When I first bought my computer two years ago, it was peppy, snappy and so fast that it gave me a case of high-tech whiplash. These days, my computer is swimming-through-an-ocean-of-molasses slow. Seriously, I can eat two bowls of cereal, drink three iced coffees and shower (and shave!) in the time it takes my computer to boot up. It’s infuriating. There’s nothing I’d rather do then chuck my centagenarian-slow laptop out my 24th story window and high-tail it over to the electronics store to buy a new computer; however, as a frugal Krazy Coupon Lady buying a new computer is definitely not in my budget. Fortunately, in my quest to speed up my slowpoke computer, I picked up some tips and tricks to kick it into high gear without paying a dime. If you, too, are struggling with a slow computer, follow these suggestions before you spend your hard-earned money on buying more memory or purchasing a new computer.

Note: The following tips apply to PCs with Windows, not Macs.

1. Disable startup programs

When you install new programs and software on your computer, Windows often adds a small program that will automatically run every time your computer starts. Too many of these startup programs can cause your computer to run painfully slowly. To disable some of them, open your Start menu and type “msconfig.exe” (without the quotation marks, of course) in your Search box. Open the System Configuration program and select the Startup tab (see Figure 1). To keep a program from running at startup, remove the check mark from the box next to the program’s name, and then click on “OK” (see Figure 2). You may have to restart your computer for changes to take effect.

(Figure 1)

(Figure 2)

2. Uninstall unused programs

Unused programs on your computer take up valuable space and slow down your computer, but it’s easy to remove programs you no longer use. Here’s how:

  • Click on the Start menu.
  • Click on Settings.
  • Click on Control Panel.
  • Find the “Add or Remove Programs” or “Uninstall Programs” application in the Control Panel and double-click to open it.
  • Scroll through your list of programs to find the ones you want to uninstall—you can organize your programs by size or the date they were installed by clicking on the Date tab or the Installed On tab (see Figure 3).
  • Click on the application you want to delete and click on “Uninstall.”
  • Click Yes to confirm your selection and then follow any prompts.
  • Restart your computer for the changes to take effect.

(Figure 3)


3. Replace Internet Explorer with a faster Web browser

Internet Explorer is one of the world’s most popular Internet browsers and it likely came pre-installed on your PC. If you want your computer to run faster, you need to ditch Internet Explorer. Uninstall Internet Explorer using the instructions in the “Uninstall unused programs” section of this article. Then download another (free!) swifter Internet browser such as Mozilla Firefox (click here to download) or Google Chrome (click here to download).

4. Switch to open-source software programs

Often-source software programs are not only free but also they typically take up less space and are faster than their cumbersome commercial counterparts. For a PDF reader, get rid of Adobe Reader and switch to Foxit Reader or Sumatra for reading. For photo editing, replace Photoshop with GIMP. Replace Microsoft Word, Office and Outlook with LibreOffice and Mozilla Thunderbird. Also, try replacing Windows Media Player with VLC.

5. Use an antivirus program to remove malware

Not only can viruses, spyware, and adware compromise your privacy, but they can also massively slow down your computer. To remove damaging malware from your computer, use a reputable antivirus program. Instead of shelling out for McAfee (which can cost you upwards of $20 a year), try using the reputable free antivirus program Avira Free Antivirus. For more information about Avira and other free antivirus programs, check out the KCL article: “What You Need to Know About Free Antivirus Programs“.

6. Clean up unnecessary files

Over time, your computer gets bogged down with all sorts of unnecessary files such as temporary Internet files, log files and files left in your Recycle Bin. To remove these unnecessary files and speed up your computer, download the free program CCleaner. For best results, set CCleaner to scan your computer for unnecessary files on a weekly or biweekly basis.

7. Speed up your Internet

In addition to a slow computer, you might also have slow Internet. How’s that for a double whammy of elderly-turtle-slow frustration? To find out how slow your Internet really is, run a free test on Speedtest.net. The results of the speed test will tell you your Internet’s current download speed and upload speed. Compare these speeds to the speed your are paying for with your Internet service provider. For example, the speed test told me that my Internet had a 6.1 mbps download speed, but I am paying AT&T for Internet service that runs at a 12.0 mbps speed. If your speed test results show that your Internet is operating at a slower speed than what your are paying for, call your Internet service provider ASAP. They may be able to run diagnostic tests; switch your Internet service to a less congested, faster channel; or send you a replacement router. Other ways to speed up your Internet include regularly deleting your browsing history and cookies and getting rid of unnecessary toolbars. You can remove unnecessary Internet browser toolbars either by manually disabling them in the Internet add-ons menu or by using a free program such as Toolbar Cleaner.

7 Free Ways to Speed Up Your Computer