How Can I Make My PC Run Faster?

We receive many questions from users about poor PC performance, and whether there is anything a user can do to improve the speed of their machine. We have written this article as a quick, troubleshooting checklist to assist you in locating causes of and finding solutions for poor PC performance. While this article does not directly attempt to address the other common question we receive, "Why is my PC Crashing?", we believe that some of these solutions could assist users with crash issues.

Problem: Spyware, Viruses and Other Malicious Software
Solution: Viruses, spyware and malware running on your PC will consume CPU time, RAM and network bandwidth. We recommend that you get a good antivirus and anti-spyware scanning program. In some cases of bad infections (e.g. multiple viruses), it might be quicker, safer and more effective to reformat the hard disk and re-install the complete operating system.

Problem: Disk Fragmentation
Solution: Files can be written and read from the disk faster if they are stored in a continuous sequence of bytes on the disk. However, as files on the hard disk are updated, deleted and created, the file clusters become fragmented which makes disk access slower. Defragmenting your hard disk every couple of months will help keep your system running at optimal performance. Most operating systems have a built-in disk defragmenter. Some operating systems will automatically defragment during machine idle.

Note that for Solid State Hard disks this is not relevant.

Problem: Slow 3D Graphics
Solution: Make sure you have the latest copy of the device driver for your video card and the most recent version of DirectX. Video device drivers are complicated pieces of software and as a result, it is very common that they are buggy or unreliable. If you have the latest device driver and are still encountering problems, consider rolling back to a previous version as it may be more stable.

Problem: Slow 3D graphics (Onboard)
Solution: All onboard graphics solutions are slow when compared to non-integrated solutions. The onboard chipsets may have performance-driven names like "Express Chipset" or "Extreme Chipset" but they are not designed for high performance; they are designed for an economical price. If you are a gamer, you may want to consider upgrading to a mid-tier or better current graphics card for optimal performance.

Problem: 2D graphics are slow. 3D graphics are also slow in windowed mode, but seem okay in full screen mode
Solution: We have seen some Windows skinning applicatons (such as Windows Blinds from Stardock) have a dramatically negative effect on the 2D and 3D video performance. The full-screen 3D results are not affected as the normal Windows interface is hidden when an application is in full-screen mode. Uninstalling or disabling Windows Blinds will fix this performance problem.

Problem: The full capacity of my CPUs / CPU cores are not being used
Solution: If you are running PerformanceTest then check the number of processes in the Edit / Preferences window matches the number of CPU's and cores that you have in the machine. So as an example, having two Dual core CPUs mean you want four processes to max out the CPUs. If you still appear to be missing a CPU, check BIOS settings In some cases, it might be possible to disable CPUs or Cores from BIOS.

Problem: CPU is slow all the time
Solution: You might be running your CPU in low power mode, which reduces the clock speed to save electricity. Check your BIOS settings for this and other incorrect settings (such as accidental under-clocking).

Problem: Laptop computer is slow all the time
Solution: If you are running on battery power, you might find things speed up by connecting the PC to mains power.

Problem: CPU is too hot
Solution: Your CPU might be overheating and then throttling down to a slower speed. Check the CPU temperature and if it is too high, switch off your machine and clean out any dust in the case, ensuring that the fan outlets are not otherwise obstructed. If the temperature of your CPU is still too high, check that your computer fans are operational and running at the right speed. You may wish to consider purchasing extra case fans to help ventilate your machine.

Problem: Your PC is full of junk
Solution: Over time, people tend to install more and more software. There has been a trend by software developers over recent years to have their own applications set to automatically startup when the PC is turned on. The more stuff you have running, the less RAM you have and the longer it will take for your PC will take to start up. The solution is to uninstall any applications you don't need and disable unnecessary applications from running at startup by removing their shortcuts from the StartUp folder.

Problem: Your Operating System is running stuff that you don't need
Solution: Windows contains dozens of software services, which are pieces of software that run when the operating system starts. Most of these form crucial parts of the operating system, however, some services are not used by a majority of users and can be turned off for a small CPU/RAM usage saving. The detail of what services do what is beyond the scope of this article, but there are many articles on the internet which describe how to disable uncritical Windows services.

Problem: PC is slow, applications frequently lock up and the disk light is on frequently
Solution: Your machine may be low on RAM. This may be as a result of too many applications running at once, or because you don't have enough physical RAM. Try shutting down all applications and rebooting your machine. If you encounter this problem frequently, you may wish to consider upgrading and adding more RAM as it is relatively inexpensive.

Problem: PC is slow
Solution: If your PC is more than five years old, it will never run Windows Vista or XP very well. Consider a hardware upgrade.

Problem: Slow Disk Access and Errors from the Disk
Solution: You may have some corrupted files. Windows comes with a utility called Scandisk which scans for file corruption and bad sectors. You can also use DiskCheckup to verify the health and reliability of the hard disk drive - DiskCheckup can give you a heads up in case it is time to replace your hard drive.

Problem: Slow disk access
Solution: Check you have the correct motherboard device drivers for your motherboard. If you are just using the default device drivers, you might not be running the hard drive in the faster possible mode (PIO mode vs Bus mastering Ultra DMA mode). Also check you are using the best cable (80 conductor cable vs 40 if using IDE drives).

Problem: RAM access is slow
Solution: Check the BIOS RAM timings. Select automatic unless you really know what you are doing. Check you have enough RAM to avoid swapping out to disk all the time. Check the RAM is in the correct slots and matched pairs if you have a dual channel motherboard.

Things Which Generally Don't Improve System Performance At All

Here is a list of stuff that probably won't help your PC run faster (despite what you might read elsewhere from people with vested interests):

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