10 ways to fix a slow PC

10 ways to fix a slow PC

Summary: Is your PC wheezing and gasping to cross the finish line? There are a few ways you can restore it to its former speedy glory, before you go to the extreme of buying a new system.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Software, Hardware
21

 |  Image 1 of 10

  • (Dusty Computer 7 image by Fons Reijsbergen, royalty free)

    Clear out the dust

    Dust build up over time can impede airflow, and airflow is vital for keeping system temperatures down. If your system overheats, it'll likely throttle its performance down to cope.

    Cleaning out the dust is easier if you've got a desktop rather than a laptop — you can still clear the dust away from vents in the laptop, but be wary about opening it up to do a thorough clean, as depending on the vendor this may invalidate your warranty. If you're out of warranty, and you're confident of navigating the maze in most laptops, go for it.

    The first step is to remove general dust from around the system. You could use a moist paper towel and cotton buds to get into harder-to-reach areas, but one of the best tools you can employ is a can of compressed air. Make sure to avoid vacuum cleaners — or at least getting overzealous with them. We've known people to have sucked capacitors right off the board. There are other issues with using a vacuum cleaner, too, as Brian Cooley of CNET tells us:

    ...you might be tempted to stick a vacuum-cleaner hose inside and suck out the dust. Don't. Vacuums create static electricity, which is deadly to sensitive electronic components.

    On that same note, don't be tempted to reverse the flow of your vacuum and blow the dust out of the computer. The dust inside a household vacuum can be harmful to your health, and you'll be spreading it all over your PC. Also, you risk blowing out sizable particles, which could physically damage internal components, especially if you're using a workshop vacuum. The beauty of compressed air is that it's clean and particle-free.

    Before you start blasting, unplug your computer and take it outside — or at least to your garage. Now, working from the top down, blow out all that dust (put on a dust mask, unless you want a face full of grime) ... be sure to spray air in short bursts, keeping the can upright and the tube at least a couple of inches from the hardware.

    Next, you'll want to get your fans and heatsinks clean. Cooley has some tips here, too:

    Start by powering down your PC, removing the case lid and locating the various fans. Starting with the power supply, blow through the internal slits from inside the chassis, aiming so dust will exit the back.

    Next, blow into the intake fan (if there is one) to push more dust out the back. Finally, blow the blades of the rear exhaust fan clean. If possible, aim just beneath the centre, where the motor meets the fan assembly, and blast again. Repeat the process for each fan, keeping the can upright at all times.

    Now restart your PC, and while the fans are spinning, spray them once more — very briefly — to really send the dust flying.

    If a fan continues grinding or ticking after you've cleaned it, there's a chance that you can always add extra lubrication. But if this is one step too far, you could always just replace it.

  • (CPU heatsink image by Matt Lauer, royalty free)

    Reseat the CPU and GPU heatsinks

    This is more applicable for the desktop, but the same basic principles apply for a laptop.

    There's a small possibility that the thermal conduction between your CPU or GPU and its heatsink isn't optimal, causing things to overheat. If you want to make sure that things are fine, you're going to need some isopropyl alcohol and thermal compound.

    Firstly, make sure that the heatsink is attached via mounting holes to the circuit board, rather than directly to the chip. If it appears as if there's no obvious way that the heatsink is held down on the chip, it's using thermal glue or thermal tape to form the bond. If this is the case, ignore and move on, it's unlikely these are causing you issues.

    After separating the heatsink from the processor, you'll notice some goop that was last used as a thermal interface. Clean it away by applying a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to a clean cloth and rubbing it until it's gone. Apply a thin but consistent veneer of new thermal paste across the top of the chip (application can be made easier by using a scalpel or old credit card to spread the paste), then reapply the heatsink.

  • Thumbnail 1
  • Thumbnail 2
  • Thumbnail 3
  • Thumbnail 4
  • Thumbnail 5
  • Thumbnail 6
  • Thumbnail 7
  • Thumbnail 8
  • Thumbnail 9
  • Thumbnail 10

Topics: Software, Hardware

Craig Simms

About Craig Simms

Focusing on PC hardware, accessories and business products, Craig Simms is responsible for identifying new opportunities for the reviews channels on CNET Australia and ZDNet Australia, to better serve the readers. He has written about a vast range of technology since 2001, covering the gamut from print to online, hardware to software, consumer to enthusiast, the gaming world to workstations.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

21 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Common Sense, and well writen - i would like to add the advice of using something like FileHippo update checker to ensure that your appliactions are also up to date.
    amckern-b0f83
  • See that thing in the picture? Don't ever open this to clean out the dust, nor ever use a moist paper towel on it.

    Its the power-supply, and contains high voltage components. You will likely die. Infact just don't use ANYTHING moist.
    lexxander@...
  • Also don't spread thermal paste unless you have exposed chips.

    Do it via this tutorial.: http://www.arcticsilver.com/intel_application_method.html#
    lexxander@...
  • ...Install Linux...
    guggs-36d2d
    • Yes that should fix the hardware issues and work nicely speeding up my gaming rig...
      btone-c5d11
  • The easiest way to fix a PC is to buy a mac
    (:
    Carliew2012
    • That's like saying the best way to deal with women is to become gay.
      Not that there's anything wrong with that.
      Edgarska-70461
  • Install Linux once and no more slow computer!
    moondoggers
    • Yeah, because as Tom's Hardware's Internet Browser Grand Prix 9 showed, stuff runs soo much faster on Linux.

      /sarcasm
      me147852@...
  • I don't do windows......
    moondoggers
  • Good article, just one thing I like to mention. Stop the fans from spinning, while blowing air towards them. They will act as generators and may produce harmful voltage to electronic components. Also, you may ruin the bearings of the fans if they are spinning too fast.
    renatolum
  • Don't install software you don't need. A lot of "free software" for Windows comes with a catch. Even Google Chrome comes with a catch, so don't install stuff you don't know for sure. Most of Linux software is from trusted sites, so that's ok, but no Windows or OSX software on the net can be trusted, because it's probably a trojan. Only when you know how, kill them off. I think the 1986 free roaming sandbox game "Mercenary" made the day. Always loved it. Paul Woakes wrote it, nobody gives a ****
    anonymous
    • Sorry about offensive language. Where I come from, it's all ok to say excrement, and it's all ok to say other words. I wonder why it is not in your culture. Why beep words that everybody uses? Sorry. I still don't understand anglophile culture. Sorry.
      anonymous
      • Depending on how public a post may be depends on what legislation covers "dirty" words. I myself have no problem when these words are used in their correct context but I get very annoyed when they are used as a sloppy intellectual substitution because the person couldn't be bothered to make some educated withdrawals from the vocabulary bank.
        Treknology
  • Using compressed air blow out the dust is usually the best idea, however I strongly suggest that a sucking vacuum nozzle be kept in the very near vicinity to suck up the dislodged dust rather than have it settling all over your work space and in your lungs.
    Treknology
  • I have to disagree with the statement that says: Common Sense, and well written...
    I really wanted to believe that I will learn something reading this article but then it came to a Get Faster Antivirus... and that was it. In my years of experience Bitdefender was and is a resources waster and Norton Antivirus is probably the worst antivirus on the Planet. It is clear that the writer of the article gets his/her pay from Big Guys on the block and that in itself will create a disinformation.
    benblue-7051d
  • Also on the list of antivirus programs to use: Malwarebytes. Granted the free version is only useful when you tell it to run the scans, but still...
    me147852@...
  • It will always help to boost the speed if you clean up the PC by removing stuff like Windows OS and install one of the Linux distributions like openSUSE!
    I have seen a lot of people use a computer for just browsing and emails. You will never need an OS like Windows in such cases.
    syampillai
  • The cheapest and fastest way to help any computer, PC or Mac, is to maximize the memory. If you haven't installed the maximum your hardware and operating system will recognize and use, that's the first thing to do.

    The eliminate .tmp files and left over unused program files. For the PC, a safe and free program for this is CCleaner. For the Mac, get Applejack.

    As the article says, a comprehensive and fasct anti-malware program is essentioal for Windows, and Macs. For Windows, ACG is a good choics and for the Mac, I like Sophos or iAntivirus.
    James_Smith
  • Haha i have 2.49 gb. and ONLY 128 gb all up
    weavernater