SPEEDING UP A SLOW PC

If your PC seems sluggish, you can revive its performance using  these simple techniques. STR shows you how.
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Computers slow down over time. What was once a fast system can become  slow and irritating to use after a couple of years. A new PC always impresses  with the speed at which it starts up and runs Windows and other software,  but it will become noticeably slower after being used for some time. It is frustrating  the way that computers can take several minutes to start up or shut down, especially  when everything slows to a crawl before you’ve even paid off the loan. Eventually,  things get so bad you might even give up completely and buy a new computer.
Fortunately, there are ways of tackling the lethargy to restore most of your PC’s original speed, which means you shouldn’t need to spend any money on a new machine. This prolongs the life of the computer and reduces the annoyance factor  that inevitably builds when using old hardware. Treasure Valley IT provides computer repair services in Star if you need someone to look at your PC. Here, we’ll look at five ways you can  speed up a Windows PC. Clean up Windows Part of the reason old PCs take so long to  start is because of all the programs and  utilities you’ve installed. Reducing the  number of applications that start up when  Windows boots enables you to get going  faster and increases the available memory.
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Click the arrow at the right side of the  taskbar to display notification icons. Each is a  program that loads with Windows. Some are  essential – antivirus software, for example  – but others may not be. Right-click each  in turn and, if there is a Settings menu, use  this to find an option to prevent it starting  automatically with Windows. Some programs,  such as Google Drive, can be manually  started when they are required, and don’t  need to be running on your PC at all times.
Next, hit Windows, R, type msconfig and  click Ok. Select the Services tab, tick ‘Hide  all Microsoft services’ and see what’s left.
There may be services you can live without  and clearing the tick box prevents them from  running. For example, Firefox works perfectly  well without the Mozilla Maintenance Service.
On the Startup tab are lots of programs  that start with Windows. Knowing what to  disable isn’t easy, but you can use Google to  search for items and see whether they are  necessary, useful or neither.
Recent versions of Windows automatically  defragment the hard disk, but Microsoft’s tool  is basic and there are better defragmenters  out there. Programs including O&O Defrag  (oo-software.com) are excellent, but iObit’s  Smart Defrag 3 (iobit.com) is nearly as good  and it’s free.
The ultimate speed-boosting technique is  to reinstall Windows. This removes unwanted  software that slows down a PC, erases  malware, clears out junk files and more.
A Windows disc is required to reinstall  older versions of Windows, but Windows 8  has a built-in Refresh option that eases the  job. Open the Charms bar and click Settings,  then ‘Change PC settings’. Click ‘Update  and recovery’, then choose Recovery. Under  ‘Refresh your PC without affecting your files’,  click Get started.
Personal fi les – photos, music and  documents – will remain on your PC, so  this isn’t a complete refresh, but it may be  enough for most people.
A more powerful option is ‘Remove  everything and reinstall Windows’. Be sure  to back up any fi les you want to keep to a  USB drive, then select this option to restore  the PC’s original performance.
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2Update everything Out-of-date drivers, programs and Windows  itself can cause the computer to run slowly.
Faulty drivers, for example, stop Windows  shutting down or cause it to start more  slowly. Video-card drivers are often updated  to fix bugs and boost performance, and it is  always a good idea to check that you have  the latest version. Even if Windows updates  are automatic, go to Windows Update in  the Control Panel and manually check for  updates. Only essential ones are installed  automatically and there may be useful  optional items available.
Drivers are programs that enable  Windows to access hardware components  such as the video, sound, printer, scanner,  webcam and so on. Updating them is a pain  and you have to identify the hardware, the  drivers and version numbers, the hardware  manufacturer’s website and the download  page. Take a shortcut by using a free tool  such as SlimDrivers (slimwareutilities.com)  or Driver Booster Free (iobit.com). You’ll also  find UpdateStar on our Cover Disc+. These do  all the work for you, identifying the current  drivers, then checking for, downloading and  installing any available updates. They can  solve a lot of problems.
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3Free up disk space Your PC’s hard disk slows down as it fills  up. Uninstalling software helps to free up  space, giving more room for Windows to  work faster. Disk space can also be recovered  using Ccleaner (piriform.com), Anti Tracks  Free Edition (giantmatrix.com), Advanced  System Care 7 Free (iobit.com) and others.
There’s a right- and a wrong way to use  these utilities, though. Select just a few items  and clean them, making sure the app backs  up the changes. If the PC is working okay, go  ahead and clean a few more items; if it isn’t,  restore the backup. Do not clean everything  in one go: if something goes wrong you won’t  know where the problem lies.
For uninstalling programs you could  go to the Control Panel, open ‘Programs and Features’, and then uninstall software  you haven’t used in the past six months.
Better still are free utilities such as iObit  Uninstaller 3 (iobit.com), Revo Uninstaller  (revouninstaller.com) and Wise Program  Uninstaller (wisecleaner.com). They do a  better job of removing software because,  in addition to removing the program itself,  they clean the disk and Registry.
Some programs install lots of fi les into  Windows and they can have a detrimental  effect on performance. To keep Windows  clean and fast you should avoid installing  anything. Of course, you need software, but  there are many portable apps that don’t  need installing. A good source of software is  portableapps.com. Click Get Apps and you’ll  find office software, graphics- and photo  editors, utilities, internet browsers, music-  and video players and more. It’s not the only  place to fi nd portable software, but it’s a good  place to start.
4Install better software Sometimes it’s possible to improve the PC’s  performance by installing better software.
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The speed difference between Internet  Explorer 8 and Chrome on Windows XP is  huge, so it’s a must-have upgrade. Chrome  is still the fastest web browser even on  Windows 8, and it’s the one we recommend  for performance.
Smaller, lightweight programs are often  faster than big, full-featured applications.
Do you need Word or is WordPad sufficient?  Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013  requires 3GB of disk space, but LibreOffice  (libreOffice.org) and Kingsoft Office  (kingsoftstore.co.uk) work with just 300MB.
You need 4GB of disk space to install Adobe  Photoshop Elements, but only 40MB for  Paint.NET (getpaint.net) and 150MB for GIMP  (gimp.org). These could be all you need for  photo editing. Use alternativeto.net to fi nd  alternatives to popular software.
The speed at which games run is highly  dependent on the screen resolution and  special effects used. Some games provide  options to select the screen mode and to turn  off some effects that tax the processor and  graphics card. This can make a slow game  more playable by increasing the framerate.
For more tips see tinyurl.com/mu4o58f.
5Upgrade the hardware All the techniques discussed so far for  speeding up the PC take you only so far.
They restore the original PC’s performance,  but this may not be sufficient. An old PC  might not be capable of running the latest  games or other software you want to use.
A five-year-old model will struggle with the  latest games, apps and operating system.
For this reason, a hardware upgrade may be  required. It will boost the PC’s performance  beyond its original spec, and narrow the gap  between your current PC and the latest ones.
Many old PCs suffer from too little  memory (consider 2GB the absolute minimum  these days, but 4GB is the maximum usable  by 32-bit versions of Windows) and this is  the first component to consider upgrading.
Memory suppliers including crucial.com/uk  have tools on their website that identify what  type of RAM you need. It shows the maximum  the desktop PC or laptop can take, and this is  the best upgrade you can perform.
Before you purchase any memory,  though, examine your PC or laptop: some  are easy to upgrade; others are more difficult.
Buying RAM online and installing it yourself  is the cheapest option, but if you aren’t  confident in your DIY skills, local computer  shops can do the job on your behalf.
A solid-state disk (SSD) offers another way  to boost your computer’s performance. Note  that you will need to clone the old disk drive  on to the new SSD before installing it. This is  achieved by plugging the SSD into the PC’s  USB port and running a program on the PC.
A special cable and software might be  supplied with the SSD; if not, they are  available to purchase for a few pounds.
Upgrading the graphics card is a great way  to speed up games, but the benefits to other  software is limited. Top-of-the-range video  cards are big, so before ordering the latest  nVidia or AMD model check it will fit inside  the computer’s case. Space, the size of the  PC’s PSU and other factors limit your options.
Full-height/dual-slot video cards are for big  PCs with lots of space; low-profile single-slot  cards are for compact PCs.

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