10 Ways To Revive And Speed Up Your Old PC

10 Ways To Revive And Speed Up Your Old PC

Unboxing videos and the phrase “new car smell” are popular because new things are exciting and cool. However, buying new things can be very expensive, especially when it comes to purchasing a new computer. Nowadays, many everyday tasks don’t require much processing power, so you may not even need a new PC to do what you want to do.

Luckily, there are several ways to make an older PC feel like new without spending much money. In fact, most of these tricks are completely free, with only a few inexpensive hardware upgrades needed. While it may not be as thrilling as unboxing a brand new computer, these tips can help you get your work done using the equipment you already have. It’s worth trying these methods before you spend money on a new laptop or costly upgrades for your existing PC.

Now, let’s tackle the easier solutions first. If your computer is running slowly, it’s possible that there are too many programs launching when you start up your system. Before you try more drastic measures, you can clean up your startup process. In Windows 10 or 11, you can open the Startup tab of Task Manager, while in Windows 7, you can type “msconfig” and open its Startup tab.

While you shouldn’t disable processes that are important for your computer’s hardware or Windows processes, you can get rid of anything else that you can identify. For example, you don’t need Steam or Adobe Reader to launch automatically when you turn on your computer, unless you need them immediately. You can check the impact of each program on your computer’s startup time, which Windows helpfully shows. It’s best to remove any non-essential programs that have a high impact on startup time first, and then move down the list from there. You can refer to our guide to speed up your PC in 60 seconds for a more in-depth look at which programs you should enable or disable at startup.

1. Clear out the trash 

Normally, trying to remove unnecessary startup programs are ways we choose to help make a PC faster. If this doesn’t solve the issue, it’s time to dig a little deeper. You can start by getting rid of any programs that you don’t use. Many pre-installed programs on your computer may be causing the issue, as PC makers often stuff their devices with bloatware. To do this, simply search for “Add or remove programs” in the Windows search box and go through the list of installed programs.

It’s also worth running a security scan to check for any malware that may be slowing down your computer. While PCWorld has a guide to the best antivirus suites, you can also use the Windows Security tool that comes built into Windows 10 and 11, as it does a good job of detecting and removing threats. It’s not necessary to defragment your storage, especially if you have an SSD. In fact, you shouldn’t even defrag an SSD. If you have a traditional spinning hard drive, most modern operating systems will perform the task automatically, so there’s no need to worry about it.

2. Deep cleaning 

While you’re cleaning up all the unwanted software, don’t forget to give your hardware a good cleaning, too. It’s a good idea to clean out the interior of your PC at least once a year, but many people never do it. Over time, dust and debris can build up inside your PC and cause temperatures to rise, which can lead to reduced performance or other issues.

In fact, the accumulated dust can cause your PC to struggle or become unresponsive altogether. One time, a family member asked me to help with their sluggish PC, and simply cleaning out the inches of dust inside the machine made it run like new again. To help you clean your PC, PCWorld has a guide to PC cleaning that you can refer to before cracking open your case. And don’t forget to clean your mechanical keyboard as well, as debris can accumulate under the buttons and affect its performance.

3. Reinstall Windows

Now if your computer is still running slow after trying all the software optimization tricks, it might be time for a more drastic measure. Over time, Windows tends to slow down, so if you haven’t done so already, consider performing a fresh Windows install.

Before doing this, it’s important to back up all of your critical system data. You can use native Windows tools or invest in a comprehensive backup program like R-Drive Image 7. Alternatively, you can use a cloud backup service. Make sure you have your Windows product key on hand, which you can obtain with the help of tools like Belarc Advisor, if necessary.

Once you’re ready to proceed, follow a guide to reinstalling Windows and install a fresh, factory-new copy on your computer. Keep in mind that if you’re using a manufacturer-supplied recovery disk, you’ll need to remove all the preinstalled bloatware after reinstalling Windows. While the guide linked here is a few years old, the information is still relevant and useful.

4. Choosing to Overclock or Undervolt

Maybe you can’t afford to buy new computer gear, overclocking can help you get more out of what you already have. Overclocking involves manually increasing the clock speeds of your computer’s hardware. However, most laptops don’t allow Overclocking. Assuming your desktop PC has proper cooling and a CPU that’s capable of overclocking, boosting your processor and graphics card’s clock speeds can noticeably improve your PC’s performance.

Boosting your computer processor is a manual process, and our guide to overclocking your CPU can walk you through each step. On modern GeForce and Radeon graphics cards, it’s easier. You can choose to apply an automatic overclock to your GPU in the Wattman section of AMD’s Radeon Settings tool, and Nvidia’s GeForce Experience software offers an auto-overclocking feature of its own. If your software doesn’t offer this feature or you want to push your overclocks to the limit, our guide to manually overclocking your graphics card can help.

If your older graphics card is running hot in your system, Undervolting it could help keep it happy and tamed. Undervolting involves reducing the voltage supplied to your graphics card to lower its power consumption and temperature. Our guide to Undervolting pros and cons walks through why you should or shouldn’t reduce the juice to your graphics card.

5. Install an SSD

Let’s say you’ve tried all the software optimization tricks and your computer is still slow, you have two options: upgrade your hardware or change the way you use your PC. Let’s start with the hardware upgrade.

Switching from a traditional hard drive to a solid-state drive (SSD) can make a huge difference in performance. Upgrading to an SSD can significantly speed up boot times, application launches, and file transfers. It’s the most noticeable upgrade most people can make.

Any SSD will outperform even the fastest hard drives, but you can check out our roundup of the best SSDs for guidance on the best options. We also have a guide to installing an SSD in your laptop if you need help.

6. Add more RAM

Usually, when your computer has less than 8GB of RAM, running Windows on it can negatively impact its performance. Computers that have less memory can be slower while gaming, take longer to boot up, and may struggle when you try to multitask, like having too many browser tabs open at the same time. One solution to improve your computer’s performance is to upgrade its RAM by adding more memory. You can replace your system’s memory entirely or add an 8GB memory module (or a kit of two 4GB modules), unless you’re building a high-end PC with advanced DDR5 memory.

Related: How RAM Timing And Speed Affect The Performance Of Your Computer

Upgrading your desktop’s memory is a simple process. You just need to remove the sticks located in the slots next to the CPU on your motherboard and replace them with the new ones. Before you buy new RAM, ensure that you’ve selected the correct RAM type for your system. Upgrading laptop RAM can be tricky. Check out our guide to upgrading laptop RAM if you need assistance.

7. Switch to Linux or ChromeOS Flex

At times, it might not be worth investing in new hardware for an outdated computer. Nevertheless, if you still need to use your old laptop or desktop for everyday tasks, you can breathe new life into it by installing an operating system that doesn’t consume as many resources as Windows.

Linux is an operating system that runs better than Windows on less powerful hardware. There are several Linux variations that require minimal resources, such as Puppy Linux, LXLE, and Lubuntu. These can run on older PCs with no issues. The transition from Windows to Linux isn’t as complicated as it was previously, but it’s essential to read our beginner’s guide to Linux, including the software recommendations on the last page.

On the other hand, you can convert any computer into a Chromebook for free using Google’s ChromeOS Flex. ChromeOS is also based on Linux.

8. Embrace cloud gaming

Do you have an old computer lying around? You may think that it’s worthless, but that’s not true. Instead of trying to make it into an all-purpose computer, you can consider repurposing it for a specific task. This way, you can give it a new lease of life and put it to good use. Here are some ways to make your old computer useful once again.

If you’re a gamer, you can turn your old laptop into a gaming machine for when you’re away from your main rig. Even if your old computer doesn’t have enough power to run games locally, you can use cloud gaming services to stream games from remote servers. There are many cloud gaming services available now, including Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Sony’s PlayStation Plus. With these services, you can play games on your old computer as long as you have a good internet connection. Our guide to the best cloud gaming services can help you choose the right one for you. However, if you have a large game library on your PC, GeForce Now is likely your best bet.

Another option is to use Steam in-home streaming to turn your old PC into a secondary gaming computer. With this service, you can play games that are installed on your powerful gaming rig on your old computer by streaming them over your home’s Wi-Fi network. It’s like cloud gaming, but within your home. This service is a great option if you have a powerful gaming PC and want to play games on a secondary computer without investing in new hardware.

9. Get rid of some files

When you no longer need your old PC for its original purpose, you can consider repurposing it as a dedicated home theater PC or file server. Doing so is relatively easy, but it means that you will no longer be able to use your PC for tasks like emailing and creating documents. 

Luckily, there is some fantastic free software available to help you transform your old PC into a home theater PC or file server. For a home theater PC, you can use MediaPortal or Kodi, while FreeNAS is an excellent option for creating a powerful home server.

10. Toss It

Sometimes the best solution for an old and slow PC is to replace it. No matter how much we try to fix it or optimize it, a computer that is too old or damaged beyond repair can cause more frustration and time loss than it’s worth. Investing in a new computer can not only boost your productivity but also improve your overall experience with technology. With so many options available in the market, finding a new computer that fits your needs and budget is easier than ever. Whether you’re looking for a laptop or desktop, there are many reliable and affordable options to choose from. So, if you’re tired of dealing with your sluggish old PC, it may be time to consider upgrading to a new one.