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As PC hardware gets faster, so does software, and the Windows operating system is no exception. This applies especially at start-up. Once you get started, however, there are other performance factors to consider. Even the latest version of Windows isn’t immune to slowdowns, and not everyone is ready to upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11 just yet. These tips for speeding up Windows work the same whether you’re running version 10 or 11.
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The problem with many articles that tell you how to speed up Windows is that they tell you to disable some of the more fun features of the operating system, such as visual animations. Most of our tips show you ways to speed up your Windows system without compromising on its appearance and functionality. Most of the tips can be done for free, but some involve spending a little money on software or hardware. For those with older, low-powered cars who want a speed boost but don’t care for extra goodies, a few tips you’ll find at the end of this list.
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Note that you should be careful with these “Erase your PC!” ads for registry cleaners, which often lead to malware. Microsoft categorically does not support the use of Registry Cleaner (opens in a new window) for Windows 10.
, although we didn’t mention this as a tip because everyone should be doing it regardless. From time to time, go to Settings > Windows Update to see if there are any security and reliability updates you should install. Your PC may run faster after an update because it may contain updated hardware drivers. Do it even if you don’t want a big feature update – you can delay the big updates in the same section of Settings.
There are some third-party system cleaning tools for Windows 10 that can speed up your computer, but this category of software is not as popular as it used to be. Most of these tools increase PC performance, but sometimes only by a modest amount. There are many malicious downloads out there that claim to speed up your PC, so make sure you stick with a product that has been tested and verified. Iolo System Mechanic is, for example, a good opportunity.
Although the situation is improving, a problem with some new computers is that they come with a lot of unnecessary software, sometimes called bloatware, crapware or PUP for potentially unwanted programs. A few years ago, a Lenovo PC we tested had nearly 20 so-called utilities that would occasionally pop up and interrupt what we were doing. Even Microsoft is not flawless in this game as it has included a few games and mixed reality software in computers that you may not be interested in.
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Right-click any desired app tile in Start and select Uninstall. Doing so will uninstall the program immediately. You can also right-click the Windows Start button logo and select Programs and Features. Or just type Programs in the search box next to the Start button.
You can usually find the culprit crapware by sorting the list of installed programs by the name of your PC manufacturer. Other good options are to sort by Recent to see if there are any programs you didn’t know you installed; or by size, get rid of very large items you don’t need. When you find unwanted apps you don’t want, select them and click Uninstall. Unfortunately, you can only remove one at a time. Allow half an hour or so for this project if you have a lot of bloatware.
Don’t forget to take stock of apps you’ve installed yourself but don’t want anymore—and of software you don’t want that was installed with your software.
Remember that Windows 10 and 11 have two types of apps: traditional desktop apps and the modern Microsoft Store (formerly called the Windows Store). You can see both types on the Apps and Features page of the Modern Settings app. For apps not in the Store, Control Panel opens, where you can uninstall good old desktop programs. In both, you can sort them by size, date installed or name, or search for a specific program.
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One reason removing apps helps performance is that many programs load processes at startup and take up valuable RAM and CPU cycles. While you’re in the Programs and Features section of Control, you can click Turn Windows features on or off and check the list to see if there’s anything you’re not using. For more help on what to remove, read How to remove crapware from a PC.
As mentioned, a lot of programs install side processes that run every time you start your PC, and some of them aren’t things you need to run on your system all the time. Compared to Windows 7 where you had to run the MSCONFIG utility, newer versions of Windows give you an easier way to limit what runs at startup from the updated Task Manager.
The easiest way to launch Task Manager is by pressing Ctrl-Shift-Esc. Switch to the Startup tab and you will see all the programs that are loaded at Windows startup. The dialog even has a column that shows you the effect of startup for each. The Status column shows whether the program is allowed to run at startup or not. You can click on any entry to change this status. It’s usually easy to see things you don’t want to run. If you e.g. never use iTunes, you probably don’t need iTunesHelper running all the time.
In the Start menu, type Disk Cleanup to open the trusted utility that has been part of Windows for generations of the operating system. Disk Cleanup finds unwanted junk like temporary files, offline web pages and installed files on your PC and offers to delete them all at once. You may even find your bin bulging at the seams – generally this only has a noticeable effect on speed if your drive is close to full.
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If you don’t have regularly scheduled disk defragmentation, include it in the Optimize Drives tool, which you can find by typing its name into the search box next to the Start button. Note that if your main drive is an SSD, then you don’t need to bother with defragmentation because there is no moving part to read the drive.
An even newer way to keep storage usage down is by enabling the Storage Sense setting (see image above). It automatically frees up space by removing temporary files and the Recycle Bin. For full details on how to use this feature, see How to Free Up Hard Drive Space on Windows.
Both Windows 10 and 11 manage memory more efficiently than previous versions of the operating system, but more memory can still potentially speed up PC operations. If you’re still using a desktop tower, this article can show you how to add RAM. The websites of the major RAM manufacturers (Crucial, Kingston, Corsair) all offer product finders that show you what type of PC RAM you’re getting, and the prices are very reasonable. You can get 8GB of high-performance DDR4 RAM for under $50.
If $50 or so is too much, and your computer is old, has a hard drive instead of an SSD (see below), and has little RAM, try using ReadyBoost with a USB stick. It caches data on the portable storage device to speed up memory access that would be slower with a spinning hard drive. Just go to the USB key’s File Explorer entry, right-click to open Properties, and switch to the ReadyBoost tab to get started. For most updated systems, this feature will not be available and will not provide any performance boost.
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However, adding RAM isn’t always an option, so not everyone will be able to use this tip. With some Windows devices today, like the Surface Pro tablet, that’s just not possible. Gaming and business laptops often still allow RAM upgrades, but this is becoming less common. Newer, thinner ultrabooks and convertibles usually have fixed memory.
Installing and running demanding programs such as Adobe Photoshop is faster with an SSD. An SSD also greatly benefits Windows at startup. Apps from the Microsoft Store can be easily moved from a spinning hard drive to an SSD in the Apps and Features Settings page.
For system speed, it makes sense to replace your internal boot drive, and if you’re using a laptop, this may also be an option. But an external SSD with a USB 3.0 connection can also give you a speed boost in applications that use a lot of storage space. For help choosing which device to install, check out our list of the best SSDs.
You can run the built-in Windows Defender or a third-party program to do this, but it’s best to use lead security analyst Neil Rubenking’s mid-malware cleanup program. Don’t forget to use continuous anti-malware protection as well. Some of the AV products have one
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