Check for malware
Make sure that spyware, malware (malicious software), or a virus hasn't infected your computer. The symptoms are slow processing, a new home page on your web browser that you didn't actively choose, messages that you are infected from a program other than your anti-virus program, or unsolicited offers for extra software when you're not using a web browser, according to Michael Schwehr, founder of JumpStart Computing in Alexandria, Virginia. Scan your computer with your the anti-virus program you already have (Windows 10 comes with it's own anti-virus program incorporated into Windows Defender), or download additional malware-detecting programs such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware or McAfee Security Scan Plus. Watch out for these Internet security risks, straight from the cyberscammers themselves.
Close unused programs
If you run too many programs at once—for example having a web browser, an Excel spreadsheet and iTunes open at the same time—you'll overload the computer and slow its processing speed significantly, according to Michael Pang, founder of Santa Monica Tech Support in California. Close the unused programs and then reboot the computer. These are the tech terms you need to know to sound cyber-savvy.
Close unused tabs
Yes, tabs are handy ways to keep track of different websites, email conversations, and spreadsheets, but keeping too many open simultaneously slows your computer, as each one sucks up processing power. If you're worried you won't be able to find certain sites again, just bookmark them, Pang suggests. It's also a good idea to reboot the computer after closing unused tabs. Here's how to use technology to find exactly what you want.
It's tempting to put your computer to sleep at night instead of shutting down. Who wants to wait for it to reboot every morning? Problem is, when you don't restart a computer regularly, it can start behaving strangely—like suddenly you can cut but not paste text, or your tool bar goes missing, said Schwehr. "If you must leave your computer for more than a few hours, and especially overnight, consider closing your programs and turning it off," he says. "That preserves the life of the computer and allows the operating system and programs to load with a fresh copy of the Windows Registry, which is especially important after uninstalling or installing programs or receiving updates of any kind." If you have the bandwidth, check out these funny computer-themed jokes.
Get a memory upgrade
Computers that run Windows Vista, 8, 8.1, or 10, need a 4GB minimum to operate smoothly. It's even better to have 8GB or up to 16GB if you edit video and photos in high-end programs. More memory is also helpful for people that keep multiple windows open simultaneously. "You can determine how much memory is installed by right-clicking on 'My Computer' or 'This PC' from File Explorer, and choosing 'Properties' from the menu that pops up," Schwehr says. Mac users need only click the Apple icon in the top left of the screen and then click on "About This Mac."
Delete oversized files
Photos, videos and other extra large files hog space on your computer and make it run slowly. Sometimes your drive reads "almost full" due to just one to two jumbo files. Apple offers step-by-step instructions to identify large files. Dummies.com offers a similar tutorial for PCs. Move the large files to an external drive or delete them if you don't need them. Pang prefers to keep his computer drive 50 percent empty. But don't be surprised if this isn't the cause of your problem. "This is not a problem that plagues too many people," Schwehr says. Most computer users actually use less than a third of their total hard drive space, but if you consume more than 90 percent of your hard drive, then you will see a drop in performance." As a rule, he adds, your operating system needs at least 10 percent free space to operate normally. The operating system that writes temporary files actually uses that "unused" 10 percent, so if all the space gets used, the computer will crash. This is especially important if you collect a lot of music, photos, and movies. These are the photos to never post on social media.
Get rid of browser add-ons
"Since much of what people do involves working through webpages, anything that slows down your web browsing program will influence the speed of your overall performance," say Schwehr. "Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari are all popular web browsing programs that can have additional toolbars installed, and if you have other programs added to your web browser and they have issues, they can even prevent your web browser from opening." Don't feel silly if you find toolbars you didn't know you had, he adds. That frequently happens when programs are downloaded and installed in "customized" rather than "default" mode. He suggests uninstalling any programs with the word "toolbar" in them to free up your web browser. "Often they are totally unnecessary, and sometimes agreeing to the user agreement to install them gives the producers of the software permission to download other additional toolbars and programs that run in the background, using valuable space," he adds. These tricks can make your Internet go a little faster.
Downgrade your protection software
When it comes to protecting your computer, sometimes less is more. "When you shop for an anti-virus program, do you salivate over the total internet Security package instead?" asks Schwehr. "Just remember that an additional firewall and password manager and safe web surfing add-on for your browser are all additional programs using memory and resources simultaneously, and that's before you've even started another program!" If you need an anti-virus program, get just the lower end software and only upgrade to the complete suite of programs if you have a problem.
Defrag your computer
If you have an older computer with a hard drive (not a solid state drive) you may need to defrag it. Pang likens defragging to "a tuneup to get rid of junk." A good guideline is that computers running Windows 8 and higher defrag themselves. If you'd not sure if you need to defrag or how to do it, check the Windows tutorial.
Upgrade the computer
There are various remedies to speed up older computers, such as reverting to factory settings—but then again, you'll lose all your information, unless you back it up or hire someone to do it. But you can only teach an old dog so many new tricks. If a computer is five or more years old, it may be so out of date that you will need to continually remedy problems. Pang suggests that you replace computers once every five years.