Do you need a new computer? Maybe not. It could just be your computer speed.

10 Free Ways to Speed Up Your PC

by Buck Weber

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When we bought a new laptop computer last year, I was amazed at how much faster it ran than our (around) six-year-old desktop. After a while of using both computers, I decided I had to try and speed up the creaky old desktop. After running through these ten tips, I can honestly say it made a big difference. If you have an older model that just putts along, give these a try and let me know how it turns out. Since I used these on my desktop running Windows XP, the instructions are for that system. I imagine they are similar for Windows 8 but I haven't used it yet.

1) Defrag Your Computer

Defragging your hard drive pulls together all of the fragmented files that are scattered all over the place, making them easier and quicker for your computer to open. To defrag your hard drive, go to Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter. Before defragging, make sure to turn off your screen saver and the standby power option if you are using them. Because defragging can take so long, I installed a free auto defragging app and have it set to run at night every two weeks.

2) Clean Out Temporary Files

Windows leaves temporary files permanently on your hard drive that will continue to accumulate until you delete them. To clean up temporary files go to: Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and then Disk Cleanup. You can also use the Disk Cleanup option to empty the recycle bin and remove Windows programs and components that you don't use.

3) Clean Up the Registry

Your registry might be corrupted if you start receiving error reports and your system is moving like molasses. I use a free registry cleaning utility to keep my registry clean. There are plenty of them out there. Just perform a search for "free registry cleaner."

4) Run Anti-Virus Software

I have my free anti-virus software running on auto update and scan and I have not had a problem for a long time. The only times I have had computer virus issues is when I did not update my anti-virus software, which is why now I always have the auto update and scan running.

5) Run Anti-Spyware Software

If your anti-virus software does not include spyware detection, you could have little critters in there slowing your system down. Again, there are plenty of free versions available. Search for "free anti-spyware software" and pick one out.

6) Review Your Startup Options

The programs that Windows starts every time you boot up your system could be slowing down your startup time. My old desktop took so long to start I could get a cup of coffee, check the newspaper and start a load of laundry before it was fully up and running. If your computer is experiencing the same startup issue, you might want to take a look at what all it is loading. To manage your list of startup programs, click on Start then Run, type MSCONFIG and press enter. Select the Startup tab and uncheck any items you don't need to run at startup time. Click apply and then reboot to see how it works.

7) Use Windows Defender

This is a Windows built-in application that helps your computer fight against malware. Click on Start, All Programs then Windows Defender. Click on Tools then Options then auto scan and you're all set. While you are at Tools, also click on Software Explorer to see and manage what programs run at startup, programs that are currently running and network connected programs.

8) Keep Windows Updated

A couple of years ago, my brother asked me for help with his computer, which had so many problems he was at his wit's end. I agreed to take a look at it, and six hours later, we had it fairly stabilized. One of his biggest problems was he had not kept Windows updated because he did not have an Internet connection for a few years. It is imperative that you keep your PC up to date with system security patches lest you want to invite an invasion of hackers. To receive the latest fixes and configure your system for automatic updates, right click on the My Computer icon on the desktop, select Properties and click on the Automatic Updates tab.

9) Remove Unnecessary Software

Remember all those icons that were on your desktop when you first bought your computer? You probably eventually ended up deleting most of them to tidy things up or because they were programs you didn't need. Guess what? Unless you removed the software as well as the desktop icon, they are all still taking up space on your hard drive. You could also have software that was secretly installed when you downloaded toolbar add ons or file-sharing programs. To remove these unwanted programs, click on Start then Control Panel. Click on Add or Remove Programs and take a look at what is lurking around.

10) Increase Virtual Memory Settings

While buying and installing more RAM will probably speed up your computer better than any of the above tips, I have to stick to the "free" theme of this article. Increasing your virtual memory capacity on your hard drive can work as a temporary fix once you have run out of RAM memory. How much virtual memory Windows will use can be adjusted. Go to Start, Control Panel, System, click on the Advanced tab and then Settings under Performance. Click on the Advanced tab then Change under Virtual Memory. Under paging file size, increase the maximum size by 500 MB, click Set and see if that makes a difference. Installing extra RAM is the best way to go but increasing the virtual memory can help until you buy and install the extra RAM.

Buck Weber blogs at He has been experimenting with making and saving money in the real world and online. His blog describes the ideas he has tried.

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