How to speed up Microsoft's Windows 11
Is Windows 11 feeling a bit sluggish? Here are some handy tips for tweaking the OS to fit your system
Although Windows 11 comes with a fairly stringent set of hardware requirements, any operating system can get bogged down over time.
Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to boost the performance of a Windows 11 PC and keep your system spritely and responsive.
Disable Windows 11 startup programs
One of the biggest Windows performance blockers is software elbowing its way into the startup routine, meaning it automatically loads in the background every time you fire up the PC, whether you’re actively using the program or not.
If you’re finding that Windows 11 takes quite a while to load at startup, or if it takes some time before your system becomes usable, unwanted startup programmes are likely to blame.
Fortunately, it’s easy to kick unwanted programs out of the startup routine. Click on Settings > Apps > Startup and you’ll be presented with a list of software that automatically loads when you log in. Switch off any non-essential software, paying particular attention to those apps marked as “high impact” – although these labels aren’t always reliable.
Alternatively, you can press CTRL + Shift + ESC to access the Task Manager window, which contains the same Startup menu, only with the older UI.
Don’t be overzealous here. For example, if you use an online backup service such as OneDrive or Dropbox, not allowing that to run at startup could result in your files not being synchronised properly. Likewise, leave any security software alone, as you don’t want to weaken your PC’s protection.
Windows 11 did add new software to the default startup, including Microsoft Teams - so feel free to disable that if it’s something you don’t use.
Migrate Windows 11 from a hard drive to an SSD
If your PC is still running on an old-fashioned hard disk, by far the biggest performance boost you could give it is to switch to an SSD. Solid-state disks have no moving parts, unlike those spinning hard-disk platters, meaning that applications load in a flash and files are retrieved near-instantly.
We’ve got a separate article showing you how to upgrade a Windows 11 PC from hard disk to SSD. It’s the kind of upgrade you can tackle yourself, but if you’re not confident, any PC repair shop will do the job for you.
The most immediate change you’ll see is that Windows will boot in a fraction of the time it took on your mechanical hard drive. What’s more, you’ll also be able to start using your system immediately, rather than wait for background apps to load. Beyond that, overall responsiveness for most activities should increase substantially on an SSD. We've also got plenty of reviews of the latest SSDs to hit the market, in case you need help picking one out.
Install Windows 11 apps from safe places
A good number of Windows performance problems are caused by app installations that bring all kinds of unwanted cruft with them: extra applications, browser toolbars, or even malware.
We’ve all been caught out by installers that have pre-ticked boxes for additional software in the rush to install a new app. However, there are ways to avoid them.
Only install software from reputable, well-known sources. Microsoft’s own app store – now called the Microsoft Store and found on the Windows 11 Taskbar – has been a vacuum in recent years, but Microsoft has made a big effort to make the Store a one-stop shop for all kinds of applications in Windows 11. If you’ve struggled to find the applications you need in the past, it might be worth another look. You can be assured that any app installed via the Microsoft Store won’t come with any unwanted baggage.
Alternatively, those more comfortable with the Command Line might prefer the Windows Package Manager. Those familiar with Linux should be right at home with the Package Manager. Once installed, it essentially allows you to install applications using a simple line of code, again avoiding any risk of something undesirable being bundled in with the application you wanted.
Installing an application becomes as simple as opening a Command Prompt and typing: winget install < appname > (without the spaces before and after appname).
Only certain apps are available via this route. You can find out more about the Windows 11 Package Manager here.
Don’t shut down Windows 11
Windows used to have a poor reputation for chewing through laptop batteries, even when the lid was shut and the computer was supposed to be sleeping. With help from modern hardware, things have massively improved in this department, meaning there’s really no need to fully shut down your PC if you’re not going to need it for a while – even for a whole weekend.
The graph displayed above shows the battery depletion for a Windows 11 laptop that was left in sleep/hibernation for almost four days. As you can see, the battery barely depleted at all during that period, and when we picked it up on the fourth day, it was ready to go from the instant we logged in. That’s much quicker than going through the full startup routine that a full shutdown would have required.
All that said, if you do find performance is getting a bit sticky with your PC, sometimes a shut down and restart is all it needs to restore its zip.
Tweak Windows 11's performance settings
Windows 11 has a selection of performance settings that are well hidden, but could make a noticeable difference to the responsiveness of the PC if you’re running the OS on a computer that just scrapes past the minimum hardware requirements.
To find these settings, open the Control Panel and then use the Search Control Panel bar in the top-right of that window to search for ‘performance’. Click on Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows.
Here, you’ll get a whole host of options to choose from, but if you choose to tick Adjust for best performance it will turn everything off. That’s overkill, as it switches off features such as ‘smooth edges of screen fonts’, which can make the onscreen typefaces very jagged and difficult to read.
Experiment with different options, but the ones most likely to boost performance are things such as animations, menu fades, and shadows under windows.
Switch Windows 11 into Best Performance battery mode
If you’re running a laptop on battery power, Windows 11 will, by default, throw the laptop into a ‘balanced’ power mode that compromises on performance to avoid the battery taking a hammering.
However, if your battery is fully charged and you need all the processing power you can lay your hands on to complete an intensive task, such as video rendering, you might want to throw the laptop into ‘best performance’ mode. To do this, go to Settings > Power & battery, and under Power mode select ‘best performance’.
This should give you the same level of performance as if the laptop were plugged in. Do keep an eye on the battery though, as it can dwindle pretty quickly when the system is being pushed to limit.
Alongside this tweak, we also have a few tips for improving laptop speed overall, which might also help improve your experience using Windows 11.
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