The primary reasons for a sluggish PC are:
Too many background apps: Having too many apps installed and running in the background can overload your PC’s CPU and RAM. When that happens, they can’t focus on the things you actually want to do.
Outdated drivers: The basic drivers that come with your PC or laptop often don’t unleash the full performance of its hardware. For example, newer graphics drivers offer performance optimizations for graphics cards and games that you won’t get with age-old drivers.
Clogged fans and overheating: A PC full of dust will run too hot. If that’s happening, your computer may try and cool itself down by turning off or drastically slowing down.
In this article we’ll tackle these one by one and show you the best ways to speed your computer up again.
Is my slow internet or the computer responsible?
If websites and downloads are running slower than usual, your PC might not be the culprit after all. Instead, the issue could be a slow internet connection or a problem with your browser. Try performing a speed test to evaluate the health of your internet connection. Depending on your results, you’ll know whether the issue is with your PC or the internet itself.
If your speed test returns poor results, there are many ways you can speed up your internet connection. It might also help to clean up browser cookies and clear your browser history.
Regardless, the following steps are good to perform on a regular basis to keep your PC in tip-top shape and even speed it up above and beyond expectations.
How to speed up a slow PC
No matter whether your PC is from 2009 or 2019, the more you use it, the slower it becomes. This holds especially true for Windows 7, but applies to Windows 10 as well. Luckily, the steps to speeding it back up are fairly simple to perform.
Close apps you don’t need
Let’s start with the basics: If you have multiple apps running on your machine, things can slow down after a while. It’s simple math. If your PC has, for example, 4 GB of memory (“RAM”), and your browser and mail application take up 4 GB, then it’s reached its limit.
What happens next is that Windows tries to offload some of the RAM back to your hard disk in a process called “paging”. But since your hard disk is significantly slower than your RAM, the result is that your machine will feel sluggish as things are constantly being loaded in and out of RAM.
Processors (CPUs, or Central Processing Units) struggle with too many things happening at once. If there is a lot of background activity, your CPU might not be able to process it all, which in turn causes delays. That’s why our first piece of advice is: Only leave open the applications you need!
Close applications: If you don’t need that email or gaming app running at the moment, close it!
Find that magic X and hit it.
Close tabs: What many people (including a majority of my friends and co-workers) don’t realize is that a huge amount of browser tabs can severely slow down their machines. So whatever you do, don’t accumulate tons of tabs:
In this example, the browser is taking up over 2 GB of memory and sucking up 27% of processing power. Do yourself a favor and close all the tabs you really don’t need.
Hint: Many browsers offer a way to collect and save tabs for later.
Close background apps: Many applications install background apps to allow for a quicker launch or provide functionality such as update mechanisms. To see these background apps, click on the little arrow in the bottom-right corner of your screen. It’s usually enough to select one of the apps you don’t need at the moment and click on “Quit” or “Exit” to end it. Be aware that these background processes will restart themselves later. Read more under this section to disable startup items manually, or use Sleep Mode in Avast Cleanup for PC to get rid of all background noise automatically (more on that below).
Update drivers to speed up your PC
Device drivers are pieces of software that control how your hardware runs and works. For example, a graphics driver is responsible for drawing the picture you see on your screen or sending images to print. Without drivers, devices either work poorly or not at all. That’s why updating drivers is key for a fast PC.
To learn more about updating drivers, we recommend these articles:
To handle it automatically, get a Driver Updater and let it do the job for you.
Uninstall unused programs on your PC
The average user has dozens upon dozens of applications installed on their computer. But let’s face it: Half of the apps on your machine are probably worthless or long-forgotten, taking up precious memory and hindering performance. It’s time to get out the digital dustbuster to recover some space and speed up your PC again. Be sure to check out our complete guide on how to clean up PCs for our tips on removing programs and how to make sure there are no leftovers remaining on your disk.
Here’s how to get rid of unused programs:
Uninstall unused programs in Windows 10
Click on the Start button and select Settings.
Next, click on the Apps section.
Here, you’ll find a long list of both apps and programs:
Go through the list carefully and check which apps you might not need anymore. Note that Windows 10 includes some sponsored apps and trials, such as Candy Crush Saga, which take up space on your PC and slow things down — so watch out for these entries! If you don’t recognize a particular app or aren’t sure whether it’s useful, use a search engine to see what others are saying about it.
Once you’re sure you don’t need a specific app or program anymore, click on it and then on the Uninstall button.
Rinse and repeat! Do this for all apps you don’t need. You’ll find that a lot of applications are just lingering on your hard disk with no purpose, actively slowing down your PC. Time to get rid of them!
Uninstall unused programs in Windows 7
Click on the Start button in the lower-left corner and select Control Panel.
From here, click on Uninstall a program.
The following list gives you an overview of all installed applications on your machine. Go through these step-by-step and determine which ones you no longer need. To help make that decision, we recommend clicking on the Installed On tab to see which apps were installed a long time ago:
If you see some apps here that you don’t recognize, do a quick search to confirm whether or not you need it before you give it the boot.
Found an app you definitely no longer need? Click the Uninstall button and follow the on-screen instructions to get rid of it.
Use our software quarantine feature to “pre-uninstall” junk applications
To make the process of identifying and uninstalling apps easier, safer, and even more thorough, we’ve developed a feature called Software Cleanup. Its primary function is to detect bloatware, such as trials, adware, and other junk. In addition, you can use it to find apps you no longer need and get rid of them easily.
Here’s how it works:
Download the free trial of Avast Cleanup for PC.
Go to the Speed Up section and find Unnecessary programs:
If you see any recommendations here, you can safely uninstall them. These programs were deemed unnecessary by our reputation engine and by other users.
Furthermore, clicking on Review all my other programs will reveal a complete list of applications:
To sort by apps you haven’t used in a while, click on the Last used tab. Here’s what makes our product different from the built-in Windows uninstaller: We offer a software quarantine, which puts all components of the chosen software (all files, processes, startup items, registry entries, etc.) into a “box”. It doesn’t delete the files; instead, it backs everything up and locks it away. That way the software won’t run anymore and it won’t slow you down.
To do that, simply click on MOVE TO TRASH. It’s kind of like a “test uninstall”. If you realize after a while that you don’t need an application, you can then select to fully uninstall it (or reinstall, if you find that you do want it after all).
Pull the plug on resource-hungry programs
Many programs on your PC can slow it down. Unfortunately, sometimes you actually need these applications, so removing them is not an option. In this section, we’ll show you how to detect and identify programs that slow you down — and put them to sleep safely! This will help you diagnose and solve a slow PC without having to uninstall these useful apps.
The short-term solution
Use the following steps if your PC all of a sudden feels slower than usual or if its fans start to rev up out of nowhere.
Right-click on your taskbar and select Task Manager.
The next screen shows you a list of all currently running applications and background processes. First, click on the CPU tab to sort all programs by their current processor usage. If you find a process that’s constantly draining more than 10-20%, you should consider closing it or uninstalling the program if you don’t need it. Repeat the same steps with the Memory and the Disk tabs:
Watch out for processes that consume more than 1,000 MB of memory or more than 2-5 MB/s of Disk activity. End these programs to speed up your PC immediately! Simply right-click on an entry and select End task.
The long-term solution
At Avast, we realized that uninstalling resource-draining applications sometimes isn’t an option because you might actually need those programs. Also, killing processes via Task Manager may not be feasible for two reasons:
These processes will launch again every time you reboot or turn on your PC.
There are often hidden services and background tasks related to an application that are hard to find.
Our Sleep Mode is the solution to this problem. It automatically detects all applications that drain your PC and puts them in a form of hibernation.
A simple example of an app that runs in the background is iTunes, which has multiple processes and services running along with startup items that run components every time you boot your PC. We detect all these items individually and turn them off while iTunes isn’t running. Once you launch it, we temporarily enable everything. And when you close it, we turn everything off again to preserve your PC’s memory and speed.
When you put all resource-hogging programs to sleep, it’s almost like running a brand-new PC!
Put resource-draining applications to sleep
In order to get Sleep Mode, you need to get Avast Cleanup for PC.
Go to the Speed up section and click on Background and startup programs.
This list shows all applications that have some impact on your PC. By clicking on SLEEP, you put them in the aforementioned hibernation mode, essentially stopping all components that might slow down your PC.
Our advice: Put them all to sleep! If you need one application on this list to run constantly in the background, you can click on Ignore.
Defragment your drive & TRIM your SSD
The more you use your PC or laptop, the slower it gets. While some of this is caused by more and more apps being installed on your computer, it’s also due to files being moved around on your hard disk. Over time, this shuffling creates data fragments and “holes” on your hard disk. Think of it as an orderly shelf of cans that slowly loses its tidiness as people remove and rearrange the cans it holds. In the end, it’s harder to find the can you’re looking for.
The same goes for your hard drive. Chaos caused by the shuffling around of data fragments slows down the processes of reading and writing to hard disks. The solution is a thorough defragmentation of your hard disks or using the TRIM operation on modern SSDs. Get rid of these fragments to speed up a slow drive!
Upgrade your memory (RAM)
Most PCs out in the wild have about 4 GB of RAM installed. However, in times where a simple web browser can easily occupy 2 GB, this can quickly cause issues. Once the memory fills up, Windows will need to “swap” its content back to the disk. Shuffling things in and out of RAM costs time and negatively impacts performance.
To improve the performance of your PC, it’s advisable to upgrade to 8 GB or even 16 GB of RAM. This should be plenty for all current (and future) applications as well as games. Most current PCs nowadays take DDR4 memory. It’s cheap and can be found online easily in a variety of speeds. The most common speeds are at around 2133 to 3200 MHz.
RAM prices are way down these days. Unless you’re opting for the absolute premium and fastest RAM (for gamers and professional overclockers), prices range from $80 to $150 for 16 GB to 32 GB memory modules. Before buying, make sure you have slots left in your system:
See the 4 horizontal bars? Those are memory modules in a desktop PC (4x4 GB of RAM = 16 GB). In this case, we’d need to replace the existing modules with new ones. If you have slots left, you can simply add memory.
On laptops, things might be a bit more difficult. First, you need to make sure that your laptop actually supports a RAM upgrade — in some cases that’s impossible, specifically with laptops that don’t have any screws and can’t be opened — and if so, check which RAM it supports. If you search online for “RAM upgrade + computer model” (make sure to use your exact PC or laptop model), you should find more information or video guides on YouTube.
Last but not least, you should make sure to check your RAM frequently for errors to prevent any issues or impact on performance.
Physically clean your PC
It’s not always the software that’s slowing you down; it can be dust, too. Yes, you heard that right. If dust starts to collect inside your PC or laptop casing, it can clog up its fans. Fans make sure your processor and graphics card stay cool. If they slow down (or even stall), your hardware will either run significantly slower to prevent overheating or even turn off randomly.
The solution: Open up your casing and use a compressed air duster in combination with a vacuum cleaner to blow dust bunnies out of your system.
With a laptop, this might be a bit more difficult as you’ll have to open it up (which is impossible in some cases), but it’s advisable to do this at least once a year if your model allows it. Once you’re done, this will make your computer and laptop run noticeably faster.
Beware of speed-limiting antivirus software
Some antivirus programs are known to slow down PCs. That’s no surprise, given that they hook deeply into the operating system and monitor everything it’s doing. Even the built-in Windows 10 Defender is known to cause performance issues.
We’ve been aware of these issues and have worked for years to make our own Avast Free Antivirus as lightweight as possible, reducing the impact on PC performance to near zero.
Use the “Ultimate Performance” power profile (Windows 10 only)
In recent Windows 10 versions, Microsoft has introduced an “Ultimate Performance” power profile that basically makes sure that your laptop or PC runs at full performance, regardless of the energy consumption. Windows users can adjust their performance by optimizing it for maximum battery life or better performance (or a balance of the two).
Here’s how you can activate that: Right-click on the battery icon on your task-bar and select Power Options.On the next screen, find the Ultimate Performance option and select it. Done!
Can’t find the Ultimate Performance setting? If that’s the case, here’s what you need to do:
Click on the Start button and type in CMD. The search results will pop up. Right-click on the top result called Command Prompt and select Run as Administrator.
On the command prompt, type in the following command:
powercfg -duplicatescheme e9a42b02-d5df-448d-aa00-03f14749eb61
Now you can perform the steps at the beginning of this section to open up the power options and select the Ultimate Performance option to speed up your PC.
If all fails, time to wipe the slate clean!
At some point, however, you may have to admit defeat. If all of these steps haven’t helped, you have two choices:
Wipe the entire Windows system and start from scratch.
(...and if that didn’t work…)
Buy a new computer!
Before you raid the piggy bank or completely wipe every file on your PC, let’s try to reinstall Windows. Luckily, with Windows 10 this has become much easier than before. Note that you’ll lose all installed programs and their settings, while your data will be left intact. Before you reinstall Windows, make sure that you still have the original program installation files or CDs/DVDs as well as activation codes at hand.
Once that’s done, you’re good to go:
Click on the Start button and select Settings.
Next, find the Updates & security section. Click on Recovery.
Under the Reset this PC section, click on the Get started button.
Chose the Keep my files option and follow the instructions to go back to the factory settings to restore full performance of your PC.
Keep your computer running fast and clean
Remember to repeat the regular maintenance steps outlined above to avoid having a sluggish computer on your hands. Alternatively, save time and keep your PC clean with Avast Cleanup. It’ll scan your PC from top to bottom, boosting speed and performance by clearing out gigabytes of worthless data and deactivating unneeded programs. Afterwards, the Automatic Maintenance feature removes junk files automatically to keep your PC running in tip-top shape.
Got other devices that are slowing down?
Surely you have other devices in your household. If you or your family have Macs or mobiles suffering from performance problems, check out our guides for these devices: