How to Make Your Computer Faster

Tech Talker has 4 easy tips on optimizing your computer—for free!

Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #14

Listener Kathy M. posted a great question on the Tech Talker Facebook wall. She wanted to know how to optimize her computer, making it run faster without adding any extra hardware. This is a great question because it’s something we’ve all encountered. We buy a computer and it’s lightning-fast. Then, after a few years, we notice that our formerly speedy machine takes forever to do everything. One of the reasons for this is us. During the life of a computer, we tend to install lots of software and other files that slow down its functioning.

Why Computers Slow Down

However, although computers do slow down after the installation of software, the main reason they get slower is because every year newer software has bigger and bigger requirements. For example: The Windows 98 operating system required 24 megabytes of memory and just 200 megabytes of hard drive space, whereas Windows 7 requires 2 gigabytes of memory and 20 gigabytes of hard drive space. As we learned in How to Back Up Your Data, a gigabyte is about a thousand megabytes so in a 10-year span the requirements for computers have increased 100 times. Who wouldn’t slow down!

For us, this means that without upgrading, our computer’s specifications don’t change at all. But every year, software needs more and more of your computer’s precious resources. So when you install software on a 5-year-old computer, it will slow it down a lot more then it would if you installed it on a new computer.

People run into this problem a lot when they wipe their computer clean and reinstall the operating system. Their computer will be just as fast as the day they bought it, but the moment they install new software that is a few years younger than the computer, well, that’s when it slows way down again.

That said, I would like to debunk one myth that seems to persist in the technology world year after year:

Registry cleaners do not work! The registry in Windows keeps information about your system and programs so programs that claim to “clean” the registry might end up deleting information that allows your programs to run correctly. My advice is to just avoid cleaning your registry altogether.

They can even be harmful to your computer. If you come across programs that promise to clean your registry, I advise against them.

How to Optimize Your Computer

There are 4 things that take just a few minutes of your time, but can make a significant difference in how fast your computer performs:

  1. Clearing your cookies and other temporary web data every so often will really increase how fast your internet browser responds, and will even fix most problems you have with the internet. Here’s a link on how to do this with many popular web browsers.

  2. Running security scans is something you should set up to happen automatically each week. If malware has infected your computer, you can bet that it will take a very large portion of your computer’s resources for its own malevolent purposes. Checking for malware once a week will definitely help to keep your computer running at tip-top shape.

  3. Along with keeping your antivirus software up to date, keeping your operating system supplied with the latest updates will do a world of difference. I know that many people out there (certainly not my listeners) hit the “skip” or “remind me later” button when their computer asks to install updates. I recommend checking for new updates a few times a month, because many of these updates will help to close security holes, and will also optimize certain aspects of your operating system.

  4. One of the biggest boosts to your machine’s performance would be to limit the items that start when your computer boots up. I generally only have 3-4 programs open at start up, and then only run the programs I need to use when I need them. If you have 20+ programs running automatically when your computer starts, not only will it take forever to boot, but it will be slow the entire time you use it. This happens because even if you’re not using these programs, they will run in the background, which still uses your computer’s resources. Here are links on how to prevent programs from starting on both Windows and Mac machines.

Here are your 4 Quick and Dirty Tips for speeding up your computer:

  1. Delete cookies and temporary files from your internet browser frequently

  2. Run your antivirus at least once a week to make sure no malware snuck into your system

  3. Keep your antivirus and operating system up to date

  4. Limit the amount of programs that run automatically when you start your computer

One thing I did not mention in this episode was reinstalling your operating system. While this would probably make the most difference in speeding up your computer, it is fairly time consuming and technical and should not be attempted by anyone except a professional.

Well that’s all for today!

Have a question about anything in this episode? Or a suggestion for a future podcast? Send me an email at techtalker@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Tech Talker Facebook wall.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.