Sometimes we replace our desktops or laptops as a nice little treat. It’s been a few years, money isn’t tight, and we decide to upgrade.
Sometimes, we’re pushed into a replacement when we find ourselves frustrated, murmuring, “Why is my computer so slow” repeatedly while staring at the glow of a frozen screen and the sound of the cooling fans at full throttle filling the room.
Don’t let a computer running slow get you down! We’ve got a few common points to troubleshoot, along with the slow computer fix to try for each.
Why Is My Computer Slow? Common Troubles
Why is my PC so slow — a bad attitude? It might seem like it, especially after you’ve just badmouthed your computer at its worst.
But the first step to speeding up a computer is attempting to diagnose just what the heck the problem is.
Too Much Launching at Startup
This is the kind of thing you might never notice until there’s trouble. Plenty of programs are set to launch right when you start up the computer. But when these begin piling up, not every machine can keep up.
This might be your problem if your computer needs a few minutes to acclimate once you get to the desktop. Or if you can see each individual program popping open for 10 minutes after you’ve turned it on.
Too Much Antivirus
Wait, too much antivirus? Viruses and malware themselves indeed slow down computers, and you want robust protection to prevent that. Plus, there’s a host of other problems if your machine is infected, aside from speed issues.
But more aggressive antivirus programs might have overzealous default settings. If it’s running at full steam whenever it wants, there eventually comes a time when it’ll slow you down.
For example, a full scan of your system is obviously going to eat up a lot of resources over an extended period. Yet even quick scans will take a toll if you’re doing anything but the most basic tasks.
Too Much Saved on Your Computer
Since your disk drive contains the entirety of your computer, you want to give it a little room to breathe. It’s not necessarily about the number of programs and files you have saved, but rather what percentage of your total space they take up.
A computer using up 1 TB of disk space will still run well if it has, say, 2 more TB available. But if you’ve only got 75 GB total, you don’t want to use 70 of them. The computer gets bogged down, trying to access information and find free space for all the temporary files that get created.
This is a bigger problem if you’re running a hard drive instead of a solid-state drive (SSD), but you still wouldn’t want to fill your SSD to bursting.
Too Much Running in the Background
Similar to 10 programs launching at startup, too much background activity can divert your memory and processing power. Rather than it just slowing you down initially, however, it can drag on.
It could be those initial programs continuing to run the whole time. It might strike unexpectedly, like a sudden antivirus scan, or something might trigger it, like automatic cloud syncing when you’re altering files. Your computer may also struggle to end certain programs after you’ve closed them.
Too Much Web Browser
It’s tempting to think browsing the web would be simple for any computer. If you tend to open several windows with dozens of tabs, that’s simply not the case.
Why is my laptop so slow…while I’m running 30 Google Chromes? Lots of webpages use up lots of computer power, the same way it’s easier to juggle 3 balls than 30.
How Can I Fix a Slow Computer? Common Remedies
We’ve arranged this section to correspond with the section above. Pinpoint your problem (or problems) and then use these tips to try and tackle it.
Use your Task Manager’s “Startup” tab to see what boots up with your computer.
- You can get to the Task Manager by right-clicking on the taskbar or by hitting Ctrl+Alt+Del and selecting Task Manager.
- From there, you need to expand “more details,” and you should then see the Startup tab.
Status lets you know if that program is enabled or disabled for startup launch, and there’s also an estimate of how much that launch should impact your PC. Even if something has a “high” impact, it may be necessary, such as a sound system or touchpad. Likewise, you can still disable “low” impact programs if you don’t want them to boot up automatically.
Simply select a specific program and right-click on it to enable, disable, or view other properties. Disabled programs have a startup impact of “none.”
There’s an extremely simple fix for too much antivirus.
- If you’re running a free program that truly feels disruptive in multiple ways, it’s generally safe to uninstall it and turn on Windows Firewall plus Windows Defender.
- If you love your antivirus or it’s otherwise paid for, simply change the settings so that scans run at more optimal times.
- You can turn off automatic scanning completely if you’ll remember to incorporate daily or weekly scans into your own schedule.
Start deleting. In cases where you don’t have much storage left, how to speed up a laptop can be as simple as clearing out space.
You can see your ratio of used versus unused disk space by opening the “This PC” folder and looking at the OS/C: drive.
Delete browser histories, empty the trash bin, clear your caches/temporary files, uninstall unused programs and downloads that you don’t need anymore. Start moving the files that you can into cloud storage or onto other external storage.
Use your old pal, the Task Manager, again
The expanded Processes tab will let you know what’s currently using up your processor and memory and what’s running in the background.
- In most cases, you’ll have an astounding amount of necessary background tasks going — you don’t want to mess with them unless you know what you’re doing, because they’re running your computer the way your heart, lungs, and brain run your body.
- Stick to the “Apps” at the top and see if anything you didn’t realize was running or couldn’t see it was still open. Select the unwanted program, right-click, and end task.
- There could also be an application using many more resources in the background than you knew; it’d be beneficial to end the program for the moment or scale it back if it’s got multiple tabs open.
You’ve got to keep your tab count down and your browser running efficiently.
- Save pages to reopen later instead of leaving them sitting indefinitely.
- Refrain from running dozens of customizations or add-ons. Try to keep it around 10 or less, keep track of whether they’re always active or only run sometimes, and note if they ever come on and then cause lag.
- You can also try different web browsers to see if you get better performance — either overall or under certain circumstances (such as for streaming, or quicker re-access after putting your computer to sleep).
That Didn’t Work: How to Make Your Laptop Faster When All Else Fails
If you can’t pinpoint any particular underlying cause to address — or if you’re dealing with a laptop that’s simply older and can’t be upgraded — there are still some fixes.
- Close all your programs and shut down regularly (think at least twice a week, if not more often). This can help with Windows 10 running slow or lagging, and makes time for any important updates to get installed, too.
There is an underlying cause here, using up all or most of your random access memory (RAM). Keeping everything open and just putting the computer to sleep endlessly puts a strain on memory and processing power. You have less capability for things actually to run well, and the machine slows down overall.
If your computer is sluggish after waking up or having problems with applications after resuming, it’s probably something along these lines. To help alleviate some symptoms without shutting down, manually put the computer back to sleep from the start menu and come back in a few minutes.
- Adjust your settings. Maybe you need to stop trading battery power for performance and stay off of power-saving mode. Resource-intensive programs sometimes have settings to optimize function over form.
You can also do that for your PC itself, and turn off visual effects — smooth scrolling, animation for window minimizing, or viewing a window while dragging it. The results are a little jarring and certainly less aesthetically pleasing, but help eke out as much efficiency as possible.
Eventually, an older computer (or a cheaper one that isn’t even very old) will come to the end of its usefulness for you.
At times, the change is drastic and noticeable. But other times, it may be so gradual that everything still seems normal. Then one day, you’ll realize, “Oh, my computer is slow” when you leave the room to complete a chore while it struggles to boot up.
Don’t give up on it before its time; first, try out the tips outlined above. But they don’t do the trick every time — when all else fails, admit that it’s time to upgrade!