10 Easy Ways To Speed Up Your PC or Mac

Usain Bolt

Photo: José Goulão via Flickr

Everyone’s computer is prone to get a little lazy and sluggish once in a while.With our tips, you can whip your PC and/or Mac back into shape.

Frequently run cleanup programs

On Windows, download CCleaner, an amazing app that will help you find and delete caches and temporary files in many of your applications.

On Mac, we love OnyX, a free application with a million options to clean up cookies, caches, temporary files, and more. The application also includes several maintenance scripts you can run to clean up old and obsolete files.

Remove unnecessary visual effects and animations

Yes--some of these things you'll be removing make your operating system look nice, but wouldn't you rather have a speedier computer?

On Windows 7, try disabling the pretty, albeit resource-hungry 'Aero' theme. Right click your desktop and then click 'personalise.' Choose the 'Window colour' tab and then uncheck 'Enable transparency.' Then, click 'open classic appearance properties' for more ways to make your PC uglier but faster

On Mac, try turning off 'Dock Magnification' and 'Minimize Using Genie Effect' in the Dock area of your System Preferences. Also, try and delete or relocate unnecessary desktop icons. Mac OS X takes a little memory hit for every icon you have on your desktop.

Refresh your computer's search index

This tip will greatly speed up the process of searching your computer by having your computer re-index your entire hard disk. This process can take a while on large hard drives, but it's definitely worth it.

On Windows, use the 'Disk Defragmenter' application that comes with your PC. Try scheduling a weekly de-fragmentation.

On Mac, go the 'Spotlight' section of your System Preferences, navigate to the Privacy tab, then click the + sign and add your entire 'Macintosh HD' to the list. Wait a minute, then remove it from the list. Your Mac will immediately start re-indexing your computer. Running Disk Utility's 'Repair Permissions' function is also helpful for keeping your Mac speedy.

Disable applications from starting up when you log in to your computer

On Windows, various 'helpers' and will clog up your computer's arteries. Go to Control Panel, then Administrative Tools, then System Configuration. Click the 'Startup' tab to see what's starting up with your computer.

On Mac, go to your System Preferences screen and click Accounts--then the 'Login Items' tab. Check items you want to hide from startup.

Use a tool like GrandPerspective to visualise and clean up your hard disk.

Filling up your hard disk isn't bad, per se, but giving your computer some breathing room is definitely a good thing.

On Mac, use free program GrandPerspective to visualise which files are biggest on your hard disk. Pretty often, they'll be things you've forgotten about and can delete.

On Windows, try Disk Space Fan, another beautiful hard disk visualizer to help you mop up old big files.

See what's running on your computer to find resource-hogging processes

This tip will help you understand exactly what's running on your computer at a given time. Be careful ending processes, because many are essential for your computer to run.

If there's a process taking up a ton of RAM or processing power that you haven't heard of, trying Googling it. If you can't find anything, it might be a sinister process.

On a Mac, use Spotlight to find Activity Monitor in your Applications folder. Click the CPU, or Memory columns to organise processes based on which ones are using the most resources.

On Windows, right click the Taskbar and then click 'Start Task Manager' to bring up Task Manager.

Delete dashboard widgets you aren't using

Dashboard widgets in Mac OS X are serious resource-hogs. Even the popular 'Stickies' widget takes an inordinate amount of RAM to keep running.

Delete any dashboard widgets that aren't essential, and you should reap immediate benefits.

Adding more RAM to the computer is the quickest and cheapest way to add tons of speed

Prices for RAM have gone down immensely, and now it only costs you $50.00 to install 4GB of RAM on a MacBook Pro. For most computers, adding more RAM is pretty easy.

And adding more RAM to your computer is incredibly important---RAM is a huge player in how much you can run on your computer simultaneously. The processor speed makes a difference too, but if you don't have enough RAM, everything slows down.

Try Crucial.com to buy more RAM--the site even has a convenient tool to find exactly which computer you have and what RAM is compatible with it.

Use Windows 7's Ready Boost feature to make the most of your old flash thumb drive

Ready Boost is a cool feature built into Windows 7 that allows you to utilise unused space on a flash drive to make your PC run faster, since flash storage is much speedier than hard disk storage. Minimum 1GB.

In the dialog box that pops up when you plug in your USB drive, click 'Speed up my system' under 'General Options.' In the 'Properties' dialog box, click 'Ready Boost' and then 'dedicate this device to Ready Boost.'

Click here to watch a video demo of Ready Boost from Microsoft. Ready Boost can support up to 256GB of flash storage!

Run anti-spyware and anti-virus programs

Running applications to remove spyware and viruses is critical to keep your computer running smoothly. Viruses and spyware can use your computer's resources without you knowing it, and also just screw up random things.

While this is more important for PC's than for Macs, both can benefit from using them.

iAntivirus is a good free bet for Mac, and Norton is a reliable bet for Windows. Lavasoft Ad-Aware is an anti-spyware application that we like.

Now that you've learned how to speed up your PC or Mac...

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