How to fix a slow computer that crashes

Updated February 21, 2017

Even the newest and fastest computers have a tendency to slow down with time and use. Sometimes, despite careful browsing and easy use, a computer can slow down so much that it might even crash. But there are simple tasks you can perform to restore performance and maintain it. It is not as complicated as most people assume and can be done on your own without doling out tons of money for fancy programs. In fact, most of the utilities needed are already installed in Windows, and a few others can be used for free via Internet download.

Turn on the computer and wait for everything to load. Once you see the desktop, double-click the "My Computer" icon, right-click the "Local Disk" icon (usually it will say "Local Disk (C:)" indicating the C drive but this is not always the case) and select "Properties" from the drop-down menu. The new window will be tabbed. Under "General," there will be a pie chart showing your computer's capacity and next to it a button labelled "Disk Cleanup," which you will click on. A new window will pop up showing that the program is running. When finished, it will prompt you to select from a list of files to delete. Select all of them, then click "OK" and then "Yes." This disk cleanup is purging unnecessary files from your hard drive and compressing older, infrequently used documents to free up memory. This process may take anywhere from two minutes to an hour depending on how many files are being deleted so be patient.

Go back to the "My Computer" icon, right-click on the "Local Disk" icon and select "Properties" again. This time select the tab marked "Tools." The second box down will be labelled "Defragmentation." Click on the button titled "Defragment Now...", which will open a new window. Click once on "(C:)" under the header "Volume" and then click on the button in the lower left of the window labelled "Defragment." The program will now begin reorganising the files on your hard drive to make the computer run faster and smoother. This process will take some time.

Open the antivirus program on your computer. If you do not already have an antivirus program, you can download one for free on the Internet. A few good programs are Windows Security Essentials, Avast and Avira. Once you have downloaded the program and uploaded it to your system, have the program run a deep or full system scan. This will go through nearly every file on your hard drive, checking for viruses, spyware and other malware. Once the scan is complete---again, this can take up to two hours so be prepared---it will ask you to quarantine or delete the files, which you will want to do.

You will need to run a registry cleaner. If you do not have one already, CCleaner (see Resources) is a free and lightweight application that works well. For CCleaner, open the program, click on the "Registry" icon and have it scan for issues. CCleaner, and any other registry cleaner, will then go through various files and applications finding unused or obsolete extensions and files to be cleaned out. Once again, this is an extensive process and can take quite awhile. After it scans through your hard drive, have it fix all the issues automatically.

Open your preferred browser. Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome are the most popular options. In Internet Explorer, go to "Tools" and under "Temporary Internet files" choose "Delete Cookies" and after that has finished, "Delete Files." Once you have deleted the files, click on "Clear History."

In Firefox, go to "Tools" and then choose "Clear Recent History." At the top, next to the "Time range to clear," choose "Everything." Make sure everything but "Site Preferences" is selected in the "Details" box before selecting "Clear Now."

In Chrome, click on "Customize and control," choosing "Options" near the bottom of the drop-down box. Click on the tab labelled "Under the bonnet" and then on the button titled "Clear browsing data." Ensure every box is checked except "Clear saved passwords" and the drop box next to "Clear data from this period" with the option "Everything" selected before clicking on "Clear browsing data."

This process is clearing out all unnecessarily saved files from browsing the Internet that may have been missed elsewhere. It should take a few minutes at most.

Close all programs and windows. Click on the "Start" bar and select "Turn off computer." Of the three options given when the new window pops up, select "Restart." Allow the computer to reboot fully. Once it does, all programs should run more quickly and smoothly.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Anti-virus program
  • Registry cleaner
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About the Author

Based in Southern California, Daniel Holzer has been a freelance writer specializing in labor issues, personal finance and green living since 2004. His recent work has appeared online at Green Your Apartment and other websites. Holzer studied English literature at California State University, Fullerton.