So, you’ve been enjoying your new computer for the last few months, and as time has passed, it has been getting slower and slower. It’s finally to the point that it’s almost unusable and is driving you up the wall when you use it for recreation or work. So what do you do? Pick it up, throw it away, and buy a new one? Nope. The correct answer is to call tech support or search the Internet and see if you can find out what is wrong with your computer and fix it.

Sometimes you must buy a new computer, especially if your current one is ten years old. But if you’ve only had it a few months to a few years, you most likely need to do some basic cleanup and update your computer’s software. Before you start to panic or rush out to buy a new computer, you should try the tips I have here for you to see if they will get your laptop up and running like new again.


1. Update Software

Some of you reading this might already know that upgrading your software, such as virus and spyware protection software makes sense. Still, many people probably don’t realize that updating all your other software programs will also help improve the speed of your computer. Sure, your software might do exactly what it’s supposed to, ideally, but the reality is that your software is full of glitches and bugs that can be fixed by downloading patches. By downloading these patches, it won’t only improve the efficiency of your computer and software, but it will also enhance its security. Updating your software is different for each program.

Sometimes, you have to do it manually from inside the program; other times, it’s automatic. For programs like virus and spyware protection software, you should set it to update automatically. If you have other programs that auto-update themselves, put them to do so, too. This will keep you from having to worry about updating your software yourself. For the rest of your software that doesn’t automatically update itself, checking for updates at least once a month should be sufficient. It may seem unpleasant to update your software, especially if you have to do it manually, but you will be glad you did it in the end, and your computer will thank you for it.

Along with updating your software, you also need to update your operating system regularly. Your operating system is just another software program, and like those other programs, it is also full of bugs and glitches that need to be fixed with updates. Windows has the option of letting you set it to update itself automatically or to update it manually when you feel like it. To adjust this option in Windows XP, go to Start>Control.

The panel, and click on Automatic Updates in the Control Panel window. Go to Start>Control Panel in Windows Vista and click on Windows Updates. In the Windows Updates window, click Change Settings in the left pane. Regardless of which version of Windows you are using, you will have the same options to choose from, which are:

1. Automatically Download and Install Updates

2. Automatically Download updates, but let me choose when to install them.

3. Notify me, but don’t automatically download or install them.

4. Turn off Automatic Updates.

The recommended setting is to download and install updates automatically. Still, you can choose whichever settings you want, then click Apply to save the changes you make, regardless of how you decide to update your operating system; making sure you regularly will help your computer run smoother and improve its security.

3. Defragment Your Computer

As you use your computer and add and remove files and software, some of your files become fragmented and spread out over the hard disk over time. This will get worse as time passes, and eventually, your computer will slow down. The computer has to search the hard drive longer whenever you attempt to use your files.

To fix this problem, it’s as simple as running the Disk Defragmenter Utility that comes with Windows. To run Disk Defragmenter, go to Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Defragmenter. Once the program opens up, click the Defragmenting button and let it go on its own to start the defragment process. Because defragmenting your hard drive uses all your system resources, it’s best to do this only when you need

to use your computer. I recommend you start defragmenting at night right before you go to bed because, depending on how fragmented your hard drive is, it could take several hours to complete. Once the defragmenting process is done, your files will be put back together correctly, and you should notice a significant increase in the speed of your computer, especially if it’s been a while since the last time you did it.

4. Delete Junk Files

Has it ever seemed like your free space on your hard drive is getting smaller, or it takes longer to search for a file you can’t find even though you haven’t added any new files or software on your computer? This is due to fragments of files left behind from the daily tasks you perform on your computer. Whenever you download files from the Internet or delete files to the recycling bin, bits and pieces of files are left behind that you can’t see and most likely don’t know about. These are the “junk” files created automatically by

programs for temporary use but aren’t deleted after the programs are done using them. These files include cookies, temporary Internet files, log files, error log files, temporary miscellaneous files, and System Restore points created every so often by Windows. It might sound like it would be lots of work to remove all of these useless files, but fear not, a built-in program called Disk Cleanup will delete them for you.

Go to Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools> Disk Cleanup to run this program. Once the program is open, you will be shown a window with some tabs and a few options. The first tab that you see lets you choose which junk files you would like to remove. Below, this window shows how much free space you will gain from deleting these files. Even if it’s only a few kilobytes, still run the program.

I have found out from using it that even if it says it will free up a few kilobytes, it usually frees up 1-5GB of space. Once you select which files to remove, click the OK button at the bottom of the window. Once the process is done, it will automatically close. Along with deleting these junk files, if you haven’t had any problems with your computer, you can free up additional space by clicking the More Options tab in the Disk Cleanup window and the Cleanup button in the System Restore section. This will delete all but the most recent restore point. Once you’re done deleting all your files, close the program if it doesn’t close by itself, and you are done.

5. Delete Unused Files

Along with deleting the junk files off your computer, you can also get increased performance from your hard drive by deleting files you know about but don’t use. This includes software and all personal files you create or download, such as movies, music, and pictures. You might be playing only one or two PC games right now. Having 50 games installed at once might look cool, but if you’re not playing them, remove them. Sure, your hundreds of pictures look cool across the screen for the My Pictures screensaver, but do you need them all on your computer? If the answer is no, it would probably be better if you saved them all to CDs or DVDs and deleted them from your computer.