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How to Make Your Computer Run Faster

written by: •edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 5/23/2011

Let's take a look into some ways in which you can speed up your computer with simple upgrades or just cleaning up the system.

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    How Can I Speed Up My Computer?

    I have been working with computers for more than a decade and two of the most common questions I get from friends and family is either ‘How can I make my computer run faster’ or ‘how can I speed up my computer.’ There is no one answer to those questions because so many factors must be considered. First, you must figure out why the computer is running slower than it should, and sometimes it’s not the computer’s fault at all. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the many ways in which you can improve your system performance.

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    Add More RAM

    The standard answer for most people wanting to know how to speed up their computer is to add more RAM, but there is a limit as to how much you can effectively install. 32-bit operating systems like Windows XP and Vista can only use about 3.3 Gigs of RAM, so installing anything more than 4 GB is a waste because the OS won’t use it. Windows 7 32-bit is the same way, although the 64-bit version of Windows 7 will support much more memory. Just because your computer can physically allow more than 4 GB does not mean installing more than that will make any difference if you are using a 32-bit operating system.

    Computer memory comes in a variety of speeds and sizes, so you must be sure to buy the right kind for your computer. The easiest way to determine what you need is to visit a site like Crucial.com and download their browser plugin to analyze your system and tell you exactly what kind to buy and whether or not you need to install the RAM in pairs.

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    Buy a New Hard Drive

    Harddisk head If you have a computer that is more than four years old and used on a fairly regular basis, then chances are that the hard drive is starting to wear out. It might be noisier than usual when loading something, or you can see an obvious delay when booting up because the hard drive is grinding away while trying to load all your software and settings. It could also mean your hard drive is about to die, especially if it is clicking. You may also need to defrag the hard drive.

    The reason why hard drives wear out is because they are mechanical devices driven by motors, and over time those motors wear down and don’t run as fast as they did when first purchased. On top of that, the physical disc inside of the hard drive can be overwritten so many times that it starts to wear down. As computer manufacturers are slowly moving away from traditional mechanical drives and adopting SSD, or solid state drives, the issue of hard drives wearing out won’t be such a problem any more.

    First, determine if your system supports IDE or SATA connectivity for the hard drive, then purchase a new drive. Chances are you can buy a much larger hard drive than what originally came with your system, and they can be bought for less than $100 for hundreds of gigabytes of storage. After you install the drive, use a hard drive cloning tool to copy everything from the old drive to the new one, then boot with the new one and you should see a noticeable speed improvement.

    (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, Loschen)

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    Update Your Security Software

    Some antivirus and antimalware software can seriously drag down the performance of your system. Make sure you don’t have two similar security applications running at the same time, such as Norton Endpoint Protection and Microsoft Security Essentials. These type programs both reside in memory and scan every file that is being opened, plus do a lot of background scanning and other activity. If you have them both running at once, they will literally fight with each other over resources, file access, and so on. As a result, your computer will be very slow or even occasionally hang up. If you purchase a new antivirus or security suite, be sure to completely uninstall the old one before installing the new one.

    Additionally, a lack of proper security software could make your computer vulnerable, and it may already be infected with some kind of virus or malware that is slowing down your computer. If you don’t have any security software installed or if the subscription on your security software has expired, you could be putting your system at risk. There are a wide variety of free antivirus and antimalware programs available for you to download and install, plus it’s always good to run a scan on your hard drive to make sure you don’t have any malicious software hidden away in some temp folder.

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    Create a New User Profile

    Windows 7 Create new account Windows user profiles are simply folders stored on the hard drive that contain all of the files and settings associated with a user account. If you have more than one name to click on when you first turn on your computer, then it means Windows has a profile for each one of those names. Occasionally, user profiles can become so bloated that files can be corrupted and this can result in user profiles that are either slow to load or may even cause program errors.

    To make a new user profile in Windows 7, open the Control Panel and click on User Accounts. This will show your current account and allow you to change the name, password, picture, and so on. If you click Manage another account, it will show you all of the user profiles on the machine. To make a new one, just click on Create a new account and enter the information.

    Once you have created the new user profile, reboot your computer then log in with it instead of your old one. If you see a noticeable improvement in load time, then you can go into your hard drive under the Users folder and copy the documents and photos from your old profile to the new one. Just to be safe, don’t delete your old profile because you may need to go back to it from time to time.

    For more information, be sure to read this series of articles on how to speed up Windows 7.