My computer is running slow... what steps can I do to fix it?

Slow computerTip: This page only covers an overall slow computer and not a computer that has a slow boot up or slow Internet.

Below are steps for Microsoft Windows users that can help speed up the computer or determine why the computer is running slow.

Reboot

If your computer has not been rebooted recently, make sure to reboot it before following any of the steps below.

Background programs

One of the most common reasons for a slow computer are programs running in the background. Remove or disable any TSRs and startup programs that automatically start each time the computer boots.

Tip: To see what programs are running in the background and how much memory and CPU they are using, open Task Manager. If you are running Windows 7 or higher, run Resmon to get a better understanding of how your computer is being used.

If you have an antivirus scanner on the computer, spyware protection program, or another security utility, make sure it is not scanning your computer in the background. If a scan is in progress, it can decrease the overall performance of your computer.

Delete temp files

As a computer runs programs, accesses web pages, and is being used in general, temporary files are being stored on the hard drive. Deleting these temp files can help improve computer performance.

First, we suggest using the Windows Disk Cleanup utility to delete temporary files and other files no longer needed on the computer.

Temporary folderUnfortunately, the Disk Cleanup may not delete all of the files in the temp directory. Therefore, we also suggest deleting temporary files manually by opening the Start menu and enter %temp% in the Search field (in Windows XP and prior, click the Run option in the Start menu and enter %temp% in the Run field). Press Enter and a Temp folder should open. You can delete all files found in this folder and if any files are in use they can be skipped.

Free hard drive space

Verify that there is at least 200-500MB of free hard drive space. This available space allows the computer to have room for the swap file to increase in size, as well as room for temporary files.

Bad, corrupted or fragmented hard drive

Scan for malware

Today, spyware and other malware is a big cause of many computer problems, including a slow computer. Even if an antivirus scanner is installed on the computer, we recommend running a malware scan on the computer. Use the free version of Malwarebytes to scan your computer for malware.

Scan for viruses

If your computer is infected with one or more viruses, this can cause your computer to run slow. If your computer does not have an antivirus program installed, you can run Trend Micro's free Housecall online utility to check for viruses on your computer, as well as remove them. It is also recommended that you install an antivirus program for active protection against viruses.

Hardware conflicts

Update Windows

Update your drivers

Make sure you have got the latest drivers for your computer, especially the latest video drivers. Having out-of-date drivers can cause an assortment of issues, including slow performance.

Reboot computer again

If you have done any of the above steps but your computer is still acting slow try rebooting the computer again at this point.

Memory upgrade

Computer memory aka RAMIf you have had your computer for more than two years, you may need more memory. Today, we suggest computers have a minimum of 1GB of memory (RAM) for 32-bit system and 2GB for a 64-bit system. By having enough memory for programs to run within memory, your computer will not need to swap information stored within memory to the swap file. If your computer hard drive light is constantly active, its a good indication that your computer is swapping information between your memory and hard drive because of the lack of space in memory.

Hard drive upgrade

One of the biggest bottlenecks of a computer is the hard disk drive. For anyone with a slow computer or just looking for something to upgrade in the computer to improve overall system performance, upgrading from a traditional hard drive to a Solid State Drive (SSD) will significantly improve the overall system performance.

Run registry cleaner

We normally do not recommend registry cleaners. However, if you have followed all of the above steps and your computer is still slow, try running a registry cleaner on the computer.

Computer or processor is overheating

Make sure your computer and processor is not overheating. Excessive heat can cause a significant decrease in computer performance because most processors automatically reduce the speed of the processor to help compensate for the heat related issues.

Dust, dirt, and hair can also constrict proper air flow inside your computer, which can cause a computer to overheat. Make sure your computer case is clean and fans are not obstructed.

Erase computer and start over

If none of the above solutions resolve your issues, another option is to either reinstall Windows or erase everything and then start over.

Erasing everything and starting over can increase performance by getting rid of old software or drivers that may be on the computer and causing the computer to be slow. Installing a fresh copy of Windows, software programs, and the latest drivers help verify there is no software related issues causing your computer to be slow.

Hardware issues

Finally, if your computer continues to be slower than normal after going over each of the above recommendations (including erasing and starting over), it's possible that your computer is experiencing a more serious hardware related issue such as a failing component in the computer. This could be a failing or bad hard drive, CPU, RAM, motherboard, or other component.

You can run hardware diagnostic tests using the Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD) utility. This utility provides many diagnostic tests that you can run and determine if your computer has a bad piece of hardware.

Old computer

If your computer is older than five years, the age of the computer could be the cause of the slow performance. Computers advance in technology and capabilities and newer, more advanced software programs come out to run properly on the new computers. Older computers are not able to run the new programs as well, which can cause them to slow down. If your computer is older than five years, we suggest purchasing a new computer or accept that, if all the above options do not work to speed up your computer, it will just run slower than a newer computer.