Useful, Free Tricks & Tips to Speeding Up an Old or Slow Computer

By: Shaun Reiland

Many times, whenever our computers break down, software is considered the culprit. Have you ever stopped to think that your neglect of your computer's hardware and internal file organization could also be the cause of the headaches, though? It is true. Most of the time, our computers work perfectly. You zip through checking your email or slap together that spreadsheet your boss has been hounding you about, but you do not give the computer a second thought.

There are times, though, when your computer is moving at a snail's pace and you want to bang your keyboard on the desk or throw your monitor out the window... anything to make the thing work faster! Many of these issues with your computer slowing down can be eased or solved with simple "house cleaning" that should be performed every couple of months or so. Give the below tips a try and let us know if you have any luck! If these do not help, your computer might be infected with spyware, malware or even a computer virus. See the bottom of this article for a few tips to try against these more serious issues.

Protecting your computer against dust

Dust is a major culprit in bogging down your computer. From a technician's standpoint, I cannot recall how many times I have opened a customer's computer and BAM! Dust bunny Central! Try to imagine a computer as you would your lungs. If your lungs are clogged, you cannot breathe. The same can be said for a PC. The inside of a computer is designed specifically to channel air through the case; to replace the hot air generated by all the components with cool air from outside. Try running a marathon with dust and cobwebs stuffed deep within your throat or lungs. You would rapidly expire from fatigue, head exhaustion, or a heart attack. Without fresh air to compensate for the heat generated by the computer's components, the computer will slow down, more and more, as time goes on. Eventually, things will go very wrong and operation will grind to a halt.

I suggest doing the following, once a month.

* Remove all cables from the computer
* Take a synthetic fiber brush and gently brush away the dust from the outside ports of the computer; the USB ports, back vent ports, power supply vents, etc. Anywhere that you see fleeing dust bunnies, brush these vermin elsewhere.
* Remove the side panel from the PC by unscrewing any screws and sliding it off.
* Use a vacuum hose to GENTLY vacuum up all the dust inside of the computer. As a note of caution, jamming the vacuum hose into all the tight and hard to reach corners of the case might get more dust out, but you might also damage the internal components. Be careful when doing so.
* If you like, you can use compressed air to clean out the corners and internal components of the case a bit more.
* After vacuuming all the loose, rampant dust bunnies up, replace the computer's cover and plug all your cables back in.

Disk Defragmenter

With the of the age of Windows 95 came a new and extremely useful tool - the Disk Defragmenter. What this tool does is take all of the files and pieces of files, that Windows has haphazardly strewn all over your hard drive, and organizes them. Just as you would tell your son or daughter to clean their room, you are telling Windows to clean its file system. This can free up space and bring back some of the old speedy days you saw before your computer became sluggish.

In Windows XP, you can access the disk defragmenter by clicking on Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools->Disk Defragmenter

Disk Cleanup

Windows 95 also brought us another useful tool - Disk Cleanup. This is a simple utility that scans your computer's hard drive for redundant and duplicate files, useless files, items in your recycling bin, etc. Once these files are located, Disk Cleanup gives you the option to delete or remove said files. It can also compress old or unused files, saving even more space. Disk Cleanup is another tool you should use once every month or so that can help speed up your computer and get rid of useless garbage.

In Windows XP, you can access the disk defragmenter by clicking on Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools->Disk Cleanup

Free Resources for spyware, malware, and virus infections.

If you are experiencing weird popups, spam, or other malicious activities, I suggest trying the following three utilities along with the above procedures.

- AVG - Free Anti-Virus Software (

AVG is a free virus scanner & protection program that can help detect and prevent a lot of the malicious software out there. It does have a better, paid version, too... and I would not count on it as a be all and end all solution to your problems. It is definitely worth grabbing and checking out, though.

- Spybot Search and Destroy (

This piece of software is very powerful and is used quite a bit to detect and eliminate Spyware and other malicious software. There is an option to scan your registry before Windows load, which catches any software that may block other scanners, etc. Highly recommended.

- Ad-Aware (

Free and paid versions are available, with the free version claiming "comprehensive malware protection." This is another highly recommended piece of freeware that is used across the tech world to battle malware and malicious software.

These are only general suggestions and should be taken as such. We do not guarantee that these actions or programs will fix your computer, nor do we directly endorse any of the programs mentioned in this article. We have, however, found every suggestion here useful in the past, and want to pass them on to you as just that, suggestions. Best of luck, everyone!