How to Fix Your Slow Computer

Ben Stegner 22-11-2016

Few things are more frustrating than working with a slow computer. Whether your computer just started crawling or you’ve put up with poor performance for months, fixing the issue is important so you can get back to work 5 Reasons You Are Not Getting Any Work Done Wasn't today the day you were going to turn Facebook off and get stuff done? Read More .


Let’s look at various scenarios that could be dragging your system to a halt. You could be suffering from one or several of these causes. By going through each of these, you can pinpoint where your issue lies.

You Need to Reboot

Sometimes, a slowdown comes from a temporary Windows issue. Whether it’s a program using too many resources or a Windows configuration error, poor performance does come out of nowhere at times. This is especially true if you leave your computer turned on all the time. You should reboot regularly to avoid these issues.

Restarting your computer fixes all sorts of problems Why Does Rebooting Your Computer Fix So Many Issues? "Have you tried rebooting?" It's technical advice that gets thrown around a lot, but there's a reason: it works. Not just for PCs, but a wide range of devices. We explain why. Read More , so it’s a wise first step when slowness pops up out of nowhere. If you reboot and the problem persists, continue with troubleshooting.

You Have Too Many Programs Running at Startup

With so much awesome Windows software out there, it’s natural to want to try a lot of programs. However, you might run into a problem if too many programs run as soon as you boot your computer. Lots of software does this by default, so you might be running half a dozen apps that you aren’t even using at the moment.

Thankfully, it’s easy to remove startup items Remove Windows Startup Items to Fix Your Slow Computer for Free Programs launching at boot can affect both the Windows startup speed and your computer's overall performance. Fix your slow computer by removing applications from auto-start. We show you how to catch them all. Read More . If you’re not sure what you should disable, check out our top startup programs you don’t need 10 Startup Programs You Can Safely Disable to Speed Up Windows Computer booting slowly? You probably have too many programs running at startup. Here's how to disable startup programs on Windows. Read More . You can remove non-essential apps like iTunes, Adobe Reader, and Skype, but make sure to keep your antivirus and backup software running.


You’re Infected With Malware

Just like having too many programs running could slow down your computer, having one or more malicious programs running can cause big problems, too. Even if you have malware installed that isn’t spawning pop-up ads Let's Put A Stop To Pop-Up Browser Ads Once And For All! Pop-ups can catch you off guard, and if you're not careful they can create problems. Learn how to avoid them and how to handle them if they do come up. Read More or getting in your way, it’s still wasting resources.

With a few tools and a bit of time, you can beat any piece of malware out there. Review the ten steps to take when you’re hit with malware 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 , and follow the malware removal guide The Complete Malware Removal Guide Malware is everywhere these days, and eradicating malware from your system is a lengthy process, requiring guidance. If you think your computer is infected, this is the guide you need. Read More . Then, make sure you have essential Windows security software The Best Antivirus Software for Windows 10 Want to tighten security on your PC? Here are the best antivirus software options for Windows 10. Read More installed after you’ve confirmed that everything is clear 3 Things To Check After Removing Malware From Your PC Removing malware can be a pain. Malware removal guides ease the process, but it remains tedious. Finally, you will have to deal with after effects, like messed up browser settings or a broken Internet connection. Read More .

You’re Using Heavy Software

Some software leaves a hefty footprint on your system’s performance, when a lighter alternative could get the job done just as well. Two of the most common examples are Norton Antivirus and Google Chrome.

You can completely remove Norton How To Completely Remove Norton Or McAfee From Your Computer Read More and replace it with a superior free security suite The 5 Best Free Internet Security Software for Windows Need antivirus, anti-malware, and real-time security? Here are the best free internet security software for Windows. Read More . To stay light, using a cloud antivirus like Panda will free up resources on your machine. Google Chrome uses a lot of RAM Why Is Google Chrome Using So Much RAM? Here's How to Fix It Why does Google Chrome use so much RAM? What can you do to keep it in check? Here's how to make Chrome use less RAM. Read More , which the Chrome team will fix soon. If you’re not trapped in Chrome, try using Opera Opera 15 Is A Faster, Simpler Chrome, And Here Are 3 Great Reasons To Try It It may seem ridiculous now, but when I was younger, I forked over a great wad of cash for Opera, a revolutionary web browser from Norway. I took it home, excited at finally being able... Read More or a super-fast alternative, like Nitro Nitro: Check Out Maxthon's Super-Fast Web Browser Today It's the fastest browser I've ever used. For the first time in a while, we actually have a clear, longshot winner. Read More , to keep things light.


It’s also a good idea to turn Flash off in your main browser Why Flash Needs to Die (And How You Can Get Rid of It) The Internet's relationship with Flash has been rocky for a while. Once, it was a universal standard on the web. Now, it looks like it may be headed to the chopping block. What changed? Read More . The Flash plugin is on its way out, but plenty of sites still use it. Thus, you should still keep an extra browser around for occasional Flash needs, but disable it in your everyday browser for better performance.

Your Computer Favors Visuals Over Performance

Did you know that you can turn off all the fancy effects of Windows? By default, Windows enables colored title bars, real-time dragging, and more. However, these eye-candy enhancements take up system resources. If you don’t mind a slightly less pretty experience, try adjusting Windows for best performance.

To do this, type Performance into the Start Menu and click Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows. Here, you can disable individual visual effects like maximizing animations and window shadows. If you choose Adjust for best performance, you can disable all of these in one go. In Windows 7, this will result in your computer looking like Windows 95 Start Me Up - Windows 95 Turns 20 & Still Rocks 20 years ago the Rolling Stones cranked up "Start Me Up", and Windows 95 was born. We revisit history, discuss why Windows 95 was a big deal, and how it compares to Windows today. Read More , but see if you can get used to it.

Your Hard Drive Is Almost Full

While deleting all kinds of files won’t speed up your system, a hard drive that’s nearly full can affect performance. Hard drives need a certain amount of free space to function, and constantly working with a maxed-out disk might be giving you problems.


Thankfully, it’s easy to clean up files and give the system some breathing room. Follow our step-by-step guide to cleaning Windows The Best Way to Clean Windows 10: A Step-by-Step Guide Don't know how to clean Windows 10? Here's a clear step-by-step guide to getting your PC nice and tidy again. Read More to reclaim plenty of space.

You Need to Upgrade Your Hardware

If you’ve run through the fixes for all the above scenarios and still aren’t happy with your computer’s speed, you probably have inadequate hardware. Hopefully, you’re not still running Windows XP 5 Reasons Why You Love Windows XP & What You Sacrifice Nearly 30% of computers are still running Windows XP. It was a stable and reliable system for years, but all good things come to an end. Almost no good reasons to keep using Windows XP... Read More ; if you are, you need to buy a new computer 7 Warning Signs It's Time to Replace your Old PC When should you buy a new computer? Read More with a modern operating system Upgrade From Windows XP to a Modern OS in 7 Simple Steps It's time to say goodbye! Microsoft is ending official support for Windows XP on April 8 2014. Are you at risk? If you are still running this ancient operating system, it's time to upgrade. Read More .

For machines that are only a couple of years old, spending about a hundred dollars on upgrades can go a long way. To save money, you should prioritize upgrading the components that improve performance the most Which Upgrades Will Improve Your PC Performance the Most? Need a faster computer but aren't sure what you should upgrade on your PC? Follow our PC upgrade checklist to find out. Read More . For most machines, this means replacing the hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD) 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD The world of home computing is moving towards solid state drives for storage. Should you buy one? Read More and installing more RAM How Much RAM Do You Really Need? How much computer memory do you need? Here's how to check your installed RAM and how much RAM your computer needs. Read More .

These two upgrades will greatly boost your machine’s performance Slow Computer? 4 Ways To Speed Things Up Buying a new computer can really set you back a pretty penny. So have you considered upgrading what you have now? Read More and could help provide a few more years of service.


While you’re replacing the components, make sure to give your PC a physical cleaning A Spring Cleaning Checklist For Your PC Part 1: Hardware Cleaning With the arrival of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, houses across the globe get a nice cleaning to rid them of dirt and clutter that has accumulated over the past year. Dust and junk also... Read More , as dust and other grime can adversely affect it, too.

Your Network Is to Blame

If you’re running into issues only when browsing the web 5 Little-Known Factors That Could Affect Your Browser Speed There are few computer-related issues that are more irritating than a slow browser. If your browsing is being held back, check these five things to get it back up to speed. Read More , your problem might be with your internet connection, not your machine. You’ll know this is the case if your system boots up quickly and has no problem running multiple programs at once, but struggles to load a webpage.

You can perform some troubleshooting to get to the bottom of network issues. Have a look at fixing Wi-Fi slowness Why Is My Wi-Fi So Slow? Here's How to Fix It Need to download data fast, but have slow Wi-Fi? Why is this happening? Here's how to fix a slow Wi-Fi connection and speed it up. Read More , items that could be slowing 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 , and how to fix unstable Wi-Fi connections How to Fix a Slow or Unstable Wi-Fi Connection Why does your internet suck? Here's how to fix an unstable internet connection by changing the settings on your Wi-Fi router. Read More . If you’ve exhausted all of those options, you might need to upgrade the speed you receive from your ISP Are You Getting The Broadband Speed You're Paying For? How fast is your Internet connection, really? Your Internet service provider quotes you speeds, but how do you know if you’re actually getting the speed you’re paying for? You can find out using one of... Read More .

You Need to Run Some Scans

Before you take the nuclear step, there are a few scans to try that might fix some issues. You can run these in Windows from a command prompt 7 Common Tasks The Windows Command Prompt Makes Quick & Easy Don't let the command prompt intimidate you. It's simpler and more useful than you expect. You might be surprised by what you can accomplish with just a few keystrokes. Read More . Type cmd into the Start Menu, then right-click its entry and choose Run As Administrator to open an elevated command line.

The first scan will check Windows for errors. This scan is usually performed to fix corruption errors How to Fix a Corrupted Windows 10 Installation System corruption is the worst that could happen to your Windows installation. We show you how to get Windows 10 back on track when suffering from BSODs, driver errors, or other unexplained issues. Read More , but it’s worth a shot to improve performance, too. The command to run is:

sfc /scannow

A second scan will check your hard drive for errors. If it finds any, the scan attempts to correct them. Those disk issues could be affecting performance, so this is a good one to try, as well.

To run a disk check Is CHKDSK Stuck? Fixes for When Check Disk Won't Work CHKDSK can seriously deflate your Windows boot time. More importantly, it indicates that something's not right. Here's what Check Disk does and how you can use it. Read More that attempts to fix bad sectors, type the following command:

ckhdsk /r /f

The system can’t check the disk when you’re using it, so reply Y to the prompt to run a scan at the next boot. Restart your system when you’re ready, and the scan will run. This could take a while, so it’s best to initialize it when you won’t need your PC for a while.

You Need to Reinstall Windows

If you’ve tried all the above fixes and still have a speed problem, it might be in your best interest to reinstall Windows. Over time, Windows builds up crud and is prone to running into strange issues that are best fixed by a reimage.

You don’t need to regularly reinstall Windows How To Really Speed Up Your Computer - Common Myths & What To Do Instead Suffering from a slow computer? You might not know why and maybe you're trying to fix it in all the wrong ways. Let us help you with tips for a real speed boost. Read More like some people say, but if you’re still having an issue, it’s faster to just reimage than to waste time trying to pinpoint the problem. Note that you shouldn’t reinstall Windows until you’ve upgraded the appropriate hardware — that would be like putting new tires on a worn-out car. Additionally, it takes time to set up Windows just how you had it, so be certain that you can’t isolate the cause before taking this step.

Windows 10 allows you to refresh and reinstall using several methods 4 Ways to Factory Reset Your Windows Computer Want to know how to factory reset a PC? Here are the best methods to reset a Windows computer. Read More . Thus, you can get a clean start without losing your data, or start over from scratch, depending on how severe your issue is. If nothing else could fix your problem, new hardware and a clean copy of Windows should do the trick nicely.

How Else Can You Speed Up?

These are ten common causes for a Windows computer running slowly Can't Stand The Slowness? The Top 10 Reasons for Poor PC Performance Has your computer loaded this webpage yet? If it has, you’ll be halfway toward working out just why it seems to be running so slowly. There are many reasons for desktop and laptops to chug... Read More , but you can probably think of others. While software fixes are usually pretty simple, nothing beats a hardware upgrade. Once you’ve narrowed down the problem, consider spending some money on new components to keep your system running sharply. You’ll waste a lot of time waiting for the computer to catch up to you otherwise.

Once you’ve got a speedy system again, make sure you put simple habits into practice 5 Simple Habits to Stop Your Computer From Running Slow Only three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and slow computers after hours of Internet browsing. Let us show you habits to keep your Windows computer as fast as new. Read More to prevent slowdown in the future.

What are the first things you check when troubleshooting a slow computer? Let us know your best fixes down in the comments!

Image Credits: Bob Alex/Shutterstock

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Troubleshooting, Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8.1.

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  1. Neoweed
    November 30, 2016 at 8:42 am

    I just can't understand why Norton is an issue in slowing down yer PC. It is not slowing down my PC and I have rarely issues with malware...

    • Ben Stegner
      December 5, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      If you've got a beefy system, Norton probably isn't causing a big issue. On low-end machines, though, you feel more of Norton's heavy impact. It's one of many possible causes of slowdown, and there are much lighter alternatives.

  2. Josh
    November 22, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    You could just install Linux

    • Ben Stegner
      November 22, 2016 at 6:46 pm

      An option for some, sure, but I know plenty of people that wouldn't know where to start with Linux.

      • Michael Tobias
        November 22, 2016 at 10:54 pm

        Yeah, I installed Linux Mint on a 77 yr old technophobe's 8 yr old laptop, gave her about 10 minutes of instructions and she's been good for the last year. Plenty of people may not know how to use the cli, but that's completely unnecessary for the vast majority of people and the most distros.