This guide will walk you through our steps to clean up a slow PC. This guide is not for Mac computers.
One of the biggest problems we see with slow computers is, no one takes the time to clean them. They might clean the outside but the inside never gets cleaned. Fans in the computer pull air in to cool off components, much like a car does. Dust, hair, fur, etc. clog areas where the air needs to flow, and can cause the components to overheat. Today’s components are smart enough that instead of running at a high temp and burning themselves out completely, they throttle themselves down to run at a slower speed so that they produce less heat and don’t reach a critical temperature. That’s why we open up desktop computers and blow all of the dust out that we can. We blow the dust instead of vacuum the dust because a vacuum creates enough static electricity to damage any components you touch. For laptops, we blow through the vent on the sides and the bottom where the fans are located.
Check the Hard Drive with Diagnostics
Do the quick test and see if any errors occur. It doesn’t make sense spending time cleaning up a drive if it is failing and should be replaced. If you do find errors, find a replacement. Drives are getting faster and cheaper every day. This might be a good time to upgrade to a Solid State Drive. Although they are more expensive than a SATA drive, they will increase speeds significantly.
How much free space is there on the OS hard drive? If less than 10%, that can decrease performance drastically.
How much RAM is in the computer? We recommend a minimum of 4GB. If you run multiple programs and a browser with multiple open tabs, you should consider 8GB or more. If the software you are running requires more RAM than it physically has, it uses what is called Virtual RAM, which is basically just using the hard drive as memory. This will slow your computer to a crawl.
Are you running a hard drive or a Solid State Drive (SSD)? If it is a hard drive, what speed is it? 5400 RPM drives offer some benefits but they are notorious for being a performance bottleneck. We recommend upgrading from a 5400 RPM drive whenever you can. 7200 RPM drives are cheaper, but a SSD is the best way to go.
Graphics Card – If you use graphics intensive software (Photoshop, Movie Editors, or high quality games), a graphics card upgrade may offer a significant speed increase.
Processor upgrades may offer some speed increase but usually require a new motherboard. Given today’s computer costs, a new machine is probably a better way to go.
By default, Windows is set with a “Balanced” Power scheme. This setting is an attempt to save users money by using less electricity. The computer can run slowly because the power options can throttle the processor down. We change these settings on desktop machines to High Performance. If you are using a laptop, change the advanced settings of the current power scheme so that the performance settings are set to high when the laptop is plugged in. This allows the computer to run slower to conserve battery life when not plugged in, but to run faster if it is plugged in.
Run Malwarebyte’s Anti-Rootkit, or MBAR. We do this as a first step in our process for removing malware because if there is a rootkit, it will continue to download and install Adware, Malware, and viruses as you try to clean them off.
Run AdwCleaner. While adware isn’t dangerous, it can slow the computer down and inject unsafe ads that link to computer scams and virus infected sites. AdwCleaner does a great job of removing toolbars, fake proxies, browser hijackers, ad inserters, etc. all in one nice tool.
Malware at this point in the process usually consists of remnants of the rootkits, viruses, and adware we have already removed. Cleaning these up can help improve performance as some of these pieces run on their own and slow down the computer. We use Malwarebyte’s Anti-Malware (MBAM) Free to do that.
Clean up unused files, empty folders, and unused registry keys
While this may not seem like a big deal, cleaning up space and unused items on a computer is much like cleaning things in your house. You make room for new things, but also make it easier to move around. Install and run CCleaner from Piriform. it is a great Free utility to clean up the computer. They have been around a long time and have a good reputation for not removing things out of the registry that are still needed. It is the only registry cleaner that we trust. It also does a better job at cleaning the computer than the Windows Disk Cleanup Utility.
We’re not really fans of software that changes what programs run at startup. They don’t often work well and typically have to run at startup to check for new startup entries. You may gain some performance, but it will not be as good as it could be. One of our favorite hidden tools, MSCONFIG, is included with Windows. In Windows 7, run MSCONFIG from the command prompt (as administrator), go to the startup tab, and uncheck the items you don’t want to run when Windows starts. In Windows 8 and above, the Startup Entries have been moved into a tab in Task Manager. Highlight the item and choose disable at the bottom to stop it from running at startup.
To Defrag or NOT TO Defrag
If you have a SSD, do NOT defrag. Mechanical Hard Drives need to be defragged, and SSD’s should never be defragged. Also note, defragging a hard drive will not defragment a database. if you are having issues with QuickBooks or some other database driven software, run the maintenance utility included with that software. It will clean up and reindex the database which will increase the performance of the program.