Does your PC seemingly run a bit slower? Do you remember a time when it used to be faster?

As long as there is no physical damage present, there are quite a few things you can do today to clear out the junk and have your computer running at its optimal speed again- including both the hardware and the software.

Before you pull the plug and decide to buy a new computer, here are a few things you can do to recover some of the lost computing power:


Clean Out All The Dust!

Dust can build up over time which will reduce internal airflow. This airflow is important for maintaining safe operating temperatures for your computer. If your system does overheat, it will probably see a drop in performance as the hardware scales down to adjust.

Removing the dust is easier if you have a desktop versus a laptop, although you can still clear dust away from vents. However, be cautious about opening your machine to do a thorough cleaning since this may invalidate your warranty with the vendor. If you are no longer under warranty, and you’re confident with navigating around the inside of a laptop, then feel free to do so!

The first step is to remove any visible dust from around the computer chassis. You can use a wet towel or cotton swabs to access hard-to-reach areas, but one of the best tools you can use is a can of compressed air. Before you start blowing, make sure to unplug the computer and take it outside to prevent any dust from collecting inside your home or office. Blow out the dust using short bursts, while keeping the can of air duster upright with the tube at least a few inches away from the hardware.

Next, you’ll want to clean out all of the fans along with the heatsinks on the motherboard. Do this by turning off the computer, removing the case lid, and then locate all of the fans inside. Starting near the power supply, blow through the covered areas from inside the chassis, so that any dust will be removed from the back of the machine.

  • WARNING: Vacuum cleaners create static electricity, which is highly damaging to sensitive electronic and magnetic components in your machine.


Update Systems Regularly

Make sure that both your operating system and all hardware drivers are up to date. Aside from fixing bugs which can make your computer operate better, you should also install any new features which often help with computer software speeds. In particular, the graphics card drivers in your machine should be kept up to date, since performance improvements are released quite frequently to keep up with the latest advancements.

  • Windows machines can use the built-in Windows Update application.
  • For OS X, click the Apple icon at the top left, then select Software Update.

Don’t forget to update your browser software as well, especially if you’re using Internet Explorer. Optimizations are made to web browsers all the time, which make modern websites load and run even faster.

  • Pro Tip: Instead of using the drivers provided by Windows update, go directly to your hardware vendor for official product updates which contain no added bloatware.

Upgrade Hardware Individually

If you can figure out where the bottleneck in your machine is located, then a simple upgrade would be much more cost effective than purchasing an entirely new computer. With laptops, you can easily install new RAM, hard drives or a wireless card, but a desktop will have plenty more options to work with.


RAM

If you have less than 4GB of RAM, consider adding more first. Since web browsers are particularly memory hungry, having more memory can’t hurt. Be aware that if you have 4GB RAM or more, you will also need to be on a 64-bit operating system to recognize and use it.


Hard Drives

The hard drive is usually the slowest part of your computer. Although solid-state drives (SSDs) have addressed most of the speed issues, they’re still very expensive compared to mechanical hard drives and are quite a bit smaller in terms of memory. As a basic rule of thumb, larger sized disk drives are faster than a smaller capacity drive with the same revolutions per minute.


Graphics Cards

If you’re finding that games are running too slowly on your desktop, then it may be time to upgrade your graphics card, although today, a new graphics card will have a lot more impact on your gaming experience than an updated CPU will for most other tasks.


Defragment Your Drives (For Windows Users)

While it won’t have much impact on a current model, and should never be done on an SSD, defragmenting your machine’s hard drive might give you an extra boost in speed. Just click the Windows icon in the bottom left and type in “defrag”, and the Disk Defragmenter application should appear. Then select the hard drive you want to defragment and begin.