10 Computer Maintenance Tips To Avoid A Slow Computer

We all know and accept that we have to maintain our cars to ensure that they are running nicely, but we often ignore that a computer needs the same attention. It is a simple formula that people choose to disregard. Computers are an important part of our lives and to deprive them of computer maintenance is only going to cause errors in the future.
You can keep a computer running like a new computer if you care for your computer the right way. Computers only run slower as they age because they haven’t been maintained properly, so here are 10 computer maintenance tips to help you avoid a slow computer.
There are ways to speed up your computer yourself and it involves a tiny bit of elbow grease.

Computer Maintenance Tips #1: Fix Error Messages

I hate computer error messages—and I was once paid to write them. They’re usually confusing and often useless, but if you ignore them, you shouldn’t be surprised if your computer starts to slow down.

An error message tells you that something is wrong. If you don’t take the time to figure out what is wrong, you’ll probably suffer for weeks before spending just as much time tracking down the problem later.

Too often I get called in by an angry user complaining of a slow computer only to find out that the user has been ignoring the same error message for weeks or months. All that suffering could have been avoided with a simple fix to the obvious error message.

If you want to avoid a slow computer, this is one computer tip you should never forget: fix error messages right away. Happily, you’re already on the site that will help you fix even the most confusing error messages.

Computer Maintenance Tips #2: Remove Unused Programs

In theory, unused programs shouldn’t affect your computer—they’d just take up a little extra disk space. But too many unused programs, especially ad-ware, install extra features on your computer that slow you down.
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For example, some unused programs install small programs that run when your computer starts up. Each of these programs takes up a little bit of your computer memory and a little bit of your computer processing (CPU); they may also “ping” other computers on the Internet, taking up a little bit of your network bandwidth.

A few extra programs won’t slow down your computer much, but what happens when you get a dozen or more? These unused programs begin to use too much of your computer’s resources, slowing you down.

The solution is simple: uninstall programs you’re not using. Go to the Control Panel, open the Add/Remove Programs console, highlight any programs you don’t use, and click Remove. After you remove all the programs you don’t need, reboot your computer to kill any old startup programs.

Computer Maintenance Tips #3: Defragment

Microsoft designed Windows over 20 years ago to work on computers so slow you can barely imagine them any more. (The first computer I ran Windows on had an 11 MHz processor—you read that right, just eleven megahertz.)

Those ancient computers needed all of the help they could get, so Microsoft designed Windows to save files as quickly as possible. Saving files was fast because Windows would split files into several smaller pieces and write them on separate parts of the disk.

Those small pieces of the files are called fragments, and reading fragments makes your computer take longer to open files. Microsoft suggests that you speed up your computer by removing the fragments and turning the pieces into whole files again—a process called defragmentation. You should run the defragment tool from the control panel at least once a month on an active computer.

Please note that if you have a solid state hard drive then this type of storage device doesn’t require defragging. If you are confused about exactly what type of drive is in your computer then please see this article
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Computer Maintenance Tips #4: Clean The Registry

You probably keep all of your paper records in a file cabinet. When you need information from an old credit card statement, you open your file cabinet, flip through all the old folders until you get to the credit card folder, find the specific statement, and pull it out.

Windows does the same thing when it needs some information about a piece of software, except it uses the Windows Registry instead of a file cabinet.

The problem is that Windows checks the Windows Registry hundreds or thousands of times a day. Imagine if you had to check your file cabinet hundreds of times a day—you’d quickly realize how much time you’re wasting flipping though old folders. You’d probably take a moment and throw out those old folders. That’s what I suggest you do with the Windows registry—throw out old registry entries using a program called a registry cleaner.

A quick Google search for “registry cleaner” turns up dozens of useful programs. Find registry errors with a free scan from PC Matic.

Computer Maintenance Tips #5: Get Better Anti-Virus Software

I remember getting a new laptop one time and being impressed at how fast it ran. Then I installed the anti-virus software and it seemed like all I ever saw was the “please wait” hourglass.

Every anti-virus program will slow down your computer, but the best anti-virus programs will slow it down the least because they’re optimized. If you aren’t happy with your anti-virus program, don’t just keep using it—look for alternatives. Remember that most good anti-virus programs have free trials. See our virus removal software page for some great ideas.

Computer Maintenance Tips #6: Check The Disk

Engineers love saying that all moving parts fail, and no part on your computer moves more than your disk drive.

Your disk drive will fail, and it will probably fail sooner than you expect. But, before it fails, it will probably slow down—I mean that it will physically slow down. The “disk” part of the disk drive will stop spinning as fast.

The disk drive will slow down gradually, so you probably won’t notice when it starts happening, but you will notice your computer start to take longer booting, opening files, and saving files.

You can install software which will run diagnostics on your disk drive to tell you that it’s slowing down and that it’s getting closer and closer to failure. For details, see why your computer is running slow.

Computer Maintenance Tips #7: Scan For Bad RAM

The part of your computer most likely to start failing without you noticing it is your computer memory (RAM). Your computer can recover from most RAM failures, but recovering from a failure takes time, and the worse your RAM gets, the longer it takes to recover each time.

Eventually, if your RAM keeps failing, programs will start to crash with weird error messages or your computer won’t boot sometimes.

Running a simple RAM scanner like the free memtest86 every few months can help you avoid computer slowdowns and crashes.

Computer Maintenance Tips #8: Check The Cords

More and more people are using external disk drives these days, as well as people using digital music players, cell phones, and cameras which do the same thing.

If you copy files to or from these devices, you should occasionally check to make sure the cords are plugged in fully. When the cords aren’t plugged in correctly, not all of the data gets sent. Worse, the computer sends data in chunks, and when a part of the chunk doesn’t arrive, the computer has to throw out the whole chunk (kind of like how you might throw out a whole loaf of half-rotten bread). So a 1% data error rate can slow down your transfer by 50% or more.

You should also check the (usually blue) Ethernet cord plugged into some desktop computers to maximize the speed of your Internet connection for the exact same reason.

Computer Maintenance Tips #9: Clean Inside The Case

Did you know that electricity travels further over cold metal than it does over hot metal? This is important to your computer because its Computer Processing Unit (CPU) uses millions and millions of tiny electrical pulses to do all of its processing.

(Nifty fact: in computer terminology, a Hertz (Hz) is 1,000 computer processor operations a second. A gigahertz (GHz) is 1,000 Hertz, or in other words 1,000,000 (one million) operations a second. So a quad-core 1.6 GHz computer does 4 times 1.6 times 1,000 times 1,000 operations—that’s 6.4 million operations every second.)

When your CPU gets hot, the electricity can’t travel as far, so your computer can’t process information as well. (And when it gets too cold, it can’t process information at all.)

Small amounts of household dust gets inside your computer every day, and as it builds up, it blocks your computer’s air vents, making your computer hotter than it should be. If you want your computer to keep running fast, you should take five minutes every year to turn off your computer, buy a bottle of compressed air from the supermarket or Wal-Mart, open your computer case, and clean out all of the dust. Smokers may want to clean twice a year.

Please note that you need to know how to open computer cases correctly and please do not breathe any dust in while performing this job.

Computer Maintenance Tips #10: Use Your Senses

The simplest on-going maintenance you can do for your computer is to pay attention to it. Notice when it starts making a new sound or when it starts getting hotter than usual. Treat your computer like a car and investigate any change in its behavior. Remember that problems are usually easiest to fix the sooner you start working on them.   Even the best computer maintenance tips are no substitute for fixing current problems.

Not interested in doing all this computer maintenance yourself? Hmm neither am I.

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  1. J D says

    Hi David

    I tend to forget to clean the inside case. Now that is silly of me. Thank you for reminding me. And thank you for all of the tips. Most people don’t defragment . Its so easy to defragment and speed up your computer.

  2. K.Vee.Shanker. says

    Hi David,

    I appreciate your explaining computer processes and how do they get affected in due course. That motivates the readers to follow your advice more. Thanks!

    However, I’m not comfortable with your suggestion to defrag the ‘Registry’ through Registry Cleaners. My experience with them has always been negative. Incidentally, I also want to point out that novices like me do not understand the significance of files/entries they show to us for deletion.

    First, I don’t see any improvement after their ‘cleaning’. Then within a day or two, the computer starts hanging frequently and force you to re-install the OS.

    I’ve seen another reputed site actually recommending against the use of Registry Cleaners!

  3. says

    Yes these tips are essential to keep your computer running smoothly. you must keep cleaning it so it does not get clogged up and messy. :)

  4. says

    If we do this regularly we can surely increase speed of our computer, even people have issues with PCs with high procession speed and RAM but they still have bad PC’s as compared to others that is only because they don’t know how to maintain but these tips are worth a try

  5. says

    David, is there a way to do memtest86 without using a disk or usb drive?
    And do you have any suggestions how to keep a laptop dust free?
    I think if I open the laptop I will lose my warranty.
    But if I don’t have warranty anymore, do you think it is just safe to open my laptop?

    I once had a broken door handle/mechanism for my bathroom. I decided to take out one of the mechanisms for a different room which I didn’t need to have locked.
    When I screwed it open, parts just jumped out and I couldn’t put it back together in a normal way so I ended up with 2 doors not working well. I would not want that to happen to my laptop :)

  6. says

    Mistakes constitute very common plus all computer users can face different types of questions, they ought learn more about solutions to common computer linked problems. Common measure that induces problems with computer viruses, speared, Trojans, aware, computer registry corrupt, defective, poor memory, low hard drive capacity, CPU speed, plus computers with a farce Many software coatings. In this object, I compiled a leaning of common data processor problems and solutions.

  7. Frklin says

    @Julie Hayes

    Please check your add-ons, disable them all and reanable them one by one, you will probably find the culprit. Otherwise completely unistall firefox, do a registry clean-up then reinstall anew.

    Hopefully that will fix the issue.

    PS: you might be interested in a add-on manager >> FEBE, in case you are not using one.

  8. says

    Hi David,
    I was implementing all your suggested maintenance tips on my Gateway netbook running Windows 7 starter. I wasn’t able to run check disk for errors because the system will not let me schedule a check. As you know, the computer needs to be restarted in order to run the check.
    Any idea about how to schedule an error check on windows 7 starter?


  9. Rachelle Sung says

    This is a wonderful tips David. Computer is part of my life and having a slow computer want me to smash it down to pieces. I surely take your advice on this one and take not of the simple error message that I received. You surely am a great help.

  10. says

    Hi David,

    What are your views on cloud computing to speed up a computer? I recently reformatted my netbook and removed all of the bloat off there, I now use Google Docs for all my word processing and spreadsheet needs. I think it takes some getting use to but I think it’s the way forward for me.

    • says

      I can’t believe people don’t have the nounce to clean their computer, Its so easy to do CCleaner is amazing and clears so much unwanted rubbish from my computer.

      I recently “fixed” my friends computer by installing CCleaner removing the temp files and a few programs and tool bars she had picked up along the way and she said it was like having a new PC.