One of the most common complaints computer users have is that, over time, their computers become slower. The machines start freezing up or even showing error messages.

We’re going to talk about computers that run Microsoft Windows 10. If you’re running an earlier version of Windows, you should consider updating. Microsoft has discontinued support for all earlier versions of Windows, so those operating systems are no longer secure.

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This might seem like a simple tip, but I find many people never think of rebooting their computers. While computers can be left on for long periods of time, if you find things are slowing down or programs are not working properly, your first step should always be to restart the computer.

If you don’t want to shut your computer off each night, you should reboot it at least once a week.

Analyze Startup Programs
Startup programs are those that load and run in the background every time you start your computer. Many times when you install new software, the program is added to the startup list. That means each time you start your computer, that program is loading and running in the background; you may not see it or even be aware that it’s running.

Some programs need to run at startup. For example, your anti-virus software is a program that must run all the time. But most programs don’t need to load and run each time you start your computer.

If you’re not sure whether a program needs to run constantly, do a Google search for the program name to find out.

Once you’ve determined which ones don’t need to run at startup, find each program and change the settings by following these steps:

  • Open the task manager by pressing ctrl-alt-del and then select “Task Manager.”
  • Click “More Details” in the task manager window.
  • Click the “Startup” tab to see the list of programs that launch when you start Windows.
  • Select the program in the list and then click the “Disable” button. That will prevent the program from launching automatically when Windows starts.
  • Adjust Visual Effects
  • You can turn off or adjust some of the visual effects in Windows 10 to improve overall system performance. Open the Control Panel, go to “System” and then click “Advanced System Settings.” Click the “Advanced” tab in the system settings dialog and then click “Settings” under “Performance.” Put a check in the box for “Adjust for Best Performance” and click “OK.

Use Windows 10 CHKDSK
Windows 10 has a built-in utility that will scan and check your hard drive for errors and problems.

Here’s how to run the tool:

  • Open File Explorer and navigate to your hard drive.
  • Right-click on the name of the drive.
  • Choose “Properties” from the window that comes up.
  • Click the “Tools” tab in the Properties window.
  • Click the check button under “Error Checking” to find the option to scan the drive.

If Windows detects any errors, you will be prompted to check the disk. If no errors are found, you will see a notification that says “You don’t need to scan this drive,” but you can still choose to run a scan if you like.

Make sure you close all programs before running a scan. Once the scan is complete, you will see a notification that either several errors were found or no errors were found.

Run a Disk Cleanup
Over time as you use your computer, temporary files are created and can accumulate. Deleting those files will free up disk space and may help your computer run better.

To run a disk cleanup, follow these steps:

  • Open File Explorer.
  • Right-click the hard drive.
  • Select “Properties.”
  • Click the “General” tab under “Error Checking.”
  • Click the “Disk Cleanup” button.
  • Put a check in the box next to the files you would like to delete and then click the “Cleanup System Files” button.
  • The files you selected will be removed.

Clear Your Browser Cache
Every web browser creates a cache. A cache consists of stored web pages, images, cookies, temporary internet files and other downloaded content.

Cookies are small text files that are collected by your web browser for pages you visit on the internet. A cookie file stores information about your browsing habits including the website address, any information you filled out on the site, the time of your visit, your location and other personal information. So clearing your cookies can help protect your privacy.

Not all cookies are bad. For example, a “session” cookie is used by websites just to ensure that the user is recognized when moving from page to page within the website. But over time these files accumulate, and you’ll want to delete them.

Each browser is slightly different in how to clear the cache, and these steps may change over time. Here are instructions for the three most used browsers: Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.

Microsoft Edge

  • Open Microsoft Edge and click the ellipsis (three dots) icon in the top right corner.
  • Select “History” from the list.
  • Click the ellipsis icon.
  • Click “Clear browsing data.”
  • Select “All Time” (this will remove all browser data).
  • Put a check in the checkboxes next to the items you would like to delete and click the “Clear Now” button.

Mozilla Firefox

  • Open Mozilla Firefox.
  • Click the “History” menu in the toolbar.
  • Click “Clear Recent History.”
  • Select everything in the drop-down menu at the top labeled “Time range to clear.”
  • Put a check in the checkboxes next to the items you would like to delete and click the “OK” button.

Google Chrome

  • Open Google Chrome and click the ellipsis icon in the top right corner.
  • Select “History” and then click “History” again.
  • Click “Clear Browsing Data.”
  • Click the “Advanced” tab to see all options.
  • Select “All Time” in the drop-down menu at the top labeled “Time range to clear.”
  • Put a check in the checkboxes next to the items you would like to delete and click the “Clear Data” button.

Uninstall Unnecessary Programs
New computers usually have “bloatware,” which is a term used to describe the list of junk and trial programs that come pre-installed. Depending on the manufacturer, the list of bloatware programs can be quite large.

Many of these programs are unnecessary and sometimes even harmful. Uninstalling them will improve the overall performance of your computer.

You may have also installed programs in the past that you no longer need. Removing unnecessary or unneeded programs will free up disk space and system resources. Many programs include an uninstall option.

If the program does not include an uninstall option use the add/remove programs feature in your computer’s Control Panel to uninstall the program:

  • In the search box type, “control panel” and then select “Control Panel” in the search results list.
  • Select “Programs” and then “Programs and Features” (the options may look a bit different depending on the view settings you have selected).
  • In the Programs menu find the program you would like to uninstall.
  • Click the program to select it and then click the “Uninstall/Change” button.
  • Reboot the computer when you are finished.

You can also use the Apps menu in Windows 10 to remove programs and apps:

  • Click the “Start” button.
  • Click “Settings.”
  • In the Settings menu select “Apps.”
  • Scroll through the list and select the apps you would like to uninstall.
  • Once you’ve selected an app, click the “Uninstall” button.

Clean the Inside of Your Computer
Over time the inside of your computer will accumulate dust and other debris. When the fans and other components are dirty, it may suffer performance problems and over-heating issues.

Before cleaning the inside of the computer, unplug the power cable and all peripherals connected to it (mouse, keyboard, printers, USB devices, network and phone lines, etc.).

You can use a vacuum cleaner with small attachments, a can of compressed air, a soft cloth and cotton swabs to clean the inside of the computer. (You can also buy cleaning kits.)

Be very careful when you work on the inside of the computer. The motherboard and other hardware are fragile and can be easily damaged. Pay particular attention to the case fan, CPU fan and power supply. These become coated with dust and debris very easily. You should clean your computer at least once a year.

Check for Malware and Viruses
Trojans, viruses, spyware, grayware, rootkits, backdoors and worms. All of these can slow down your computer and cause other problems.

Always have a good antivirus program installed. Windows 10 comes with Windows Security. I use that program, but there are other good antivirus software programs out there, and some of them are free. Configure your antivirus software to update and scan automatically on a schedule.

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