How to clean and speed up your Windows PC

How to clean and speed up your Windows PC

Quick Links

  • Restart your computer
  • Clean up unnecessary files
  • Close power-hungry apps
  • Uninstall apps you don't need anymore
  • Disable startup tasks
  • Run a malware scan
  • Disable visual effects
  • Change the power mode and power plan on your PC
  • Check for updates
  • Scan your drive for errors
  • Defragment an HDD
  • Turn off search indexing
  • Improve your browser's performance
  • Reset or reinstall Windows
  • What to do if your PC is still slow

Anyone who's ever owned a PC for over a few months knows they can tend to slow down over time. There are a few reasons why this happens, such as piling up files and apps, having a lot of apps running simultaneously, and having a lot of temporary files taking up valuable space. Now and then, it's a good idea to clean up your PC to make sure it's running the best it can, and there are a few things you can do to both clean up and speed up your Windows 11 computer. If you're not sure where to start, we're here to help with a few tips. Let's dive right in.

Restart your computer

A simple, but effective solution

Yes, the classic "have you tried turning it off and on again?" trick. You've most likely already tried this, but if not, restarting your PC is a great first step for better performance if it's been running for a while. It's pretty common for some people to never turn off their laptop and just close it when they're not using it, but this means more and more running apps can pile up in the background. If you haven't yet, restart your computer by doing the following:

  1. Open theStart menu.
  2. Click the Power icon.
  3. Choose Restart.

Your computer will turn off and on again, and it should perform better now. Of course, this can only get you so far, so we have a few more suggestions below.

Clean up unnecessary files

Delete files you don't need anymore

Over time, your computer will store more and more files, some of which were intentionally created by you, while others might be temporary files created by the system for one reason or another. It's a good idea to clean up these files occasionally to prevent them from impacting your system performance by filling up your drive.

A great place to start is your Downloads folder. Almost everything you download will end up here, and often, these are files you use once and never again. These can be installers for programs or documents you just need to read once. Open File Explorer and choose Downloads from the sidebar, then look through your files to delete anything you don't need anymore. Focus on large files, too, since the bigger they are, the more impact they can have on performance.

Use disk cleanup

Another way to clean up old files is to use the Disk Cleanup tool, which is now built into the Settings app on Windows 11. Disk Cleanup can delete temporary files created by the system, including many things you might not even know existed. This is a great way to free up some space on your PC, and it's a good idea to run it regularly. Here's how:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Choose System from the sidebar.
  3. Click Storage. Your computer may take some time to fully load the storage information.
  4. Once it's loaded, click Temporary files.
  5. Select all the kinds of files you want to delete.

    We recommend selecting all but the Downloads option since this will delete everything in your downloads folder, and you may still need some of those files.

  6. Click Remove files.

Wait for the process to finish, and you'll have a few extra gigabytes available on your PC. Depending on how long it's been since you've used this tool, it can free up a significant amount of space and improve your experience.

Third-party cleaner tools

In addition to the built-in disk cleanup tool in Windows, many companies offer their own cleanup solutions that can remove even more files from your system. The effectiveness of these kinds of tools can vary, but a very popular and well-known option is CCleaner. It's worth looking at if you want to clean up more temporary files.

Close power-hungry apps

There's only so much a computer can do at once

If your computer is feeling slow, it's worth checking if you have any apps running that may be using a lot of resources on the computer. If you have a demanding game or an app like Photoshop open in the background, it might affect the performance of other apps. To check which apps are using more resources, try this:

  1. Right-click the taskbar and choose Task Manager.
  2. Click the CPU header to sort apps by CPU usage.
  3. If a single app is using double-digits worth of CPU resources, it may be a good idea to close it if you're not actively using it.
  4. Try closing the app from within its own window to avoid losing data. If you can't close it normally, you can select it in Task Manager and click End task.

You may also have multiple apps using smaller amounts, which can pile up and affect performance. Close anything you don't need, but avoid closing system processes that can affect functionality.

Uninstall apps you don't need anymore

Are you still using that old printer?

In addition to files, it's common for apps to pile up on your system. Many times, you'll install a program for a specific purpose that you no longer need, or you may have an app for an old printer you're not using anymore. It's a good idea to check the apps installed on your system and uninstall the ones you don't need. To do this:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Choose Apps from the sidebar.
  3. Click Installed apps.
  4. Check which apps you may not need anymore. If you're unsure about a specific app, it may be best to leave it alone, or look it up on Google to see if it's useful.
  5. To uninstall an app, click the ... (ellipsis) button and choose Uninstall, then click Uninstall again.
  6. If needed, follow the setup process to remove the app.

Disable startup tasks

Too many apps run when you don't need them to

On top of uninstalling apps from your system, it's also worth looking into what apps are actively running on your PC when you don't need them. Many apps like to create startup tasks, meaning they start when your computer starts, and they hog resources as soon as you turn on your PC. Some good examples are Microsoft Edge (even if you use another browser), OneDrive, Steam, and Adobe Creative Cloud. Even if you want these apps on your PC, you probably don't need them running all the time, so turning off their startup tasks is a good idea.

  1. Right-click the taskbar on your PC and choose Task Manager.
  2. Choose the Startup apps tab on the left side.
  3. To turn off a startup app, click it, then choose Disable in the top menu.
  4. Repeat the process for any app you want to disable.

After this, try restarting your PC. Without all those apps running at startup, it will probably feel much lighter and snappier.

Run a malware scan

Some viruses can slow down your PC

If you often download programs from websites you don't know that well, there's a good chance you've found yourself with some viruses on your PC, which can compromise your security and the performance of your PC. It's a good idea to run a virus scan on your PC.

Windows 11 has a built-in Windows Security app powered by Microsoft Defender, and it is a good place to start. Here's how to use it:

  1. Open the Start menu and search for Windows Security. You'll want to choose the first option.
  2. Click Virus & threat protection.
  3. Choose Scan options.
  4. Select Full scan.
  5. Click Scan now.

Wait for the process to finish, and if it detects any malware, make sure it's removed or quarantined. If you want to go deeper, some great anti-malware tools from other providers often do a better job at detecting malware. If you don't want to spend money, a great option is MalwareBytes, which has a very powerful detection engine and can be used for free.

Disable visual effects

Windows can use a lot of resources, too

If you have a low-end PC, it's possible that visual effects in Windows can also slow down your computer. To help with this, you can turn off some visual effects that Windows uses to try to speed up your PC. A good start is turning off transparency effects:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Choose Personalization from the sidebar.
  3. Click Colors.
  4. Set the toggle next to Transparency effects to Off.

If you're still running Windows 10, you actually have a few more options:

  1. Open the Start menu and search for adjust the appearance and performance of Windows.
  2. Choose Adjust for best performance.
  3. Alternatively, turn off the individual options below until you're satisfied with the results.

These settings should mostly help on very low-end PCs, which is why they're no longer available on Windows 11; the system requirements are higher for that version.

Change the power mode and power plan on your PC

Squeeze more performance out of your computer

Windows laptops offer some power settings to help you balance performance and battery life. The power mode and power plan are actually different things, and they're usually set to Balanced. Still, you can adjust them for better performance if you don't mind sacrificing battery life. To change the power mode:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Choose System from the sidebar.
  3. Click Power & battery.
  4. Click the dropdown menu next to Power mode and choose Best performance.

The power plan is a legacy setting that's not found as easily, but you can get to it this way:

  1. Open the Start menu and search for Control Panel. Choose the first result.
  2. Select Hardware and Sound.
  3. Click Power options.
  4. Select Best performance. If needed, click Show additional plans to reveal this option.
  5. Close the window.

You should now have a slightly faster computer, though battery life won't be as good if you have a laptop.

Check for updates

Having the latest software can help

Windows and its programs are constantly updated to improve performance and add new features, and it's generally a good idea to keep things up to date to get the best performance. It's also important to update your drivers, as they can contain important fixes and performance improvements, especially graphics drivers. To update Windows, follow these steps:

  1. Open theSettings app.
  2. Choose Windows Update from the left side menu.
  3. Click Check for updates.

Any existing updates should be installed automatically. Sometimes, you can also receive driver updates this way. Still, the best solution here is to visit your PC manufacturer's website to check the latest drivers available for your specific model. Alternatively, we have a guide specifically for updating graphics drivers that can help with that part.

Scan your drive for errors

Problems with the drive can affect performance

Sometimes, a hard drive can become corrupted, resulting in a lower performance or even lost data. You can check the drive for errors by following the steps below:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Choose This PC on the sidebar.
  3. Right-click your hard drive and choose Properties.
  4. Switch to the Tools tab.
  5. Under Error-checking, click Check.
  6. Click Scan drive to begin checking the drive for errors.

Once the process finishes, if any errors are detected, they should be fixed.

Defragment an HDD

A slight boost to performance

If your PC still has an HDD (hard disk drive) rather than an SSD (solid state drive), defragmenting is another way to get slightly better performance. Defragmenting makes it so that your files are stored closer together on the disk platter, making it easier to access them more quickly. Because an SSD uses flash storage, defragmenting has no benefits, so only do this if you still have an HDD.

  1. Open the Start menu and search for Defragment and optimize drives. Choose the first result.
  2. Select your HDD and click Optimize.

The process will take some time, but it can improve performance somewhat. However, there's no need to run this tool very frequently, and the impact will be minimal if there isn't much fragmentation in the first place.

Turn off search indexing

Indexing your files can use a lot of resources

If you're running out of options to improve performance and still not getting great results, you can try to turn off search indexing. To provide search results, Windows needs to create an index of your files, which can sometimes use some resources. You can turn off search indexing to improve overall performance, but it will come at the expense of slower searches. If you want to try it, do this:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Choose Privacy & security from the sidebar.
  3. Click Searching Windows.
  4. Under Find my files, the Classic option should be selected. Click Customize search locations.
  5. In this new window, click Modify.
  6. Deselect all the selected options in the box at the top. You may need to expand your folder view to reveal selected folders.
  7. Click OK.

Improve your browser's performance

Disable extensions you don't need

If the performance issues you're having are specifically related to your web browser, you can also try to clean up some specific settings. First, try uninstalling or turning off extensions you don't need. This will vary depending on your browser, but if you're using Google Chrome or a Chromium-based browser, you can simply enter chrome://extensions in the address bar, then disable or uninstall extensions you don't need. This should lighten the load on your browser and make it faster.

Clear browsing data

Another solution you can try is clearing the browsing data in your browser. In Chrome, you can do this by following these steps:

  1. Type chrome://settings into the address bar and press Enter.
  2. Click Privacy & security on the side menu.
  3. Select Clear browsing data.
  4. Change the Time range to All time.
  5. Select the Cached images and data field. You can select the other options, but it will delete your browsing history and sign you out of website.
  6. Click Clear data.

Again, this process will vary a bit depending on your browser, but most Chromium-based browsers should be similar.

Reset or reinstall Windows

Push comes to shove, you can start fresh

If you've tried everything and your PC is still feeling slow, you might need to reset it and start completely from scratch. This is likely the most effective solution, but a very extreme one since you'll need to reinstall all your programs and potentially lose your personal files. There are two options here:

  • Resetting Windows: This option uses the files already on your PC to start over from the beginning and revert to the factory settings. You can find this option in the Settings app under System > Recovery. We have a full guide on how to reset Windows 11, which we recommend following for this.
  • Reinstalling Windows: If you want an even cleaner option, you can try a clean install of Windows by downloading an ISO file and creating installation media. However, this process is much more involved, so not everyone may be willing to do it. You can check out our guide to installing Windows 11 if you want to try it.

What to do if your PC is still slow

Maybe it's just old

There are a lot of solutions here, and they're bound to help you somewhat, but at the end of the day, technology ages, and an old PC may just not cut it anymore. If you're using a laptop, it may be time to buy a new laptop with the latest specs to get great performance for years to come. If it's been more than four years since you got your current machine, you'll probably see a big difference in performance.

If you have a desktop, you may have other options. Upgrading the CPU, GPU, or RAM are all solid options to boost your performance. A major upgrade is also getting an SSD if you still have an HDD. In fact, that's probably the biggest upgrade you can get for any old PC, as it makes a huge difference in performance. You'll need to do some research to find out what components work with your PC or what upgrades you might need. If upgrading specific components isn't something you can see yourself doing, there are also plenty of great desktop PCs you can buy if you have the budget for it.

  • https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/how-to-clean-and-speed-up-your-windows-pc/ar-BB1gVyXA?ocid=00000000

Related

7 warning signs your computer has been hacked — and what to do

7 warning signs your computer has been hacked — and what to do

News
Spy agency issues urgent warning to billions of smartphone users to avoid being spied on

Spy agency issues urgent warning to billions of smartphone users to avoid being spied on

News
The Cause That Turned Idealists Into Authoritarian Zealots

The Cause That Turned Idealists Into Authoritarian Zealots

News
'Forgotten Scot' who inspired Tolkien and CS Lewis

'Forgotten Scot' who inspired Tolkien and CS Lewis

News
You're Reheating Steak Wrong. Here's How to Do It so It Doesn't Dry Out

You're Reheating Steak Wrong. Here's How to Do It so It Doesn't Dry Out

News
Minecraft Player Discovers Unusual Village While Exploring

Minecraft Player Discovers Unusual Village While Exploring

News
Afghans spend Eid in poverty after fleeing Pakistan

Afghans spend Eid in poverty after fleeing Pakistan

News
I'm a military spouse and childcare drained my savings. My husband and I lived paycheck to paycheck for a year.

I'm a military spouse and childcare drained my savings. My husband and I lived paycheck to paycheck for a year.

News