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End-of-Year Tips: 19 Ways To Speed Up Your Computer

2016This week, I’m providing tips for end-of-year technology maintenance. These are activities that could (or should) be done once a month if you’re active on your computer, but AT LEAST do them yearly.

Like this week.

There are two ‘speed’ problems that arise when using computers:

  • the computer itself is slow, for lots of reasons
  • you are slow–meaning: You have too much to do. We’ll deal with this later…

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Make sure your firewall is working. Windows comes with a built-in one. Maybe Mac does too. Leave it active. It’s under Control Panel>Administrative Tools. Sometimes, they seem to turn off by themselves (I have no idea why). Check to be sure it is active. This will keep viruses and malware out that slow your computer.
  2. Defrag your computer. To quote Windows, Fragmentation makes your hard disk do extra work that can slow down your computer. Removable storage devices such as USBs can also become fragmented. Disk Defragmenter rearranges fragmented data so your disks and drives can work more efficiently. Never mind all that geek speak. Here’s what you need to know: Run Disc Defrag by going to Control Panel>Administrative Tools>Advanced Tools.
  3. Run Spybot or a similar spyware programs. Spybot is free, which is why I like it, and I’ve had good luck with it. says this about Spybot: The program checks your system against a comprehensive database of adware and other system invaders. The Immunize feature blocks a plethora of uninvited Web-borne flotsam before it reaches your computer.
  4. Run Ad-aware once a week to keep malware off your computer. It has a stellar reputation and is also free (although there’s an upgrade that you can pay for).
  5. Keep your antivirus software active. If you’re paranoid like me, run an antivirus scan weekly to be sure nothing is missed.speed up your computer
  6. Sort through your Documents and get rid of those you don’t need anymore. It’s intimidating, like a file cabinet that hasn’t been opened in months–or years and is covered with dust, even spider webs. Do it, though. If you don’t, every time you search, the computer must finger through those unused and worthless files. It doesn’t understand the difference between ‘unused’ and ‘important’. Plus, they distract you from finding the documents you really want. If you don’t use files anymore, but don’t want to toss them, make an ‘Old’ file and put them all in there.
  7. Back up your files to an external drive or cloud storage. If you have an automated system, skip this. If you don’t, consider getting Carbonite or similar. If you use Windows, try their backup program. It’s easy to find: Click the Start Button and search ‘backup’.
  8. Empty the trash. Don’t even look in it. If you haven’t missed a file by now, it won’t matter if you throw it out.
  9. Learn to use that program you’ve been promising you would or delete it. Evernote is a great example. Use it (and you won’t be sorry) or delete the email from your best friend exhorting you to try it. Move on.
  10. Go through your programs and delete the ones you no longer use–or never used (like the ones that come pre-installed on a new computer). Here’s what you do:
    • go to Control Panel>Programs and Features
    • peruse the list and pick the programs you downloaded by mistake, meaning to use, or used to use and no longer do
    • uninstall
    • don’t look back
  11. Update any software that needs it. I don’t mean BUY a newer version. I mean click the free update that’s been nagging at you (Adobe Reader and Windows, for example)
  12. Clean the junk off your desktop. Put it in folders or create a folder for ‘Working on’. Don’t know how to create a desktop folder? Just right click on the desktop and select ‘New>folder’
  13. Clean up your Start Button. Remove shortkeys you no longer use (with a right click>delete). Add those that have become daily go-to sites
  14. Clean out your subscriptions. This slows YOU down as you sit to work. They usually arrive via email. Dragging through dozens of emails a day when you know you aren’t interested in a lot of them slows you down. Me, I have over 200 every day. I regularly purge blog and newsletter subscriptions that didn’t work out as planned.
  15. Make notifications weekly instead of daily. If you get Google alerts, set them for weekly (unless you really must know when someone posts on the term ‘Labrador puppies’). If you have social media, let them notify you of activity once a week instead of daily. If you get reports on Twitter usage or Google Adwords, schedule those weekly.
  16. Change your browser to Chrome. When I did, it doubled my surfing speed. And it’s not just me. Among those-who-know, it’s considered the fastest browser (and IE the slowest).
  17. Slim down your start-up process.  Only have the programs you really need start when you boot (or reboot). Skip the rest. How? Click Start, type msconfig in the search bar and press Enter. In the System Configuration window, click the Startup tab. From the list of programs that appears, untick the box next to those you don’t need to launch automatically at startup. Only deselect programs that you don’t use regularly or know that you don’t need.
  18. Add more RAM. That’s the stuff that lets you keep more stuff open on the desktop (including tabs in your browser). If you don’t have enough, it’s like having a postage-stamp-size desk for planning your lesson plans. Upgrade yours to the max your system will take.
  19. This one’s a bit geeky: Install and SSD start-up drive. An SSD drive is one of those super-fast, expensive hard-drives. Get one just large enough to boot up your computer. You won’t store files on it or data–just use it to start your computer in about a third of the time it normally would. I did this to my desktop and no longer have time for a cuppa or a shower while the computer starts up. A warning: A lot of saving defaults to the start-up drive so reset where your auto-saves go (like temp files, images, and similar).

For more end-of-year clean up ideas, check Microsoft Windows page, How to Geek, and WikiHow.

Finished? Take a break. Have some eggnog.

More on online presence:

How to Talk to People Online

Writers Tip #48: Have a Web Presence

8 Free Online Marketing Tools for Writers

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

37 thoughts on “End-of-Year Tips: 19 Ways To Speed Up Your Computer

  1. Numbers 1 – 5 I don’t have to check because I have a program that has all 5 in it and monitors my system (Advanced SystemCare: free or paid). I dread number 6 but I know I need to do it. I put almost everything in OneDrive or Google Drive these days, even some of the .exe files of programs I don’t want to lose. The rest are usually an ongoing project for me (I’m kind of a neat freak).

    Could you give tips about how to set up the Chrome browser for writers (generally that is)? Every time I’ve tried Chrome, I’ve ended up having problems and my PC is running slower. Also, I have Windows 10. I’m wondering if Microsoft has designed it so that it won’t work well with anything other than IE. What are your thoughts about this?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I use Chrome as a browser because it seems to be more stable than the alternatives. I used to love Firefox and switched. I find Chrome much faster, too. I don’t use any of the MS online programs, though I have Office software and Windows 7. I haven’t upgrade to 10 yet. 10–like Google’s platforms (Google Drive and Chromebooks)–want you on Google Chrome and will only reluctantly work on others. I suspect 10 is the same.

      What writerly problems do you have with Chrome?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was afraid you’d agree with me on how the different browsers are choking our options.

        As for the problems with Chrome concerning writing, I’m overwhelmed by the shear number of extensions I could add (if I can use Chrome, that is). Which ones do you find the most helpful and which ones should be never added?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Truthfully, I don’t use very many. Snagit for screencasts, Nimbus for screenshots. Though both of those can be done with non-browser tools (like Screencast-o-matic and Jing). I suppose there are more I could use, but I don’t see a need.

        What are you considering?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Grammarly is a good idea, Glynis. I know lots of educators who love that. As well as Evernote/OneNote. Those are great for collecting ideas.

        For me, they sit benignly to the right of my address field. I never notice them unless I’m looking for them.


      • I definitely will. After we were hacked a couple years ago by a corporate group to the tune of about half a million dollars, I employee a team who’s responsible for keeping the ‘bad guys’ away. I never, ever want to relive that experience. I’ve also grabbed some of your other posts for cleaning up my desk top. The team keep a program running all the time that supports every digital item in our household and all of those we are connected to. For $18/month, I consider it worth the value.
        I have a question for you – I hate the new formatting for posting on WP – can you tell me how to get back to the old format. I’ve been searching for instructions but haven’t found anything yet. I’ve been told you can do it – but that’s all I know.
        I’ve been absent as I’ve turned into a 24/7 caregiver for Tom.
        Thanks for everything you do and everything you post.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Go in through the black toolbar at the top of your blog. On the left, it says ‘My Site’. Drop down and select ‘WP Admin’ and then keep your selections off of that toolbar. I hate it when I stumble into their new blue world. I get out and enter through this other method. There are a lot of us who do not like the changes.


  2. Great tips, and all are things I need to do but rarely do. I do try to get off of email lists to decrease my number of emails, but it seems whenever I click to remove myself from their list, within a week or two, I’m receiving them again. Very frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My other suggestion is to consider the age of your current computer. Typically the expected useful life of a computer is no more that 5-6 years. In the high tech business, we replace them every 3-4 years. If you system is approaching 5 years, consider budgeting for a new one next year. In addition to being a risk for increased risk of hardware failure, you’ll find the new systems to be faster, cheaper and fill with tons of new feathers.

    I am currently at that point with my MACs. I bought them in 2011 and I am already seeing signs of problems. Well, my recent hard drive issue was a shocker.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I still think of my desktop as new, but it’s actually about 3 years old. I guess I’m getting close. I used to replace every 2-3 years, pass the old down to the kids. Now, I have nothing to do with the old ones.


      • I’ve got the same problem with old computers. On the MAC side Apple has a good recycling program that depending on the equipment, you can get an Apple Store gift card. There are a growing number of recycling programs out there. In some cases a school or other charity can earn a few dollars running an electronic recycle day. I got rid of a bunch of old gear a couple of years ago with the local high school. Don’t know how much they made, but their eyes lit up when I said, “Everything in the truck is yours.”

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: End-of-Year Tips: 19 Ways To Speed Up Your Computer | NICE TRIP WORLD

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