Try these 9 steps
If you have a little bit of computer savvy, you can do many of the things you need to keep your computer up to speed without spending a dime.
1. Periodically delete the “temp” files from the computer and “history” files and “cookies” from your browser. In Microsoft Windows, use the Disk Cleanup function.
2. Periodically empty your “trash” or “recycle bin.”
3. Don’t leave your computer running. Every few days, turn it off and restart it.
4. In Windows, defragment your hard drive every few months — but don’t do it too often, because it actually adds wear and tear to your hard drive.
5. Uninstall programs that you no longer use.
6. Make sure your antivirus program is up to date, and that you’re only running one such program. Running more won’t provide any extra protection and will slow things down.
7. Automatically download the latest updates for Windows and for your other programs and devices like printers.
8. For older computers, you may be able to manually add more memory to speed up performance by adding more RAM — but only if you’re comfortable opening up the computer and poking around.
9. To test the speed of your Internet connection, visit speedtest.net for a quick, free test. If you’re getting less than 75 percent of the speed promised by your provider, call customer service to investigate.
If you need more help
OK, so if you’re not comfortable going the do-it-yourself route, there are scores of available programs and services that promise to keep your PC up to speed.
Among the most popular is PC Tools by the makers of Norton AntiVirus. A one-year subscription will run you just about $40 for three computers. For $49 System Mechanic from IoLo will cover all the computers in your home with updates for a year. Despite some differences, both PC Tools and System Mechanic provide a host of tools to automatically clean your computer.
Bad news for Apple users: Very few third-party programs will clean up a Mac, in part because of the way Apple maintains its proprietary operating system. Apple suggests deleting unused applications from your hard drive and running the computer’s disk permissions and repair utility if you’ve added or removed a number of applications.
One last dose of reality: Whether you use a PC or a Mac, sooner or later your computer will become obsolete. New operating systems require new programs, which often use more memory and resources than older computers can handle. But if you maintain your computer properly, you should be able to get about six years out of it before you need to upgrade.
You may also like: How to permanently remove files from your PC.