If you’ve ever asked yourself “How do I speed up my computer for free?”, this article is for you. You don’t need to spend money to improve computer speed. Optimize Windows for performance to get a better gaming experience and save your money. While this document is meant for gamers, several of the tips would work for computers that are not used for gaming.
Why is My Computer Slow?
Have you ever had a computer that was fast when you bought it but it then slowed down over time? There are several reasons that can explain this. Here are a few:
- There are too many programs loading automatically when the computer boots.
- The software you’re running now is more demanding than the software you were running when you bought the computer. Eg. The Operating System, games and other software.
- Windows is not optimized properly for performance
- Bugs in applications or Windows
- Drivers are out of date
- A background program is incompatible with the foreground application(s)
- The hardware is inadequate
How Do I Speed Up My Computer?
The problem of a slow computer can have software or hardware solutions. The following software tips apply to PC gamers running Windows 7 or later.
Before doing something that costs money, it would make sense to attempt a software solution. There are countless sites with tips claiming to answer the question “How do I speed up my computer for free?” Many of those tips are very obscure. They might produce performance boosts that are only measurable in a lab and don’t result in real-world noticeable improvements. In this list I have only included tips that can make a noticeable difference. Some of the tips below come with step-by-step instructions. Those instructions are for Windows 7. The process for later versions of Windows should be similar. XP instructions, if they exist and if different from Windows 7, are in square brackets. Go through the following sections in the order listed.
Reinstall the Game
If your game is running slowly, the cause might be the game as opposed to hardware or some aspect of Windows. Sometimes, installing a program can corrupt installations of other programs so unless the game was the last program you installed, reinstall it.
Download Game Patch From Developer
If you ever have trouble with a game, the first thing you should always do (after re-installation if necessary) is to check to see if the developer has released a patch and download what you find. Actually, you should check for this immediately after installing a game, before playing it for the first time.
Download Driver Updates
Updating drivers has been known to improve performance. Check for and download sound and video driver updates if they exist.
Download Windows Updates
Your problem might be resolved by downloading Windows updates so try that next.
Disable Unnecessary Start-up Programs
Your computer has a finite amount of memory. The more programs your computer has in memory, the slower your computer runs. When you install software, its installation program often configures windows so that the new software, or a part of the new software, loads automatically when the computer boots. Configuring Windows to load the software automatically often happens without your knowledge. That means that every time you install a program, you might be slowing your computer down a little bit more. It doesn’t matter how many programs are installed on the hard drive. What’s important is how many of them are loading automatically.
- Click the Windows logo [Start button] at bottom left. The cursor appears in a text box [Click “Run…”] with the message “Search programs and files” as shown on the right.
- Type “msconfig” without the quotes and press Enter to load the System Configuration window
- Click the Startup tab as shown on the right
- Expand the “Startup Item” and “Command” columns so you can see the entries in each column
- You will see a list of programs. At the far left of each line is a checkbox. If a box is checked, it means the program on that line is being loaded automatically. If a box is not checked, it means the program on that line is not loading automatically. How many boxes do you have checked?
- Look through the list under the Startup Item column. If you see programs you don’t need to load automatically, uncheck them. If you see programs you don’t recognize, use google to search for information on them and then decide if you want to load them automatically.
Disable Visual Effects
Windows uses many visual effects that make Windows look better but they slow down the computer
- Right-click “Computer” [Click Start at bottom left. Right-click “My Computer”] and select “Properties”
- Click “Advanced system settings” on left side [click “Advanced” tab]
- Click “Settings” in “Performance” section on “Advanced” tab to load the “Performance Options” window
- This is a list of visual effects sorted in alphabetical order on the first word in each line. The more effects you have running, the slower your computer will be. Disable all effects by clicking “Adjust for best performance” above the list of options
- If you disable all the effects, your desktop will look a little ugly. I disable all but the following three:
- Enable Desktop Composition
- Enable Transparent Glass
- Use visual styles on windows and buttons
- Do not close this window by clicking OK. Leave the window open and then move on to the next section
Increase Virtual Memory
Virtual memory is a section of your hard drive set aside for Windows to use when it runs out of main memory. Windows always ends up using virtual memory. You need to make sure there’s enough or your game and possibly Windows will crash.
- After step 6 in the previous section, click the “Advanced” tab
- Click “Change” in “Virtual memory” section
- Select C: from the list of drives
- Set Initial size and Maximum size to a number equal to twice the amount of main memory. So if you have 8GB of memory, set both “Initial size” and “Maximum size” to 16GB. Value must be specified in MB. To convert GB to MB, multiply number of GB by 1024 so 16GB is 16384 MB.
- Click OK all the way out to return to the desktop
Reduce TSRs to Minimum and Disable Anti-virus
Icons in the bottom right, next to the time, refer to running programs. Your computer loads certain programs automatically as you saw in the System Configuration. If you’re experiencing problems with a game, there might be a specific program that is incompatible with your game. Sometimes anti-virus programs cause problems. You can temporarily disable programs that are causing problems for a game:
- Go to the icons in the bottom right, next to the time
- Exit all programs except those that are essential for gaming. Usually, you do this by right-clicking an icon and selecting “Exit”, “Quit” or “Disable”. This includes the anti-virus, unless you are playing an online game in which case you should keep it running. When you reboot, all programs set to load automatically in the System Configuration will be loaded and their icons will return to the bottom right.
Set Power Plan to High Performance
If you’re using Windows 7 or later, you have access to something called the “High Performance Power Plan”. The default power plan is “Balanced” but you can change it to “High Performance” if you want. It will push the computer harder thereby increasing its performance. However, the result of the computer being pushed harder is that the computer’s fans have to run at full speed to prevent the computer from over-heating which means the computer will be louder.
- Go to Control Panel
- There are 2 possibilities: Category View and Classic View
- If you’re in Category View, you’ll see 8 categories. Click on “Hardware and Sound”.
- If you see many icons, then you’re in Classic View in which case you can just move on to the next step.
- Click on “Power Options”
- There are three power plans: “Balanced”, “Power Saver” and “High Performance”. Select “High Performance” as shown on the right.
- Click the X in the corner to close the window (There’s no OK button).
Scan for viruses
You have now nearly completed all non-game solutions. The only thing left to do is scan for viruses. It’s possible your problem is caused by a virus or some other type of malware so perform a thorough scan of your hard drive. Avast is a free but comprehensive anti-virus program and one that I recommend.
Adjust Greaphics Settings
Now that you have gone through all non-game tips to improve performance, load the game and set graphics settings to their minimum. Play while gradually increasing the graphics settings until you find the highest settings your video card can support. If you’re not satisfied with these graphics settings, upgrade your hardware. See “Upgrade Hardware to Improve Performance” in the Tips menu for more information or click here to go there now.