You don’t need to be a computer expert to carry out these four simple tasks. You may feel like one, though, when your computer starts up faster the next time you turn it on.
1. Clean up your desktop
It’s nice to have your favourite programs easy to access on your desktop, but they can slow your computer start-up significantly when they open automatically. Take a good look at all those files and programs. When was the last time you used them?
To remove the ones you rarely use (on a Windows-based machine), hover your mouse cursor over them one at a time. Right click your mouse and choose “delete”. Don’t worry, you won’t be deleting the program – just the desktop icon that’s helping to slow your computer down.
On a Mac, go to System Preferences, select Users & Groups and then click on the Login Items tab at the top of the window. Uncheck the apps from the list you don't need to open by default when you start your computer.
2. Scan for viruses
If you don’t have an antivirus program on your computer, install one now. These five free antivirus programs are used by millions of people:
• Panda Free is a newer antivirus that’s getting rave reviews from tech sites.
• Avira has been around for years and has proven itself to be one of the best free antivirus programs.
• Avast gets a four-star rating from many of the PC experts.
• Bitdefender is an award-winning free antivirus program.
• AVG is another highly rated antivirus program.
Follow the instructions on your antivirus program and scan for viruses, malware and adware.
Even nuisance viruses like adware can slow your computer down considerably, as they load each time you start your computer and compete for space with other programs and files.
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3. Clean up your disk drive
Over time, your computer programs store an enormous amount of data on your hard drive, and you add to the pile every time you send something to the Recycle Bin or Trash.
To clean up your Windows computer, go to All Programs/Accessories/System Tools and you’ll find an option called “Disk Cleanup.” Run this utility and it will remove all those unnecessary files from your computer.
On a Mac, click on the Applications folder on the bottom of your screen, select Utilities and then click on Disk Utility icon. Select “Macintosh HD” from the menu on the left and make sure the “First Aid” button at the top of the window is highlighted. Then, just click on Repair Disk Permissions.
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4. Defrag your computer
Because of the way Mac computers are set up, this is really only an option for those using Windows – in which case it’s a good idea to defrag your computer periodically.
You can find the “defrag” tool in the System Tools folder – near where you found the Disk Cleanup utility. Although running “defrag” is usually safe, there are some risks involved. If you lose your power supply in the middle of the process, it can create more problems than it solves.
To be on the safe side, back up your important files before you defrag your computer. For more information on how to do this, check out our guide to backing up data.
In most cases, unless your hard drive needs replacing, a few relatively easy steps should improve your computer’s start-up time. But if any of these feel a bit beyond you, a good computer technician should be able to help you out.
It’s certainly a lot less expensive than buying a new computer and can add years to your computer’s lifespan.