If you want to optimize Windows 10, take a few minutes to try out these tips to speed up your PC and make it less prone to performance and system issues
Do you want your Windows 10 to run faster? We’ve got help. In just a few minutes you can try out 15 tips; your machine will be zippier and less prone to performance and system issues.
1. Change your power settings
If you’re using Windows 10’s “Power saver” plan, you’re slowing down your PC. That plan reduces your PC’s performance in order to save energy. (Even desktop PCs typically have a “Power saver” plan.) Changing your power plan from “Power saver” to “High performance” or “Balanced” will give you an instant performance boost.
To do it, launch the Control Panel app, then select Hardware and Sound > Power Options. You’ll typically see two options: “Balanced (recommended)” and “Power saver.” (Depending on your make and model, you might see other plans here as well, including some branded by the manufacturer.) To see the “High performance” setting, click the down arrow by “Show additional plans.”
To change your power setting, simply choose the one you want, then exit Control Panel. “High performance” gives you the most oomph, but uses the most power; “Balanced” finds a happy medium between power use and better performance; and “Power saver” does everything it can to give you as much battery life as possible. Desktop users have no reason to choose “Power saver,” and even laptop users should consider the “Balanced” option when unplugged — and “High performance” when connected to a power source.
2. Disable programs that run on startup
One reason your Windows 10 PC may feel sluggish is that you’ve got too many programs running in the background — programs that you rarely or never use. Stop them from running, and your PC will run more smoothly.
Start by launching the Task Manager: Press Ctrl-Shift-Esc, right-click the lower-right corner of your screen and select Task Manager, or type task manager into the Windows 10 search box and press Enter. If the Task Manager launches as a compact app with no tabs, click “More details” at the bottom of your screen. The Task Manager will then appear in all of its full-tabbed glory. There’s plenty you can do with it, but we’re going to focus only on killing unnecessary programs that run at startup.
Click the Startup tab. You’ll see a list of the programs and services that launch when you start Windows. Included on the list is each program’s name as well as its publisher, whether it’s enabled to run on startup, and its “Startup impact,” which is how much it slows down Windows 10 when the system starts up.
To stop a program or service from launching at startup, right-click it and select “Disable.” This doesn’t disable the program entirely; it only prevents it from launching at startup — you can always run the application after launch. Also, if you later decide you want it to launch at startup, you can just return to this area of the Task Manager, right-click the application and select “Enable.”
Many of the programs and services that run on startup may be familiar to you, like OneDrive or Evernote Clipper. But you may not recognize many of them. (Anyone who immediately knows what “bzbui.exe” is, please raise your hand. No fair Googling it first.)
The Task Manager helps you get information about unfamiliar programs. Right-click an item and select “Properties” for more information about it, including its location on your hard disk, whether it has a digital signature, and other information such as the version number, the file size and the last time it was modified.
You can also right-click the item and select “Open file location.” That opens File Explorer and takes it to the folder where the file is located, which may give you another clue about the program’s purpose.
Finally, and most helpfully, you can select “Search online” after you right-click. Bing will then launch with links to sites with information about the program or service.
If you’re really nervous about one of the listed applications, you can go to a site run by Reason Software called Should I Block It? and search for the file name. You’ll usually find very solid information about the program or service.
Now that you’ve selected all the programs that you want to disable at startup, the next time you restart your computer, the system will be a lot less concerned with unnecessary programs.
3. Use ReadyBoost to speed up disk caching
Windows 10 regularly stores cached data on your hard disk, and then when it needs the data, fetches it from there. The time it takes to fetch cached data depends on the speed of your hard disk. If you have a traditional hard disk instead of an SSD, there’s a trick that can help speed up your cache: use Windows’ ReadyBoost feature. It tells Windows to cache data to a USB flash drive, which is faster than a hard disk. Fetching data from that speedier cache should speed up Windows.
First, plug a USB flash drive into one of your PC’s USB ports. The flash drive needs to support at least USB 2.0, and preferably USB 3 or faster. The faster your flash drive, the more of a speed boost you should see. Also, look for a flash drive that is at least double the size of your PC’s RAM for maximum performance.
After you plug in in the drive, open File Explorer and click “This PC.” Look for the flash drive. It may have an odd name, like UDISK 28X, or something even less-obvious. Right-click it, choose Properties and click the ReadyBoost tab.
You’ll come to a screen that asks whether you want to use the flash drive as a cache and recommends a cache size. Leave the cache size as is or change it if you like. Then select “Dedicate this device to ReadyBoost” and click Apply and then click OK.
(Note that if you see the message, “This device cannot be used for ReadyBoost” when you click the ReadyBoost tab it means your flash drive doesn’t meet ReadyBoost’s minimum performance standards, so you’ll have to insert a new one.)
As you use your computer, ReadyBoost will start filling the cache with files, so you may notice an increase in disk activity. Depending on how much you use your PC, it can take a few days for your cache to fill and offer maximum improved performance. If you don’t see an increase in performance, try a flash disk with more capacity.
4. Shut off Windows tips and tricks
As you use your Windows 10 PC, Windows keeps an eye on what you’re doing and offers tips about things you might want to do with the operating system. In my experience, I’ve rarely if ever found these “tips” helpful. I also don’t like the privacy implications of Windows constantly taking a virtual look over my shoulder.
Windows watching what you’re doing and offering advice can also make your PC run more sluggishly. So if you want to speed things up, tell Windows to stop giving you advice. To do so, click the Start button, select the Settings icon and then go to System > Notifications & actions. Scroll down to the Notifications section and uncheck the box marked “Get tips, tricks, and suggestions as you use Windows.”
That’ll do the trick.
5. Stop OneDrive from syncing
Microsoft’s cloud-based OneDrive file storage, built into Windows 10, keeps files synced and up to date on all of your PCs. It’s also a useful backup tool so that if your PC or its hard disk dies, you still have all your files intact, waiting for you to restore them.
It does this by constantly syncing files between your PC and cloud storage — something that can also slow down your PC. That’s why one way to speed up your PC is to stop the syncing. Before you turn it off permanently, though, you’ll want to check whether it is actually slowing down your PC.
To do so, right-click the OneDrive icon (it looks like a cloud) in the notification area on the right side of the taskbar, then click the More button at the bottom of the screen. From the popup screen that appears, click “Pause syncing” and select either 2 hours, 8 hours or 24 hours, depending upon how long you want it paused. During that time, gauge whether you’re seeing a noticeable speed boost.
If so, and you decide you do indeed want to turn off syncing, right-click the OneDrive icon, and from the popup, select Settings > Account. Click “Unlink this PC,” and then from the screen that appears, click “Unlink account.” When you do that, you’ll still be able to save your files to your local OneDrive folder, but it won’t sync with the cloud.
If you find that OneDrive slows down your PC but prefer to keep using it, you can try to troubleshoot OneDrive problems. For info on how to do that, check out Microsoft’s “Fix OneDrive sync problems” page.
6. Use OneDrive Files on-Demand
Some users may not want to stop OneDrive from syncing; doing so defeats its purpose of making sure you have the latest files on whatever device you use. And it would also mean you won’t be able to use OneDrive as a way to safely back up files.
But there’s a way to get the best of both worlds: You can keep syncing to an absolute minimum and only do it when absolutely necessary. You’ll speed up performance, and still get the best of what OneDrive has to offer.
To do this, you use Windows’ OneDrive Files on-Demand feature. With it, you can choose to keep only certain files on your PC, but still have access to all your other OneDrive files in the cloud. When you want to use one of those online files, you open it directly from the cloud. With fewer files on your PC sync, you should see a performance boost.
Right-click the OneDrive icon on the right side of the Taskbar and select Settings, then click the Settings tab on the dialog box that appears. Check the box next to Files On-Demand. Now click the OneDrive icon and select Open Folder. OneDrive appears in a File Explorer window. Right-click a folder whose files you want stored only in the cloud, but not on your PC, then select “Free up space.” Files from that folder will be removed from your disk, but still kept in OneDrive in the cloud.
For every folder whose files you want kept on your PC, right-click the folder and select “Always Keep on this Device.” You can change the options on any folder at any time by right-clicking it and choosing what you want done.
If you’d like, you can turn off indexing only for files in certain locations. To do this, type index in the Windows 10 search box and click the Indexing Options result that appears. The Indexing Options page of the Control Panel appears. Click the Modify button, and you’ll see a list of locations that are being indexed, such as Microsoft Outlook, your personal files, and so on. Uncheck the box next to any location, and it will no longer be indexed.
8. Clean out your hard disk
If you’ve got a bloated hard disk filled with files you don’t need, you could be slowing down your PC. Cleaning it out can give you a speed boost. Windows 10 has a surprisingly useful built-in tool for doing this called Storage Sense. Go to Settings > System > Storage and at the top of the screen, move the toggle from Off to On. When you do this, Windows constantly monitors your PC and deletes old junk files you no longer need — temporary files, files in the Downloads folder that haven’t been changed in a month, and old Recycle Bin files.
You can customize how Storage Sense works and also use it to free up even more space than it normally would. Underneath Storage Sense, click “Configure Storage Sense or run it now.” From the screen that appears, you can change how often Storage Sense deletes files (every day, every week, every month or when your storage space gets low).
You can also tell Storage Sense to delete files in your Download folder, depending on how long they’ve been there, and set how long to wait to delete files in the Recycle Bin automatically. You can also have Storage Sense move files from your PC to the cloud in Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage if they’re not opened for a certain amount of time (every day, or every 14 days, 30 days or 60 days).
You can also delete old versions of Windows that might be hogging space. At the bottom of the screen, check the box next to “Delete previous versions of Windows.” Storage Sense will then delete old versions of Windows ten days after you’ve installed an upgrade. Note that if you do this, you won’t be able to revert to the older version of Windows.
9. Clean out your Registry
Under the Windows hood, the Registry tracks and controls just about everything about the way Windows works and looks. That includes information about where your programs are stored, which DLLs they use and share, what file types should be opened by which program, and just about everything else.
But the Registry is a very messy thing. When you uninstall a program, for example, that program’s settings don’t always get cleaned up in the Registry. So over time, it can get filled with countless outdated settings of all types. And that can lead to system slowdowns.
Don’t even think of trying to clean any of this out yourself. It’s impossible. To do it, you need a Registry Cleaner. There are plenty available, some free and some paid. But there’s really no need to outright buy one, because the free Auslogics Registry Cleaner does a solid job.
Before using Auslogics or any other Registry Cleaner, you should back up your Registry so you can restore it if anything goes wrong. (Auslogics Registry Cleaner does this for you as well, but it can’t hurt to have it backed up twice.) To do your own Registry backup, type regedit.ext in the search box, then press Enter. That runs the Registry editor. From the File menu, select Export. From the screen that appears, make sure to choose the “All” option in the Export range section at the bottom of the screen. Then choose a file location and file name and click Save. To restore the Registry, open the Registry editor, select Import from the File menu, then open the file you saved.
Now download, install and run Auslogics Registry Cleaner. On the left-hand side of the screen you can select the kinds of Registry issues you want to clean up — for example, File Associations, Internet or Fonts. I generally select them all.
Next, tell it to scan the Registry for problems. To do that, click “Scan Now,” and from the drop-down menu that appears, select Scan. That lets you first examine the Registry problems it finds. If you instead choose “Scan and Repair,” it makes the fixes without you checking them.
It now scans your Registry for errors, then shows you what it found. It ranks the errors according to their severity to help you decide which to fix. Click Repair when you’ve made your decision, and make sure that “Back Up Changes” is checked, so you can restore the Registry easily if something goes wrong.
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