Have you ever found yourself frustrated waiting for your PC to turn on or the internet browser to finally open the webpage? If you are like me and every other human being using a computer, you have probably dealt with such situation. Are you interested on how to speed up your computer?
One of the methodologies that I describe below, sped up an operation from 11.7 seconds to 2 seconds and I am going to describe 8 different steps not just one.
Is your PC brand new? Is it outdated? It doesn’t always matter. One way or another performance will degrade over time. The good news are a few steps away thought; a few steps you can take to minimize the problem and boost windows performance.
How to speed up computer by unloading unnecessary applications at startup?
Let’s face it, your windows environment is dynamic. You install new applications, updates, you test things and that’s what all is about anyway. Some of these applications however are automatically started every time your PC starts even though it is not always necessary.
Take your beloved Skype for example, it is a quite useful application that brings people together. Like all applications, Skype, when running, consumes memory and CPU power. If it set to automatically start when your computer starts, it will always consume some amount of memory and CPU, even if you don’t want to use it at that exact moment. So, it may be better to disable the auto-start function of Skype. You can always open it every time you need to communicate with someone.
To access the list of applications that set to auto start every time your windows starts, press Ctrl + Alt + Del simultaneously and select Start task manager
From there select: File –> select New Task (Run…). In the Open section type msconfig and press the OK button.
Go to the startup tab and uncheck all the applications you don’t want to start automatically and press OK.
Are you running Windows 8+ OS?
In case you are running windows 8 and beyond, the process is slightly different. Press Ctrl + Alt + Del simultaneously and select Start task manager. Expand the More Details down arrow:
Go to the startup tab, highlight the application you want to deactivate and press the disable button, repeat the process for each application you want to deactivate and close the window.
Note, that some applications should be set to start automatically, like the Antivirus software for example. In case you don’t know what a process does, just google its name to find out.
Is your application automatically starts as a service?
Some applications are set to start as a service in order to be able to start independently of the user logon process. To access the services console press Ctrl + Alt + Del simultaneously –> select Start task manager –> select File –> select New Task (Run…). In the Open section type services.msc and press the OK button.
The list of services is sometimes overwhelming and requires some type of experience to decide what to disable. You can google each service to find out what it does or use the service description of the service properties window as a reference point.
To access the service properties just double click the respective service name. From there you can start, stop, restart the service and set it to start manually, automatically or disable it altogether.
Visual effects and performance
Windows by default are set to offer a rich visual experience. Such visual experience though affects your windows performance especially if your PC is outdated and/or of low system resources.
To find a sweet balance between visual effects and performance, I usually perform the following actions for me and my customers. I open the windows explorer
I right click the computer object and I select the properties option.
in the system manager windows I select the Advanced System Settings.
In the Advanced tab, I select Settings under the performance section and I set the Visual Effects to Custom, with the respective settings as shown in the picture below:
Are you loading a huge desktop background picture?
I’ve seen so many times huge pictures set as desktop backgrounds, which hurts windows performance every time the desktop background renders. For better performance it is best to set an optimized picture as a desktop background (less than 2MB) or a solid color if you don’t care how your desktop looks.
To change your desktop background right click an open area of the desktop and then select personalize –> click desktop background and from the picture location drop down menu select the appropriate option or click browse, to choose a custom picture. For best performance you may select a solid color though.
Is your system of low memory resources?
In case your system does not have enough memory, you may disable the themes service to boost system’s performance and save some amount of memory; the payback is that your windows environment will not look as nice as it is used to be.
To deactivate the themes service follow the instructions of the “Is your application automatically starts as a service?” section to locate the themes service and disable it.
The slowest part of your System!
The slowest part of your system is the hard disk drive. You may think that your disk drive is only used to store your personal and corporate files but it is so much more. Disk storage can be used as:
- A permanent store for data
- A temporary location for system operations, internet caching, application caching etc
- A virtual expansion of the system’s memory (paging).
You need to perform some maintenance tasks regularly in order to keep the slowest part of your system from hurting your system’s performance too much.
Get rid of these temporary files
The ritual I usually perform, for me and my customers, is the following. I start by cleaning up the disk drive from unnecessary temporary files. I open the windows explorer –> I right click the local disk drive(s) –> I select properties –> I select disk cleanup.
When calculation completes (it may take some time), I check everything and I press the OK button. Note that in case you are running a Windows 8 OS or Windows 7 with KB2852386 update, you also have the option to further cleanup system temporary files.
This process also frees up some space since it cleans up the temporary files from the system.
Re-organize that fragmentation
After I finish the cleanup process I re-organize the fragmentation of my disk drive. To do that I open the windows explorer –>I right click the local disk drive(s) –> I select properties –> I go to tools tab –> I select defragment now.
I select the disk I want to defragment and I press the analyze Disk button. Analysis may take some time to complete and I proceed with the defragmentation process if deemed necessary by the system (usually more than 20% fragmented).
Note, that many systems come with SSD drives nowadays. In such systems the defragmentation process reduces the lifetime of the disk and does not offer any performance benefits. Therefore it is best to avoid the defragmentation of SSD drives.
Make the disk run faster
A final step I take is to check and enable, if appropriate, the disk drive’s cache mechanism. Open windows explorer –> right click computer object –> select properties –> in the left pane select device manager –> expand disk drives –> double click your disk drive –> go to policies tab –> make sure that the Enable write caching on the device is enabled (default option).
The second check box “Turn off windows write-cache buffer flushing on the device” will make you disk perform faster if you check it, but it may cause data loss in case of a power failure while the system is running. I personally enable this setting on my laptop computer where there is a battery to maintain my system in case of a power failure and in UPS protected desktops with appropriate power saving options.
Check power options
For maximum performance you should change the power options of your computer to High Performance. Go to start –> control panel –> search for the term power –> select power options –> select High Performance.
If you are running on a laptop computer you may leave the option to balance though, to extend the battery’s life when not plugged in to a power source.
Is your system low in memory?
Since windows Vista, Microsoft added ReadyBoost, a technology that allows the use of flash memory, usb drives, SSD drives, SD cards etc as a cache mechanism, since they have faster seek times than traditional disk drives.
In case you are not able to purchase and add some RAM memory to a low memory system, your next best bet is to enhance the performance with ReadyBoost.
Plug a USB drive (a fast one if possible) to your PC –> open windows explorer –> right click your USB drive and select properties –> in the properties window go to ReadyBoost tab –> select either “Dedicate this device to Ready boost” or the “Use this device” option.
Is any malware present in your system?
Performance can be seriously harmed if malware is present in your PC. Therefore, it is vital to have a legitimate antivirus/antimalware program installed to be protected. You may also do some regular scans beside the real-time protection.
Note, that I have encountered situations where more than one real time antivirus systems where installed in a single system. This can cause problems to system performance and system stability. Stick to a single antivirus program / security suite.
Some extra tips
To further enhance your system’s performance you can disable the legacy 8dot3name conversion and set your systems file cache to maximum. To accomplish that respectively, go to start –> in the search box type cmd –>right click cmd and select run as administrator –>in the cmd windows execute:
Fsutil behavior set memoryusage 2 FSutil 8dot3name set 1
While some of the procedures described above are performed only once, others are more like maintenance tasks. Disk cleanup and defragmentation should be performed probably every month while the checking of auto-start applications should be performed every now and then.
All of the methods described above can have diverse impact on the system’s performance depending on many factors; but it will always be boosted slightly or significantly.
You may be inclined to use some of the automated tools that promise to boost your system’s performance, but you may find yourself doing more harm than good in the long run. Automated registry cleaning and error handling is a complicated task to be completely automated. That’s why such tools require some form of user approval prior to taking such actions.