How can I Get More Speed Out of My PC?

The short answer is software. There are many different kinds you can download to boost your PC’s performance by cleaning up junk files, managing disk space, and making programs start faster.

Most clean up the PC automatically; others require you to take care of one or two simple tasks each time they’re run. Some also offer protection against malware that hijacks PCs and installs unwanted programs like toolbars or adware.

The long answer is that there are many tiny things you can do to polish your PC’s performance. Here are some tips on getting more speed out of your system.

Start with Windows

The easiest way to speed up Windows 8 is to use the Refresh or Reset options when you install Windows—as opposed to performing a clean install. Be aware, though, that the Refresh option preserves all your files but ignores most programs, while the Reset option zaps away all your files and installs Windows anew with factory-fresh settings.

Start with your Data

The first time you use Windows 8, it physically deletes everything on the drive and then copies the files and settings over from your old drive. This will take a while; make sure you have someplace to wait.

Opt for an SSD (solid-state drive)

A traditional hard disk (HDD) drives like a car, which can’t reach high speed without frequent stops to rest its gears. An SSD has no moving parts and therefore requires little maintenance. And it’s superfast. If you can afford to replace your HDD with an SSD, do so.

Buy a PC with Enough RAM

Your system’s RAM is temporary storage for the software you’re using right now. More RAM means more things you can have open at once—so buy as much as you can afford. The more programs, the longer they’ll take to load when starting up or switching to them. So if you have a lot of programs, keep only the ones that are truly useful on your taskbar.

Buy a PC with a Powerful Processor

This is the engine of your PC, and it needs to be fast. The best way to see whether you have a capable CPU: Examine the Speedometer icon on the taskbar and look for high numbers in both the CPU and RAM columns. You can also right-click that icon to check out which processor your PC uses. If it isn’t one of the faster ones, consider buying a new computer.

Get an SSD Boot Drive

Some PCs come with an SSD boot drive, which stores the system files on a solid-state drive. That’s faster than a traditional hard disk and probably the only way to get your PC into Windows without having to install and run all the programs right away. If you get a new PC that comes with an SSD, format it and install your programs on it.

Use Startup Programs to Speed up Startup

After you finish adding and removing more program shortcuts from your taskbar, make sure they’re in order in their folders. The easiest way to do this is to eject a shortcut from the taskbar and right-click the empty space often used by a shortcut’s folder. Select “Pin to Start,” and then click “Close all.”

Use a Hard Disk Cleaner

Reading your hard disk has a negative impact on performance. Ordinary defragging, which can take hours, is unreliable—so many people use specialized tools like CCleaner (free) or CleanMyPC (free).

Use a Registry Cleaner

The Windows Registry is the control center for your PC, and that control can break down. Some go so far as to claim that registry cleaners are no longer necessary because of Windows’ improved self-cleaning capabilities, but if you have problems with your PC crashing or slower performance after installing new programs, consider cleaning it out.

Use a File Shredder

If an app crashes, it might leave behind temporary files. And the OS might even create some temp files with sensitive info like passwords and credit card numbers. If you want to make sure these aren’t recovered by anyone with access to your PC, you can use a file shredder like Eraser (free) or CCleaner (free).

Turn off System Sounds

They’re useful in the long run, but they slow down startup because Windows has to load them into memory each time it starts up. If Windows starts but makes a sound, shut down and restart your computer.

Turn off Unnecessary Background Programs

If your PC makes noise, it’s a good idea to turn off background programs like iTunes and games—many of them create noise because they use the CPU heavily when the processor isn’t busy. You can find this info in Task Manager or by right-clicking the taskbar icon that runs those applications and selecting “Options.”

Turn off Unnecessary Notifications from Windows 8

Each new addition to your notifications list takes up some of the computer’s memory. Go to the Start screen and open the Settings charm by swiping from the right edge of the screen or pressing Windows Key+C on your keyboard. Click or tap “Change PC settings.” Click “Search and apps” and uncheck anything you don’t want.

Turn off Unneeded Services

Got a problem with your PC? Begin by turning off unnecessary services, which are little programs that run in the background and might cause problems or slow things down. To access them, open the Run box on the Start screen by pressing Windows Key+R on your keyboard. Type services.msc and press Enter to open the Services app. Then click the “Services” tab and Uncheck any undesired services.

Use a More Efficient Browser

If you’re using Internet Explorer or Firefox for all your browsing, give Google Chrome a try—it uses less CPU power than other browsers because it leaves most of your PC’s tasks alone while you’re browsing online.

The tricks above will help keep your PC running smoothly, but there are other methods that can be more effective or even downright essential.

Buy a Better Mouse

A mouse is the most important input device for any computer user, and it’s important to get one with lots of buttons, scroll wheels, and programmable functions. The cable on most mice doesn’t transmit data reliably enough (it can be up to 10 feet away before losing its signal), so you might want to buy an optical mouse instead.

Buy a Better Keyboard

In addition to being a control for your computer, a keyboard lets you interact with other computers via the Internet without having to install software on each PC. The extra features built into most keyboards can also speed up your typing speed.

Make Sure you Have the Latest Software

The operating system and apps that come with most PCs are updated regularly, but don’t neglect to go online and update any programs you’re using every few months.

Upgrade your RAM

PCs are getting ever more memory-intensive, but you don’t have to upgrade your PC’s RAM to get the most from it—but if you do, you’ll notice a definite performance boost when switching between multiple apps.

Optimize your Internet Connection

Get the most out of every kilobyte in your connection by adjusting the settings in Windows or in your ISP’s software.

Set up a Solid Internet Security Plan

Always have your Anti-Virus software up to date. Keep your antivirus’s definitions up to date, which runs a scan every day or two, and then run that scan when you don’t expect the file to change.

If you put these ideas into practice, you shouldn’t find yourself stuck with a clunky piece of crap for very long.