How to speed up your PC: practical guide

A PC can slow down for a variety of reasons: Outdated or overheated hardware (cooler —internal fans— dirty or that stop working at the factory revolution), missing or outdated drivers, presence of viruses or too many programs running simultaneously, among other things. In this guide we will try to review the main problems and their respective solutions.

While some of the solutions aren't critical, it's always important to create a system restore point in case something doesn't turn out the way you want it to. To do this, press the start button (the one with the windows logo) and directly type “create restore point” on your keyboard (see the image to be sure).

Once you enter the system restore service, a smaller window will open where you can enter the name of your backup (for example, "October backup").

If something does not turn out as expected, it is in this administrative window where you will have to return to revert the changes, only that, instead of pressing the "create" button as indicated in the image, you will have to press the upper button "restore system" and choose the previously created backup (eg: “October backup”).

With that cleared up, let's start with the guide.

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Within the Hardware modifications that we can make to our PC to improve its speed, we can consider adding RAM, or change our hard drive for an SSD, the solid state hard drives (no moving parts). If we have 4GB of RAM or less, a probable cause that our PC is slow is that same. Today it is recommended to have 8GB of RAM, and even if they tell you otherwise, if you do not use image editing programs, sound, or powerful video games, with 8GB you will be fine.

Expanding RAM memory

The first limitation of a PC is its physical memory, that is, the place where programs are kept active once they are started. Nowadays, 4gb of RAM should be the minimum, although I recommend 8gb. The main cause of slowdowns due to low RAM are complex applications such as video editing, Photoshop, audio editing or programming, and, on the other hand, Internet browsers (such as Chrome or Edge, for example), which consume a large amount of RAM.

Filling up the RAM memory turns our PC into a turtle, and it can even suffer from latencies and pauses for a moment. To fix these issues, upgrade the amount of your RAM memory.

Replacing your drive with an SSD

The second big limitation is the hard drive. This is where Windows, programs, and all personal files are located. Every time something is loaded (for example, we open Internet Explorer) the hard drive needs to fetch the information from the files and transfer it to RAM.

More than 80% of today's computers have mechanical hard drives (HDD). However, today there is a better option: Solid State Drives (SSD) which are its successors: digital 100% and with instant access to information. This type of disk accelerates the reading and writing process of your operating system in a very significant (read tremendous) way. Have you heard that a computer starts up in 5 seconds? Well, that's because it has a solid state hard drive.

My disk is HDD and I don't want to invest in an SSD: what do I do?

What you must control is that a HDD is never completely full. If your disk exceeds 3/4 of its capacity, it starts to slow down (We will see how to empty it later, in this same note). Otherwise you should keep it defragmented, something that we also explain and teach you how to do in this same note, below.

It should be clarified that an SSD disk does not fragment or suffer slowdowns because it is full. This is another reason that makes it so precious (and expensive).

Get a more powerful GPU

In case you use your computer to use design programs or for video games, it is also important the dedicated Video Card, or GPU (for Graphic Processing Unit, or graphics processing unit). In laptops, however, forget about this point since the video cards are integrated into the motherboard (almost always; some expensive models include a dedicated video card from one of these two brands, nVidia or AMD, but it is not more common).

On desktop PCs, changing (or adding, if you have integrated video) a modern video card is easier than it seems.

Both AMD and NVIDIA, today's leading brands in GPUs, offer several options that may fit your needs.

Another good news about having an NVIDIA or AMD GPU is that today many programs already access graphics CPUs (read GPUs) to speed up processes. Believe it or not, browsing the internet is faster in Chrome, Firefox and Edge if you have a dedicated video card, Well, these programs already use the GPU in conjunction with your mother's processor to generate the start of web pages at the speed of light. YouTube is a page that also benefits if you have a video card, like all those that contain multimedia content. At the same time, graphic and video design programs use GPUs to process filters and other image transformations. Among these programs we find Photoshop, Premiere, Illustrator, Corel and a wide variety of video converters. So, video card is no longer synonymous with 3D games.

Dust off the CPU

Over time, the internal physical components of the PC accumulate dust and dirt. Even if it looks like a lie, a layer of dust works as an insulator that prevents proper heat dissipation. To make matters worse, dust gets inside the heatsinks, and it also slows down our fan blades. All the components of our PC work faster at low temperatures, while they tend to reduce their calculations per cycle the more internal heat is generated. So, an annual cleaning, at a minimum, is mandatory.

For the cleaning task, you will need to turn off your machine and unplug all cables. The recommendation is that you buy compressed air for electronic circuits (in a hardware store or in a hardware store). The alternative is to use a vacuum cleaner, or take your case to a service station and use the pressurized air used to inflate the tires (yes, you can do that).

Attention: although it may seem easier (and hygienic) to suck up the dust with a vacuum cleaner, it is not recommended since it can generate electrical discharges in the components. Our recommendation is that you use canned air to blow dust, as long as you do it on a patio or balcony (because it's amazing how much dust you'll kick up if you've never done it before).

Software

defragmentation

In case of using a mechanical disk (HDD), in addition to being slow, it suffers a process called "fragmentation" (which SSDs do not have). Over time, the programs we use and their activity within our drive by modifying, creating, or deleting files cause the bitfield to become cluttered; the bits are separated from each other, alternating, and then it is more difficult to access a complete file since it can be broken into infinite pieces.

To reverse this process there is "defragmentation". You can access this option from your start menu by typing “defragment” (as the image on the right shows), or from the disk tools themselves when you right-click on your drive icon. It takes time for the process to finish, but let it do it and you will notice the results (it can take a few hours, depending on how many fragmented files your disk has).

Optimize Start

If your PC is taking a long time to boot, you may have too many pre-load programs in your startup settings (because many programs, when installed, place parts of themselves to load with your operating system startup). Enter the task manager (by right clicking on the start bar) and then go to the "start" tab. There you will see the list of programs that are loaded along with windows when you start your PC. In that list you can eliminate what is not necessary (such as preloads of programs that you do not use frequently).

In case you don't know the usefulness of any of them, you can always google to check if they are really necessary.

The way to remove a program from the windows startup is by selecting it as "disabled" (just mark a line so that the "disable" sign lights up).

Update your drivers

Your PC comes with many internal hardware components. For example, you have a Wi-Fi "chip", processor, video card, sound card, network card, etc. All these components are controlled by drivers (or “controllers”). What are drivers? They are the programs that control the way those components work. And, like every piece of software, they can crash (especially if they're outdated versions) or even fail when it comes to optimizing your hardware's performance. To check if there are newer versions of your drivers, follow these steps:

Open device manager by clicking on the start logo and typing “device manager” as shown in the screenshot.

On the screen that opens you will see all the internal hardware of your PC. Right-clicking on any description will allow you to verify the validity of the driver or hardware, as indicated in the following image.

Should you perform a registry cleanup?

The so-called "registry file" is a crucial part of the Windows operating system. In many cases, it contains hundreds of entries (addresses to files and settings), which may be invalid or empty (it happens when you delete a program but it doesn't clean up properly). Registry cleaner programs find and delete obsolete entries, or redirect them to the right file in some cases.

Although it can happen, it is not so common that these errors have a significant impact on the performance of your PC. It is true that a higher number of entries (caused by a high number of installed programs) slows down the boot of your computer, but the general size of the files that are read is quite small. Nevertheless, If you experience startup errors or file not found messages, we recommend cleaning your registry.

Viruses, trojans and adware

Viruses, adware, malware, spyware, and Trojans are not only a huge security threat, they can literally kill your PC's performance. If your computer is running slow you can't pass up a full scan of all files. Windows has a built-in program that does this for you: windows defender. On some computers it is active, but on others it is not, since third-party antivirus programs, such as Norton, McAffee and others, turn it off so that there are not two antiviruses running at the same time (and if you have two antiviruses at the same time I guarantee you that your machine will be slow for sure, so choose only one and disable the one that doesn't interest you).

To open Windows Defender, type its name into the Windows search engine by clicking the start button with the windows logo.

In the Defender interface, select “virus and threat protection”.


Once there, select "advanced exam" as I show you in the image below.


And then, with the full exam type selected, hit the “examine now” button. Don't panic: this exam can take several hours. And with each threat found, Defender will give you information and allow you to delete malicious files with one click.


If you prefer to use a third-party antivirus, look in its documentation for a way to perform a full scan (you probably just have to press a button that says just that). All cleaning programs then generate a result of what they have found and deleted, so pay attention to be better prepared next time.

free up space

Unless you have a new SSD drive (mentioned above in the text), when a typical hard drive is three-quarters full (ie above a 75%), it starts to slow down. Then it's time to delete everything you don't use, or backup everything you want to keep on external drives. Video, music, documents, photos: everything is inside your disk taking up space. Here you should employ a manual and thorough task, selecting what works and what does not, and what things would be better to have on a recordable DVD or external drive. Deleting unused files and freeing up disk space can speed up your computer's performance, a lot.

Likewise, you may have programs installed that you no longer use. If so, you should uninstall them to free up space. The way to do it is as follows:

Then the following interface will open that will show you all the installed programs. You can sort them alphabetically, by size, or by installation folder. However, clicking on any of them will activate the uninstall button, as shown in the image below.


It is likely that the uninstall program of the software you want to remove will be activated. So follow the instructions on the screen (you will probably have to accept the process or click on some “next” buttons to achieve it).

Another alternative you have is to delete the caches that are generated in windows. Caches are files that your computer saves in order to prevent, for example, downloads from the internet. Example of this: if you often visit the site of a digital newspaper, or a social network, many files are repeated every day (such as the logo of the site and the images that make up its interface, among other information). Windows (and internet browsers) try to learn with artificial intelligence what activities you do most often with your computer, and the result of this is files with prefabricated information, so that you don't have to process or download it again, if it's from the internet . But also the software you use, for example, a video, audio or image editor, generate their own caches in windows, and they are not always successfully deleted when you turn off your PC.

The way to delete these files is using the windows tool, typing “space liberator” as the image below shows.

You will then see a very small screen where you can simply select the drive you want to wipe (in most cases, C:). Next, a new window will allow you to choose what kind of files you want to delete (from temporary internet to cache files, thumbnails and much more). Unless you are not convinced, select everything and click the “ok” button.

Windows will start deleting the selected type of files.

We trust that with all these tips you have enough time to spend cleaning and updating your PC, both its components and its programs and viruses. Cheer up and follow our steps, the results are guaranteed.

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