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

Updated: 12/09/2018 by Computer Hope

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 at least 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 resources are 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 will decrease the overall performance of your computer. If this is the case, allow the scan to complete, and the computer's performance should improve.

Delete temp files

As a computer runs programs, temporary files are 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 every file in the temp directory. Therefore, we also suggest deleting temporary files manually. To do this, open the Start Menu and type %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 and cannot be deleted, 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 viruses

If your computer is infected with one or more viruses, it may run more slowly. If your computer does not have an antivirus program installed, you can run Trend Micro's free Housecall online utility to scan 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.

Scan for malware

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

Hardware conflicts

Update Windows

Update your drivers

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 Having out-of-date drivers can cause an assortment of issues, including slow performance.

Reboot the computer again

After making any of the changes above, be sure to reboot your machine.

Run a 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.

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 2 GB of memory (RAM) for a 32-bit system and 4 GB for a 64-bit system. By having enough memory for programs to run within memory, your computer will not need to swap information stored in memory to the swap file. If the hard drive light is constantly active, it can be an indication the computer is frequently swapping information between your memory and hard drive.

Hard drive upgrade

SSDOne of the biggest bottlenecks of a computer is the hard disk drive. Upgrading from a standard hard drive to a Solid State Drive (SSD) will drastically improve the performance of a computer.

Computer or processor is overheating

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

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

Increase or upgrade processor speed

Increasing the speed of the processor, or CPU, can help improve your computer's performance. There are two options for increasing processor speed: overclocking or upgrading.

Overclocking a processor means increasing its speed beyond what it has been designed to stably run. While overclocking can increase the processor speed, the increase is often not very significant, resulting in maybe a 10% or 20% speed increase at most. Furthermore, the processor itself must be capable of being overclocked. You would need to find the specifications for the processor in your computer to determine if it can be overclocked. An overclocked processor will generate more heat, thus requiring a more powerful heat sink and fan to pull the excess heat away from the processor.

A safer alternative to overclocking is upgrading the processor in your computer. You would need to get the specifications for your motherboard to determine what type of newer processor may be used in it. You can then install the new processor in place of the existing processor.

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 on your computer and reinstalling the operating system can increase performance by getting rid of old software or drivers. Installing a fresh copy of Windows, software programs, and the latest drivers help verify there are no software related issues causing your computer to be slow.

Hardware issues

Finally, if your computer is still slow after trying all of the above recommendations, there may have a more serious hardware related issue, such as a failing component in the computer. Examples of failing hardware could include the hard drive, CPU, RAM, motherboard, or other components.

You can run hardware diagnostic tests using the Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD) utility. This utility provides information on whether or not your computer has a bad piece of hardware.

Old computer

If your computer is more than five years old, it will have slower performance than a new one. As more advanced software programs are released, they are optimized to run more efficiently on newer computers. Older computers are not able to run these new programs as well, which can cause them to perform more slowly. Furthermore, new software tends to be more demanding in general, which is another problem for old hardware. We recommend that you consider purchasing a new computer or upgrading your current one.