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How to make your laptop faster for free

How to make your laptop faster for free

How to make your laptop faster for free Are you in search of ways to enhance the performance of your slow laptop or PC? In this article, we will unveil a few uncomplicated and cost-free steps that anyone can adopt to speed up a Windows laptop.

Despite purchasing the top-notch laptop available in the market, it is inevitable that you will eventually experience a decrease in its performance. While you may be inclined to seek professional assistance or consider purchasing a new laptop altogether, investing some time in attempting the following techniques might just provide you with a cost-free solution to boost your laptop’s speed!

In this article, we provide tips on how to enhance the performance of a sluggish laptop or PC running Windows 11, 10, 8, or 7. It’s important to note that our focus is primarily on improving system performance and not addressing network-related problems. While the screenshots featured are from Windows 11, rest assured that even if you have a different version, most settings will be located in similar locations. We’ll make sure to highlight any significant differences along the way.

How to make your laptop faster: checklist

  1. Close unnecessary system tray programs
  2. Stop programs running on startup
  3. Update Windows, drivers, and applications
  4. Delete unneeded files
  5. Identify resource-hungry applications
  6. Adjust your power options
  7. Uninstall programs you don’t use
  8. Turn Windows features on and off
  9. Run a disk clean up
  10. Defragment your hard drive
  11. Adjust graphics and animations settings
  12. Check for malware
  13. Disable Cortana
  14. Restart your browser
  15. Closer your browser tabs
  16. Try a different anti virus program
  17. Try not to multi-task as much
  18. Upgrade your hardware

To enhance the speed of your laptop, we suggest going through the aforementioned points. If you require further details on each point, please scroll down.

Looking for a quick fix?

Our favorite tool for automatically fixing and maintaining PC speed is Iolo System Mechanic. It’s a cheap and effective way to significantly improve performance. We like System Mechanic because it:

  • Works in real time to optimize CPU, RAM, and hard drive performance
  • Removes junk files to free up space
  • Identifies unwanted programs which slow down start-up
  • Monitors for and fixes over 30,000 known problems that can cause errors or performance issues
  • Patches known Windows security vulnerabilities

Iolo has offered Comparitech readers a 70% discount on System Mechanic.

Here’s how to make a laptop faster


1. Close system tray programs

Certain applications do not actually close when you click the X in the top-right. Instead, they will minimize to the system tray and continue running in the background, utilizing your laptop’s resources. Fortunately, it is quite easy to compel these applications to shut down completely. To reach these elements, simply click on the upward-facing arrow located on the right side of your taskbar. In case there are any programs that are unnecessary to keep running, you can right-click on them and select the options “Close,” “Quit,” or “Exit.”

2. Stop programs running on startup

Frequently, when you install a new program, it will come with a default setting that enables it to start automatically every time you turn on your computer. Having too many of these can significantly slow down your PC’s startup process, so we suggest regularly reviewing the list and removing unnecessary ones.

To access the Task Manager, simply right-click on the taskbar or press Ctrl-Shift-Escape. Once open, navigate to the Startup tab where you will find a list of all the items that run on startup, including their respective impact.

Review these and determine which ones should not begin automatically. Keep in mind that certain programs are essential for the proper functioning of Windows. For instance, it is advisable to avoid altering the programs published by Microsoft. If you are uncertain, either leave it as is or conduct a Google search for further information.

To prevent a process from initiating during startup, you can right-click and select the option to disable it. It is important to note that disabling the process does not mean disabling the entire program, but only its automatic execution at startup.

Windows 7 users will need to search for System Configuration instead of accessing Task Manager.

3. Update Windows, drivers, and apps

You may be aware that it is recommended to regularly update your software for security purposes. This advice holds true and can also enhance performance. Windows will notify you automatically when updates are available. It is important not to continually postpone these updates.

If you suspect that you may have overlooked an update, there is always the option to verify. Navigate to the Start menu and select Settings or click on the settings icon. From there, proceed to access Windows Update (or for older versions, go to Updates & Security > Windows Update).

In addition to maintaining your Windows operating system, it is equally important to ensure that your drivers and applications are regularly updated. This practice not only enhances security but also improves overall performance. If you suspect that you may have overlooked an update, a simple online search can provide you with the necessary information regarding which version you should be utilizing.

4. Delete unnecessary files

Similar to our closets and drawers, our computers can become cluttered. Although it may not be visible, you are aware of its presence and how it can potentially affect your computer’s performance. This is particularly applicable if you regularly work with numerous large files, such as high-resolution images, audio files, or videos.

Create a routine of deleting files and folders every week and then clearing the recycle bin to free up space. By doing this consistently, you will have a better recollection of the contents in the files and folders, reducing concerns about accidentally deleting something valuable.

Handy tip: Hard disk drives (HDDs) typically operate at their maximum speed until they approach approximately 90 percent of their total capacity. Therefore, if you notice that your storage space usage exceeds 90 percent, it is likely that this is causing the slowdown in performance. On the other hand, solid-state drives (SSDs) experience a more gradual decrease in speed as they become filled with data. It is advisable to regularly monitor the amount of data stored on an SSD and avoid exceeding 75 percent of its overall capacity.

5. Find programs that eat up resources

If you notice a sudden decrease in your computer’s speed, it is likely due to a specific program. To determine which program is causing the issue, you can access your task manager and identify the application that is consuming a large portion of your resources.

To access the Task Manager, simply right-click on the taskbar. Once the menu appears, select “Task Manager.” Next, navigate to the “Processes” tab within the Task Manager interface. This tab will provide you with details regarding the programs that are currently active on your computer.

To sort the list based on the applications that are using the most of a specific resource, simply click on each header. If you need to close something, it is recommended to close the actual application first. In case it refuses to close, return to the Task Manager screen, right-click on the application, and select End task.

Windows 7: To locate System Configuration, you’ll have to search for it instead of accessing Task Manager.

6. Adjust your power options

Windows provides a variety of preconfigured ‘power plans’ to cater to your requirements. By default, the system is set to ‘Balanced,’ which strikes a balance between performance and energy usage. However, energy consumption becomes a significant consideration only when operating on battery power or aiming to reduce electricity expenses. Therefore, you might consider modifying your power plan.

If your computer is running slow, the High performance plan is a recommended choice. Despite consuming more energy, this option prioritizes performance and can assist in accelerating your machine.

In addition to the usual choices, you have the option to personalize your own unique plan. Navigate to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options > Modify power-saving settings > Develop a power plan. Decide on the existing plan you wish to use as a starting point, provide a name for your newly created plan, and proceed by selecting Next.

The basic settings allow you to customize the duration of the display staying on when there is no activity and the time it takes for the computer to enter sleep mode. These settings do not have any effect on the speed of your computer. However, if you access the “Change advanced power settings” option, you can make further adjustments that will make a difference.

7. Uninstall programs you don’t use

Many times, we unknowingly install large programs without considering the amount of space they occupy. If you suspect this may be the situation, you have the option to effortlessly remove any unused programs. Even if it’s a program that you occasionally use, it might be beneficial to reinstall it each time you require it, especially if it is significantly large in size.

To remove a program, navigate to Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a program (or Programs and Features > Uninstall a program in previous versions).

Review the programs and determine if there are any that you can do without. If you’re uncertain about a specific program, you have the option of using a search engine to gather more information.

8. Turn Windows features on or off

While you’re on the Programs and Features screen, it may be beneficial to verify if there are any unnecessary Windows components. Simply click on Turn Windows features on or off and a list of these components will be displayed.

Be careful not to turn off anything you actually need. So again, a search for anything you’re unsure about is a good idea.

9. Run a disk cleanup

Windows provides a pre-installed feature that helps in eliminating unnecessary files that accumulate over a period of time. To access this tool, navigate to Control Panel > System and Security > Windows Tools > Disk Clean-up. In case you are using an older version of Windows, you can locate it under Control Panel > System and Security > Administrative Tools instead.

In this location, you have the option to choose the categories of files you wish to eliminate. Afterward, simply click on “OK”. Proceed by selecting “Clean up system files” and decide which specific system files you would like to delete.

If you don’t want to do this task by hand, there are software options that you can buy to help you. One example is Iolo System Mechanic, which can find and remove unnecessary files immediately, addressing any concerns you may have.

The software offers a variety of additional features aimed at enhancing your computer’s performance. These include clearing your browsing history, optimizing settings and application processes, and defragmentation (explained further below). Presently, the cost of this software is approximately $50 for a one-year subscription.

10. Defragment your hard drive

As time passes, the files stored on your hard drive tend to become fragmented. This fragmentation causes your computer to search for file pieces in multiple locations, resulting in slower performance. Although the term ‘defragment’ may sound exaggerated, it simply refers to the process of reassembling these files in order to enhance the efficiency of your system.

Windows automatically performs this task on a pre-determined schedule. By default, it is set to run once a week, but you have the option to manually initiate it if you suspect any problems.

To begin with, it is crucial to acknowledge that this procedure is only necessary for computers that utilize a conventional mechanical Hard Disk Drive (HDD). A Solid State Drive (SSD) operates in a distinct manner from an HDD, eliminating the need for defragmentation. If you possess both types of drives, solely perform defragmentation on the HDD.

To begin, press the Windows key on your keyboard and type “defragment”. After that, click on the first result that appears.

Afterward, you will receive a screen called “Optimize Drives”.

Please take note that in the screenshot provided, all of the drives shown are solid-state drives (SSD). It is important to remember that SSDs do not require defragmentation. Just like in the image, the option to “Analyze” will be disabled for SSD drives, but it will remain accessible for hard drives.

Choose an HDD drive and click on “Analyze” to determine its level of fragmentation. It is generally recommended to keep the fragmentation below five percent. In case it exceeds this threshold, you can select “Optimize” to defragment the disk.

If your computer has a solid-state drive (SSD), you will find that the option to “Optimize” is actually available. When you click on it, the TRIM command will be executed, which effectively deletes data that is no longer being used.

Windows 7: To find Disk Defragmenter, simply use the search bar and choose an HDD from the Current status options.

11. Adjust or disable graphics and animations

Newer editions of Windows are equipped with a wide range of visual elements, which include various animations like fading effects and flyouts. These features enhance the overall appearance of applications, giving them a more sophisticated and polished look while improving the user experience. Nonetheless, it is important to note that these graphics can have an impact on the speed of your computer.

Thankfully, it’s simple to adjust these settings and hopefully save a little processing power. Go to Control Panel > System and Security > System > Advanced system settings. Then, in the Performance section, hit Settings and you’ll have a full list of options.

You have the option to choose “Adjust for best performance” which will eliminate all visual effects, or you can select specific ones to remove individually. It ultimately depends on your personal preference, but fading and shadow features are examples of effects that you could likely do without.

Windows 7: Search for Performance Information and Tools, select Adjust visual effects, and use the Visual Effects tab.

12. Check for malware

Malware, also known as malicious software, is a comprehensive term used to refer to harmful programs that have the potential to cause damage to your computer. These can originate from different sources such as email links, software downloads, and even advertisements (known as malvertisements). In addition to the possibility of causing permanent harm to your system, certain types of malware can also result in reduced computer performance.

Installing effective antivirus software can provide protection against malware and various other threats. Fortunately, there are reliable free options available, which means you won’t have to spend any money.

We highly recommend Avira’s complimentary tool that not only scans for and eliminates malware but also provides tuneup tools. This will safeguard your data and enhance the speed of your computer simultaneously. If you are willing to invest in antivirus software, we suggest considering Norton, TotalAV, or McAfee.

If you have reason to believe that your computer is already being affected by malware, you can verify this using a scanning program such as Zemana AntiMalware. Subsequently, you can eliminate the malware utilizing a removal tool like Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit. We have personally tested both of these software and were thoroughly pleased with the outcomes.

13. Disable Cortana

Although Cortana, the Windows digital assistant, is a useful feature, it consumes a significant amount of resources and presents potential privacy risks. Previously, removing Cortana was a straightforward process, but in recent versions, it has become more challenging. However, if you are willing to modify your system’s registry, it is still possible to remove Cortana.

14. Restart your browser

If you notice that your computer is running sluggish when you’re browsing the internet, it’s possible that your browser has accumulated some unnecessary data. Remember, your browser serves as your access point to the internet, so if it’s taking a long time to load webpages, you might be left feeling confused.

For a prompt resolution to this problem, attempt closing your browser and then reopening it. This straightforward action should refresh the browser and restore your internet connection to its optimal speed. If webpages are loading slowly, consider installing an adblocker (such as Adblock Plus) and tracker blocking extensions (such as Privacy Badger or uBlock Origin).

In order to maintain the optimal performance and speed of your browser, it is important to ensure that it is updated. If all other troubleshooting methods fail, you may consider uninstalling and reinstalling your browser to start afresh. Alternatively, clearing the cookies and cache in your browser could potentially enhance its speed.

15. Close your browser tabs

If the problem persists even after restarting your browser, it may be necessary to close some of your open tabs.

If you are someone who frequently opens ten or more tabs in your browser, you may notice a decrease in speed. This is due to the fact that each of these tabs uses up RAM, causing your computer to allocate additional resources whenever a new tab is opened.

If you find yourself looking at your browser and the top of your screen is overcrowded with tabs, it may be a good idea to take 5 minutes to close any unnecessary tabs currently open.

Make sure to also look for any other Windows that might be open behind your main browser window because they could contain numerous tabs that are causing your computer to slow down significantly.

16. Try a different antivirus program

In order to avoid unintentionally downloading malware or falling victim to other harmful infections, it is essential for everyone to have a dependable antivirus program. A trustworthy antivirus will consistently operate in the background and even perform real-time scans on incoming files. By doing so, it guarantees that no malicious content will ever make its way onto your laptop. Therefore, it is crucial to utilize an antivirus program.

One potential issue that may arise is the excessive CPU and RAM usage of certain antivirus programs. In cases where a laptop has limited processing capabilities, these antivirus programs can consume a significant amount of resources, potentially resulting in a noticeable slowdown of the device’s performance.

If you are currently using an antivirus program that is notorious for consuming a significant amount of system resources, it might be worth considering an alternative option. To find out more about the top-performing antiviruses available, take a look at our comprehensive antivirus reviews.

17. Limit multi-tasking

At times, we tend to demand too much from our computers. It is important to remember that they have limited processing power, especially older laptops, which may struggle to simultaneously run a game and a music app. While adjusting the graphics settings can help to some extent, it is often best to lower your expectations in such situations.

In addition, when downloading a large file, there might not be sufficient bandwidth available to stream videos at high resolutions. Consequently, during times when multiple users are using the internet simultaneously, the playback on Netflix can appear fragmented. To avoid any interference with your regular online activities, it is advisable to run data-intensive tasks such as torrenting or others overnight.

18. Upgrade your hardware

If you have attempted all of the aforementioned techniques without success, it may be prudent to contemplate acquiring new hardware. Below are a few suggestions for where you may consider allocating some funds:

  • Add an SSD: Although HDDs provide greater storage capacity at a more affordable price, incorporating an SSD can greatly enhance the speed at which your computer loads programs and writes files.
  • Add more RAM: If your computer is outdated, it might not have sufficient memory to effectively run modern applications. Additionally, if you frequently use multiple programs at once, you may experience a lack of Random Access Memory (RAM) to support your activities. Increasing the amount of RAM installed could provide the necessary enhancement for optimal performance.

A few more tips

How you use your computer can affect how fast it runs. It is important for you to keep an eye on the applications that are running and any system congestion that could cause slower speeds. To help you, we have included some additional tips below:

  • Keep your computer clean: It may seem like common knowledge, but the build-up of dust and dirt can actually have a negative impact on your computer’s performance. Performing regular physical cleaning of your computer can help to improve its speed and prevent overheating.
  • Remove unused browser extensions: Performing regular housekeeping in these areas is worth it as they can cause your browsing experience to slow down.
  • Use a memory-saving extension: When it comes to extensions, there are a few well-known choices such as Auto Tab Discard and New Tab Suspender that can help minimize the amount of memory used by open tabs.
  • Restart regularly: At times, all that is required is to reboot your computer. Restarting your device allows updates to be implemented and resolves any programs that are not responding. When you take a break, it may be an opportune moment to restart while you go and prepare yourself a cup of tea.
  • Run fewer simultaneous programs: Similar to how multitasking can negatively impact our productivity, running multiple programs simultaneously can decrease the speed of your computer. Develop a routine of closing programs instead of simply minimizing them, and you should notice some improvement.
  • Reinstall the operating system: Reinstalling Windows can be considered as the ultimate solution if you have tried all other alternatives and are still facing difficulties.

FAQs about slow laptops (and making them faster)

Can my VPN make my computer slow?

Using a VPN will not have a significant impact on the overall performance of your computer. However, it may cause a slight increase in the loading time of webpages. This is particularly noticeable when using a service that has servers or algorithms that are not well-optimized.

Recently, significant advancements have been made by bigger VPN providers in this aspect. As a result, unless you are accustomed to exceptionally fast speeds, it is improbable that you will perceive any variation. To gain further insight, refer to our comprehensive guide on the top-performing VPNs available.

My laptop is still slow after trying all of the tips in this guide. What else can I do?

If your laptop continues to operate slowly even after extensive maintenance or a clean installation, it is possible that the hardware itself is becoming outdated. Essentially, newly-released applications require increasingly powerful hardware, and your laptop is unable to meet these demands. Regrettably, since it is not feasible to upgrade individual laptop components, you may need to consider upgrading your laptop in the coming time.

Will Windows 11 slow down my laptop?

Rest assured, upgrading to Windows 11 will not result in any slowdown on your laptop. Microsoft has optimized the operating system to be highly efficient and lightweight, minimizing its resource requirements while delivering an excellent user experience. Moreover, Windows 11 incorporates several performance-enhancing capabilities, including faster startup times and enhanced memory management, which will likely improve the speed of your laptop. Hence, there is no need to be concerned about any decrease in performance when transitioning to Windows 11.

How often should I clean my laptop’s hardware components to keep it running smoothly?

Is your laptop experiencing a decline in performance and becoming excessively hot? It’s time to get ready and provide it with some tender loving care!

In order to maintain optimal performance of your laptop, it is advisable to perform regular maintenance on its hardware components, including the fan and vents, at least once annually. The accumulation of dust and debris can have a detrimental effect on the laptop’s functionality, leading to overheating issues and unexpected shutdowns. It is important to avoid the frustration of losing valuable work time as a result of an overheated laptop.

Rest assured, there is no need to worry! Consistently maintaining the cleanliness of your laptop can effectively combat these destructive adversaries that can harm your hardware. By eliminating dust and debris, you can enhance the performance of your laptop and restore its appearance to a polished and rejuvenated state.

Prepare yourself with your cleaning supplies and treat your laptop to a day at the spa that it truly deserves. Not only will your laptop express gratitude, but you’ll also be able to work and enjoy without any bothersome interruptions.

Which parts of a laptop can I upgrade?

The ability to replace various components in a laptop depends on the specific type you have. Generally, most laptops allow for the replacement of RAM and hard drives, while more expensive models may also support CPU-swapping. It is important to note that performing routine cleaning often requires removing the entire casing, and in some cases, even the motherboard. If you are not confident in doing this yourself, it is highly recommended to seek professional assistance.

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