7 Tips to Keep Your Laptop Running Smoothly

by Carter Toni

With the widespread move to remote working, we’ve come to rely on our laptops. They’re our entertainment systems, link to friends and family, and workplaces rolled into one.

So it’s frustrating when these important devices don’t work properly. Slow performance can affect everything from Movie Night to how you do your job.

Thankfully, you don’t need to ditch your slow laptop just yet. There are things you can do to improve its performance—for free!

Keen to keep your laptop running smoothly? Read on for our seven best tips.

1. Close Programs You’re Not Using

Some programs launch when the computer starts up and stay running. That’s even when we’re not using them. Other programs stay running once you’ve used them and don’t completely close. This uses up processing power.

You can close these programs to free up that power. Head to the righthand side of the taskbar.

Click on the arrow that points up. This reveals the programs that are running. Right-click on the icons to close them.

On a Mac, don’t just click the red dot in the top lefthand corner of the program. This closes the window but not the program. Instead, go to File > Quit to close the whole program.

For Mac users, you might also want to kill background processes. Check out https://setapp.com/ for details on how to do this.

2. Optimize Visual Effects

Sometimes the technology solutions for slow laptops are easier than you might think. Even changing the visual settings on your computer can make a difference. This includes animations, transparency settings, or how menus display.

Press E and the Windows key together. This brings up the File Explorer. Right-click anywhere that isn’t an icon. Choose Properties from the menu that pops up.

Go to Advanced system settings in the lefthand sidebar menu and click Settings under Performance.

Choose ‘Adjust for best performance’. Click OK to confirm the changes.

3. Choose Which Programs Launch on Startup

Some programs need to run from startup, like antivirus programs or firewalls. Others aren’t necessary so you can stop them from launching on startup.

Head to the taskbar and right-click to access a menu. Choose Task Manager and go to the Startup tab. This shows you everything that runs when the computer starts up.

Scroll down and see which programs aren’t essential. Click ‘disable’ in the bottom right-hand corner to turn them off at startup. This won’t disable the program altogether. It just stops it from launching automatically.

The ‘startup impact’ column shows how much of an impact the programs have on startup. It’s a good idea to leave those published by Microsoft alone.

4. Clean Up Your Computer Storage

Files end up cluttering up hard drives which slows them down over time. As an example, HDDs will start to slow down once they’re 90% full.

Storing a lot of files will fill up your HDD, making it harder for the drive to find empty blocks to write new data to. Keeping your storage low is a great way to improve performance.

There are different ways to manage this. You can move files to external storage like a portable HDD.

Only connect the drive when you need the files. This is a great move in terms of cybersecurity. Ransomware can’t encrypt files it can’t access.

Or you can access cloud storage through your web browser and keep files online. This also offers version control, which makes managing files easier.

You can also uninstall programs you don’t use. This will save space and give you one less thing to update.

5. Keep Windows, Apps, and Drivers Up-to-Date

Microsoft releases regular Windows updates, often to improve security. Yet they can often also improve performance too. Staying on top of updates can fix common laptop problems.

Go to the Settings icon, browse to Updates & Security > Windows Updates. Here, you can check if you’re missing any updates.

Keep drivers and apps up-to-date too. This will plug security gaps, add new features, and streamline performance.

6. Defragment Your HDD to Keep It Running Smoothly

If your laptop has an HDD, then you should think about defragmenting the hard drive. The contents of your hard drive get fragmented over time. That slows down your laptop because it has to look for data in different locations.

Defragmenting the hard drive just means that the computer gathers the fragments and puts them together again. This speeds up your computer.

You can set Windows to run the defragmentation process automatically. Or you can run one when you feel the laptop needs it.

Access My Computer and look for the hard drive. By default, this is Windows (C:), unless you’ve renamed it.

Right-click on the drive and go to the Tools tab within Properties. Click the ‘Optimize’ button under ‘Optimize and defragment drive’.

On the following pop-up, choose the HDD you want to optimize. Click ‘Analyze’ to check how fragmented it is. Below 5% is fine, but click ‘Optimize’ if it’s above 5%.

Use this menu to set future defragmenting tasks.

You don’t need to do this if your laptop has an SSD. These drives don’t need fragmentation, unlike an HDD.

7. Scan for Malware

Certain types of malware can cause various PC problems, including poor performance. Cryptocurrency miners are one example because they use your system’s resources to function.

Windows Defender can block some types of malware and it’s built into Windows laptops. Other antivirus and firewall tools are available, both paid and free.

If your computer is running slow and you’re worried about malware, try the trial version of a scanner like Malwarebytes. Scan the entire system and remove any threats that might come up.

This should boost the performance of your laptop. Using an anti-malware program should prevent future infections.

Enjoy Your New Performance

Following these seven steps should keep your laptop running smoothly. Make sure it stays operating at its best by repeating these steps on a regular basis.

Set a reminder to revisit this list in a month’s time. Share these steps with anyone else who uses your laptop so they don’t change any settings.

Need any more laptop help? Check out our technology articles for more tips and advice.

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