Here’s a scenario we hear often: It’s a chore to use your computer because every time you turn on your PC it feels like so slow. But you don’t want to buy a new system, you rarely use yours as is.
Waiting weeks between sessions on your PC is often the problem in itself. A lot of people blame aging hardware, but you’re probably just dealing with a computer that is catching up with updates. The longer you take to turn on this system, the more old business it has to deal with. And because your PC is busy working on these tasks in the background, anything you do in the foreground (browse the web, write in a document, edit a photo) will happen. (Or it seems, anyway.)
The fix is simple. Run your computer more often, so that all of these updates are taken care of and don’t pile up. Most should happen automatically, but if you want to make sure you don’t have an exceptional backlog, you can manually dig through and check. It can also help you be less impatient during automatic updates to see the exact source.[s] of your slowdown. Here are the usual suspects to investigate.
When not in frequent use, Windows updates can accumulate and cause the system to run slowly. This is usually what you’ll feel the most when starting a PC after a long period of inactivity, especially if you have multiple version updates to perform. (Yes, we know that means someone hasn’t really used the PC in months, but it does happen.) Particularly some version updates can take a while to download and install.
The longer you hold on, the more likely you are to have multiple rounds of updates to install. Just because you restart doesn’t mean it’s over. Sometimes Windows needs to restart before it can move on to the next batch of updates. So if you’ve been like “I’ve been running updates and it’s still slow?” », Do not send your machine for electronic recycling yet. Check to see how much remains to be done.
You can do this by clicking the Start button or pressing the Windows key on your keyboard and then typing the word Check Where update. Choose the option “Check for updates” when it appears. You may see a queue of updates waiting for you (and being downloaded and installed), or you may need to check them manually. You can verify that you are finally done when you see a message saying “You are up to date” and when you click the Check for updates button you see the same message with an updated timestamp.
Antivirus updates and scans
Sometimes after a long period of dormancy, Antivirus software like AVG or Norton can recover a significant amount of system resources in order to perform updates and analyzes. You can have both virus definitions and program updates to install, and depending on how your program is configured, you may also end up having an automatic system scan run soon after the updates are complete. If you prefer full system scans, this may take a while, prolonging the feeling of sluggishness. You can usually see the status of your antivirus software (as well as trigger manual updates) by going to its settings.
Security software can become a particular bottleneck if you have installed more than one program, for example an antivirus program and a malware-specific application (such as Malwarebytes) – and they all try to perform their updates and scans at the same time. Combine that with Windows updates and you’ve got a perfect recipe for a slow PC.
Driver and platform updates
Computers used less than once or twice a month may have to manage driver updates, separate from those included in Windows updates. Most often, these are AMD and Nvidia graphics cards in dedicated software: Radeon Software for AMD GPUs and GeForce Experience for Nvidia GPUs. Don’t assume that you are missing one of these cards because you don’t have a gaming PC. Your system can still be configured with one, even if it is not powerful. For desktops and laptops built by big manufacturers like Dell or HP, you may also have proprietary software that keeps specific drivers up to date.
Some PCs may also have platform updates to manage, such as for Java. (Tip: If you no longer need Java for a particular software, just uninstall it to avoid having to deal with the many necessary security updates.)
Other software updates
Software that loads automatically at startup and / or stays running in the background can also monopolize system resources, such as management applications for software suites. Every person’s PC has a different amount of these programs, ranging from zero to too much, so you can figure out what’s going on your system by opening the task manager. (Either press Ctrl + Shift + Del or open the Start menu and type task.) The Process and Start the tabs will tell you which programs are currently active (Process) or charge first after booting (Start).
Some common examples of such software are Adobe Creative Cloud, game launchers like Steam, video calling software like Skype, and software installed by manufacturers like Dell and HP that handle preinstalled utilities.
How often should you run your PC?
Starting your PC at least once a week should keep updates to a minimum. Even running your system just a few times a month avoids a huge stack of updates and should reduce the slowness you notice.
Adam Patrick Murray / IDG
If you find that your system is not lagging behind with updates and is feeling sluggish, one or two inexpensive hardware upgrades can solve your problem. Many budget or older PCs work with a hard drive – swapping it out for an SSD can make your machine feel like it’s completely new. The difference is so dramatic. A 2.5-inch 256GB SATA III drive costs around $ 35, and 500GB drives typically cost between $ 50 and $ 60. (Our first choice for the best SSD is actually $ 44 for 256 GB and $ 56 for 512 GB.) Clone your existing drive using free software like Without macrium reflections, then swap your hard drive for the new SSD.
Add more RAM to your system (or replacing your current set with higher capacity DIMMs) can help when you’re having trouble running multiple programs at the same time, or find that having a few extra tabs in your browser slows everything down. Note, however, that you may not always be able to find affordable RAM for older PCs in retail. Instead, you may need to buy from a reputable eBay seller who specializes in selling excess inventory or old salvaged material.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld’s resident bargain hunter. When not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, etc., she is looking for the best technology deals. Previously, his work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.