How to Clean and Speed Up Your Laptop

By Matt D'Angelo
Business.com / Computers / Last Modified: October 12, 2017
Photo credit: Pathdoc/Shutterstock

Follow these steps to restore or improve your computer's performance.

When it comes to laptops, it usually seems that newer means faster. Everyone remembers the day they brought home their laptop, cracked it open and enjoyed lightning-fast speeds. Since that day, your laptop's speed and performance has probably waned, and it can feel like your computer has been slogging along for months or even years.

Depending on where your laptop is in its lifecycle, trying to decide the best option for restoring your computer to its original performance can be overwhelming. If you've only had your computer for a few years, does installing more RAM really help? If you've had your laptop for ages, will uninstalling unused apps make any difference?

We've broken down the best ways to speed up your laptop into two sections: quick speed boosts and revamping your computer's performance. With this guide, you can take the right steps to breaking your laptop out of performance burdens that have plagued it for months.

Quick ways to boost your laptop's speed

1. Limit startup tasks and programs.

When you start your laptop, a bunch of programs will automatically open and start running. The programs operating in the background can drain CPU usage and slow your startup times. 

For Windows users, this involves opening your task manager and clicking the Startup tab. Here you will find a list of programs ranked by startup impact. You can enable and disable whichever ones you feel necessary. For Mac, go to Users and Groups in the system preferences panel, select login items at the top of the window, and view and adjust the programs.

2. Uninstall unused apps.

There are a lot of free apps out there that we think we will need and use, but they often take up memory that we don't have to spare. Liberate your laptop of all the unused programs and apps to free up space and provide a quick speed boost. This is especially applicable for games, movies and other large, unused files.

On Windows, removing unused apps is as easy as selecting Uninstall a Program in the control panel. Mac users can uninstall programs by moving them to the trash. Make sure you empty your trash before you continue.

3. Use disk cleanup.

The disk cleanup utility is a program featured on Windows that assesses and removes unneeded programs and files from your computer. This is a great tool to scrub your computer of erroneous files that you otherwise wouldn't have known existed. You can access it by typing "disk cleanup" in your search bar.

Mac offers a similar feature. It's easy to view and manage your storage by clicking the apple in the top left corner of your screen and then selecting About This Mac. In this window, you can click on storage and get an overview of how your hard drive is being used. From this screen, you can reduce clutter by clicking Review Files, Optimize Storage or Move Files to iCloud.

How to revamp computer performance

1. Add an SSD.

An SSD, or solid-state drive, is different from a traditional hard drive because it stores data in memory chips without having to use mechanical components. SSDs are a great way to immediately boost your computer's speed and performance. They're relatively inexpensive – a 256GB SSD can cost around $75.

SSDs do require installation, so if you're unfamiliar with the intricacies of laptop design, it may be better to pay someone to install it for you.

2. Upgrade RAM.

RAM stands for random access memory, and it is a form of memory storage that allows laptops to feature games and store other large files. Adding RAM, and thus more memory, can help speed up a computer that has a lot of large files on it. Generally, 8GB is the minimum amount of RAM you should have on computers, but not all laptops are upgradeable. Adding RAM also requires installation, and many newer laptops may come with RAM coupled with the computer's motherboard, meaning it cannot be adjusted.

3. Reinstall your OS.

Windows offers the option to reinstall an operating system without losing all the files on your computer. Reinstalling Windows is like hitting the reset button on your computer – by removing and reinstalling, only your essential files will remain. You can do this by selecting Recovery in the Update and Security tab of the settings window.

In addition to updating your computer and keeping your files, you can download your files onto an external hard drive, reinstall Windows and then load your information back onto the laptop.

For Mac, restart your computer, then hold down Command + R. This will open the macOS Recovery window. From there, choose to reinstall the OS without erasing your files.

Bottom line

Your computer can accumulate a lot of files and data over time. It's crucial to keep up with cleaning your laptop so that as your computer ages, it doesn't significantly slow down. By taking preventative measures, you can avoid bigger projects such as installing an SSD or reinstalling your OS and still maintain decent operating speeds. Prolonging the performance of your laptop is like taking care of a car – if you don't service it and make sure it's running properly every now and then, it will begin to break down or, in the case of the laptop, slow down.

 

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