13 Ways to Make a Slow Laptop Faster

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Your laptop may be slow, but that doesn't mean you need to replace it. Through heavy use, your notebook will collect a ton of excess files and programs, not to mention some literal dust. The parts will age, and software updates will become more demanding.

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But before you go computer shopping, there are a few hardware and software fixes you should try. A little time, a screwdriver and a few settings changes can have your laptop running as though it were new. Here are 13 ways to speed up your system.

Add an SSD

Adding a solid-state drive (SSD) is the single biggest hardware change you can make to speed up a laptop. It makes everything faster; booting up, shutting down and launching apps will all occur in the blink of any eye when compared to traditional hard drives. More and more laptops are coming with built-in SSDs, but not all of them do. And if your old laptop has a traditional hard drive inside, you can crack it open for a significant speed boost at a reasonable price. A 256GB SSD, which is a decent capacity for most users, can cost as little as $75.

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Upgrade Your RAM

You should have at least 8GB of RAM. These days, your best bet is to buy your laptop with that much memory, as more and more manufacturers are soldering it to the motherboard, making it impossible to add more. A number of laptops still let you open them up, and RAM is relatively cheap. If you have 4GB, upgrade to 8GB, as the additional memory will probably cost you less than $25. Few people need 16GB of RAM right now.

Update Your Startup Programs
Anything running in the background will slow your computer's boot-up time and devote resources to programs you may not even be using. Luckily, it's simple to turn these off.

  • In Windows 10, go to Task Manager > Startup to see the list of programs you have running when you turn on your computer.

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  • On a MacBook, go to System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items to adjust which programs launch when you turn on the computer.

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Uninstall Unused Apps

Unused programs take up storage on your hard drive and can suck resources from the CPU. Delete the junk to free up space and processing power for a faster computer. Be sure to check your library files for any junk that may stick around.

Run Regular Malware Scans

It's possible that something you didn't install intentionally — malicious software — could be the reason your laptop is slow. Run regular virus and malware scans to prevent something malicious from slowing down your laptop — or worse. Being vigilant can help you avoid and eliminate threats that are hoarding resources or filling your laptop with junk files.

Kill Animations

The animations in your OS look cool, but they take up resources that could be going elsewhere.

In Windows:
1. Search for "View advanced system settings."
2. Choose Settings under Performance.
3. Choose "Adjust for best performance," which will turn off a bunch of special effects and animations.

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In OS X:
1. Go to System Preferences > Dock.
2. Check the boxes to turn off magnification and stop the animations in opening applications.

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Speed Up Your Shutdowns

When you go to shut down Windows, you often have to wait a long time while the computer attempts to close open programs that won't close gracefully on their own. If you're willing to dig into your registry, you can force the shutdown process to kill these rebel apps right away. Be sure you always save your work when you do this, as it will close open programs without prejudice.

Disable Web Results

In Windows 10, Cortana searches the web and your local files when you search. This takes time to download and can be a drag on your system. If you use the Cortana box primarily to find files and apps that live on your hard drive, Windows 10 makes it easy to turn off web results.

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Speed Up Your Downloads Folder

The File Explorer, one of the most-used folders in Windows, can take forever to load if it's chock-full of your downloads. If you're seeing a loading bar every time you open the folder, you'll want to optimize it.

Keep It Clean

Don't let your laptop get too dusty, or you'll risk letting it overheat. When that happens, the processor and graphics card have to work harder to perform well. Get a can of compressed air, and clean out the vents to give your processor and graphics card a breather.

Change Your Browser

Some browsers are faster than others. If you're a heavy user, Chrome can eventually hog your RAM, especially with a whole bunch of tabs open. Microsoft's Edge isn't as full-featured yet, but it has the benefit of being lighter and faster. On Macs, you can try Safari.

browsersUpdate Your Drivers

Some new drivers can breathe new life into your hardware and fix any issues it may be having. Be sure to check your manufacturer's website to make sure your drivers are up-to-date.

Top Image: Bastian Weltjen / Shutterstock

Author Bio
Andrew E. Freedman
Andrew E. Freedman,
Andrew joined Laptopmag.com in 2015, reviewing computers and keeping up with the latest news. He holds a M.S. in Journalism (Digital Media) from Columbia University. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Twitter @FreedmanAE.
Andrew E. Freedman, on
Add a comment
10 comments
  • harshal Says:

    please solve my ram problem in my laptop inbuilt ram 2gb how i increase ram what should i do?

  • Danny Says:

    How do I keep the files on the standard drive and the program files on the SSDrive.. can you give guidance... I copied the files to the standard drive ... did an index .. now my SSD is running over and I have a near empty standard Drive...
    Gateway Laptop.... the article is great... Help me get pass the I must not really know part. Thanks

  • alfredan Says:

    with all the above steps use krojam cleaner as well.

  • Mike Says:

    Can I assume these upgrades can also apply to a netbook as well. My wife loves hers, however it has really slowed down and the battery is shot.

  • Mark D. Albin Says:

    I have to agree about wasting money on adding a ton of memory with an old CPU. We recommend that our customers have between 4 to 8 GB memory depending on how old the computer is and the allowed capacity. SSD are in fact a nice way to speed things up as well. Thanks for the article!

  • Artofkicking Says:

    I forgot to mention that the SSD will also use less power than the HDD drives, so the external battery may not be needed after all.

  • Artofkicking Says:

    I think this is a good basic guide to "UPGRADING" your laptop/notebook.
    The SSD is a great upgrade for even less now. I just got 128Gig for $63 tax included and pending my rebate it will have been just $43.
    On the RAM pay attention to the fact that the auther uses 8Gig of RAM before making the RAM disk. Try that with only 4Gig and the result will be much different.
    As far as the wifi it will depend also on your router's throughput.

  • Marketfog Says:

    My 10 year old Dell with win 98 was really pokey. A knowledgable IT pro cleaned out all the background programs I don't use, many installed by Dell. He said that one of the worst offenders was AOL which uses a lot of space. The computer runs faster than ever before.

  • Jonathan Says:

    Most SSDs worth a darn (128GB or more) are going to cost you over $100. Not to mention if you want it to make a real difference, you'll want to reinstall your OS on the new SSD (and any other programs you use often).

    RAM is always a good option, but can quickly become a waste of money if your processor is simply too old anyway. If your processor can't keep up with all the information coming in, it won't matter if you have 32GB of RAM. Weigh your options wisely.

    External monitor? Better WiFi? Better battery? These will not speed up the performance of your system. Sorry. They can help you be more efficient at what you are doing, but if your system takes 10 minutes to boot up, it's going to still take 10 minutes to boot up no matter what battery or WiFi connection.

  • Blessed Geek Says:

    Step 11. Spend all that money on a new more capable and less ridiculous PC, and donate the old one to NPR or Goodwill.

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