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How to Speed Up a Slow PC

The great thing about PCs (non-Apple/Macintosh computers) is that they're relatively inexpensive, operate a boatload of programs and there are plenty of makers and styles to choose from. You can buy a desktop, laptop or even a combination PC/tablet. But after a while, all PCs can start to show their age and suffer some wear and tear. They can run slower, catch a bug (virus), and have problems starting up, opening programs or getting on the Internet.

You might think it's time to run out and buy another computer, but hold off just a bit. There are adjustments you can make to your system's hardware and software to help your PC run a little bit faster. And with a few tips and tweaks—maybe with assistance from a tech-savvy IT (Internet technology) friend—you can clear out your computer's cobwebs and get more speed without having to break the bank. (Except for buying a pizza for your IT friend!)

Don't be afraid! There's little you can do to break your computer, but there are a handful of things that might fix it. Start with these tips*:

  1. Change the power settings. Open up the Hardware and Sound section in the Control Panel and make sure the setting is on High Performance.
  2. Learn how to use the Resource Manager. Under the Control Panel, find the Task Manager (Windows 7, 8 and Vista). Click on the Performance tab and find your way to the Resource Monitor, which can help you find programs that are slowing down your computer.
  3. Clean up your Startup folder. A lot of programs open up every time you start up your computer (if you notice how long it takes to boot up, that's why). More than that, many programs run in the background and drain your system. There are programs that can show you what programs open at startup, and you can disable those you don't really need.
  4. Scan for malware and bugs. PCs are very susceptible to infections by malware (malicious software). Run a malware scan on your computer right away and continue to do it every few weeks. There are free malware scan programs available online.
  5. Keep Windows updated. This isn't the same as upgrading to the next Windows version (like going from Windows 7 to Windows 8). Updating your operating system means keeping the version of Windows you use current by installing official updates, which can fix known problems. It all takes place online. Go to the Control Panel and you'll find the Windows Update setting in the System and Security tab.
  6. Clear up browser extensions. If you have souped up your Internet browser with add-ons and extensions, that could cause a browser slowdown. You can go into your browser's settings and see which ones you want to keep or delete.
  7. Reboot! Sometimes simply turning off your computer for a few minutes (not simply restarting it) will magically take care of a few PC problems. You can try the same tip with your router and modem if you're ever having trouble connecting to the Internet.
  8. Clean the computer's internal fan. When a desktop computer overheats, it can slow down and ultimately crash. Overheating is caused by blocked air vents or too much dust and debris on the fan. It's easy to remove the back panel and, using a can of compressed air, blow out the dust. See if that helps. It's also a good tip for preventing overheating in the first place.

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