Technology Explained Windows

You’re Slowing Down Your PC: 5 Common Mistakes and What to Do Instead

Ben Stegner Updated 12-07-2019

What is slowing down my computer? A slow computer is frustrating and keeps you from getting work done.


While all computers slow down over time, in many cases, your own behavior can cause your computer to run slowly. Here are common mistakes that will slow your machine down to a crawl, and how to stop making them.

1. Running Too Many Programs

Windows Exit App System Tray

Over time, you’ve probably installed dozens of programs. Maybe you use a variety of tools for different functions, or have a bunch of apps installed from years ago that you forgot about. Running too many apps all the time can lead to your computer slowing down, as we explained when we looked at why installing software slows down your PC Why Installing Software Slows Down Your PC When you buy a new PC, it's screaming fast. Months later, it feels usable, but nothing impressive. After a year, you're experiencing noticeable lag. Why is that? Read More .

The biggest issue comes from programs setting themselves to automatically run in the background. This means that they’re eating up RAM, even if you never use them. To combat this, keep an eye out while installing new apps. If you see a checkbox similar to Automatically run [app] when I start my computer, make sure you clear it.

You can get an idea of what’s running in the background by looking at the System Tray in the bottom-right corner of your screen. You’ll see an icon for each program running, and may need to click the arrow to show the full list. In most cases, you can right-click an icon and choose Exit to close an app.


Removing Startup Programs

Windows Task Manager Startup

Instead of closing programs every time you boot up, you can disable programs from running at startup altogether. On Windows 10, open the Task Manager using Ctrl + Shift + Esc and click More details if you only see the basic interface. From there, switch to the Startup tab and you’ll see everything set to run when you log into Windows.

Take a look at what’s here and disable any programs you don’t need as soon as you start your PC. We’ve looked at common startup programs that slow down your boot time These Programs Slow Down Your Windows 10 Boot Is Windows 10 booting slower than it used to? Sluggish programs launching on startup might be the culprit. We'll show you how to trim down your boot list. Read More if you need an idea of what to remove.

2. Failing to Reboot Regularly

It’s classic advice to reboot your PC when you have a problem. But restarting regularly is important even if you’re not troubleshooting an active issue.


You might be tempted to never turn your computer off so that you can quickly resume where you left off next time. But this is a bad idea and can result in your Windows computer running slow.

The main benefit of restarting is that doing so flushes your RAM. Because RAM is volatile, it starts fresh upon every reboot. If you have any programs you run have a memory leak (meaning software never returns used RAM to the computer), restarting will fix that temporarily.

Windows also installs OS patches when you restart. Of course, Windows 10 will eventually try to force you to reboot to do this. But if you don’t reboot for long periods of time, your computer will be without the latest security fixes.

In most cases, you don’t need to reboot every night. Aim to restart your PC a few times per week. At other times, you can put your PC to sleep or use hibernation to quickly resume what you were doing.


3. Clicking Without Thinking

Fake Download Button Signs

Next time you find your PC running slow, you should consider how carefully you click when online. Unfortunately, many websites are a minefield of harmful content. Fake download buttons, giant ads that lead to shady sites, and all sorts of other nonsense can cause problems on your computer.

Even legitimate downloads aren’t safe. While it’s not as big of a problem as it used to be, many free programs try to foist junky third-party software on you with preselected checkboxes. If you click “Next” without thinking, you could end up with extra trash on your system just from installing a few apps.

In the worst cases, this can even lead to malware getting on your system. You can open yourself to infection (and a slow computer) by opening a malicious email attachment that installs spyware or similar.


The lesson here is to make sure you always know what you’re clicking on. Take the extra second to confirm you aren’t missing a hidden checkbox or clicking on something that’s dangerous.

4. Not Maintaining Your Computer

Windows 10 is better than ever at taking care of some maintenance tasks on its own. But it isn’t perfect, so you’ll have to perform some basic tune-ups every once in a while. Making sure you take care of these could be the difference between your laptop running slow and working at peak performance.

Below we take a look at a few routine highlights that pertain to speed; these are just a few of the Windows maintenance tasks you should do more often 7 Vital Windows Maintenance Tasks You Should Do More Often Taking care of these basic Windows 10 maintenance tasks will help your computer perform at its best in the long run. Read More .

Clean Up Temporary Files

Windows 10 Storage Sense

As it works, your system builds up files that it only needed for a short time. This is a normal part of computer operation, but if you let these files pile up, they can start to take a toll on speed after a while. This is especially the case if you have a small SSD that fills up quickly.

You can head to Settings > System > Storage to turn on Storage Sense, a Windows 10 feature that helps you free up space automatically. For additional options, search for Disk Cleanup in the Start Menu.

Run Maintenance Scans

While your antivirus is likely set up to scan on a schedule, it’s wise to get a second opinion and scan with a dedicated anti-malware app occasionally. Malwarebytes is a great choice for this since the free version only scans on-demand. It’s much better to catch malware with a scan than to find that your computer is running slow weeks later. (Buy Malwarebytes Premium for an even better experience.)

Aside from this, Windows has some other scans you can run for maintenance, but you shouldn’t need to do so often. These include chkdsk and sfc.

The check disk command, or chkdsk, scans your hard drive for bad sectors that can cause your computer to act up. If you have an SSD in your machine, this isn’t as pertinent. But if you notice a sudden slowdown and still have an old HDD in your computer, it’s worth a try.

System file checker, or sfc, is a similar command. This one scans Windows system files and attempts to repair any that are corrupt.

Typically, people run these commands as part of troubleshooting an issue. But doing them every month or so can help you catch problems before they get worse.

Install Updates

We mentioned restarting to install Windows updates earlier, but it’s still a good idea to go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update to check for updates manually every once in a while. Doing so makes sure that updates aren’t stuck.

You should also take the time to make sure the software you use regularly is up-to-date. Using the latest version can introduce speed improvements not present in earlier builds.

5. Confusing Your Computer With the Internet

It’s common to think that your computer is slow, when in reality, your internet connection is the problem. If you only have trouble when accessing websites, streaming music, or doing other network-reliant activities, you probably have an issue with your internet connection. This can happen even with a blazing-fast computer in perfect shape.

Read our guide to problems that can slow down your home network 9 Things That Might Be Slowing Down Your Home Wi-Fi Network Tired of slow or spotty internet? Check these things that could be slowing down your home Wi-Fi network. Read More to get some ideas on what the problem is.

Now You Know What Slows Down a Computer

We’ve taken a look at common user behaviors that can cause your PC to slow down. If you’ve done any of these, now is a great time to change your ways based on the advice provided. Eventually, all computers do slow down and need replacement. But until then, you can use these tips to regain some speed again.

For more on this, check out some quick fixes that will make your computer feel faster 10 Quick Fixes to Make your Windows Computer Faster Advice for speeding up your PC abounds, but not all methods are equal. Here are ten quick tips for making your Windows computer a little faster. Read More .

Image Credit: olly18/Depositphotos

Related topics: Computer Diagnostics, Computer Maintenance, CPU, Troubleshooting.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Jignesh R
    June 14, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    Thank you. Too many ads, though. It is hard to figure out which one is the ad and which is the content.

  2. Technochicken
    March 29, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    Windows slows down thats life the est thing to do is just to reinstall everytime you r computer slows down

  3. dragonmouth
    July 19, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    The biggest mistake users make that leads to their computers slowing down is to use the wrong O/S. They use Windows, which over time will slow down no matter what maintenance they perform. To cure the "slow computer" syndrome, they should use Linux or BSD.

    • Criket
      July 28, 2019 at 8:03 am

      Get of your high horse and stop showing of. People who need to read this should have no busines running linux and probably never heard of BSD.

  4. MaryAnn
    December 17, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    What an excellent, clearly explained and helpful article! Thank you!

  5. Max
    April 25, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    Unfortunately my beloved wife does not want to say goodbye to windowns 10, and I always have to solve many problems on your PC.
    Is that I tired of seeing all my windowns, from win 95 to win 7, slow down over time, regardless of any maintenance I did.
    I believe that if you use all the time you spend trying to fix problems in Windowns, to perfect yourself in linux, you would become a master in Linux!
    My life has improved a lot after moving permanently to Linux.

  6. Mike LaPlante
    April 10, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    I supported user-PC's for years. 95 out of 100 people purchased their PC based on price alone. So, Celeron (and worse) budget processors with 2 whole GB's of RAM were the norm. I almost slashed my wrists several times running utilities on such under-powered machines. I am quite familiar with the major OS's as I've used (and use) them all. Windows 7 & 10 are as good as any other tool out there - if properly setup and supported with capable hardware. Microsoft's biggest mistake, in my opinion, has always been its willingness to support the crappiest hardware builds capable of booting it. Apple, on the other hand, has no problem with obsolescence; its fan-base seems to love the abuse. The only really significant thing you should ever have to do is clear temp files and the browser cache. Everything else is just making heat and wearing parts out. We were doing the stuff in this article in the mid-eighties, just to get the poor machines to boot up, and maybe not crash for an hour or two. They are relatively idiot-proof today, but like the 'old' days, no amount of utility-flogging, tuning or swearing will make an underpowered PC perform as intended. Impossible.

    • Ryan Dube
      April 24, 2018 at 3:44 pm

      Hi Mike -- no you're absolutely right. This is exactly what section #1 should prove out. If it appears "too many applications" are running, but there really aren't many running at all, it's a clear sign of an underpowered PC. (Or a constantly stressed out CPU as well). I agree with you that cheap PCs are a big problem these days and often when people complain about them being too slow -- they were destined to be too slow the day they bought them.

  7. isse
    April 10, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    The one thing that bugs me about checking processes on the task manager is that if you have a large number of browser tabs open, there is no way to tell which is which. Figuring out which is using the most memory is a trial and error process. Unless I'm missing something and someone has a suggestion...?

    • allen
      July 21, 2019 at 12:28 am

      The chrome browser has its own task manager built-in, and it shows memory usage for each tab. In my case the makeuseof tab takes as much memory as all my other tabs combined (20-30 open at any time). I assume that is from all the video ads that load on every page.

      • Merlin
        July 21, 2019 at 12:00 pm

        So has Firefox these days.

  8. Markus S
    April 4, 2018 at 5:05 am

    Great article, but I think one thing is missing in this list. Remove the dust from CPU and/or GPU cooler fans from time to time. The last systems that I got, were unstable
    or slow because of dust. The CPU was heatening up and in the end throttling down.

    You can easily remove the dust with a can of compressed air or a vacuum cleaner and a fine brush.



    • Ryan Dube
      April 24, 2018 at 3:44 pm

      Oh excellent advice -- that's true, dust is a common culprit. Thanks Markus!

  9. netflexx
    April 3, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    I agree on the defrag part, this should be mentioned even if most users described here probably don't use them.

    I learned the hard way (not re SSDs) but having a decent gaming laptop with latest cpu,graphics and 16 gigs of ram. To be honest - the thing could take everything I've thrown at it, but since I'm recently getting more and more into Linux for some of my older hardware and especially those of friends and neighbours I tried to dual boot windows and linux on my laptop and it went fine with most distris until I tried Debian - I killed my windows partition. After setting up dual boot the proper way (thanks to your guides and the links in the comments it works flawlessly now) I can see the benefit windowswise and can agree on most topics mentioned in your article.

    For Linux I use Manjaro xfce now, windows is the latest insider preview. Both systems are blazing fast if you take some tips and tricks in this and other blogs by heart.

    Thanks for all of your work around here, for the not so savvy it is a good starting point if you are willing to dig in deeper.

    Greetings from Germany

  10. Hildy J
    April 3, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    Please, MUD, make sure your writers and readers know that defragmentation is ONLY useful for drives with spinning platters and mechanical read/write heads known as hard disk drives (HDDs).

    Defragmentation is useless and detrimental for all electronic drives known as solid state drives (SSDs) which are increasingly common, especially on laptops and performance desktops.

    • Ryan Dube
      April 24, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      Hi Hildy - that's an important point, thank you for clarifying that for readers.