My computer is slow, how can I speed it up?

Computers age very quickly these days, there are always newer devices, latest updates and rapidly advancing technology. All of this puts a computer's average age of retirement at 5 years old. But just because your computer has become sluggish, it doesn't mean it's time to throw it out. There are plenty of things you can do to boost your computer's life and speed up everyday processes.

How to speed up your computer...

Empty your trash

You have probably noticed that your computer is more sluggish today than when it was new.

It's not your imagination: computers get slower as their hard drives get filled up and cluttered with old files. Keeping at least 15 per cent of the space on your hard drive empty will help prevent the worst of these slowdowns.

First, check how much space is available on your drive.

  • In Windows, go to Start > My Computer. Right-click on the hard drive named C: and select Properties from the menu that appears. You'll then see how much space remains on the disc.
  • Mac users can click on the hard disk icon and then go to File > Get Info.

Empty the bin. Any files you delete from your computer first go into the Recycle Bin (Windows) or Trash (Mac) and remain on the hard disk, occupying valuable space, until you empty the bin.

  • In Windows, right-click the Recycle Bin icon and click Empty Recycle Bin.
  • If using a Mac, go to Finder > Empty Trash.

Declutter your drive

Spring-clean your files and applications.

Sort through your work, pictures, music, videos and emails. Be ruthless – delete anything you don't need (especially large video files) and move anything you might need onto an external disk.

  • To do this in Windows, go to Start > Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features. Select the program to delete and click Uninstall. Then, clean out any unnecessary files by running 'Disk Cleanup': go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup.
  • Mac users should drag unused applications from the Applications folder into the Trash, then go to Finder > Empty Trash.

Defragment your drive

Over time the data on your hard disk gets broken up into ever smaller 'chunks' so that when you open a file, your computer needs to do a lot of work to piece it together. A process called defragmenting puts the chunks of data back into order and can improve performance. Defragmenting the drive is easy: do it regularly to prevent problems.

  • In Windows, go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter and click on Defragment Now.
  • Mac OS does not require regular defragmentation.

Carry out a security scan

If spring-cleaning your hard drive doesn't boost your computer's performance, scan your disk for viruses and spyware, both of which can seriously compromise operating speeds.

Boost your computer's RAM

If you have an older computer, some new programs may run very slowly. This may be because your computer has insufficient RAM to handle the latest applications. In such cases, your computer will use part of the hard drive to do the job of the RAM – this is called 'virtual RAM'; many of your applications will slow to a crawl and you may hear your overburdened hard drive spinning frequently. The solution is to upgrade the RAM cards – you'll notice an improvement in performance and your hard drive will last longer too. Fitting new RAM is easy, but choosing the right cards to buy can be tricky. Seek advice from your local computer retailer or repair centre.