new hard drive How To Install A New Hard Drive To Replace An Old One How To Install A New Hard Drive To Replace An Old One Read More or investing in more RAM is going to get silky smooth performance, this isn’t strictly true. It actually depends on your system and the specific component that you’re buying.

Hard disk drives (HDD) are mechanical devices, meaning they have moving components inside. When you ask your computer to load up some data your hard drive has to physically work; it spins a platter and scans it with a magnetic head to find the data. Hard drives are commonly classed by revolutions per minute (RPM). Simply put, the higher this figure, the quicker your data can be accessed. You’ll notice improvement the greater the RPM, but eventually this becomes negligible for common use.

The real upgrade is going to come from moving from a HDD to a solid state drive The Complete Guide On Installing A Solid State Hard Drive In Your PC The Complete Guide On Installing A Solid State Hard Drive In Your PC A solid state hard drive is one of the best upgrades available for a modern computer. It increases the load times of programs dramatically, which in turn makes a PC feel snappier. Results can be... Read More (SSD). SSDs use flash memory How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] Over the past few decades, there has been a considerable amount of work in the field of computer hardware. While computer technology is constantly improving and evolving, rarely do we experience moments where we simply... Read More , like a USB stick or SD card, and don’t have any moving parts, thus can access data quicker. SSDs are currently much more expensive than HDDs, so it can make sense to split your system into two drives. The SSD can hold the operating system (the data that powers your system and is constantly accessed), while the HDD can contain all other files.

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RAM is another component that is commonly thought of as providing buttery speeds. RAM is essentially where data in use is stored, so that the system can access it quickly. As you might expect, the more RAM How To Upgrade A Laptop's RAM, Step By Step How To Upgrade A Laptop's RAM, Step By Step Is your laptop old, slow, and has the hardware never been upgraded? Working on a slow computer can be a real drag. Before you buy a completely new one, however, you should consider ways to... Read More you have, the more temporary data can be stored on it.

The idea that RAM offers greater speeds for your computer is true – for the most part. As you’ve probably expected, this comes with some pitfalls. 32-bit versions of Windows 4 Easy Ways to Know If You're on a 64-Bit Version of Windows 4 Easy Ways to Know If You're on a 64-Bit Version of Windows Are you using a processor that supports a 64-bit operating system and are you running a 64-bit operating system? The average off-and-on PC user probably doesn't know the answers to these questions, although they should.... Read More are only capable of using up to 4GB of RAM. You can have as much as you want inside your system, but it’ll never use anything over the limit. Handily, Microsoft provides a list of the memory limits for all versions of Windows.

Misconception 4: Cleaning your registry speeds up your system

This is perhaps one of the grandest myths of all. All over the Internet you’ll find programs advertising the fact they can provide massive performance improvements to your computer by cleaning out your registry. This is utter nonsense. Registry cleaners provide no good use Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Advertisements for registry cleaners are all over the Web. There’s an entire industry out there bent on convincing inexperienced computer users that their registry needs fixing, and that, for ten easy payments of $29.95, their... Read More .

The registry is a database that Windows and other programs use to store settings. Your registry may have some outdated files in it, perhaps from software you’ve used in the past and have since uninstalled. You might think that you need to get rid of these, but fact is they’re kilobytes in size and you’d never notice a difference even if they got removed.

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The problem with registry cleaners is that they can end up removing things that are needed. Messing with the registry is not to be done lightly. You can severely break your system and it isn’t worth the risk.

Misconception 5: A fresh install of the operating system is the ultimate way to gain speed

It’s entirely possible to just wipe everything on your system and do a completely fresh install of your operating system. Some computer manufacturers will have this function built in as a recovery partition, allowing for a few simple button presses and reverting everything back to how it was when it left the factory. You can factory reset your Windows PC 4 Ways To Factory Reset Your Windows Computer 4 Ways To Factory Reset Your Windows Computer A reset to factory conditions is the quickest and easiest way to return to normal. Not only does it get your computer clean, it will also run at optimal performance. Read More  in a few different ways.

Naturally, this is going to help speed up your system because it’ll remove everything How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation In addition to the standard System Restore feature, Windows 8 has features for "refreshing" and "resetting" your PC. Think of these as ways of quickly re-installing Windows -- either keeping your personal files or deleting... Read More you’ve ever stored or installed on the computer since you got it. While you might fancy the idea of nuking your system and going back to day one, it’s not entirely advisable for a number of reasons.

First of all, perhaps most obviously, you’ll have to go through the effort of putting data back on and reinstalling programs you need. It goes beyond that, though – think about any tweaks you’ve made to your system in getting it set up just how you like it.

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Following on from this, unless you actually change the way you use your computer then it’s eventually just going to slow down again anyway. All those programs will build up once more and you’ll be left in the same position as before the wipe. While a fresh install can be advisable when nothing else speeds up your system, it shouldn’t be the go-to choice.

A more advisable approach to take is to create regular images of your system. Lots of programs will let you do this. Creating an image of your system How To Clone Your Hard Drive How To Clone Your Hard Drive Copy the entirety of one hard drive to another. It's called cloning, and it's an important process if you want to replace or upgrade the primary hard drive in your computer. Cloning isn't the same... Read More essentially means making a mirror copy of absolutely everything. Unlike data backup, which usually just copies your personal files, a system image will replicate every single bit of data stored on the drive. You can choose how often you want it to take an image, but every month is a good place to start. That way, if you experience severe system slowdown, you can revert back to a former copy of your system.

The Best Ways To Speed Up Your System

We’ve covered misconceptions on how to provide speed, so let’s now turn to methods that actually will provide enhancement. Handily, we’ve already published lots of content on how to accelerate your Windows machine.

Windows 7 Speeding Up Windows 7: Everything You Need to Know Speeding Up Windows 7: Everything You Need to Know Read More

Most of these tips are ones that any user can carry out, regardless of their technology proficiency. For example, you might not be aware that some programs have been given permission to start automatically and constantly run in the background. Some of these you might not even use that often, if at all (in which case uninstall them), so keep your eye on start-up programs.

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Additionally, some of the more fancy visual elements of Windows 7 can be disabled to offer greater performance. If you can forgo things like animations and Aero Peek How To Enable & Troubleshoot Aero Effects In Windows 7 How To Enable & Troubleshoot Aero Effects In Windows 7 Read More , get turning them off. Besides, there’s no use in something looking good if it doesn’t work as well as it could. You’ll especially notice a benefit if you’re on an older system.

Windows 8 How to Make Windows 8 Go Faster: 8 Tips For Improving Performance How to Make Windows 8 Go Faster: 8 Tips For Improving Performance Whatever you think of Windows 8 (at MakeUseOf, our opinions are mixed), it’s certainly speedy. Windows 8 boots faster than previous versions of Windows, has lower memory usage, and has a desktop that feels nice... Read More

The Task Manager in Windows 8 The Windows 8 Task Manager: A Gem Hidden In Plain Sight The Windows 8 Task Manager: A Gem Hidden In Plain Sight While many parts of Windows 8 are debatable (maybe Modern is the future; maybe it's not), one element of Windows 8 that has undergone a massive overhaul and made it unequivocally more awesome is the... Read More is great for determining what programs are using up the most of your system’s resources. It’ll break every program down to show how much CPU, memory, disk and network juice they drain. The old processes list is still available for those who prefer it, but the new task manager allows you to see at a glance what might be causing issues.

Windows 8 Task Manager Processes

Another great benefit about Windows 8 is that it includes its own security applications Five Tips For Managing Your Security In Windows 8.1 Five Tips For Managing Your Security In Windows 8.1 Read More , meaning you don’t have to bog your system down with third-party suites. Not only will it check for viruses and spyware, but it’ll also analyse how trustworthy the programs you download are.

The Windows Speed Up Guide The Windows Speed Up Guide The Windows Speed Up Guide This manual explains why Windows slows down and what you can do to prevent this from happening too quickly. Read More

This is the top dog of speed up guides. Everything you could ever want to know about the speed performance of Windows is comprehensively detailed here: why it slows down, how to maintain peak power, troubleshooting steps, and more.

If you’re serious about wanting to get the quickest computer you can, look no further than our Speed Up manual.

How Do You Ensure Your Computer Runs Smoothly?

We all love having speedy computers, right? Although it can sometimes be difficult to find the root cause of system slowdown, it’s always worth hunting down what the problem is. Life’s too short to be sitting around waiting for Windows to slowly decide its next step.

Just remember not to get caught up with some of the misconceptions discussed. There certainly are ways to make your computer faster, but things like registry cleaning and personal data deletion aren’t usually the way to go.

What are some system slowdown myths you’ve come to realise aren’t true and how do you speed up your system?

Image Credits: magician Via Shutterstock, Mr Robot has some RAM by isherwoodchris, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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