How to Speed Up a Slow Windows Computer for Free

As your computer ages, it accumulates fragments of temporary files and the hard drive becomes encumbered as a result; after enough time has passed, you will notice a significant difference in your computer's processing speed. While you can't completely negate computer slow-down as it pertains to age, you can do a few things to speed up your computer's processing speed and startup time.

Disabling Startup Programs

Hold down Ctrl+Alt+Del.

This will bring up your PC’s task menu. If you have a myriad of programs starting up when you log into your computer, you’ll likely have to deal with several minutes of general slow-down. Disabling startup programs will fix this issue.

Click the “Task Manager” option.

This will open your computer’s Task Manager, from which you can alter or end PC processes. After that, click on “More details”.

Click the “Startup” tab.

This is near the top of your Task Manager window; doing so will bring up a list of the programs that boot up when you start your PC.

Click on a process you wish to disable.

Note that “disabling” a process will not disable it from running at all; rather, it will prevent the program from starting up automatically.

Click the “Disable” button.

This is in the bottom right corner of your Task Manager window.

  • You can also right-click a process and then click “Disable” in the context menu.

Repeat this disabling process for all relevant programs.

Some common high memory-usage culprits include Skype and Steam

  • If you’re unsure of which programs to disable, look at the “Startup impact” column on the right side of the Task Manager window; generally speaking, you should disable any “High”- or “Medium”-rated programs.
  • It is recommended that you leave your antivirus enabled; otherwise your antivirus might not run at startup and thus you would be unprotected from viruses.

Close the Task Manager when you’re done.

To get the most out of this process, you’ll also need to clear out the Hidden Icons menu.

Open the “Hidden Icons” menu.

This is the upward-facing arrow on the right side of your taskbar and to the left of your clock. Click or tap it to open your menu.

Review your Hidden Icons menu.

Often, you’ll find background processes running here (e.g., Dropbox or Google Drive). Killing these processes will free up random access memory (RAM) which will in turn increase your computer’s processing speed. You can end these processes from within this menu.

Right-click a process you wish to end.

For example, if you aren’t using your computer’s cloud storage app, you should consider ending this process.

Click “Exit” at the bottom of the context menu.

This will usually prompt you to confirm your decision by clicking “Exit (App Name)”. You’ll need to repeat this process for every single process you want to end.

Enable Fast Startup in Windows 10

Open Control Panel.

Search for it in the Search bar, located near the bottom right corner of your screen.

  • Fast startup is a new Windows 10 feature, which speeds up the startup time on your computer.






Turning Off Visual Effects

Open the Start menu.

This is in the bottom left corner of your computer screen. Visual effects in Windows 8 and 10 were designed for relevant brand-new machines; if you updated to one of these operating systems with an older computer, you’ve probably noticed some significant slow-down. Turning down the visual effects will speed up your computer’s processing immensely.

  • You can also tap the key to open Start.

Open the “Control Panel” app.

You can do this by typing “control panel” into Start’s search bar, or you can open Control Panel manually from the “Windows System” folder at the bottom of the Start menu.

Type “Adjust the appearance” into Control Panel’s search bar.

The search bar is in the top right corner of your Control Panel window.

Click “Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows”.

This should be near the top of the “System” group on the left side of the Control Panel window.

Review your computer’s visual effects.

You have a few options in this menu:

  • Adjust for best appearance – This will turn Windows effects all the way up, which is effectively the opposite of what you should do.
  • Adjust for best performance – This will turn Windows effects down considerably, speeding up your computer in the process.
  • Custom – Un-check the box next to any feature you wish to disable. For optimal performance on an older machine, disable every feature.

Click the option that best pertains to your PC.

For older machines, using the Custom option to disable all visual effects is your best course of action, while the “Adjust for best performance” option will take care of most mid-range computers.

Exit the Performance Options window.

You may notice a decrease in the presentation quality on your computer, but its processing speed should have increased.

Cleaning Up Your Hard Drive

Open your Start menu.

This is in the lower left corner of your screen.

Type “disk cleanup” into the search menu.

You should see an app appear at the top of the Start screen.

Click the “Disk Cleanup” app.

Disk Cleanup is a standard utility on an Windows computer; it rids your computer of temporary files, processes, and other small bits of information that can slow down your PC’s processing speed.

Check every box under the “Files to Delete” heading.

This will clear the following items from your computer’s cache:

  • Downloaded program files
  • Temporary internet files
  • Recycle Bin contents
  • Temporary files
  • Thumbnails
  • You may also see other options here depending on which default apps shipped with your device. It’s perfectly safe to check any box in this menu, so check these too.

Click “OK”, then confirm by clicking “Delete Files”.

This will get rid of your computer’s temporary files. If you don’t perform this cleanup often, you can find several gigabytes’ worth of temporary files and such here.

Open Start again, then type “defrag” into the search bar.

This will locate the disk defragmentation app on your computer.

Click the “Defragment and Optimize Drives” option.

This should be at the top of your Start menu. When your hard drive has been around for a while, its subfolders and their respective contents get scattered around your hard drive (in other words, your drives “fragment”). Running the Disk Defragment tool will consolidate your files and these fragments, which will increase the speed at which your hard drive can access information.

  • Do not run the Disk Defragment program if your computer has a solid-state drive installed. SSDs are made to resist fragmentation, so running a defrag on them can seriously damage your files.

Select your main drive in the Defrag window.

It should be labeled something like “OS:C”.

Click “Optimize”.

This will begin to defragment your drive. Depending on how long it has been since your last defrag, this can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Consider moving files to external storage.

Hard drives recall the first 50 percent of storage placed on them much quicker than they do the bottom 50 percent; for example, if you have a 500 gigabyte hard drive, the first 250 gigabytes of information you put on your hard drive will be quicker to access. You’ll notice significantly less slow-down on your PC if you limit your file storage to half of that of your hard drive’s capacity. The best way to do this is by increasing your hard drive capacity with an external flash drive or hard drive.

  • You can also move your files to any one of several free cloud storage services (e.g., Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox).

Uninstalling Unnecessary Programs

Open your Start menu.

You can view all of your PC’s programs and apps from inside of the Start menu; simply scroll down to view all of them.

  • You will also see folders here; they often contain more apps, so click them to view their contents.

Decide on which apps you want to uninstall.

Generally speaking, apps like “News” or a radio app that ship with your OS are completely unnecessary (and easily replaced with better programs or online plugins).

  • If an app is crucial to your computer’s functionality, you won’t be able to delete it; that being said, most mandatory apps take up minimal processing power.

Right-click an app you want to uninstall.

This will prompt a context menu.

Click “Uninstall”, then confirm your choice.

This will immediately uninstall your app or program, negating the need to visit the “Programs and Features” folder.

  • You may have to click “More” at the bottom of the context menu to access the “Uninstall” option.

Uninstall any apps you don’t use.

Most Windows computers ship with a large quantity of stock apps, plugins, programs, and free trials; these should all be candidates for deletion.

Consider installing replacement programs.

For every stock installed app, there is at least one viable alternative:

  • Replace Microsoft Edge with Chrome or Firefox. Both of these browsers are faster, easier-to-use alternatives to Edge.
  • Replace “Groove” with iTunes. Again, you can’t delete Groove, but it takes much more processing power to run Groove than it does to run iTunes.
  • Replace your default video player with VLC. VLC can play almost any video format and has a simpler, cleaner interface than default Microsoft video players, which translates to quicker processing speed.

Restart your computer.

After implementing all of these changes, your computer should be running much faster now!


  • Make sure your computer is running in high-performance mode. If you’re on a “Power Saver” plan or something similar, you will notice decreased processing speed when using high-performance apps or games. You can check this by clicking the battery icon on the right side of your taskbar.
  • While it isn’t technically part of your physical computer, clearing your browser’s cache and cookies will improve your web browsing speed.
  • You should also run security checks at least once a week using the antivirus security program of your choice. This will keep adware and malware from clogging up your computer’s processor.


  • Refrain from downloading third-party apps to clean up your computer. Everything one of these apps might accomplish will be easily doable by you with the technology available by default on your Windows PC.

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