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. Changing your power plan from Power saver to High performance or Balanced will give you an instant performance boost.
To do it, go to Control Panel, select Hardware and Sound > Power Options.
You’ll see two options: Balanced (recommended) and Power saver. (Depending on your make and model, you might see other plans 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 median 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 you’ve got too many programs running in the background programs that you may never use, or only rarely use. Stop them from running, and your PC will run more smoothly.
Start by launching the Task Manager: Press Ctrl-Shift-Esc or right-click the lower-right corner of your screen and select Task Manager. 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.”
3. Turn off search indexing
Windows 10 indexes your hard disk in the background, allowing you in theory to search your PC more quickly than if no indexing were being done. But slower PCs that use indexing can see a performance hit, and you can give them a speed boost by turning off indexing. Even if you have an SSD disk, turning off indexing can improve your speed as well, because the constant writing to disk that indexing does can eventually slow down SSDs.
To get the maximum benefit in Windows 10, you need to turn indexing off completely. To do so, first type services.msc in the Start Menu search box, and click the Services result that come up. The Services app then appears. Scroll down to either Indexing Service or Windows Search in the list of services. Double-click it, and from the screen that appears, click Stop. Then reboot. Your searches may be slightly slower, although you may not notice the difference. But you should get an overall performance boost.
If you’d like, you can turn off indexing for only files in certain locations. To do this, first type index in the Start Menu search box, and click the Indexing Options result that appears. The Indexing Options page of 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 boxes next to any location, and it will no longer be indexed.
4. 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 or 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.
Next tell it to scan the Registry for problems. To do that, click “Scan Now” and from a 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.
5. Disable shadows, animations and visual effects
Windows 10 has some nice eye candy — shadows, animations and visual effects. On fast, newer PCs, these don’t usually affect system performance. But on slower and older PCs, they can exact a performance hit.
It’s easy to turn them off. In the Windows 10 search box type sysdm.cpland press Enter. That launches the System Properties dialog box. Click the Advanced tab and click “Settings” in the Performance section. That brings you to the Performance Options dialog box. You’ll see a varied list of animations and special effects.
If you have time on your hands and love to tweak, you can turn individual ones on and off. These are the animations and special effects you’ll probably want to turn off, because they have the greatest effect on system performance:
- Animate controls and elements inside windows
- Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing
- Animations in the taskbar
- Fade or slide menus into view
- Fade or slide ToolTips into view
- Fade out menu items after clicking
- Show shadows under windows
However, it’s probably a lot easier to just select “Adjust for best performance” at the top of the screen and then click OK. Windows 10 will then turn off the effects that slow down your system.