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How to Fix a Slow Windows PC

Authored by:
Support.com Tech Pro Team
This Guided Path® was written and reviewed by Support.com’s Tech Pro team. With decades of experience, our Tech Pros are passionate about making technology work for you. We love feedback! Let us know what you think about this Guided Path® by rating it at the end.

Introduction

This guide will help you resolve basic problems that can cause your computer to run slowly or sluggishly. These problems could include a faulty or bugged program, corrupted or bugged updates, a full hard drive, insufficient RAM, or an overtaxed CPU.
We'll take you through making sure your system is updated, cleaning up your disk, deleting unwanted programs, checking your memory and CPU, and finally adjusting settings to get the most speed from your system.
A slow snail on a laptop

1 Make Sure the Computer Is up to Date

Microsoft frequently releases updates to fix bugs, patch security issues, and add new services to the Windows Operating System. In Windows 10, updates are normally installed automatically, but updates can still be checked for and installed manually to ensure they're installed as quickly as possible. If your issues with slowness are being caused by a bug that Microsoft has patched with an update, installing available updates may resolve your issue.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    click start then settings
  2. Select Update and Security.
    Updates and Security Settings
  3. Select Windows Update on the left, then select Check for updates.
    Update and Security with Windows Update and Check for updates highlighted.
  4. Once the system has finished checking for updates, it will automatically download and install the latest applicable updates.
  5. The system also may prompt you to restart, if it does, please do so at your earliest convenience, otherwise the update process will not complete.

    If you system was already recently updated, chances are that no further updates are available and your Update status will indicate: Your device is up to date.

2 Use Disk Cleanup to Free up Drive Space

Windows needs about 2 GB of free hard drive space at minimum to function properly. Ideally, to properly update and perform additional functions, around 5 GB of free hard drive space is recommended. A simple way to help free up space is to remove temporary files; files that were created during an update process, and are now simply taking up space on your hard drive unnecessarily. Windows has a utility that will help safely free up space on your hard drive.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    click start then settings
  2. Select System.
    System Settings
  3. Select Storage on the left, then select Temporary files on the right.
    System Settings with Storage and Temporary files highlighted.
  4. Place a checkmark next to each item, then select Remove files.
    Temporary files settings with each item checked and remove files highlighted.

3 Delete Unwanted or Unused Programs

You may need to remove an app because you need the space or simply don't need it anymore. The following steps show you how to easily remove an app.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Settings
  2. Select Apps.
    Apps Settings
  3. Select Apps & features on the left.
    Apps Settings with Apps and features highlighted.
  4. Select an app you want to uninstall, then select Uninstall.
    Apps and features with app and Uninstall highlighted.
    Carefully read any prompts in case there are special instructions. Proceed until the application is removed.
    Some applications may require that you reboot.

4 Make Sure Memory Usage Isn't Too High

Your computer's performance can suffer if it is facing limitations caused by system memory (or RAM). Checking how much memory your computer has physically installed, and how much of that memory your system is using will help diagnose a potential memory issue that is affecting your system's performance.

  • In general, Windows 10 requires 2 GB of memory to work, but performance and stability will be limited. Windows 10 runs better with 4 GB. If you use a lot of programs at the same time, or very large programs (such as games), you may require more memory, such as 6 GB or 8 GB or more.
  • You can choose to use fewer programs, or add more memory to your computer if you find yourself regularly using up all available memory.
  1. Press the CTRL + ALT + DEL keys on your keyboard at the same time.
    PC Desktop Keyboard with Ctrl-Alt-Del highlighted.
  2. Select Task Manager.
    GINA screen with Task Manager highlighted.
  3. Select More Details at the bottom.
    Task Manager with More Details highlighted.
  4. Select the Performance tab at the top, then select Memory on the left.
    Task Manager with Performance and Memory highlighted.
  5. Look at the amount of memory you have on your computer, and how much is in use.
    Task Manager Memory with Total Memory and Memory In Use highlighted.
    Total Memory
    In the top-right corner, you'll see how much memory is physically installed in your computer.
    Memory In Use
    In the list at the bottom, you'll see how much is in use by Windows, and the programs you have open.
    In general, you want 1GB to 2GB available while you have most of your regular programs open.
You can check this information when you have your normal programs open. Open a few programs you usually use, and return to this window. See if you're using more memory than you have; this indicates Windows is using some of your hard drive space as memory, which is very slow.
This is a physical part of your computer, not something you can download or modify through software. If you want to add more memory to your computer, contact the company you purchased your computer from, or a local technical support service.

Virtual Memory or Your Paging File

The paging file is a hidden file on your computer's hard drive that Windows 10 uses as memory, and acts as an overflow of the system memory that holds the data needed for applications currently running on your computer. Increasing the size of your paging file can help with speed issues.
  1. In the search bar, type "Control Panel" and select it.
    Windows 10 Search with control panel selected
  2. Select System and Security.
    System and security selection
  3. Select System.
    The system panel
  4. Select Advanced System Settings.
    Advanced system settings link
  5. Under the Advanced panel select Settings within Performance.
    Advanced panel showing performance settings
  6. Select the Advanced tab and under Virtual Memory select Change.
    Performance options
  7. To set your own Paging File size, clear the automatically manage paging file size for all drives selection.
    Automatically managed page file
  8. Select Custom Size to set your own Virtual Memory limits. Click Set to finalize your sizes.
    Setting your paging file
  9. The minimum size of the Page file can be up to 1.5 times the amount of physical memory (RAM) you have installed. The maximum size can be 4 times the amount of the physical memory. For example, if your computer has 1GB of RAM, the minimum Page file size can be 1.5GB, and the maximum size of the file can be 4GB.

5 Check CPU Usage During Normal Use

Your computer's central processing unit, or CPU, is arguably the most important component of any computing device. It handles basic instructions and allocates the more complicated tasks to other specific chips to get them to do what they do best.

Your CPU can age, get corrupted, have physical issues, or just not be up to newer tasks with newer technology.

You can check your CPU and see what processes and programs are using up its power by opening the task manager.
  1. Press the CTRL + ALT + DEL keys on your keyboard at the same time.
    PC Desktop Keyboard with Ctrl-Alt-Del highlighted.
  2. Select Task Manager.
    GINA screen with Task Manager highlighted.
  3. Select More Details at the bottom.
    Task Manager with More Details highlighted.
  4. Select the Processes tab, then select CPU to sort the process list by how much CPU they use.
    Task Manager with Processes tab and CPU field highlighted.
  5. Look through the top five or ten entries for programs you recognize.

    There will be many you don't recognize in the list; this is normal. Windows has a lot of processes, some with odd names, to allow it to run properly.

  6. If you see a program you know about and aren't using, select it, then select End task.
    Task Manager with program and End Task highlighted.
You can check this information when you have your normal programs open. Open a few programs you usually use, and return to this window. See if you're using up your CPU for an extended period. CPU usage spikes are normal, but having your usage being above 90% indicates a problem.
The CPU is a physical part of your computer, not something you can download or modify through software. If you want to upgrade your CPU you need to contact the company you purchased your computer from, or a local technical support service. Depending on your device you may not be able to upgrade your CPU at all. If this is the case you will need to purchase a new device.

6 Disable Programs from Starting up with the Computer

After checking on what your computer is doing during normal use, you may have spotted some things actively running that you don't use or need running 100% of the time. Most times, programs are set to be launched and run as soon as your machine boots up. This process will help you disable unnecessary programs from starting up with your computer.

  1. Press the CTRL + ALT + DEL keys on your keyboard at the same time.
    PC Desktop Keyboard with Ctrl-Alt-Del highlighted.
  2. Select Task Manager.
    GINA screen with Task Manager highlighted.
  3. Select More Details at the bottom.
    Task Manager with More Details highlighted.
  4. Select the Startup tab at the top.
    Task Manager with Startup tab highlighted.
  5. Look carefully through this list. If you see an item you do not want to startup whenever you turn on your computer, highlight it, and choose Disable at the bottom.
    Task Manager Startup with application and Disable button highlighted.

7 Change Appearance and Performance Settings

Your Windows 10 system uses a lot of resources to make itself pretty and streamlined. You can adjust this setting manually to focus on performance (fast) or appearance (pretty).
  1. Select the Start menu, search for Performance. Then, select Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows from the menu.
    start menu with search for performance and adjust performance choice highlighted
  2. Select Adjust for best performance at the top, then click OK at the bottom.
    Performance options with adjust for best performance highlighted

8 Change Laptop Power Settings (Optional)

Whether you have a laptop or a desktop computer, you have access to power settings in Windows 10. When it comes to the speed of your computer, certain power settings can actually affect laptop computers in a negative way. This is by design, as most laptops are designed to 'throttle' the amount of power they're using in order to preserve battery life.

Similar to the Appearance and Performance Settings, the power settings you choose can have an impact on your laptop computer. The following steps are optional, as desktop computer users generally won't see any performance boost or increase by changing these settings. However, you may wish to make changes to the settings you find based solely on your own personal preferences.

More power savings means trading some performance for less energy use. Lower energy use makes your laptop battery last longer, as well as makes your computer cost less to operate.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    click start then settings
  2. Select System.
    System Settings
  3. Select Power & sleep on the left, then Additional power settings on the right.
    System Settings with Power and sleep and Additional power settings highlighted.
  4. You'll be able to choose from three power plans; Balanced, Power saver, and High performance.
    Power Options with each plan highlighted
    Balanced
    This provides a balance between energy use and the performance of your computer. This is the recommended setting.
    Power Saver
    This option decreases system performance in order to save more energy. This can help you make your laptop's battery last longer, at the cost of it taking longer to start a program, for example.
    High performance
    This setting will use the most energy, but will allow the computer to go as fast as it can at all time.
    These options provide a great deal of customization. It is perfectly understandable and acceptable to stop after picking one of these choices! To continue to further customize the way your computer manages power consumption, to get the exact setup that is best for you, continue with the steps below.
  5. Once you have chosen a plan, select Change plan settings to the right.
    Power Options with plan chosen and Change plan settings highlighted.
  6. First, set when you'd like your screen to turn off and when your computer will go to sleep when not in use to save power. Then, select Change advanced power settings.
    Edit Plan Settings with Display off Computer sleep and Change advanced power settings highlighted.
  7. In Power Options, select the + next to each item to expand it, and change the settings to customize the Power Plan to your exact expectations, and balance power savings with performance to meet your needs. When done, select OK.
    Power Options with plus signs setting and OK button highlighted.

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This guide will help you resolve basic problems that can cause your computer to run slowly or sluggishly. These problems could include a faulty or bugged program, corrupted or bugged updates, a full hard drive, insufficient RAM, or an overtaxed CPU.
We'll take you through making sure your system is updated, cleaning up your disk, deleting unwanted programs, checking your memory and CPU, and finally adjusting settings to get the most speed from your system.
A slow snail on a laptop

Microsoft frequently releases updates to fix bugs, patch security issues, and add new services to the Windows Operating System. In Windows 10, updates are normally installed automatically, but updates can still be checked for and installed manually to ensure they're installed as quickly as possible. If your issues with slowness are being caused by a bug that Microsoft has patched with an update, installing available updates may resolve your issue.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    click start then settings
  2. Select Update and Security.
    Updates and Security Settings
  3. Select Windows Update on the left, then select Check for updates.
    Update and Security with Windows Update and Check for updates highlighted.
  4. Once the system has finished checking for updates, it will automatically download and install the latest applicable updates.
  5. The system also may prompt you to restart, if it does, please do so at your earliest convenience, otherwise the update process will not complete.

    If you system was already recently updated, chances are that no further updates are available and your Update status will indicate: Your device is up to date.

Windows needs about 2 GB of free hard drive space at minimum to function properly. Ideally, to properly update and perform additional functions, around 5 GB of free hard drive space is recommended. A simple way to help free up space is to remove temporary files; files that were created during an update process, and are now simply taking up space on your hard drive unnecessarily. Windows has a utility that will help safely free up space on your hard drive.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    click start then settings
  2. Select System.
    System Settings
  3. Select Storage on the left, then select Temporary files on the right.
    System Settings with Storage and Temporary files highlighted.
  4. Place a checkmark next to each item, then select Remove files.
    Temporary files settings with each item checked and remove files highlighted.

You may need to remove an app because you need the space or simply don't need it anymore. The following steps show you how to easily remove an app.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Settings
  2. Select Apps.
    Apps Settings
  3. Select Apps & features on the left.
    Apps Settings with Apps and features highlighted.
  4. Select an app you want to uninstall, then select Uninstall.
    Apps and features with app and Uninstall highlighted.
    Carefully read any prompts in case there are special instructions. Proceed until the application is removed.
    Some applications may require that you reboot.

Your computer's performance can suffer if it is facing limitations caused by system memory (or RAM). Checking how much memory your computer has physically installed, and how much of that memory your system is using will help diagnose a potential memory issue that is affecting your system's performance.

  • In general, Windows 10 requires 2 GB of memory to work, but performance and stability will be limited. Windows 10 runs better with 4 GB. If you use a lot of programs at the same time, or very large programs (such as games), you may require more memory, such as 6 GB or 8 GB or more.
  • You can choose to use fewer programs, or add more memory to your computer if you find yourself regularly using up all available memory.
  1. Press the CTRL + ALT + DEL keys on your keyboard at the same time.
    PC Desktop Keyboard with Ctrl-Alt-Del highlighted.
  2. Select Task Manager.
    GINA screen with Task Manager highlighted.
  3. Select More Details at the bottom.
    Task Manager with More Details highlighted.
  4. Select the Performance tab at the top, then select Memory on the left.
    Task Manager with Performance and Memory highlighted.
  5. Look at the amount of memory you have on your computer, and how much is in use.
    Task Manager Memory with Total Memory and Memory In Use highlighted.
    Total Memory
    In the top-right corner, you'll see how much memory is physically installed in your computer.
    Memory In Use
    In the list at the bottom, you'll see how much is in use by Windows, and the programs you have open.
    In general, you want 1GB to 2GB available while you have most of your regular programs open.
You can check this information when you have your normal programs open. Open a few programs you usually use, and return to this window. See if you're using more memory than you have; this indicates Windows is using some of your hard drive space as memory, which is very slow.
This is a physical part of your computer, not something you can download or modify through software. If you want to add more memory to your computer, contact the company you purchased your computer from, or a local technical support service.

Virtual Memory or Your Paging File

The paging file is a hidden file on your computer's hard drive that Windows 10 uses as memory, and acts as an overflow of the system memory that holds the data needed for applications currently running on your computer. Increasing the size of your paging file can help with speed issues.
  1. In the search bar, type "Control Panel" and select it.
    Windows 10 Search with control panel selected
  2. Select System and Security.
    System and security selection
  3. Select System.
    The system panel
  4. Select Advanced System Settings.
    Advanced system settings link
  5. Under the Advanced panel select Settings within Performance.
    Advanced panel showing performance settings
  6. Select the Advanced tab and under Virtual Memory select Change.
    Performance options
  7. To set your own Paging File size, clear the automatically manage paging file size for all drives selection.
    Automatically managed page file
  8. Select Custom Size to set your own Virtual Memory limits. Click Set to finalize your sizes.
    Setting your paging file
  9. The minimum size of the Page file can be up to 1.5 times the amount of physical memory (RAM) you have installed. The maximum size can be 4 times the amount of the physical memory. For example, if your computer has 1GB of RAM, the minimum Page file size can be 1.5GB, and the maximum size of the file can be 4GB.
Your computer's central processing unit, or CPU, is arguably the most important component of any computing device. It handles basic instructions and allocates the more complicated tasks to other specific chips to get them to do what they do best.

Your CPU can age, get corrupted, have physical issues, or just not be up to newer tasks with newer technology.

You can check your CPU and see what processes and programs are using up its power by opening the task manager.
  1. Press the CTRL + ALT + DEL keys on your keyboard at the same time.
    PC Desktop Keyboard with Ctrl-Alt-Del highlighted.
  2. Select Task Manager.
    GINA screen with Task Manager highlighted.
  3. Select More Details at the bottom.
    Task Manager with More Details highlighted.
  4. Select the Processes tab, then select CPU to sort the process list by how much CPU they use.
    Task Manager with Processes tab and CPU field highlighted.
  5. Look through the top five or ten entries for programs you recognize.

    There will be many you don't recognize in the list; this is normal. Windows has a lot of processes, some with odd names, to allow it to run properly.

  6. If you see a program you know about and aren't using, select it, then select End task.
    Task Manager with program and End Task highlighted.
You can check this information when you have your normal programs open. Open a few programs you usually use, and return to this window. See if you're using up your CPU for an extended period. CPU usage spikes are normal, but having your usage being above 90% indicates a problem.
The CPU is a physical part of your computer, not something you can download or modify through software. If you want to upgrade your CPU you need to contact the company you purchased your computer from, or a local technical support service. Depending on your device you may not be able to upgrade your CPU at all. If this is the case you will need to purchase a new device.

After checking on what your computer is doing during normal use, you may have spotted some things actively running that you don't use or need running 100% of the time. Most times, programs are set to be launched and run as soon as your machine boots up. This process will help you disable unnecessary programs from starting up with your computer.

  1. Press the CTRL + ALT + DEL keys on your keyboard at the same time.
    PC Desktop Keyboard with Ctrl-Alt-Del highlighted.
  2. Select Task Manager.
    GINA screen with Task Manager highlighted.
  3. Select More Details at the bottom.
    Task Manager with More Details highlighted.
  4. Select the Startup tab at the top.
    Task Manager with Startup tab highlighted.
  5. Look carefully through this list. If you see an item you do not want to startup whenever you turn on your computer, highlight it, and choose Disable at the bottom.
    Task Manager Startup with application and Disable button highlighted.
Your Windows 10 system uses a lot of resources to make itself pretty and streamlined. You can adjust this setting manually to focus on performance (fast) or appearance (pretty).
  1. Select the Start menu, search for Performance. Then, select Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows from the menu.
    start menu with search for performance and adjust performance choice highlighted
  2. Select Adjust for best performance at the top, then click OK at the bottom.
    Performance options with adjust for best performance highlighted

Whether you have a laptop or a desktop computer, you have access to power settings in Windows 10. When it comes to the speed of your computer, certain power settings can actually affect laptop computers in a negative way. This is by design, as most laptops are designed to 'throttle' the amount of power they're using in order to preserve battery life.

Similar to the Appearance and Performance Settings, the power settings you choose can have an impact on your laptop computer. The following steps are optional, as desktop computer users generally won't see any performance boost or increase by changing these settings. However, you may wish to make changes to the settings you find based solely on your own personal preferences.

More power savings means trading some performance for less energy use. Lower energy use makes your laptop battery last longer, as well as makes your computer cost less to operate.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    click start then settings
  2. Select System.
    System Settings
  3. Select Power & sleep on the left, then Additional power settings on the right.
    System Settings with Power and sleep and Additional power settings highlighted.
  4. You'll be able to choose from three power plans; Balanced, Power saver, and High performance.
    Power Options with each plan highlighted
    Balanced
    This provides a balance between energy use and the performance of your computer. This is the recommended setting.
    Power Saver
    This option decreases system performance in order to save more energy. This can help you make your laptop's battery last longer, at the cost of it taking longer to start a program, for example.
    High performance
    This setting will use the most energy, but will allow the computer to go as fast as it can at all time.
    These options provide a great deal of customization. It is perfectly understandable and acceptable to stop after picking one of these choices! To continue to further customize the way your computer manages power consumption, to get the exact setup that is best for you, continue with the steps below.
  5. Once you have chosen a plan, select Change plan settings to the right.
    Power Options with plan chosen and Change plan settings highlighted.
  6. First, set when you'd like your screen to turn off and when your computer will go to sleep when not in use to save power. Then, select Change advanced power settings.
    Edit Plan Settings with Display off Computer sleep and Change advanced power settings highlighted.
  7. In Power Options, select the + next to each item to expand it, and change the settings to customize the Power Plan to your exact expectations, and balance power savings with performance to meet your needs. When done, select OK.
    Power Options with plus signs setting and OK button highlighted.