12 ways to speed up Windows 10

If you want to Speed up your Windows 10 OS, take a few minutes to try out these tips to speed up your PC and make it less prone to performance and system issues.

1. Change your power settings

If you’re using Windows 10’s “Power saver” plan, you’re slowing down your PC. That plan reduces your PC’s performance in order to save energy. (Even desktop PCs typically have a “Power saver” plan.) Changing your power plan from “Power saver” to “High performance” or “Balanced” will give you an instant performance boost.

To do it, launch the Control Panel app, then select Hardware and Sound > Power Options. You’ll typically see two options: “Balanced” (recommended) and “Power saver.” (Depending on your make and model, you might see other plans here as well, including some branded by the manufacturer.) To see the “High performance” setting, click the down arrow by “Show additional plans.” 


Change your power settings in Control Panel to give your PC a performance boost. (Click the image to enlarge it.)

To change your power setting, simply choose the one you want, then exit Control Panel. “High performance” gives you the most oomph, but uses the most power; “Balanced” finds a happy medium between power use and better performance, and “Power saver” does everything it can to give you as much battery life as possible. Desktop users have no reason to choose “Power saver,” and even laptop users should consider the “Balanced” option when unplugged — and “High performance” when connected to a power source.

2. Disable programs that run on startup

One reason your Windows 10 PC may feel sluggish is that you’ve got too many programs running in the background — programs that you rarely or never use. Stop them from running, and your PC will run more smoothly.

Start by launching the Task Manager: Press Ctrl-Shift-Esc, right-click the lower-right corner of your screen and select Task Manager, or type task manager into the Windows 10 search box and press Enter. If the Task Manager launches as a compact app with no tabs, click “More details” at the bottom of your screen. The Task Manager will then appear in all of its full-tabbed glory. There’s plenty you can do with it, but we’re going to focus only on killing unnecessary programs that run at startup.

Click the Startup tab. You’ll see a list of the programs and services that launch when you start Windows. Included on the list is each program’s name as well as its publisher, whether it’s enabled to run on startup, and its “Startup impact,” which is how much it slows down Windows 10 when the system starts up.

To stop a program or service from launching at startup, right-click it, and select “Disable.” This doesn’t disable the program entirely; it only prevents it from launching at startup — you can always run the application after launch. Also, if you later decide you want it to launch at startup, you can just return to this area of the Task Manager, right-click the application and select “Enable.”

You can use the Task Manager to help get information about programs that launch at startup and disable any you don’t need. (Click the image to enlarge it.)

Many of the programs and services that run on startup may be familiar to you, like OneDrive or Evernote Clipper. But you may not recognize many of them. (Anyone who immediately knows what “bzbui.exe” is, please raise your hand. No fair Googling it first.)

The Task Manager helps you get information about unfamiliar programs. Right-click an item and select “Properties” for more information about it, including its location on your hard disk, whether it has a digital signature, and other information such as the version number, the file size, and the last time it was modified.

You can also right-click the item and select “Open file location.” That opens File Explorer and takes it to the folder where the file is located, which may give you another clue about the program’s purpose.

Finally, and most helpfully, you can select “Search online” after you right-click. Bing will then launch with links to sites with information about the program or service. If you’re really nervous about one of the listed applications, you can go to a site run by Reason Software called Should I Block It? and search for the file name. You’ll usually find very solid information about the program or service.

Now that you’ve selected all the programs that you want to disable at startup, the next time you restart your computer, the system will be a lot less concerned with unnecessary programs.

3. Use ReadyBoost to speed up disk caching

Windows 10 regularly stores cached data on your hard disk, and then when it needs the data, fetches it from there. The time it takes to fetch cached data depends on the speed of your hard disk. If you have a traditional hard disk instead of an SSD, there’s a trick that can help speed up your cache: use Windows’ ReadyBoost feature. It tells Windows to cache data to a USB flash drive, which is faster than a hard disk. Fetching data from that speedier cache should speed up Windows.

First, plug a USB flash drive into one of your PC’s USB ports. The flash drive needs to support at least USB 2.0, and preferably USB 3 or faster. The faster your flash drive, the more of a speed boost you should see. Also, look for a flash drive that is at least double the size of your PC’s RAM for maximum performance.

After you plug in the drive, open File Explorer and click “This PC.” Look for the flash drive. It may have an odd name, like UDISK 28X, or something even less obvious. Right-click it, choose Properties and click the ReadyBoost tab.

Microsoft

Turn on ReadyBoost from this screen to speed up your PC.You’ll come to a screen that asks whether you want to use the flash drive as a cache and recommends a cache size. Leave the cache size as is or change it if you like. Then select “Dedicate this device to ReadyBoost” and click Apply and then click OK.

(Note that if you see the message, “This device cannot be used for ReadyBoost” when you click the ReadyBoost tab it means your flash drive doesn’t meet ReadyBoost’s minimum performance standards, so you’ll have to insert a new one.)

As you use your computer, ReadyBoost will start filling the cache with files, so you may notice an increase in disk activity. Depending on how much you use your PC, it can take a few days for your cache to fill and offer maximum improved performance. If you don’t see an increase in performance, try a flash disk with more capacity.

4. Shut off Windows tips and tricks

As you use your Windows 10 PC, Windows keeps an eye on what you’re doing and offers tips about things you might want to do with the operating system. In my experience, I’ve rarely if ever found these “tips” helpful. I also don’t like the privacy implications of Windows constantly taking a virtual look over my shoulder.

Windows watching what you’re doing and offering advice can also make your PC run more sluggishly. So, if you want to speed things up, tell Windows to stop giving you advice. To do so, click the Start button, select the Settings icon, and then go to System > Notifications & actions. Scroll down to the Notifications section and uncheck the box marked “Get tips, tricks, and suggestions as you use Windows.”

That’ll do the trick.

5. Stop OneDrive from syncing

Microsoft’s cloud-based OneDrive file storage, built into Windows 10, keeps files synced and up to date on all of your PCs. It’s also a useful backup tool so that if your PC or its hard disk dies, you still have all your files intact, waiting for you to restore them.

Here’s how to turn off OneDrive syncing temporarily, to see if that boosts system performance. (Click image to enlarge it.)

It does this by constantly syncing files between your PC and cloud storage — something that can also slow down your PC. That’s why one way to speed up your PC is to stop the syncing. Before you turn it off permanently, though, you’ll want to check whether it is actually slowing down your PC.

To do so, right-click the OneDrive icon (it looks like a cloud) in the notification area on the right side of the taskbar, then click the More button at the bottom of the screen. From the popup screen that appears, click “Pause syncing” and select either 2 hours, 8 hours,or 24 hours, depending upon how long you want it paused. During that time, gauge whether you’re seeing a noticeable speed boost.

If so, and you decide you do indeed want to turn off syncing, right-click the OneDrive icon, and from the popup, select Settings > Account. Click “Unlink this PC,” and then from the screen that appears, click “Unlink account.” When you do that, you’ll still be able to save your files to your local OneDrive folder, but it won’t sync with the cloud.

If you find that OneDrive slows down your PC but prefer to keep using it, you can try to troubleshoot OneDrive problems. For info on how to do that, check out Microsoft’s “Fix OneDrive sync problems” page.

6. Turn off search indexing

Windows 10 indexes your hard disk in the background, allowing you — in theory — to search your PC more quickly than if no indexing were being done. But slower PCs that use indexing can see a performance hit, and you can give them a speed boost by turning off indexing. Even if you have an SSD disk, turning off indexing can improve your speed, because the constant writing to disk that indexing does can eventually slow down SSDs.

To get the maximum benefit in Windows 10, you need to turn to index off completely. To do so, type services.msc in the Windows 10 search box and press Enter. The Services app appears. Scroll down to either Indexing Service or Windows Search in the list of services. Double-click it, and from the screen that appears, click Stop. Then reboot your machine. Your searches may be slightly slower, although you may not notice the difference. But you should get an overall performance boost.

If you’d like, you can turn off indexing only for files in certain locations. To do this, type index in the Windows 10 search box and click the Indexing Options result that appears. The Indexing Options page of the Control Panel appears. Click the Modify button, and you’ll see a list of locations that are being indexed, such as Microsoft Outlook, your personal files, and so on. Uncheck the box next to any location, and it will no longer be indexed.

7. Clean out your hard disk

If you’ve got a bloated hard disk filled with files you don’t need, you could be slowing down your PC. Cleaning it out can give you a speed boost. Windows 10 has a surprisingly useful built-in tool for doing this called Storage Sense. Go to Settings > System > Storage and at the top of the screen, move the toggle from Off to On. When you do this, Windows constantly monitors your PC and deletes old junk files you no longer need — temporary files, files in the Downloads folder that haven’t been changed in a month, and old Recycle Bin files.

You can customize how Storage Sense works and also use it to free up even more space than it normally would. Underneath Storage Sense, click “Configure Storage Sense or run it now.” From the screen that appears, you can change how often Storage Sense deletes files (every day, every week, every month or when your storage space gets low).

You can also tell Storage Sense to delete files in your Download folder, depending on how long they’ve been there, and set how long to wait to delete files in the Recycle Bin automatically. You can also have Storage Sense move files from your PC to the cloud in Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage if they’re not opened for a certain amount of time (every day, or every 14 days, 30 days, or 60 days).

You can also delete old versions of Windows that might be hogging space. At the bottom of the screen, check the box next to “Delete previous versions of Windows.” Storage Sense will then delete old versions of Windows ten days after you’ve installed an upgrade. Note that if you do this, you won’t be able to revert to the older version of Windows.

8. Disable shadows, animations, and visual effects

Windows 10 has some nice eye candy — shadows, animations, and visual effects. On fast, newer PCs, these don’t usually affect system performance. But on slower and older PCs, they can exact a performance hit.

It’s very easy to turn it off. In the Windows 10 search box, type sysdm.cpl and press Enter. It will launch the System Properties dialog box. Click the Advanced tab and click Settings in the Performance section. That brings you to the Performance Options dialog box. You’ll see a varied list of animations and special effects.

If you have time on your hands and love to tweak, you can turn individual options on and off. These are the animations and special effects you’ll probably want to turn off because they have the greatest effect on system performance:

  • Animate controls and elements inside windows
  • Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing
  • Animations in the taskbar
  • Fade or slide menus into view
  • Fade or slide ToolTips into view
  • Fade out menu items after clicking
  • Show shadows under windows

However, it’s probably a lot easier to just select “Adjust for best performance” at the top of the screen and then click OK. Windows 10 will then turn off the effects that slow down your system.

9. Disable transparency

In addition to turning off shadows, animations and visual effects, you should also disable the transparency effects that Windows 10 uses for the Start menu, the Taskbar, and the Action Center. It takes a surprising amount of work for Windows to create these transparency effects, and turning them off can make a difference in system performance.

To do it, from Settings, choose Personalization > Colors, scroll down to “Transparency effects” and move the slider to Off.


Turning off Windows 10’s transparency effects can help speed up performance

10. Turn on automated Windows maintenance

Every day, behind the scenes, Windows 10 performs maintenance on your PC. It does things like security scanning and performing system diagnostics to make sure everything is up to snuff — and automatically fixes problems if it finds them. That makes sure your PC runs at peak performance. By default, this automatic maintenance runs every day at 2:00 a.m., as long as your device is plugged into a power source and is asleep.

There’s a chance, though, that the feature has been accidentally turned off or you haven’t had your PC plugged in for a while, so the maintenance hasn’t been done. You can make sure it’s turned on and runs every day, and run it manually if you’d like.

Run the Control Panel app and select System and Security > Security and Maintenance. In the Maintenance section, under Automatic Maintenance, click “Start maintenance” if you want it to run now. To make sure that it runs every day, click “Change maintenance settings,” and from the screen that appears, select the time you’d like maintenance to run, and check the box next to “Allow scheduled maintenance to wake up my computer at the scheduled time.” Then click OK.

11. Kill bloatware

Sometimes the biggest factor slowing down your PC isn’t Windows 10 itself, but bloatware or adware that takes up CPU and system resources. Adware and bloatware are particularly insidious because they may have been installed by your computer’s manufacturer. You’d be amazed at how much more quickly your Windows 10 PC can run if you get rid of it.

First, run a system scan to find adware and malware. If you’ve already installed a security suite such as Norton Security or McAfee LiveSafe, you can use that. You can also use Windows 10’s built-in anti-malware app — just type Windows Defender in the search box, press Enter, and then click Scan Now. Windows Defender will look for malware and remove any it finds.

It’s a good idea to get a second opinion, though, so consider a free tool like Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. The free version scans for malware and removes what it finds; the paid version offers always-on protection to stop infections in the first place.

12. Defrag your hard disk

The more you use your hard disk, the more it can become fragmented, which can slow down your PC. When a disk gets fragmented, it stores files willy-nilly across it, and it takes a while for Windows to put them together before running them.

Windows 10, though, has a built-in defragmenter you can use to defragment your hard disk. You can even tell it to run automatically so it stays constantly defragmented.

To do it, type defrag into the search box and press Enter. From the screen that appears, select the drive you want to defragment. Click the Optimize button to defragment it. Select multiple disks by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking each you want to defragment.

If you want to have your disk or disks defragmented automatically, click the Change settings button, then check the box next to “Run on a schedule.” Now select the frequency at which you want the disk(s) defragmented by clicking the drop-down next to Frequency and selecting Daily, Weekly, or Monthly. (Weekly will be your best bet.) From this screen, you can also choose multiple drives to defragment.

13. Shut down and restart Windows

Here’s one of IT’s not-quite-secret weapons for troubleshooting and speeding up your system, shut it down and restart it. Doing that clears out any excess use of RAM that otherwise can’t be cleared. It also kills processes that you might have set in motion and are no longer needed, but that continue running and slow your system. If your Windows 10 PC has turned sluggish over time for no apparent reason, you may be surprised at how much more quickly it will run when you do this.

Try just some of these tricks, and you’ll find that you’ve got a faster Windows 10 PC — and one that is less likely to have any reliability problems.

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