Has your PC slowed down? Does it take forever to start up? It's frustrating but there may be something you can do. You PC may just need a tuneup!

The five leading causes of PC slowness are: malware, debris, extra baggage, memory shortage, and fragmentation.

There are some simple tests and fixes for these five PC problems.

Things You Will Need

A good backup - don't proceed with any PC tweaking without a safety backup.

Each of the five steps are independent and can be done separately, but, set aside enough time to complete each step.

Step 1

Test for malware. Malware is any form of unauthorized intrusion into your PC, and can take the form of: virus, trojan horse, spyware, key logger, rootkit, adware. The effects can range from minor to catastrophic, but all will drain PC resources that you should have.

My preferred malware scanner is Malwarebytes. You need to download and install it, but it is well worth the effort and is available free. I run this program as a routine test. It generally can clean what it finds.

This type of diagnostic scan may have to be run in "Safe" mode.

Many of the antivirus software vendors have online virus scan services. They are obviously trying to sell their software, but the scan should be free. Be aware that online scans can take a long time to complete.

Step 2

Clean out debris. It's amazing how much electronic debris builds up in your PC hard drive. We are talking about temporary files, logs, old backup files, etc. The big issue here is not wasted space, but the slowing effect this debris can have on your PC performance.

You can clean this stuff up manually, but I prefer to use a file cleanup utility like CleanUp, which is available at www.stevengould.org.

I try to run a CleanUp before a virus or malware scan as the scan often runs much faster without all that debris.

I also recommend running a utility like this on a regular monthly basis.

Step 3

Are you short of memory? Too many PCs are trying to operate with 500 megabytes of RAM; even a gigabyte is low. I try to bring older PC's up to 2 gigabytes of RAM, and specify at least 4-8 gigabytes in new PCs.

Any easy way to check your memory size, and upgrade potential is to go to www.crucial.com and run their free online scanner. This scan can tell you how much memory you have, memory slots available, and recommend the correct memory for your PC. The cost is typically in the $50-100 range.

Step 4

Extra baggage - this is the accumulation of software and PC services that get installed on your computer, and that you really don't want or need. Sometimes the PC manufacturer bundles in "freebies" and trial software. Then as you ok things like browser toolbars, other software and add-ons slip into your PC.

Not only does this extra baggage take up your free space, they also often startup services that run all the time and sap your PC power.

Go to the Control Panel, and open up the program manager. Scan the list of installed software and uninstall that excess baggage.

Open your browser and check for free loading add-ons.

Run MSConfig and turn off unwanted services.

Step 5

You are fragmented, for sure! Your hard drive starts out as an organized container, with everything laid out in an orderly fashion. As you delete files and add files, the operating system stuffs the new file in pieces wherever it has space available. A little goes here, a little goes there. The operating system knows where everything is but it takes extra time to load a fragmented file or program. Think of your sock drawer and you'll get the picture.

The answer here is to periodically defragment your hard drive. Easy, painless, and helpful.
Several of the steps should be followed on a regular basis as a preventative measure, and to keep your PC from slipping into it's bad old ways again!

Tips & Warnings

Make backups of your files before doing anything!

Be careful removing programs, services and files to be sure they aren't needed by your operating system or software.