Here’s 6 tips to speed up an old computer before purchasing a new one

Sep 10, 2020, 6:00 PM

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Life was grand when your new Windows 10 PC was so snappy. There were many new tricks to try and explore.

Need inspiration? Try out God Mode, get or give remote help and navigate open programs like a pro.

That was then. Now you can finish your coffee and take a shower in the time it takes your computer to start up. When it finally does boot, getting anything done feels like you’re moving through molasses.

Sometimes it’s a problem with the operating system, or maybe it’s you.

Either way, you’re frustrated and ready to buy a new PC. Before you do, try these proven tricks to speed up your machine first. Your wallet will thank you.

1. Free up and optimize hard disk space

A nearly-full hard drive will slow down your computer. First, get rid of temporary internet and Windows files with the free program CCleaner. Not only does it clean up your cache and browser cookies, but there’s also an option for Secure Deletion of files.

There are also tools built into Windows that can help, including one that consolidates and optimizes fragmented files to speed up your system.

  1. Click on the search bar and type File Explorer
  2. Select File Explorer app, then look for Windows (C:) on the left
  3. Right-click on the drive and select Properties
  4. Under Optimize and defragment drive, click on Optimize.

Another option also appears under Windows (C:) Properties, called Error checking. Click Check to have Windows search for any system errors on the drive.

Then, for good measure, look for ways to free up hard drive space.

  1. Click Start > Settings (gear icon) > System > Storage

Front and center, you’ll see how much storage is being used and how much is still free. Under that, you’ll see a breakdown of what’s taking up the most space, such as Apps & features and Temporary files.

Storage Sense is a recent Windows 10 addition that automatically frees up space by deleting those temporary files and anything in the Recycle Bin. While still in the Storage settings, toggle the Storage Sense button at the top to On. Then click Configure Storage Sense or run it now for more options.

If you’re still close to your hard drive’s storage limit, consider moving your photo, video or music library to an external hard drive, USB flash drive or your favorite cloud service.

As an alternative, you can use a free disk-visualizing program such as WinDirStat to see what other applications and files take up the most space.

Be sure to get rid of programs you don’t need. To check the list and uninstall programs you don’t use and other bloatware, type remove into the search bar and click on Add or remove programs. Then click on any program you don’t want and then on Uninstall.

2. Speed up your startup

While solid-state hard drives have become common in modern PCs, many budget models and older machines still have the old spinning hard disk drive. If you have a computer in that second category, consider a hard drive upgrade.

SSDs boot up and launch apps in a flash compared to conventional HDDs. You can install one in a second storage bay. If you can live without an optical DVD/CD drive, it can be removed and replaced with an SSD. Of course, it costs money. A basic 1TB SSD drive costs about $100.

Before buying a new drive, check whether too many programs automatically start when you power-up your PC. These programs take away valuable resources.

In the search bar, type startup and click on Startup Apps. You’ll see a list of each program, including what kind of impact it has on system resources when you turn on your PC. Toggle off any you don’t need to start automatically, like games or third-party programs. Research any programs you don’t recognize before making changes that could mess up your system.

Cleaning up your registry with CCleaner can trim your startup time, too.

3. Increase your RAM

If you only have 4G or 8GB of RAM and do a lot of multitasking, upping your RAM to 12GB or higher is a sensible upgrade.

Why? When programs and files in use fill up your available RAM, the computer processor has to read data from the much slower hard disk. In the search bar, type system and then click on System Information to see how much RAM you already have (Total Physical Memory).

4. Boost your browsing

A slow internet connection is just as frustrating as a slow computer. The fix for that could be as simple as moving to a more efficient browser like Google’s Chrome and even Microsoft’s Edge.

Getting rid of junky toolbars will also streamline your browsing, and you can do this manually in the browser add-on settings. For Google Chrome:

  1. Click the three-dot menu in the upper right corner
  2. Hover over More Tools and select Extensions
  3. Disable any extensions with the toggle button, or click Remove

If you suspect the problem is your wireless network, first check that the internet speed you’re is what you’re paying for. is perfect for the task.

You can tweak your router’s settings to eliminate hang-ups and bottlenecks.

5. Use faster software

Free, open-source software programs not only save you a bundle of money, but they’re also often leaner and faster than their bloated commercial counterparts. Some work right from your browser, too.

  • Dump Adobe Reader for Smallpdf or PDFescape to breeze through PDF documents from your browser. No download is required.
  • GIMP and Pixlr X have most of the features and power of Photoshop without being a resource hog. Oh, they’re free too.
  • Replace Microsoft Office and Outlook with the free LibreOffice and Thunderbird and watch your productivity take flight.
  • Try VLC instead of Windows Media Player. It simply works.

6. Remove pesky spyware and viruses

In addition to compromising your privacy, malware and spyware will bog down your PC’s performance. Warning signs include a sudden slowdown, higher-than-usual data usage, programs and apps crashing and random pop-ups.

You can combat malware by scanning your machine regularly. Not sure what to use? Remember also to update your security programs often so you can stay protected from emerging threats.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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Here’s 6 tips to speed up an old computer before purchasing a new one