When you buy a new computer, you usually get the fastest machine that you can afford. Right out of the box, it is a speed demon. Over time, it seems to slow down. As it gets older and older, it really seems to slow down to a crawl. What is going on? Is there a problem? What can you do about it? Your computer is still the same as the day you bought it. You should do some basic housekeeping chores to boost the speed. You might be able to avoid spending money on a new machine.

Warning: the steps that are described are not dangerous to your computer but they do take you to some critical areas of the operating system. You must follow the steps exactly and not invent any new ones or you could damage the functionality of Windows. If you have any doubts about your ability to follow technical instructions, you should consult an expert instead of attempting the procedures yourself.

Why does the computer slow down?
When a computer is first turned on, there are usually very few applications installed. Each new application that you install takes away some of the computer's resources. There are two resources that get used up. The first is disk drive memory. There is a vast amount of disk drive memory on modern computers. Still, when you install a lot of applications, music, video, electronic books and similar items, it does take away from the available total. When applications run for a long time, they tend to segregate the available disk drive memory into many small pieces. The computer works better if it has large blocks of empty disk drive memory to use. The other resource that gets used is internal computer random access memory or RAM. While modern computers have a lot of RAM, it does get used when applications run. Compared to computers sold in the 1980's the amount of RAM is enormous. As applications and Windows have developed, they have increased the amount of RAM that they need. Graphics, colors and sound use a lot of RAM. Because RAM is so plentiful and inexpensive now, application designers don't try to preserve it like they used to. There are other resources or conditions that will also slow down your computer but you must first optimize your use of disk drive memory and RAM.

How to speed up RAM
The first thing you should do is reboot your computer. Over time, the Windows operating system and the running applications, use RAM while they work for you. Often they use RAM for each screen that is displayed and they don't give it up. If you run a lot of applications and never shut them down, they absorb a lot of RAM which keeps other applications from getting enough. Eventually the computer can run out of RAM. If this happens, it will attempt to use part of the disk drive memory as substitute RAM. This is often adequate to keep your machine running but it will become very slow and possibly unstable. Disk drive memory is incredibly slow compared to RAM. When you reboot, you force all applications to shut down. This is better than shutting them down yourself since some applications keep running and using RAM even after they are closed. You should shut down your computer often. Even a fast restart will help. When your computer is running, keep the number of applications running as low as possible. Keep your sessions clean by reusing application space. This means that you should close documents in your word processor when you are finished with them before you open new documents. Some multitasking is fine but excess will affect performance.

How to speed up disk drive memory
You can optimize the disk drive memory using the Windows defragment utility. From the start menu, open the "My Computer" application. Right click on the "Local Disk (C:)" icon. You then select "properties" from the displayed menu.

C Properties

The first item to notice is the "Used Space" value. The next is the "Free Space" value. Hopefully there is a lot of free space. The circular graph shows at a glance the relationship between free and used space. Free space is colored purple and used is blue. The sizes are shown in bytes and GB, or gigabytes. A gigabyte is about 1 billion bytes. Add the free and used GB together. The free amount should be at least 10% of the total, 20% is better. You can buy additional disk drive memory if needed, but only as a last resort. Click on the "Disk Cleanup" button.

Cleanup2CleanupCleanup reportShow files to delete

This will cause Windows to examine your disk drive to see how much memory it will be able to free for you. This operation could take quite some time since Windows will review thousands of files on your disk drive. When it completes, it will show you a report of the space it can gain for you. You can examine the files that will be deleted if you press the "View Files" button although this information will not mean much to you. You can select the "More Options" menu item. Press the "Clean Up" button on the "System Restore" section. This will ask you if you are sure. As long as your computer has been stable as late, there is no risk agreeing to this question. Click "OK" to allow Windows to gain disk space for you. After Windows finishes the operation, you will have more free disk space. Next, select the "Tools" option on the disk drive properties box. Select "Defragment Now" in the middle of the displayed box. Press the "Defragment" button. It will perform an analysis first and then it will defragment your disk drive. This means that it will find all parts of files that are scattered around the disk and bring them together where possible. It is like having many different colors of sand in a pile and arranging them into several piles of different colored sand. This operation will take a significant amount of time and it will slow down your computer during the process. While you can pause or stop it, it is best to let it run until it completes. The computer should be able to survive a power outage at this time as well, but a clean defragmentation session is best. You should defragment your machine fairly often, perhaps every three months or less. The more often you do it, the faster it will run each time.

Deframentation analysis

How to speed up your files
In the past, it was very important to organize your files. Old ones that you didn't need were deleted. Old applications were deleted. Folders were created to group files together. Since disk drives have become so large and inexpensive, the need to keep them organized has been diminished, to a point. You can still gain some speed if you organize your files into folders. Divide your documents into logical groups and put each group into a folder. Reduce the number of desktop icons that you have. Empty your recycle bin. Imagine that your files are like library books. It's a lot easier and faster to get them off organized shelves that it is from a heap.

There are many other techniques that you may have to use if your computer is still slow. You may even have to upgrade your computer. These are generally more advanced steps that may require the assistance of support staff. If you are careful and patient, you may be able to do the actions yourself, but if in doubt, seek support help. Computer support staff work to speed up computers all the time and they do a great job at a fair price. You should get connected to someone you can trust even if you do most of the work yourself.