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1. Remove unnecessary programs

When we use a computer, what we really mean is that we're using software. Whether it's for work or hobby, for surfing the web or gaming, it's software that we're interacting with. The sort of software you use says a lot about your style and interests. But that doesn't mean that every application installed on your computer is a good fit for your system. Different programs make different demands on your computer. Often, an application is set up to keep a background process running, even when you aren't using it. The more programs you have installed, the greater the chances that your computer's resources are being divvied up. If things get too spread out, the system can slow down.

A good strategy is to look at the programs you have installed and decide which ones you use, and which programs you can remove. Open the Windows search and type in either "Add or Remove Programs" or "Programs or Features" in the Settings field.

Find 'Add or remove programs'

Choosing this option will open up the Programs and Features dialog. Here you can pick and choose, finding those programs that you deem to be unhelpful or unnecessary. To uninstall a given application, just find it in the list and double-click it, that or just click Uninstall at the top.

Uninstall or change a program

2. Remove potentially unwanted startups

When you install new software, it's common for the application to request startup privileges. This means that when Windows starts, the process for that application can start too. This can be useful; it means that programs can be ready at a moment's notice, and when it detects that you're trying to open a certain kind of file, it'll pull up quickly so you don't have to wait.

But having all of those programs running at once can take a toll on your system speed. More immediately, they can cause your PC bootup to get slower, taking longer and longer to get things started.

The good news is you can prevent a program from starting at bootup without removing it or affecting the way it works. In Windows 8, open up the Task Manager by searching for "Task Manager"; or you can click the button combination CTRL + SHIFT + ESC.

Key combination CTRL + SHIFT + ESC

When the Task Manger pops up, go to the tab labeled Startups. Here you can see a list of items that are set to start when Windows does. To either disable or enable a given startup entry, simply highlight the entry and click the option button in the bottom, right corner.

Windows Task Manager

In Windows 7, you can control startups just as easily, but you have to do it in the MSCONFIG menu. You can find it by searching "msconfig.exe" or by typing "msconfig.exe" into the RUN menu (which you can activate with the key combination Windows + R). Here you can access the Startup Tab and then choose the items you want to start automatically. Just add or remove checks to set your startup profile and then click Apply.

3. Remove junk data

Your computer is constantly storing data. Temporary Internet files, program and system logs, histories - even the recycling bin is a form of data storage that allows you to go back and retrieve something that you might have forgotten about. The trouble is, this temporary data can build up over time. This takes up space and it also has the potential to pose a security risk, especially if any of that stored data contains personal information, like names and addresses, passwords or family relations. You don't want that falling into the wrong hands, especially when getting hold of it is just the digital equivalent of just going through the trash.

An easy way to clean out accumulated junk is to use the Disk Cleanup feature in Windows. To use it, search either "Disk Cleanup" or "Free Up Disk Space" in the Settings field. Then click on the option that says "Free Up Disk Space by Removing Unnecessary Files."

Find the 'Disk Cleanup' Utility

Windows will do a scan of your disk, determining what sorts of temporary files are candidates for deletion.

Disk Cleanup: Calculating Disk Space

Once it's open, put a check in the box beside those things that you don't mind getting rid of. When you've made your selection, click OK and Windows will get rid of everything you've selected, freeing up disk space and removing potential risks to your privacy.

Windows Disk Cleanup Utility

4. Update your software

There's no clearer way to say it: software updates matter. They enable you to get available features and protect you from potential errors. That's why having software that's up-to-date is so important; it can safeguard against potential problems that are often associated with computers slowing down or with individual programs becoming unreliable. The trouble here is that some software lets you know when it's time for an update and some don't. Web Browsers like Internet Explorer or Firefox are very good at letting you know when it's time to update your browser software. Other applications aren't so forward, and you have to look for updates now and again.

Checking for updates is easy. For most applications, the best way it to open up the software and then look for a Help menu. It's a good bet that you'll find a link there that says something like "Check for Updates." Click it, and the program performs a web search, letting you know if there are newer versions ready for your system.

Update Software via Help Menu

5. Defragment your hard drive

Hard drive fragmentation may sound complicated, but the idea is simple. When programs or program features get removed, Windows will designate the space they once occupied as "available." The thing, is, that available space is right where the old program used to be. Over time, the memory structure may still house free space, but it's not consolidated. Instead it's represented by gaps spread over the disk. When you defragment a disk drive, you tell the computer to take the gaps and put them together, thus making a larger area that's designated as free space.

How does this help a slow computer? Even though computers are fast (and constantly getting faster) it's still beneficial for them to not have to search for free space. Having all of the used space and free space separated can enable the system to potentially boost its efficiency. To launch the Windows defragmenter, search for "Defragment" it in the Settings field.

Find the 'Defragment' Utility

Click on "Defragment and Optimize Your Drives." This will launch the Optimize Drives windows where you can choose a disk to see its status.

  • Click Analyze to do a fragmentation check. This will give you a heads up of the state of that drive.
  • Click Optimize to run the defragmentation process. But note though, the defragmentation process may take a long time, usually several hours. That's why it's a good idea to run the disk defragmenter over a period of time where you don't need the computer, perhaps overnight.

Windows Defragment and Optimization Utility

6. Manage your services

A service is a helping program that assists a bigger "host" program. These services can do different things, like fetching resources used by the host, checking for updates, or authenticating network privileges. Just like the program processes that may or may not have a startup entry, services are things that run in the background. This means that they are taking up some share of computer resources like virtual memory.

Like startups, services can be set to initiate when Windows starts, or they can be disabled completely. You can configure the services profile of your computer to create a truly fine-tuned system behavior. Doing this can indeed affect the overall performance of your system, though it's a good idea to make sure that you know what you're doing when you begin because some services are used by more than one host. That's why a valid option for configuring a service's use is to set its startup status to Manual. This means that that service will only initiate when it is called upon by a host.

To manage Windows services, search "View Local Services" in the Settings field.

Find the 'Services' manager

Choosing this will open the Services control panel. Here you can see a list of the services running on your system. The status column tells you whether that service is currently running and the startup type column tells you how it's configured. By highlighting a given service and then right-clicking on it, you can open its context menu. Click on Properties.

Windows Services Manager

When you do, a Properties dialog will open up for that service where you can specify how you want it to start up:

  • Automatic will have it initiate when Windows boots.
  • Disable will prevent if from initiating at all.
  • Manual will keep that service dormant until it is needed.

Service Properties Windows

7. Clean up your browser(s)

As more and more of our computing goes online, Web-based tools have played a greater role in the way the average person uses a PC. Web browsers have become platforms that emulate the larger PC in that they can accommodate smaller helper programs called add-ons. These tools provide special Web functions like games, access to social media, and file-type recognition that can enable media on different websites. And just like programs within Windows, browser add-ons use resources.

Having extensions and toolbars that aren't helpful to you can be source of slowed browser performance. That's why it's a good idea to manage your browser add-ons the same way you might manage your installed programs. Search for "Manage browser add-ons" in the Settings field, and you can access the manager for Internet Explorer.

Find the 'Manage Add-ons' Utility

When the Internet Properties manager appears, you can opt to Manage add-ons.

Internet Properties

Here you have choices on how to treat a given add-on. You can opt to alternatively enable or disable it for a given period of time; or, if it's just not something you need, you can delete it altogether. Most extensions and add-ons also include specific settings you can control, determining how it behaves when you're surfing the Web.

Manage Add-ons Utility

To change the way a given add-on is treated, highlight it, and options will appear that let you adjust its ongoing status. For a given web feature, you have the option to enable it, disable it or remove it. When available, you also have the ability to specify special options, telling the extensions and add-ons how to behave in different circumstances.

You can also control add-ons in other browsers. To reach the configuration menus in Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, follow the instructions below.
• Mozilla Firefox: Click the Settings Button (Three horizontal bars in top right corner)
• Google Chrome: Click the Settings Button (Three horizontal bars in top right corner)
Tools Extensions


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