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9 Free Ways to Speed Up Your PC

Don’t pay to get your computer up to speed when you can easily do it yourself

En Español | The minute you turn on a new personal computer, it starts slowing down. Like any machine that’s exposed to the elements, things start to gum up the works. And like any machine, maintenance is required. Ads are everywhere for services that claim to “clean up” and “speed up” your PC — for a fee. Instead of hiring someone else, here are nine ways to speed up your PC without spending any money.

AARP recommends simple solutions to fix your computer and make it faster

You can usually speed up your computer for free by taking a few simple steps. — Photo by David Arky

Find out what’s slowing you down

Each time you add a program or a service on your computer, visit a website or order a product online, you drop digital breadcrumbs into your computer’s memory. Subsequently, when you start up your computer it takes a little extra time to “read” each breadcrumb, slowing things down. Here are several of the leading causes of a slowed down computer:

  • Too many programs are loading when you start up your computer (and often the main culprits are programs you no longer use).
  • Your computer doesn’t have sufficient built-in computer memory, also known as RAM, to keep up with your programs and applications. This is different from the memory on your hard drive. If your computer doesn’t have enough RAM, the data gets stored on your hard drive instead, and that’s a time-consuming process.
  • Viruses and malware, such as tracking programs.
  • Too many temporary files and “cookies” from places you’ve visited on the Web. Cookies can make it faster to load a website that you visit often, but if you compile too many of them, it will ultimately slow you down.
  • Disk fragmentation — this occurs when different bits and pieces of computer files and data that should be stored together are deposited on different parts of your hard drive. This is a particular problem on older computers running Windows Vista or Windows XP.
  • Out-of-date programs or drivers.
  • Sometimes it’s not your computer that’s slowing things down, but the speed of your Internet service, or an outdated wireless router.

Next: Try these 9 steps to speed up your PC. »

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