As computers get older, they start can start to slow down and not perform as well as they did in their youth. A little care and attention to your system can act like a rejuvenation tonic, returning a spring to your PC's virtual step and easing away all those aches and groans that made it grumble away every time it had to access the hard drive. Just by utilising a few simple tools and tidying up a couple of areas, your computer will act like it's had years taken off it. In fact, you can actually prolong the life of your system by following these steps. Here's a guide to brushing those cobwebs away.

The Knowhow

Remove programs you no longer use

You may find that over time you install programs, utilities or games that you no longer use. These will slowly use up the resources on your computer, so it worth uninstalling anything you don't use any more.

  • Open the Control Panel and click Add or Remove Programs
    • In Windows XP go to Start > Settings > Control Panel > Add or Remove Programs
  • Work down the list and remove anything your no longer want or use by right-clicking and choosing Uninstall

Clean up your hard disk drive

Probably the hardest working component in your computer is your hard disk drive. All your files and information is stored here and whenever you use your computer files are constantly added, deleted or moved.

  • In Windows Vista and 7, press Start and type disk into the 'Search programs and files box'
    • If you're prompted for an administrator password or for a confirmation, type the password, or click Allow
  • Click Disk Cleanup from the Programs section. This can take a few minutes to open, while it inspects your computer.
  • If using Windows XP go to: Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup
  • Tick any options you want to clean up. Files to look out for include:
    • Temporary Internet Files
    • Recycle Bin
    • Setup Log Files
    • Temporary files
    • Thumbnails
    • Windows Error Reports
Disk Cleanup maintenance tool in Windows 7
  • When you are ready to start click OK
  • You'll be asked if you're sure you want to permanently delete these files, click Delete Files to continue. This will quickly remove the unwanted files from your computer and free up some storage space.

Trim Startup Programs

All the icons in the bottom right of the screen indicate a program that automatically loads every time you start your computer. Each one will use some of your computer's resources and too many will slow your computer down.

  • In Windows Vista and 7, press Start and type msconfig into the 'Search programs and files box'
    • If you're prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, type the password, or click Allow
  • Choose msconfig.exe from the Programs section
  • In Windows XP go to Start > Run... type msconfig and click Run
  • A new window will appear. Click Startup to view some of the programs that automatically start with Windows.

    Windows System configuration utility startup items
  • Work down the list and remove the tick next to the name of anything you don't want to start automatically when you turn your computer on.
    • To ensure your computer remains protected, it's vital that you leave your security software ticked, such as Symantec, McAfee and Microsoft. So if you see your security software's company or name in the Startup Item or Manufacturer column, leave it ticked.
  • Click OK and then Restart to apply the changes
  • Once your computer returns to your desktop you will have less icons in the notification area and your computer will have more free resources

Organise your hard disk drive

When you store files on your hard drive, it fills up the first free space it comes across. This can mean your files are split over several locations. This can cause a slight performance loss when you access files again. However, the more information stored on the hard drive, the bigger the performance loss - these fragmented files can really slow a system down over time. Windows have a built in program that automatically sorts out your files and puts them together in a neat order.

You can start this by:

  • In Windows Vista and 7, press Start and type defragment into the 'Search programs and files box'
    • If you're prompted for an administrator password or for a confirmation, type the password, or click Allow
  • Click Disk Defragmenter from the 'Programs' section
  • If using Windows XP go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter

    Running Disk Defragmenter on a Windows 7 computer
  • Click Defragment disk and the process will automatically start
  • Depending on how much you use your computer and how much work needs to be done this can take from a few minutes to several hours. This is all automatic so you don't need to do anything further.

After all of this de-cluttering, you should notice an impressive increase in speed. It may take some time to do the maintenance the first time round but if you repeat the process on a regular basis it becomes much faster as there's less to do.

Here's to a long and happy life to your newly youthful PC.


Updated On:

Jul 03, 2012

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