How to Speed Up Your PC

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There is nothing more frustrating than a slow PC. It's especially frustrating when  you know that it's performance could be faster but you're not sure what to do. What can I do to speed up my PC is the obvious question you ask yourself.

PC Tools

The following is a list of PC
tools I use to speed up my PC, whether I’m using a word processing program or
surfing the web. They include a virus scan to ensure you are virus, spyware,
and adware free, using the Windows Task Manager for locating memory draining
processes, running a registry cleaner to check your Windows registry for
errors, removing unnecessary files using Disk Cleanup, how to backup the
Windows registry using the Registry Editor, using the Error Checking utility,
Checkdisk, to locate and repair hard drive errors, running the Disk
Defragmenter to defragment your hard drive to speed up access, adding
additional RAM for an overall speed increase, using the Services tab of the System Configuration Utility for
removing slow background services, running an online speed test, check all
cable wiring for continuity, and verifying you have the best possible Internet service
provider plan to meet your needs. Be careful with this information though. You
may end up becoming the "PC doctor" amongst your circle of friends!

1. Ensure you are virus free by running a virus and spyware/adware scan to check for possible infections.

In fact, you should have a good virus protection program running 24/7 and have its virus definitions updated regularly. If the scan shows infection, successful removal will have a substantial impact on the speed of your system. Your pc should certainly run faster as a result.


virus spyware adware scan

2. Run the Windows Task Manager to check for CPU hogs.

a. To open the Task Manager, depress the CTRL + ALT + DELETE keys (in that order and keep them depressed). 

windows task manager

b. The Task Manager gives a considerable amount of information about your system. The tab to focus on is the Processes Tab. Check out all of the processes and see how much of the CPU is being used for that process (shown under the CPU column). Look for processes that are unusually high, 70-80%. 

c. Compare it to what it does for your system. You should get an idea of what application it is associated with by selecting the Applications tab and view which ones are currently running. If you're not sure, select the application with your mouse.  

windows task manager

d. Right-button click it with the mouse and from the shortcut menu, select the choice, "Go to Process." It will take you to it's associated process on the Processes tab.

windows task manager


e. One of the most misunderstood processes shown in the Task Manager's processes tab is the entry, "System Idle Processes." The number in the CPU column does not indicate how much of the CPU is being used, as it is with the other processes. It is an indication of how much of the CPU is FREE. If you don't have alot of things going on, this number SHOULD BE HIGH and a high number is NORMAL. If the number is low, perhaps in the teens, it reflects heavy system usage and is an indication to close some applications.

windows task manager


f. If you suspect a virus or malware infection, expect a low number since the virus or adware is draining the system with unknown activity. You should be able to find the bogus process by checking and verifying each process by researching them until you find one that is not valid. That process more than likely is the offending one from the virus.

g. You can right click that offending process with the mouse and select "End Process" from the shortcut menu. With viruses or adware, this may or may not work, depending on the sophistication and design of the virus.

3. Check the Windows Registry for errors.

The Registry is a hierarchical database created during the installation of Windows. It contains binary files that hold system configuration information about various aspects of Windows, including security settings, user profiles, installed applications, attached hardware, and system properties. In Windows XP and Vista, the Registry folder is located in C:\Windows. In Windows 2000, the folder is located in C:\Winnt.

Registry problems can occur for various reasons, including power failures, corrupted Registry files, hard disk errors, or mistakes made while editing the Registry directly. It is time consuming to manually correct Registry errors, so it's much easier to let a registry checker/cleaner do the work. You can find a free registry cleaner by doing a web search with the words, "free registry cleaner".

With that said, be forewarned that although most registry cleaner utility programs do a good job of cleaning, a few of the cheaper ones have been known to corrupt a registry. You should backup the registry before cleaning when in doubt.


To do a Windows registry back up do the following:

a. Open the Registry Editor by selecting the Start button, select Run and enter regedit into the Run box, and press ENTER.‌

registry editor windows registry

b. On the Registry Editor, locate and select the key or subkey that you want to back up.

c. On the Registry Editor, select the File menu, then select Export.  To backup the entire registry,  select the location where you want to save the backup copy, for Export range select All. Enter a name for the backup file in the File name box, and select Save.

registry editor windows registry

4. Use the Windows Disk Cleanup utility to free up hard drive space so that you have a minimum of 20% of your hard drive free.

Disk cleanup is an important maintenance duty. The hard drive is used in conjunction with your system memory through Windows memory management. This utility will identify files that you can delete safely and will give you the option of deleting some or all of the flagged files. Some of the files it might mention are:

a. Temporary Internet files

b. Recycle Bin files

c. Optional Windows programs that you don't use

d. Installed programs that are not used

e. Unused restore points from the System Restore mode

f. Open Windows Explorer by Right-button mouse click the Start button. Select Explore.  Right-button mouse click the C drive (or the letter that represents your hard drive) . Select Properties from the shortcut menu.

windows explorer

g. Select the Disk Cleanup button.

disk cleanup


h. Check the files you wish to have removed and select OK.

disk cleanup


5. Locate and repair hard drive errors.

To repair hard drive errors run the Error Checking utility, known as Checkdisk. Checkdisk will scan the hard drive for bad sectors and will check for file system errors.

 a. To use the Checkdisk, open the Windows Explorer, locate the drive your checking and right-click the mouse on it. Select Properties from the shortcut menu. On the Tools tab in the Error-checking section, select the Check Now button and select OK.

checkdisk hard drive errors

b. Check both boxes, "Automatically fix file system errors" and "Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors. " Select the Start button to begin.

checkdisk hard drive errors


c. Since Checkdisk needs exclusive rights to the hard drive it cannot check the disk with open applications and will ask you if it can run with a system reboot. Select Yes to continue with the check of the hard drive. Reboot your PC.

checkdisk hard drive errors


d. After rebooting your pc, Checkdisk automatically performs checks on your hard drive.  Any problems it encounters will be automatically fixed if they are fixable.

checkdisk hard drive errors

6. Defragment your hard drive for faster disk read and writes.

To use the Windows  Disk Defragment program, select the Start Button – Programs – Accessories – Systems Tools – Disk Defragmenter.

 a. Select the Analzye button, which will check the hard drive for degree of fragmentation and determine if it's a candidate to deframent. If it's heavily fragmented, defragmenting the drive could possible take 2-3 hours or more. If you defrag your drive regularly, as part of a regular system maintenace chore, time for this will be minimal.


7. Adding additional RAM should bring a noticeable increase in speed.

4 gigabytes of RAM is what is generally considered to be the maximum amount for 32-bit PCs. If you've purchased a PC in the last 2 years it's probably a 64-bit PC which, if the OS and motherboard support it, allows you to install more than 4 gigabytes.  Consider your PC needs and gauge your decision to upgrade accordingly. 

 a.To find out how much RAM you currently have, go into the Windows Explorer and from the Menu bar, select Help – About Windows. At the bottom of the box there will be an entry "Physical Memory." Multiply the number portion by 1000 and that will tell you how much RAM your PC has in gigabytes. You can also go to to ascertain how much RAM  is in the PC. You'll need to know the manufacturer and model# of the PC.  To get more information about how to read the RAM ads if you decide to order some, you can view it here.




b.If you feel comfortable opening up the case, ensuring you are not violating your warranty on your PC by doing so, check the RAM location on the motherboard and see which slots are filled. Compare your observation against your PC documentation to determine how much RAM can be inserted into each available slot.  This is important since you will need to know what memory size of RAM module and how many are necessary to obtain the desired amount of RAM. You can do an Internet search and find a vendor that can sell you the RAM.

If you feel uncomfortable in any way about doing this yourself, take the PC to a computer shop and have them do it for you.

8. Time how long it takes your pc to boot up.

Press F8 while booting and you will be taken into a menu screen. Select Safe Mode, which will load only essential items for your system. You will know when you are in the Safe Mode since it will display "Safe Mode" on all 4 corners of your screen. Time the boot from the second you depress the power-on button until the time the Windows logo appears on your screen.

To shorten the boot up time, you can prevent the items from loading using the System Configuration Utility, known as Msconfig.

a. To launch the System Configuration Utility, select Start – Run. Enter msconfig.exe in the box and select OK.  On the General tab, select the choice, "Selective Startup." Then uncheck the box "Load Startup items and select OK. Power down the PC.  

b. Time how long it takes your PC to boot up and compare the time with the first time you calculated with the all Windows items loading. Again, timing should be from the time you depressed the power-on button until the time the Windows logo appears.

system configuration utility services

c. You can also remove Startup items selectively by selecting the Startup tab. Uncheck the box of the Startup item you wish to prevent loading and select Apply/OK. Reboot the PC.

system configuration utility

9. You can use the Services tab of the  System Configuration Utility Services tab to locate all running background services and stop it if it increases system speed.

a. Select the service and uncheck its box; then select Apply/OK.


system configuration utility services

b. You can use the Services utility to obtain more information about a particular service. It can be launched by selecting Start – Run – enter Services.msc in the window and select OK. 

system configuration utility services

Focus on services that are loaded automatically and see what the difference is by disabling it. If you find that you need the service, you can change its status to Manual, which will prevent it from loading with Windows, but will be available if you decide to use the service at will.

You can then double-click a particular service to open, obtain more information, and disable it if necessary.

c. To disable it, on the General tab, Startup type choice, select the menu drop down arrow and choose Disabled, then select OK. To change it to Manaual, select Manual from the menu so you may use the program at will.

Using the Services utility is also an excellent way to remove any services that are causing other problems with your system. It is an excellent troubleshooting tool.

system configuration utility services

Performing the above steps should give you a speed increase in your overall PC performance. If you would like to automate these house-keeping chores, a low-cost utility program, SmartPCFixer does an excellent job as well as performing other duties.

There is another speed consideration and it relates to the Internet. If after completing the above steps,  your online speed is not up to your expectations, there are external factors to consider.

10. Run an online Internet speed test.

A good speed test site is Conduct the test during different parts of the day, since performance varies throughout the day. Most of the online testing sites will test the speed for bandwidth and the quality of the connection through a ping test. If the speed test results in less than 80 percent of their published speed or the ping test takes longer than the average time, contact your ISP's technical support and explain your case so they can troubleshoot. If their checks do not indicate anything wrong with their end, continue to step 12.

 11. Check all cable wiring and their connections to devices.

 To check all cable wiring includes ensuring the cables are not crimped or pinched, and the connectors are solidly on the wires. Check your router and ensure it is capable of processing data at the desired speed.

12. Ensure you're getting the best possible service for your Internet service provider's (ISP) service plan.

a. Check your service plan details from your Internet service provider and locate the upload/download speeds expected. The stated speed will range from a few hundred kilobits per second to several  megabits per second. While these numbers will vary between regions of the country and Internet service provider, you should verify the downstream and upstream speed for your package.

b. Call your Internet service provider customer service and explain your speed problem for a possible free improvement or upgrade. Providers update their service plans regularly. If you signed up for your service more than a few months ago, you should verify you’re receiving the best service possible. It is possible to have your speed increased without additional cost, just from calling their customer service. Sometimes you'll find a service upgrade package for a few extra dollars that will substantially boost your speed.

 After performing the above steps, you should notice a faster PC. Several of the steps should be performed on a regular basis, perhaps once per month, depending on how much you use your PC. In future posts, I will go into more detail concerning some of the issues mentioned above. My desire is that armed with how-to knowledge, you should experience more productivity and efficiency in your computing and on-line needs for a more enjoyable experience. Good luck to you all!


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