How to Fix a Slow Computer Quickly for Free
By Laurie Swenson
Updated September 28, 2017
Items you will need
Can of compressed air
Working with a slow computer is frustrating and limits productivity. It's expensive and time-consuming to take a computer in for service, but if you are comfortable making tweaks to your system, you can fix your slow computer quickly without spending any money. That may allow you to get a little more life out of your system if you're between upgrades.
Run the Windows Disk Defragmenter to clean up files on your computer. Click the "Start" button, type "Disk Defragmenter" in the search box and press "Enter." Click "Disk Defragmenter," select the disk you wish to check under "Current Status" and then click "Analyze Disk." Windows will report the percentage of fragmentation. If that number is higher than 10 percent, click "Defragment disk." The process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. You can use your computer while Disk Defragmenter runs, but it will likely run slower than normal.
Run the Windows Disk Cleanup program. Click the "Start" button and click "Computer." In the list of drives, right-click on the drive you wish to check and select "Disk Cleanup" from the drop-down menu. Choose from the available options. At a minimum, have the program empty your recycle bin and delete temporary files.
Click the "Start" button, click "All Programs" and then click "Startup" to see any programs that automatically start when you turn the computer on. If you see programs that don't need to run when Windows starts, right-click on the program name and select "Delete" from the drop-down menu. This only deletes the shortcut; the program remains untouched.
Additionally, you can run the System Configuration tool. Click "Start," click "Control Panel," click "System and Security," click "Administrative Tools" and then double-click "System Configuration." In System Configuration, click the "Startup" tab. Review programs scheduled to run at startup and clear checkboxes next to the programs you're sure don't need to run all the time.
Remove excess dust from your computer, which can affect its performance. Unplug your computer and take off the outer shell of your computer tower, using a screwdriver to remove the screws holding it in place. Remove accumulated dust with a slightly dampened cloth, then carefully blow away any remaining dust with a can of compressed air. Make sure you direct the dust outward and not further into the computer's inner workings.
When running system software, administrative access may be necessary. If you have administrative access, type in your password when prompted. If you do not, you will need the services of a system administrator within your company.
If you're comfortable inside a computer, look into upgrading memory. You'll need to learn how much memory is already inside the computer, what the computer's limitations are, and what type of memory is supported.
You can use third-party software to make your computer run faster, but be sure to research the software to make sure it's recommended by reputable sources. Never run software without first checking it for viruses.
Laurie Swenson is a longtime Minnesota journalist. She was a reporter/copy editor for the "Bemidji Pioneer" from 2004-2013 and the sports editor of the "Crookston (Minn.) Daily Time"s from 1992-2003. She has won several Minnesota Newspaper Association awards, including first place for an arts and entertainment article in 2012.