Making your PC faster (again) and last longer

I work in the IT business and I am constantly asked by people how to make their computers faster (and therefore lasting longer). This question is more complex than it sounds but not so bad that it would take all day to explain. I won't get into specific instructions here but give the basics of what you can do. Most of these things are free if you do it yourself.

  • Remove spyware. I use Ad Aware or Spybot to remove spyware. This is the number 1 cause of slowness in Windows. You can prevent most spyware from being installed by using another browse such as Firefox. Internet Explorer is very prone to spyware. Do this once per month.
  • Virus Scan. Viruses can really slow up or even prevent your computer from working correctly. If you run virus scan (I recommend avast (free)) and it finds something it will try to remove it. My rule is that if a virus is found you should reformat your computer. Do this once per month
  • Defragment your hard drive. This will add a lot of speed back if you haven't done this in a while or at all. This will reorganize the files on your hard drive so it can find and read them faster. Do this once per month.
  • Remove programs you don't use. If you still have old programs and/or games installed that you do not use then go to Control Panel and uninstall them. This frees up hard drive space and will increase Windows' response time. Do this yearly (at least) or on an ongoing basis.
  • Add some RAM. This has to be bought and physically installed. If you are not comfortable opening the case of your computer you can have it done professionally. I suggest maxing out the RAM in your PC if money permits. Find memory for you PC here.
  • Reformat your hard drive and start fresh. After you have backed up everything you can clear out the hard drive and install Windows fresh. This removes a lot of junk and gives you a clean start. It almost always makes your PC faster again. I like to do this once per year as a spring cleaning list item.
  • Replace your hard drive. If your computer is going on 3 years old and is still slower than when you bought after all of the above has been done you may want to replace the hard drive. It has physical parts that wear out and physically slows down. They are inexpensive these days. I recommend Seagate hard drives for reliability and good warranty.
If none of the above makes your PC as fast as you think it should be then either you have a really old computer (more than 3 years) or it has some other sort of hardware problem. In this case it makes more sense to buy a new one as you can get them inexpensively these days. For those in the market for a new PC I suggest Dell. They might be slightly higher in price but the hardware quality and support is well worth it. Go for the minimum warranty as it is not worth the extra money.

90% of the time the above tips should get you back to "normal" again. You don't have to buy a new computer in most cases!