What Determines How Fast a Computer Runs?

By Benny Taylor

Various hardware and software factors determine your the speed of your PC.
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The speed of your computer is determined by a range of factors, including the combination of hardware components you are using, the tasks you are performing and how well the machine is maintained. Often, performing some standard maintenance tasks or installing low-cost upgrades can significantly improve the speed of your PC.


The hardware specification of your computer dictates the maximum performance you can obtain from it. The speed of your processor (central processing unit or CPU), the quantity and speed of your memory (random access memory or RAM), and the capacity and performance of your hard disk are all significant.

Other hardware factors play a part in determining the speed of your computer. These include the specification of your graphics card and whether it has dedicated memory to handle your computer's visuals, and the types of ports you have available to connect external devices.


All computers will run faster when they are running less software simultaneously. In addition to the applications you may be using, such as graphics packages, word processors and Internet browsers, various other programs usually run in the background. These can include Internet security packages, instant messaging utilities and software for printers and scanners.

Adding more memory (RAM) to your computer will allow you to run more concurrent programs without slowing the machine down.


Viruses, worms and other malware can all slow down your computer. Internet security software, especially on computers running Microsoft Windows, are crucial to preventing infection. Ensure the software is kept up to date with recent virus definitions, and that you frequently use the program to fully scan your computer.


Keeping your computer well maintained is key to ensuring it performs well. Physically, keep the computer clean and free of dust, which can interfere with internal components. Maintaining the operating system is equally important. Frequently clear out files you don't require, and uninstall redundant applications. Make use of operating system utilities such as disk cleanup tools and defragmentation utilities. Frequently performing these maintenance tasks will help to speed up your computer.


Hardware upgrades such as extra memory or a new graphics card can provide a significant performance boost. Carefully check manufacturers' requirements to ensure compatibility. Some hardware upgrades can invalidate your computer's warranty, so check your documentation before opening your computer.