How To: Speed up Windows

Is your computer running slowly? Would you like to speed up Windows? Then it's time to give your computer a tune-up. In this article, you'll find some tips and recommended tools to help you boost your computer's performance and make it run faster.

Disk speed-up

Your computer's hard drive contains a lot more stuff than it did when it was new. This makes files harder to find and slower to access, which decreases performance.

Tip: If deleting files takes a long time and causes a lot of disk activity, empty the Recycle Bin. A full Recycle Bin slows down file deletions because old files have to be removed from the bin before new ones can be added.

Clear out redundant files and free up disk space by deleting unwanted files and archiving those you are unlikely to need again to CD or DVD.

Tip: For a basic cleanup use the Windows Disk Cleanup Wizard (click Start, Run and enter cleanmgr).

Tip: When archiving files to CD or DVD, always burn two copies so you have a backup if one is damaged and becomes unreadable.

To get the full benefit of your cleanup, defragment your hard drive to move your files into the best position for fastest access. There is no advantage to using anything other than Windows' built-in Disk Defragmenter. Open My Computer, right-click the drive, click Properties, select Tools and click Defragment Now... This may take a few hours, so it's a good idea to let it run overnight. If your hard disk file system is NTFS and it hasn't been defragmented for a while, it's worth running the defragmenter several times. Each time, your disk gets a bit better optimized, and runs a bit quicker.

Tip: If Disk Defragmenter runs slowly or has trouble completing the task, try running it in safe mode.

Start-up speed-up

Does your computer take a long time from switch-on until it shows your desktop? That's because it's loading more programs than it did when it was new. Consider getting rid of some of the programs that launch automatically when Windows starts. By saving the memory and processor time they use, this will make your computer run faster, too.

If you're reasonably computer-savvy, you can try some start-up optimization yourself. Look at the icons running in your System Tray. Each one represents one or more processes that are running in the background, all the time your computer is on. If you don't really need them, uninstall them. If you need them only some of the time, use a tool like Startup Organizer or Startup Guru, which let you create different start-up profiles which you can choose at boot time.

Use the Windows Task Manager to identify the processes that use the most memory and resources. Start it by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del, then select the Processes tab. Click on the CPU column header to sort the entries into order by CPU usage. Click the Mem Usage header to find the memory hogs. Consider whether you can manage without those programs or tasks that use the most resources. If not (as in the case of, for example, an anti-virus program) see whether are there are less resource-hungry alternatives.

Registry speed-up

The state of your computer's registry has a big impact on system performance, because it is accessed hundreds of times a second. The registry is like the central nervous system of Windows, connecting all the different components together.

ssThe Windows registry increases in size over time. Redundant entries are never removed by the applications or components that originally created them. The registry also becomes fragmented within itself, something the Disk Defragmenter cannot fix. Therefore registry access inevitably gets slower and slower as the computer gets older.

Identifying redundant data in the registry is not something you can easily do yourself. Even Microsoft doesn't provide a registry clean-up tool. The Microsoft RegClean utility you may find on some websites is unsupported, and known to cause problems with many products. It was designed specifically to remove registry entries created during software testing, something that doesn't apply to most PC users.

A good registry cleaner will remove redundant registry entries automatically, but it will leave registry entries that are essential to the system well alone. Some registry cleaners on the market can leave your PC in a worse state after running them than it was in before you started.

Registry Booster is an easy to use and safe registry cleaner. It will remove redundant entries from the registry and optimize the remainder for fast access.

Tip: Always back up your files, or preferably the entire system, before starting optimization. Sometimes you can get carried away and delete something Windows can't run without. If that happens, restoring from a backup is the most reliable way to return your computer to its original state.

Uninstall unwanted programs

Software that you don't use just wastes space on your hard drive, and can even slow performance as components may be loaded in memory even though you don't use them. Use Add and Remove Programs in the Windows Control Panel to uninstall applications you'll never use again.

Sometimes an uninstaller fails, making it hard to remove an application from your computer. A tool like Advanced Uninstaller PRO can help to remove stubborn programs. By monitoring what changes are made when a program is installed, Advanced Uninstaller PRO can often perform a more thorough removal of the application than the uninstaller in Windows. This product includes a number of different system maintenance and tuning tools, making it a good alternative to some of the utilities mentioned above.

Quick tune-up

If all this seems a lot like hard work then one solution might be to use some tune-up software. One of the best is Advanced SystemCare. This will automatically perform several of the tune-up tasks recommended here, like defragmenting the hard drive, cleaning the registry and clearing out junk files, with one click of the mouse. Think of it as a cleaner who comes in once a week to tidy up your computer. Regular maintenance will keep your computer running better than a once-a-year major overhaul, so if you can never find the time to carry out housekeeping tasks on your PC until it is on its knees, let Advanced SystemCare take care of it for you.