Windows 10 runs pretty fast — but you can make it even faster with a handful of tips and tricks!
There are three basic categories of speed and performance hacks: operating system (OS) tweaks, software enhancements, and app replacement or removal. You can also make all kinds of hardware upgrades, like buying more RAM or investing in an SSD, but those cost money, so I’m going to skip them.
Let’s start with the most effective ways to speed up Windows 10 and then move onto the slower options out there.
Windows 10 Operating System Speed Tweaks
1. Turn On Game Mode
The latest version of Windows 10, the Creators Update, adds a new feature known as Game Mode. There’s no way to perpetually run in Game Mode, unfortunately, but you can activate it with a simple key combination of the Windows Key + G. However, you must first enable Game Mode.
To enable Game Mode (it’s only available in Windows 10 Creators Update) open Settings > Gaming and choose Game Mode. Turn on Use Game Mode. It’s only supposed to be used for games, but you can activate it whenever you need to get a little burst of speed. It’s particularly useful if you have a lot of background apps that are dragging down a resource-intensive program.
Unfortunately, Game Mode only improves performance on games by a few percentile points. Even so, some will experience a greater performance boost than others. The reduced number of background apps may improve your performance where no other tricks would help. In theory, Game Mode can function within any application that uses GPU acceleration. So if you want to try it out in Adobe Premiere, give it a try.
2. Turn Off Visual Effects
Windows offers a really easy way to shut off all visual enhancements. Simply navigate to System > Advanced system settings and choose Advanced from the tabs above. Under Performance, choose Settings. Then check the radio button for Adjust for best performance to shut off all visual effects.
I have visual effects disabled on a few systems and it seems to make a big impact, particularly on older computers. On the downside, things won’t look as nice. I advise leaving Smooth edges of screen fonts enabled as it helps when reading text.
3. Speed Up Your Processor
Windows possesses three predefined settings (at least) for how your processor scales its frequency up to run processes. The three defaults are Balanced, High performance, and Power saver. (Sometimes manufacturers also include custom plans here.) You are almost always better off on a laptop using Balanced or Power saver, but High performance — as the name suggests — makes Windows faster. Because it consumes the most amount of power it’s also more appropriate for desktops. Choose it if you want to get the most juice out of your computer.
You can alter your settings by navigating to Power Options in the Control Panel.
4. Turn Off Startup Programs
About half of the programs that I install try to run silently in the background. That’s fine for just a handful of programs, but the effect on performance is cumulative. If your computer has enough programs set to run at startup, the entire system will bog down. Getting rid of non-essential startup software is absolutely essential for performance.
Fortunately, Windows makes it easy to remove most auto-starters.
Press the key combination of Ctrl + Alt + Delete to enter Windows Task Manager. Choose Task Manager from the menu that pops up. Then select the Startup tab from the top of the screen. From the Startup tab, you can eliminate most auto-starting applications. The majority of apps out there don’t need to run in the background, unless they came preinstalled with your computer (and even these are oftentimes bloatware).
Unfortunately, some programs hide in other locations, but you can find and eliminate stealth auto-starters as well.
5. Optimize Your Internet Connection
One of the biggest causes of slow internet speeds isn’t your provider. It’s your Wi-Fi connection. Thanks to common issues like channel congestion and overlapping Wi-Fi signals, it can be difficult getting a stable signal if you live in an apartment complex. Fortunately, most routers offer two features that can improve your connection’s speed and stability: a direct wired connection or you can change your router’s channel.
Configuring a wired connection is simple: just buy an Ethernet cable. Changing a router’s channel, while easy, requires a more in-depth explanation. A quick summary of the process goes like this: first, use a Wi-Fi analyzer tool to determine which channels work best for your computer, and second, go into your router’s settings to change the channel.
Check out a great video on how to do it:
6. Manage Windows Update for Performance
Change Active Hours
Windows Update, believe it or not, hogs resources when it runs in the background. You can configure it to run only at specific times — such as when the device isn’t in operation — which means no more restarts while you’re in the middle of some important task. To configure Windows Update to run only at specific hours, type Windows Update settings into the Windows Search Bar and run the configuration utility.
Under the heading Update settings, choose Change active hours.
You can change the active hours on this menu. I advise changing it a time period when the computer is on but unused.
Note: This setting only limits the times during which Windows will install updates automatically. Windows Update will still download updates during those hours.
Set Your Internet Connection to Metered
Should you be on a limited bandwidth Wi-Fi connection, Windows Update can significantly impact your internet performance by downloading updates in the background. You can prevent this by settings your connection to metered; this will disable Windows Update, though some security patches may still download.
Open Windows Settings (Windows Key + I) and go to Network & Internet > Wi-Fi. Select the network you’re currently connected to and under Metered connection > Set as metered connection turn the switch On.
Note: This only works with Wi-Fi networks, though a hack for applying this setting to Ethernet connections does exist.
Windows 10 Software Enhancements
7. RAM Disk
Out of all the apps out there that claim to improve performance, no program does it better than a RAM disk. A RAM disk program creates a drive using physical RAM, which is obscenely fast. Users then move parts of essential software to the RAM disk, which results in large gains in speed.
However, I advise RAM disk usage only for those who want to improve the performance of a single application. The most important examples of software that benefit from RAM disks are Photoshop, browsers, and video editing software. I’ll demonstrate how to combine a RAM disk with the Chrome Browser. I recommend that you have at least 1 GB of RAM free. In my opinion, users should have at least 8 GB of RAM for a 64-bit system (the difference between 64-bit and 32-bit) and at least 4 GB of RAM on a 32-bit system. But you can get away with less.
A lot of RAM disk software exists. My favorite is not free: SoftPerfect RAM Disk. However, if you just want to get your feet wet, give DataRAM’s RamDisk a try. The free version is limited to 1 GB in size. But if you own an AMD-based system, you get a 4 GB maximum instead.
Setting up a RAM disk just requires downloading and installing the software. After running the software, you need to configure it with the following options:
To recap, you should choose the maximum RAM disk size, which is around 1 GB. You can use any size but a smaller capacity limits its utility. Also, check the box for Set Disk Label. That way, you can identify the disk in the next step. Then choose Start RAMDisk.
The next step is to configure your browser to read and write cache files to and from the RAM disk. First, right-click on your browser shortcut and choose Properties from the context menu. Windows 10 makes it easier than ever to access a browser shortcut. You can do it directly from the Taskbar.
From Properties, choose the Shortcut tab. Then within the Target: text input field, append the following code to the end of the text, where “R” is your own RAM disk drive letter:
The complete line of code should look something like this:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe" --disk-cache-dir=R:\
Your own code may differ, depending on Chrome’s configuration.
Finally, choose OK and restart your browser. From now on, Chrome will read and write cache files to the RAM disk.
I should note that Christian Bonilla believes RAM drives to be infeasible. I disagree, but he does make a few good points. One of the biggest shortcomings is that they can make your computer shut down slower. And because they run in the background, older computers might not handle the additional overhead very well.
8. Malware Scanner
We’ve written to death the subject of malware scanners for good reason: most performance problems originate with malignant programs running wild in the background. Some of the better free malware scanners out there include Malwarebytes, SuperAntiSpyware, and ClamWin.
Dann Albright wrote about the best free anti-malware clients. I recommend it to anyone with a computer slowing down.
9. Registry Cleaner
The Windows registry keeps a manifest of settings for Windows and other programs. Oftentimes, programs make changes to the registry when installed but when uninstalled fail to remove those changes. Over time, thousands upon thousands of registry modifications slow system performance. A registry cleaner removes those changes. However, in my opinion, registry cleaners cause more problems than they solve. While you might see a tiny amount of performance improvement, for the most part, you’re likely to see glitchy OS behavior after running a cleaner.
The best program out there for cleaning your registry is CCleaner.
We’ve written about how to use CCleaner before, so I won’t bore you with the specifics on how to use it.
10. Windows 10 App Replacement or Removal
A lot of users install horrible software, thinking that they need it. Some of the worst offenders include PDF readers, music and video players, browsers, and BitTorrent software. Fortunately, lots of great alternatives exist.
PDF Reader Replacement: Sumatra PDF
Lots of internet users believe that Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader is the only program capable of reading PDF files. That’s a myth. Because Adobe Acrobat can spread malware, you might want an alternative. A far better program, for the majority of people, is Sumatra PDF Reader. On top of that, most browsers can read PDF files. You may not even need a dedicated PDF reader.
Even so, I recommend Sumatra to everyone. Not only is it open source, it reads comic books (CBZ or CBR files), blocks potentially malignant scripts, and runs on older systems.
Music and Video Players: VLC Player
VLC Player is one of the best — if not the best — media players around.
You could make the argument that better music players are out there. But for video, few can top VLC. On top of that, it is open source, supports keyboard shortcuts, plays almost any video file, and costs nothing. If you are already familiar with VLC Player, you might want to read up about its secret features.
Browser Replacement: Chrome Browser
Chrome is perhaps the fastest alternative to Microsoft’s Edge or Internet Explorer browsers. It comes in both the standard 32-bit and 64-bit variations. Google even makes an open source version of Chrome, called Chromium.
Overall, Chrome offers everything that Edge doesn’t: extensibility, security, and speed. If you use the internet often, Chrome ranks among the first apps you should install. However, Firefox offers the same degree of extensibility and it’s 100 percent open source. And since you’re on Windows, check out the Windows-optimized browser based on Firefox: Pale Moon. Pale Moon works with many Firefox extensions and comes with 64-bit versions.
BitTorrent Replacement: qBittorrent
For those of you using a horrible, malware-like BitTorrent client, there is hope. Check out the open-source qBittorrent. Unlike the cross-platform BitTorrent client Deluge, it receives regular updates. On top of that, qBittorrent is more fully featured and includes all the extras of its competitors, without the crazy malware infections.
11. Debloating Windows 10 With the In-Place Upgrade
The latest version of Windows comes with a ridiculous number of preinstalled apps — many of which offer dubious utility. For those interested in removing them, we’ve written an excellent guide to debloating Windows 10.
In most cases, removing the software does nothing. Most of the apps are actually placeholders that install themselves upon activation. If you’re not concerned about Microsoft’s bloatware, though, you might want to consider the in-place upgrade. The in-place upgrade is most useful for when you want to return your computer to a like-new condition, without reinstalling all of your applications. The in-place upgrade merely refreshes Windows’s core operating system files.
To perform an in-place upgrade, perform the following actions:
First, download the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool and run it. Then choose Upgrade this PC now and then Next.
The computer then downloads a copy of Windows 10, which can take several hours. After it finishes, the Media Creation Tool reinstalls Windows 10 on top of itself. If your systems has been crippled by malware, or through some other kind of damage to the core OS files, an in-place repair can patch up the damage, restoring your computer’s performance to like-new levels.
For more information on the process, here’s a video:
12. Debloating Windows 10 With Apps
Unfortunately, an in-place upgrade replaces or restores all of Windows 10’s baked-in bloatware (if you removed them). Fortunately, a few apps make debloating Windows easier than ever.
The three best are 10AppsManager, Windows 10 App Remover, and Windows X App Remover. Take your pick, all of them work great for getting rid of the crapware. I experimented with 10AppsManager and found the tool extremely easy to use. On top of that, it’s also portable, meaning it doesn’t require installation.
To de-crap your computer, simply tap on the app you want to remove. For example, if Solitaire gets on your nerves, just left-click on it in the user interface and you’ll receive a prompt asking whether you intend on removing the app. Confirming this removes the application. The amazing thing is that 10AppsManager allows users to reinstall removed software.
You might notice that there’s a Removal All option that’s available at the bottom-left side of the screen. I don’t advise using this option, but in case you don’t use any Micorsoft products, it’s there.
How Do You Make Windows 10 Faster?
Aside from the standard recommendations of uninstalling malware and bloatware or stopping autostarting programs, a RAM disk helps Windows 10 run much faster. In fact, I would say that it makes the biggest difference out of all the options out there — particularly so if your computer uses a hard disk drive. On the other hand, a RAM disk provides the best results for those who use a browser, or video editor. For those who rely on their computer for relatively simple tasks, you may want to use a variety of methods from this roundup of speed enhancing tips.
Anyone have any speed hacks for Windows 10? Please let us know in the comments.