While computers were at one point rare and reserved for very important institutes and the rich, you’re almost guaranteed to find at least one in every household nowadays. Whether the purpose is related to work, school, research, gaming, or a mix between them, everyone uses a computer. And it is in everyone’s best interest that their computer runs as fast as possible – time is money, after all, and no one likes their time being wasted by a machine running slower than it should. There are certain steps you can take in order to improve the performance of your computer, regardless of the hardware you’re using. Since a huge number of computer users are currently using Windows 10, we’ll be looking at steps you can take to optimize the performance of your PC geared towards that operating system.

Cleaning your PC

First things first – a step that might seem a bit basic is making sure that your PC is clean. Many computer users tend to overlook this factor as it doesn’t appear to be too relevant, however it can have a large effect on how your PC performs – so much so that ignoring this step for too long can lead to downright degrading your computer’s health.

We don’t want that happening, so the first recommendation is to open up your tower and making sure the components are clean and free of dust. Do refrain from using a vacuum cleaner for this, as the large amount of static electricity that manifests around the top of the plastic end can end up damaging some of your components, or even worse your motherboard (which would result in all of the components getting damaged). Instead, I’d recommend using compressed air, which isn’t expensive and comes in a canned package in a lot of computer shops exactly for this purpose. Make sure to unplug the cables and turn the switch of your power supply to off before proceeding!

If you’re wondering why so much emphasis is put on this step, the answer is rather simple – dust build up can slow down your fans, which will in turn make your components heat up more and at a greater speed. Computer components don’t particularly take well to working at extremely large temperatures, and most of the modern ones have built in systems that serve to slow down their performance at certain temperature points, in order to prevent damage. Therefore, cleaning your PC will not only prevent damaging your components, it will also make sure that your components aren’t throttling themselves for safety reasons.

Performing a clean boot

Another factor to pay attention to is the number of services running in the background of your Windows 10 computer. Each time you turn your computer on, Windows 10 will launch a number of programs and services in the background – the longer you’ve been using your computer with this operating system, the bigger the chance for a larger number of programs to be launched in the background. This can result in your computer’s performance slowing down, as it struggles to keep up with every process that gets thrown at it right as it starts up.

This is where a so-called ‘clean boot’ comes into play. A clean boot means booting your computer with the minimal number of services running in the background.

In order to perform a clean boot on a computer running Windows 10, follow the steps below:

  • Launch Task Manager by right clicking on the task bar and clicking on Task Manager (or by simultaneously pressing the Control, Shift and Escape buttons on your keyboard)
  • Once the Task Manager window pops up, click on ‘More details’
  • Click on the ‘Startup’ tab next
  • In the Startup window, you’ll see a list of all the services that get launched in the background alongside Windows 10. You’ll want to select every service and program and click on the ‘Disable’ button in the lower right corner
  • Once you’ve done so, reboot your PC and see if it performs any faster with the extra weight of all the processes being launched at startup lifted

Defragmenting your Hard Disk drive

Important notice before we get into this process – this step only applies to users with hard disk drives! If you are using a solid-state drive (SSD), please skip this step, as defragmenting a solid-state drive will not improve the performance of your PC and will needlessly degrade its lifetime. The reason for this is the fact that a solid-state drive does not use sectors and cylinders like a hard disk drive does, opting for accessing memory cells independently instead – so it doesn’t really matter whether the data on it is stored in tight groups or not. The process will add needless read and write cycles to your SSD – resulting in unnecessary wear and tear.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, if you’re using a hard disk drive, defragmenting can indeed significantly boost the performance of your computer. Over time, data that the hard disk drive has to access can get fragmented, and data that should be stored in close proximity can get stored further apart. This means that your hard disk will have a harder time accessing it properly, as it will take more time to reach the different sectors and cylinders in order to complete the read cycle. In order to combat this, you can defragment the hard disk drive(s) you’re using, which will result in the data that should be kept close being grouped again.

In order to defragment your hard disk drive on a computer using Windows 10, follow the steps below:

  • Open the Start menu and type in ‘defrag’ (without the quotation marks);
  • Select the Defragment and Optimize Drives option
  • Select the disk drive you want to defragment
  • Select the Optimize button in the lower right corner

Keep in mind that the defragmentation process can take some time.

Clean your storage

And while we’re on the topic of storage, your computer can also be slowed down if your storage devices are overly filled with files and folders. The biggest offenders here are temporary files, as they can take up a ridiculous amount of space without serving a purpose. Thankfully, Microsoft finally implemented a built-in tool for taking care of these files in Windows 10. Let’s see how to use it.

  • First, open up the Start menu and type in “Settings”
  • Click on the System button, located in the upper left-hand corner
  • Click on the Storage link, located on the left side of the window
  • Toggle the Storage Sense button to “On”

Once you’ve done so, Windows 10 will make sure to get rid of all the unnecessary temporary files, junk files, files that have been in the Recycle Bin for a while, as well as files located in the Downloads folder that haven’t been used for a month. Now, if you don’t want Windows 10 managing this for you (and there are certainly reasons for this, as you may remember that you need a file from your Downloads folder only to find that Windows 10 purged it as you haven’t used it in a month), you can delete temporary files manually as well.

In order to delete temporary files manually, follow the steps below:

  1. Press the Windows and R keys at the same time; this will open the Run window (alternatively, open the Start menu and type in “Run”)
  2. Type in C:\Users\<YOUR USERNAME HERE>\AppData\Local
  3. Locate the Temp folder
  4. Open the Temp folder, select everything inside and press delete; if you wish to delete the files without them going into the Recycle Bin first, hold down the Shift key while pressing Delete

This should free up some space on your storage device for free – which can result in your computer speeding up.

Managing power settings

This one comes into play especially for laptop users, but it can make a difference for desktop computers as well.

Windows 10 has a built-in tool for managing the power settings of your computer, and these can affect the performance of your computer significantly in some cases.

In order to change the power settings, you’re using, follow the steps below:

  • Open the Start menu and type in “Power settings”
  • Click on the link that says “Additional Power” settings on the right side of the screen
  • Click on the “Show additional settings” link
  • Select the “High Performance” plan

Doing this will ensure that your computer uses as much resources as it needs in order to ensure the best possible performance at all times. Be aware, though, that this will result in your battery draining faster if you’re using a laptop, and it will result in your components working at a higher capacity at all times regardless of the device you’re using.

Disabling the Windows 10 eye candy

Windows 10 is certainly a pretty looking operating system – it accomplishes this by using certain visual effects in the background. While these visual effects aren’t huge performance hogs, they can affect performance of slower, less powerful computers. If performance is your only concern, it’s certainly a good idea to disable the eye candy in order to save some resources.

In order to do this, follow the steps below:

  • Open the Start menu and type in “sysdm.cpl”
  • Click on the Advanced tab
  • Click on the Settings button in the Performance section
  • Check the “Adjust for best performance” radio button, which will then disable all the visual effects for you

Keep in mind that this will indeed result in the operating system looking a bit less sleek, however, as mentioned previously – it’s certainly worth it if performance is the only concern.

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