Tips for speeding up your slowing PC

Uninstalling forgotten programs can help speed things up again, but it can only do so much. Experts say there are other tricks to keep your PC agile. — dpa

Booting up takes an eternity, followed by another one just to load all the programs. When that happens to your PC, it’s time to take action.

Most of the time it’s not the hardware that’s to blame, but the programs and services that are installed on it, according to PC tester Joerg Geiger.

Software and services are always developed for the latest hardware. "If you then have an older system, you think the PC is slower, but it’s only that the requirements have grown,” Geiger says. Those higher requirements mean that processes take longer.

Programs that you’ve forgotten are even installed are often to blame. These take up storage space and computing power, says Windows expert Joerg Haehnle.

“Many applications nestle in the autostart of the operating system and thus lead to long system startup times,” he says.

As a first step, the experts recommend uninstalling unnecessary programs. Around 20% of the storage space on a computer should always remain free, Geiger says.

Haehnle advises using the Task Manager to check which programs start up alongside the system. You can find that information under the Startup tab, which shows whether the startup impact of a program is low, medium or high.

Defragmentation of the drive is often recommended as a panacea for a slow computers. However, whether or not it makes sense depends on the type of storage, says Sebastian Kloess from the German IT industry association Bitkom.

With older hard disks (the spinning kind), merging file fragments that are spread around the disk can actually be helpful because of the way the disks work.

“If a file is stored in very fragmented form, the hard drive has to rotate more frequently, and of course that takes time,” Kloess says.

With today’s SSD drives, however, defragging may actually do more harm than good. That’s because they use flash memory and the cells only have a certain lifespan. Constant reorganisation shortens this, Kloess says.

As well, Windows 10 has an optimisation for SSDs onboard that’s activated by default so defragging isn’t necessary.

Another action that’s often recommended is to clean up the registry, the database that stores settings for the operating system.

Haehnle compares the registry to a cabinet full of drawers: “If Windows needs some of this information, it opens the right one. Drawers with outdated or unnecessary content are simply ignored by the system.”

However, cleaning up the registry should really be left to experts. Someone who’s unfamiliar with it can quickly end up deleting things that the operating system needs.

When it comes to virus protection, Kloess recommends Windows’ on-board tool, Defender. “Defender is well integrated into the system and offers reliable protection with a low system load,” he says.

Third-party anti-virus programs, on the other hand, can take up a lot of memory.

In order for a Windows PC to run smoothly over the long term, one thing above all else is needed: regular maintenance. That includes uninstalling unnecessary programs, cleaning up the startup list, and doing system checks.

And if you still use a hard drive, you should swap it for an SSD. This brings a significant increase in performance, Geiger says. But he warns that there are no miracle tips that will turn a 10-year-old PC into a racehorse. – dpa

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