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10 Tricks to Speed Up Your Computer

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Even if your computer seems to be running quite fast, chances are there is a lot you can do to boost its performance. Microsoft Windows 8 comes with several utilities that are designed to optimize its speed, but they can only help if you know where to find them. Offloading some of your data to external storage can also do a lot to make your computer faster, as will a periodic check of your Wi-Fi® access point from time to time.

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Delete Files with Disk Cleanup

Getting rid of the clutter on your hard drive will help keep your computer running efficiently. Disk Cleanup, which comes with Windows 8, can identify unnecessary files and get rid of them for you. To run this utility, type "disk cleanup" into the Windows 8 Search charm, click "Settings" and then select "Free up disk space by deleting unnecessary files." After Disk Cleanup scans your hard drive, it presents a list of recommended removals including program files you downloaded and already installed, temporary Internet files and files that are still in your Recycle Bin.

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Use Sleep Mode for Faster Startups

Turning on your computer and powering it down again can be a time-consuming process. To get your computer to turn on almost instantly each morning, change the configuration of your power button to put it into sleep mode instead of shutting down. Sleep mode saves everything to memory and uses an almost unnoticeable amount of power to keep that data active while the computer is asleep. To change this option, type "power" in the Windows Search charm, select "Settings" and then click "Power Options." If you have a laptop, you can program it to go to sleep when you close the lid as well.

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Power Down Occasionally

In a perfect world, sleep mode might be the only power option you need. However, some programs are known to hold onto resources they are no longer using, like memory or disk space. Shutting down or restarting your computer once every several days is the best way to free up these resources and keep your computer running smoothly. If you have configured your power button to use sleep mode, there's no need to configure it again to shut down. Just open the right sidebar, click "Settings," then click the "Power" icon. You can then select "Shut Down" or "Restart" from the pop-up menu that opens.

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Control Your Startup Programs

By default, several programs may be starting up whenever you turn on your computer, whether you use them or not. To keep your computer running at its best, take a look at these programs and disable the ones you don't use every day. To find this list, type "Task Manager" in the Windows Search charm, select "Apps" and then click "Task Manager." Click the "Startup" tab. Select any program you don't want to run automatically and then click the "Disable" button.

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Use External Storage

Having a full hard drive will slow your computer down substantially. External storage like USB drives and microSD cards are an inexpensive way to offload large files you don't need to access every day, like photos and video files. With less data on your hard drive, your computer can quickly find the files you need. The extra space is also used as virtual memory when you are running a lot of programs at once that would otherwise exceed your available RAM.

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Use Flash Memory Cards and ReadyBoost

If your computer has a magnetic hard drive, Microsoft 8's ReadyBoost utility can give Windows' performance a jump start. Connect any flash storage device to your computer, like a USB flash drive or a microSD card. When you right-click the connected drive and select "Properties" you will see a "ReadyBoost" tab with instructions for enabling this feature. ReadyBoost uses this drive instead of your slower hard drive for virtual memory. Of course, if you already have a solid state drive on your computer, ReadyBoost isn't necessary, as illustrated in this example.

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Optimize Search Indexing

Indexing is the process Windows uses to find the files you may need. By default, it indexes both the names and the descriptions of each file in specific folders. By optimizing the indexing process, you can specify which folders are indexed and which are not. You can also specify when names only should be indexed or both names and descriptions. To access these options, type "indexing options" in the Windows Search charm, click "Settings," then "Indexing Options" and then "Modify."

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Disable Animations

Windows 8 animations in the task bar and fading menus may look cool, but they aren't free. Each time something is programmed to move on your desktop, you are paying a small fee in system performance. To disable animations, type "run" in the Windows Search charm, select "Apps" and click "Run." Type "SystemPropertiesAdvanced" in the Run text field and click "OK." Click the "Settings" button in the Performance section of the Advanced tab and then click the "Adjust for Best Performance" option.

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Optimize Your Hard Drive

Another way to speed up the time your computer takes searching through the hard drive is to optimize it. Depending on your usage, you may want to complete this process every month or two. To run the Optimize utility, type "defragment" in the Windows Search charm, then click "Defragment and optimize your drives." Select your hard drive and then click the "Optimize" button. Windows will move fragmented data together and remove blocks of data that aren't needed.

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Get the Most Out of Wi-Fi

One of the easiest but often-neglected ways to increase your computer's performance is to check your Wi-Fi signal strength from time to time. Moving furniture in the room or even changes in the weather can change where the signal is strongest. This process is especially important if you have more than one Wi-Fi access point available to you. To check your network signal strength, just click the "Network" icon in the bottom right corner of the desktop. Select the network with the strongest signal or adjust your computer's position until the icon shows all five bars.

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