How to speed up Windows 10

Windows 10 feeling sluggish? Read on for tips and tricks to speed up the OS

You’ve been using your Windows 10 machine since the operating system’s release back in 2015. Perhaps the device is functional, but you’ve noticed it has lost its initial spunk - it’s slower, less sharp; download times feel like an eternity. 

This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to Windows devices: technology slows down over time, whether you're using Mac, Linux or Chrome. It’s likely you’ve downloaded thousands of files and loads of data. Like people, machines age and slow down. 

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Though it’s frustrating to witness the deterioration of your machine’s functionality - to be rendered helpless by the buffering circle's indefinite spin - its ageing is by no means a death sentence. Instead, your Windows 10 device may just need a bit of spring cleaning. There are a number of potential fixes to your decrepit system - tossing your device into the bin outright is entirely unnecessary. 

The most likely culprit preventing your device from operating at optimal speed is bloatware: unnecessary software that offers extra functionality or design elements, making it snazzy than the vanilla Windows 10 experience. These programs can add an excess of files and applications that will negatively impact your device’s performance. You may have absolutely no use for these extensions anymore - deleting them will improve your device’s speed with no extraneous, detrimental effects.

A good way to think of a PC is a truck going up a hill; if you fill it with all manner of people and things, you'll have a slow journey up the hill. Often, the bloatware comes preinstalled, such as gimmicky games or trial software that means nothing to you.

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Below we offer some tips to de-clutter your desktop and free up your storage space. 

Make login into Windows 10 quicker

If you've set up your machine to request a password when signing into your computer, you may want to skip this process, as long as you always use your computer in a safe and secure place, on a secured network.

You may find you only save seconds typing your passwords in and hitting return, but the time you'll save essentially re-booting every time your computer's gone to sleep may make your experience at least a little smoother.

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Of course, passwords are essential for security, so if you store confidential information on your PC, or travel with it or use it in coffee shops or even at work, you will probably want to keep your password. But if that's not the case, you can uncheck the box requiring you to enter a username and password to log in. Click apply, confirm your password, and Windows will never ask you for it again. It is worth noting, though, that even your home may not be the most secure environment, as everybody can be burgled.

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And disabling your password also means that anybody can fire up your Windows 10 PC and use it. This makes doing so a big no-no for portable laptops, but desktops are a safer bet.

Make shutting down Windows 10 faster

If you like to shut down your computer after a hard day's work, then you will realise that the process still requires three clicks. To speed this up you can use a shortcut. Simply right-click anywhere on a free part of the desktop then click New > Shortcut. In the Location field, type in the following. 

%windir%\System32\shutdown.exe /s /t 0

Click on the Next to finish. Now each time you click on that shortcut, your PC will immediately shut down. Be careful though! 

Disable Startup programs in Windows 10

Virtually every version of Windows allows you to disable startup items, and Windows 10 is no exception. Stopping some programs from starting up will speed up the OS. 

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To find this option, right-click the taskbar and choose Task Manager. Tap 'more details' and then click on the Startup tab. Here you can disable the programs you don't want to start up. 

Remove bloatware in Windows 10

No one likes bloatware (except PC manufacturers) but it does mean your system is slightly cheaper as a result. But you can ditch this crapware. For the most part, these are programs such as disc burning software, backup tools from the manufacturer or other utilities that you don't necessarily need. 

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Why programs such as PC Decrapifier and CCleaner do a sterling job of getting rid of bloatware, if you have a brand new (but bloatware laden) computer, then a clean install of Windows 10 could be the best way of clearing out unnecessary software clogging up your system. 

Make the Windows 10 Start menu and other Windows zippier

Although Microsoft's new snazzy Windows 10 Start Menu is a breath of fresh air compared to the older version, bringing it up to speed with the likes of Apple's sleek interface, it can be a little slow to pop up if your machine isn't brand spanking new. This is because it takes more processing power to make it appear and if your machine doesn't have a newer chip, you might be waiting a few seconds for it to react. However, it's pretty straightforward to shut down some of the animations to make it show up without the wait.

To do this, open up Systems Properties (type in the search field sysdm.cpl and press Enter), then click on the Advanced tabs and settings in the Performance options. By default, the Animate windows when minimising and maximising box will be ticked. Click to deactivate and then click Apply.

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Not only should this add some speed to the Start menu opening up, but also other windows that appear on your desktop. You can also disable all of the visual effects throughout Windows 10 to speed up everything. Just click on the tick boxes to turn them off individually, or choose the "Adjust for best performance" option to optimise the performance for your machine.

Turn on Windows 10 Fast Startup

With Windows 10 there is a new "hybrid" startup mode that should cut down on bootup times. It does this by putting the PC into hibernation instead of fully shutting down.

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To enable this, click on the Start button and type in "Control Panel" and press enter. In the control panel click on Hardware and Sound. A new page should appear, here click on Change what the power buttons do. Then click on Change settings that are currently unavailable. Finally, tick the box marked Turn on fast startup. 

Disable services on Windows 10

As with all versions of Windows, working in the background are services. While some of them are vital to the smooth running, quite a few aren't for day-to-day use. If you disable these services, you can speed up Windows 10.

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To turn off services in windows, type: "services.msc" into the search field. Then double-click on the services you want to stop or disable. 

There are many services that can be turned off but which ones depend on what you use Windows 10 for and whether or not you work in an office or from home. A great guide to the services that can be switch off can be found here

Remember, though, stopping or disabling services can have unforeseen consequences. Many components or applications may stop working properly, so proceed with caution.

Clean up your Windows 10 disk

Thankfully, Windows 10 has a built-in Disk Cleanup tool which is extremely useful when you want to get rid of unnecessary files. To launch the tool, click on the Start button and then select the File Explorer link. Right-click Local Disk C: and choose Properties. Navigate to the General tab and then find the Disk Cleanup button. Once there, click "unnecessary files (temporary internet files, etc.)" then hit OK.

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For advanced users, you can select the "Clean up system files" button to get rid of even more files. Following this, you can then... 

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Defragment the hard drive on Windows 10

Defragmenting your hard drive is one of the most basic ways to speed up your computer. This consolidates the different parts of your files into the smallest possible sequential area on the disk. This means the read/write heads have to travel smaller distances so will be faster at completing requests.

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It is worth mentioning that this only applies to physical, platter-based drives instead of solid-state drives. Since SSDs (solid state drives) store data in a particular way, fragmentation has little effect on performance. Defragmentation is pretty much unnecessary because of this.

For those of you with physical HDDs, regular defrags are an essential way of ensuring your computer remains up to speed. To defrag the hard drive, click on the Start button and click the File Explorer link. Right-click Local Disk C: and choose Properties. Select the Tools tab, then click "Optimize and Defragment Drive".

Migrate Windows 10 to an SSD

Perhaps the most effective, but most disruptive way to improve the speed of Windows 10 is to move the operating system or your entire hard drive onto a brand new SSD.

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SSDs are essentially much larger and more sophisticated versions of a standard USB stick. Unlike hard drives which use a moving arm to read and write onto a physical disk, SSDs don't contain any moving parts, and as a result are able to process data far faster than their older counterparts.

It's common for PC users to have both an SSD and hard drive running side by side, with the operating system running on the much faster hardware. However, with falling prices and larger capacities entering the market, it's now relatively cost effective to migrate the entirety of your data, including software, onto an SSD.

Importantly, Windows 10, or any operating system for that matter, performs wonderfully on an SSD, drastically reducing load times and boot times to mere seconds. If you're buying a new laptop or PC, you'll want to cast an eye over the spec sheets to make sure they have an SSD installed.

Windows 10 can be migrated over to an SSD on an existing system, although the process is a little fiddly. We've put together a guide on how best to transfer the OS to an SSD, including some tips to ensure data isn't lost in the process.

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