Windows runs like billy-o on a brand new PC, but over time, it gets slower and slower until it reaches the point where you might have to wait for a few minutes for it to load in the first place.
Part of this delay is down to the accumulation of unwanted files and a defragmented hard disk, and Windows' Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter utilities are there to help you with those problems.
If you’ve tried those and still have to twiddle your thumbs while Windows loads, here are four more things you can try to speed things up.
Tip 1: Check your BIOS boot settings
Windows is almost always installed on a hard drive, so when you switch your PC on, that’s the first place it should look for a bootable operating system. Some PCs, however, check the CD/DVD drive first and then perhaps the floppy drive, if there is one, and this can add seconds to start-up times.
You can change this behaviour, but you’ll need to poke around in your PC’s BIOS or UEFI settings to see how. You access your PC’s BIOS/UEFI by pressing a certain key when your PC is first switched on — look for a suitable on-screen message before Windows starts loading. This is usually [F2] or [Delete] (or [Del]), but you’ll have to be quick.
Once in the BIOS/UEFI, look for a ‘boot priority’ option, or similar, and change this to put your hard drive before anything else. Be very careful not to make any other changes, however, since this can affect your PC in more serious ways.
Tip 2: Use Sleep mode
If you’re nervous about making such changes to your PC, a much safer option is to use Windows Sleep mode. This won’t make it any quicker to start up when you switch on your PC, but once enabled, you won’t ever switch your PC off (unless you have to, anyway). Instead, you’ll just put it into a low-power ‘sleep’ state that it will wake from much more quickly when you press a key on the keyboard.
In Windows 7, you’ll find Sleep mode on the Shut down button on the Start menu - click the arrow button to see more options. You’ll also see a Hibernate option here.
This works in just the same way, but rather than maintain a low-power state for fast waking, it saves everything to your hard drive and turns off your PC so that it doesn’t use any power. It will still wake when you press a key, but it won’t be as quick. Similar options are available on the Charms bar - Settings - Power button in Windows 8.
Since Sleep mode still uses a little power, you can lose unsaved data if your PC is unplugged; Hibernate mode is safer for that reason.
Tip 3: Switch to a solid-state drive
Part of the problem with slow PC start-up times is the hard drive. Hard drive technology is inherently slow, but you can remedy this by replacing it with a solid-state drive, or SSD.
Since they have no moving parts and store data on chips much like a USB flash drive, SSDs are extremely fast and can give a new lease of life to an old PC that’s running slowly. It doesn’t make much sense to fit one to a PC that’s more than a few years old, though, since the processor and other components are also likely to be contributing to the general snail’s pace of the machine.
The only catch is that SSDs are much more expensive than hard drives of a similar size, but prices are coming down all the time.
Tip 4: And finally…
A new PC should run super smoothly fresh from the box, but some manufacturers have the unfortunate tendency to preinstall so many unwanted applications that using Windows can still feel like wading through treacle. The solution is a free application called PC Decrapifier.
Download and install PC Decrapifier from www.pcdecrapifier.com - there’s nothing to catch you out during the installation. Run it and click the big blue Analyze button to see what it finds on your PC. You can then choose from a list of recommended programs to remove, but look through the list carefully to check that there’s nothing there you actually want to keep.
Have you discovered any other ways to make Windows load more quickly? Let us know in the Comments section below.