I'm sure you've seen the commercials for Speed Up My PC or a dozen other incarnations to speed up both your computer and your Internet connection. The fact is, most people don't need that software. What they need is something far simpler. While it is true that computers can slow down a lot after time, you'll likely not get that 500% boost in speed the commercials will lead you to believe. If you took your exact computer and re-installed everything fresh including everything you have running now, it would likely be no more than several percent faster than it is now. What is causing the slowdown is twofold. Below you'll find the two approaches to speed up your computer.
Part 1: Remove That Old Software
One of the most common problems for a slow down is the dozens of programs you've installed over the last couple of years. You install them because either they're fun or they make your life easier or you just plain like them. No matter the reason you've installed them. However the first way to speed up your computer is to remove all those old programs you don't use. Follow the steps below to do this.
1. Go to the menu Start and select Control Panel then select the icon Add Remove Programs (or Programs and Features if you are running Windows Vista or newer). This will bring up a dialog box that lists all the pieces of software that are installed on your computer.
2. Go through the list with a fine too comb, line by line, item by item. Look carefully. If you find something that you recognize but don't use it anymore, select it and then press the Remove (or Uninstall) button.
3. If you see something you don't recognize and don't know what it is, I recommend asking a computer greek amongst your fine circle of friends if you need it. Chances are good you don't, but there's always always the chance its something important. Some of the software may require you to reboot before you can go to the next piece of software. Go ahead and do that. It won't take a few minutes to be back to where you are.
4. Once you've cleaned out all the old software off your hard drive, you have two more things to do. The first is to examine what is running on your system tray. Many times a piece of software installs something in the system tray (that little bundle of icons in the lower right hand corner of your screen). That is something that runs constantly and steals the precious free cycles of your processor. Examine everything in your system tray and if you don't think you need it, right mouse click over the icon and select Exit or Close for that program. (While this step in particular won't speed up your computer considerably, it will in fact help.)
5. Go to the Start menu and select Accessories and then System Tools. Inside that group select the icon Disk Defragmenter. This will run a program called the Disk Defragmenter. It will help order everything nice and neat on your hard drive to that when programs load, they load as fast as possible with the hardware they are running on. Select the Defragment Now button. When given the list of disks, check Select all disks. You will see messages and possibly graphical representation of the defragmentation. It will take some time to defragment the hard drive, but it will be worth it. What it is doing is ordering all the programs on your hard drive in order so that when it loads or writes a program, it doesn't have to move the read write very far. That alone will save time whenever your hard drive is accessed.
If you followed the above procedure, your computer is now running only what you want it to run and is running clean and as fast as the hardware will take it. Part 2 of this tip will do the most good because if your computer is old or new, it likely has the same problem.
Part II: Upgrade The Memory
The other reason your computer is slow is likely it doesn't have enough memory. This includes older computers and newer ones. Just because you bought a brand new computer doesn't mean it has an adequate amount of memory. You will know if your computer needs more memory by a rather simple test: does your computer ever do "screen paints?" A screen paint is where the screen is re-displayed but so slowly that you can see it. Imagine the window you are viewing if it came down the screen at an inch per second. That's a screen paint! And its the first indication you are short on memory. (Remember this is memory, not hard drive space. The two are not synonymous.) Simply adding more memory to your computer will speed it up considerably, especially if you are experiencing screen paints. If you aren't experiencing screen paints but an extreme slowness, then you'll also probably need more memory. Follow the procedure below to both determine if you need more memory and how to do it yourself.
1. First determine how much memory you have. By pressing (on the LEFT side of your keyboard) Ctrl-Shift-Esc (in that order), you'll have the Windows Task Manager pop up. Select the Performance tab. About halfway down you'll see Physical Memory (MB) or something pretty close to that. You want to see what it says under Total.
2. Each release of Windows has a different recommended minimum that is stated on the side of the box. There is however a recommended amount of memory to make it run well. I'm not going to quote the recommended values that are on the boxes, but what I've come to experience as the minimum I'd recommend in a computer. For Windows 2000, I'd recommend at least 512 megabytes. For Windows XP, I'd recommend at least 1 gigabyte. For Windows Vista (or higher), I'd recommend at least 2 gigabytes.
3. If the size you found in step one is not as much as I've stated in step 2, then its time to continue and find out about your computer. First find the make and model of your computer. You'll find them on the front of the case if its a desktop or near the bottom or top of the screen if its a laptop.
4. Now its time to see what the maximum memory your computer can handle is. Start up an Internet browser (Internet Explorer or Firefox or whatever your favorite one is). Go to http://www.google.com . Put in the search box the make and model of your computer but add the word "specifications" at the end. It may take a link or two, but you'll eventually find it. What you are looking for is how many slots your computer has and also what type of memory it needs. (If you have trouble here, just consult your favorite computer geek and bribe them with a beer or two or better a home cooked meal, to do this search for you.) You are looking for things like DDR2 or PC2700.
5. Next look on http://bestbuy.com or other sites you shop at to find out much memory is for your particular type needed. If you are having trouble and don't mind paying a little extra, then simply go to Google and type in your laptop make and model (HP Presario 6440) and add "memory" to the end. You will find any number of sites where you can purchase memory. One of the first links you'll see is for the manufacturer of your computer. Go to the site and buy the amount of recommended memory for your computer. If you have so little memory in your computer, then chances are pretty good you'll toss out what you have and put in new memory. (For some desktops, they only have 2 memory slots and you'll leave out the memory that's installed because its far tinier than what you will buy.) So buy the memory you need based on the recommendations from above.
6. Eventually you'll end up with a couple of sticks of memory that you bought at Best Buy or online from the manufacturer of your laptop. Now if you're a technically inclined person, this part will be easy. Power off the computer. Again, remember to make sure your computer is powered off before doing this!
7. If your computer is a desktop, look on the back of the case for a couple of screws that hold the metal or plastic cover on. The screws are likely Phillips, but sometimes they are Flathead or Torx. In any case, take the cover off. Next look for something that looks like the computer chips in your hand. Remove them and install the new ones. Its as simple as that. Be sure to make sure to follow the instructions that came with the memory. Its important to seat the memory tightly into the slots as well as to make sure the cover is properly fastened after installing the memory.
8. If its a laptop, there will be a small door on the bottom of it that you will have to open using a Phillips screwdriver. Under the small door you will find one to three slots where you plug in the memory. For both cases, follow the instructions that came with the memory. Lastly, put the cover back on and make sure the cover is properly fastened after installing the memory.
9. Power up your computer. In some cases, it will stop and make you press the F1 key (or some other key) while it updates BIOS (the firmware that records such things as how big and where your hard drive). But after that it should boot up into Windows.
Congratulations! Your computer is now as fast as it can be made! Some friends of mine ordered the memory I told them to order (I follow the above procedure to find out how much they had in their desktop and where to buy it from). They ordered it and installed and immediately noticed a difference. They were ready to buy a whole new computer! But all that was needed was a little cleanup of old software and some more memory to suit the needs of the latest incarnation of Windows. A little elbow grease and pocket change for some additional memory can make all the difference.