How to Speed Up My Computer - Older and New PCs
Here's an in-depth look at how to speed up computer performance. Achieving better speed requires taking advantage of already present utilities such as Task Manager, CPU Priority, and Video Card controls. Plus, we'll look at the importance of driver updating.
Of course, the much more effective option, is a software solution. You can use an advanced PC optimizer to easily gain serious speed increases in only minutes. All safely done with automatic advanced optimization routines that will propel your computer to a new level of improved responsiveness, stability, and best of all - a tremendous gain in performance.
Quick Steps for Faster Computer Speed in Windows
Photo-Editing software and PC games put a major strain on your CPU.
Improve your PC Speed with the Windows Task Manager
Identify unnecessary processes that drain valuable CPU cycles.
IMPORTANT: The Windows Task Manager is one of the most useful features integrated within Windows. Even if you don't have unnecessary programs running, you will do well to learn more about the Windows Task Manager in this step. It will help you gain a better understanding of how your PC's performance greatly depends on your CPU's allocation of processing power. Your CPU allocates processing cycles to programs based on your OS's plan.
This step can also be considered a prerequisite for Step 2 which teaches you how to speedup individual programs.
Starting the Windows Task Manager.
First, go down to an empty space in your task bar at the bottom of your screen and press right-click with your mouse. Then choose "Start Task Manager" by pressing left-click. Another option, press Ctrl-Alt-Del together and choose "Start Task Manager".
For our purposes, we will want to click on the "Processes" tab along the top left - the image right below shows Task Manager with the Processes tab highlighted in white.
Next, it's time to click on the "CPU" column header until the triangle is pointing down - this will set the most active processes and programs to the top.
Most users will see the "System Idle Process" as the top entry. This is normal. The "System Idle Process" at 99 means your PC is currently idle and has 99% of its' processing power ready to go when needed. I know, it's a little confusing to see the most active process as the one that shows your CPU cycles when they are NOT being used.
To get an idea of how the Task Manager senses programs using your PC's processing power, move your mouse cursor quickly in a repeatedly circular motion within the Task Manager window and you should see the "taskmgr.exe" start to use some CPU cycles while the "System Idle Process" value will drop in response. When you stop your mouse, the taskmgr.exe CPU cycles will return to zero.
If there is another program or process taking up CPU cycles, you either have a legitimate program currently running and performing some action, or possibly some malware (virus or spyware). Don't panic, make sure you turned off all other programs and you have the triangle above "CPU" pointing down - most active to least active.
Now, if there is a program or programs still using up CPU cycles, it's not time to panic - it's time to investigate. Identify the name of the programs or processes within the "Image Name" column of the Task Manager. Maybe you recognize the program and are perfectly comfortable with it running.
Next, use your favorite search engine to see if this is a legitimate program, such as your anti-virus performing a scheduled scan, or an automatic Windows maintenance routine such as defragmentation or downloading updates. Windows has a built-in Defragmenter utility to re-structure the data on your drives for reliability and performance.
If you discover one of the processes to be a virus or other form of malware, set your Anti-virus to it's most extreme or fullest system scan setting (may take hours) to see if it can correct the problem. If you do not have an Anti-virus program, here is a free online AV scan available online to help you detect malware on your PC.
HouseCall by Trend Micro - Free Online Virus Scan.
Now that you have checked for processor draining programs, it's time to see what else is running under your User Name. Click the "User Name" column header within Task Manager's "Processes" to group together all programs running under your user account. If you don't know what your user account name is, just click "Start" (lower left of your desktop) and your user name should be at the top right.
Check each entry and if you can not identify it by the listed .exe file, just use your favorite search engine again. If there are programs running that you really do not use or need, you should consider uninstalling them or at the very least prevent them from starting up when Windows starts.
WARNING: Never prevent any Anti-virus, Firewall, or Internet security programs you may have installed from starting up. It may leave your system vulnerable.
You can usually change the automatic startup options within the program's options or preferences. Sometimes, the program is within your automatic "Startup" folder, which can be located by clicking the Windows "Start" button at the bottom left of your screen. You should find the "Startup" folder in your list of "All Programs". Anything within this folder will automatically start during boot-up. Simply delete or move the shortcut to prevent automatic startup.
If you stop just one or two unneeded programs from wasting your valuable CPU cycles and PC memory space, you will have a faster boot time and speedup overall PC performance for all of your other programs.
Of course, you can take it a step further and check every single process on the list to see exactly what programs are running on your PC. This is an especially effective endeavor when you first install Windows. It's a bit of work, but if you keep notes (I use a Notepad file) you can easily keep track of any programs or processes that "magically" appear over the course of time, such as spyware, etc. Then you can identify and purge them immediately to keep your PC performance at top speed.
If all the processes listed within Task Manager meet your approval, you have at least gained a more in-depth understanding of how the Task Manager is an essential utility to help you continually monitor what is happening on your PC. Also, the important next step below requires some knowledge of the Task Manager - which you have now acquired. Thanks for having the patience to read it. Well done.
How to use CPU Priority to Speedup PC Programs
Direct additional CPU power to any program or game.
Now the exciting part, gaining faster PC speed for any program you want. This is especially effective with 3D games that occasionally stutter and have low frame rate issues. Be forewarned, however, anytime you change advanced settings such as CPU priority, you may experience stability problems. The priority assigns CPU cycles or power. Increasing the CPU Priority level for a program may improve performance.
As noted within our disclaimer and web site terms, any information we provide will be used at your own risk. Personally, I have never had stability problems by increasing the priority level, but your experiences may be different.
I only change CPU Priority when a resource intensive program (such as photo-editing software) is performing poorly. Also, far too many PC games are released in a hurried state with un-optimized code that causes crashes and stuttering. Sometimes it takes months for the game's much needed performance patch to be released - while you're waiting, it might be worth a try to set the CPU Priority to a higher level.
Okay, enough preamble.
Let's learn how to set CPU Priority within Windows Task Manager.
First, you have to start the Windows Task Manager. Go down to an empty space in your task bar at the bottom of your screen and press right-click with your mouse. Then choose "Start Task Manager" by pressing left-click. Another option, press Ctrl-Alt-Del together and choose "Start Task Manager".
Now start the program that you want to boost. If the program runs in a window - minimize it and go to the next paragraph. IF it is a full screen program like a PC game, continue reading. You will need to press and hold the "Alt" key. While continuing to hold the Alt key, press and release the "Tab" key - Notice the small window in the center of your screen. Continue to press and release the "Tab" key until you land on "Windows Task Manager", then release the "Alt" key.
Now you should be on your Desktop with the Task Manager in front of you. Your started program should still be running in the background. Make sure the "Processes" tab of the Task Manager" is selected. Now look for your running program under "Image Name" within the aforementioned "Processes" tab. It should be an execution file such as ProgramName.exe or similar. NOTE: if you don't see the name of the program - sometimes they are rather cryptic - just right-click the shortcut you use to start the program and select "Properties". In the small window that appears, you will see a "Target:" box. At the end of the line, you will see the name of the .exe file.
After identifying the program to boost within Task Manager, simply place your mouse cursor over it and press the "right-click" button of your mouse. A box will open and you will need to move your cursor down to "Set Priority". See the image below but please don't change anything until you read the paragraphs below.
There are 6 choices available ranging from "Low" to "Realtime". The default level will usually be "Normal". You may want to start by setting the CPU Priority to "Above Normal". Then if your program remains stable, continue to "High".
The highest setting is "Realtime" which is NOT recommended as you will probably experience audio stutter and other problems since the processor is favoring your program almost exclusively - while not updating other routines in a timely manner.
I prefer to set priority to the "High" setting for programs that challenge the limits of my PC system specs. I also use it for new PC games that are released in the "all too common" unstable state - leaving you waiting (and no doubt growling) for a patch. For what it's worth, I used the "High" priority setting to successfully boost performance and complete a poorly optimized PC game without any problems. Even finished it before the performance patch was released.
Okay, where were we... right, you have your cursor over the "Set Priority" selection and the following choices have appeared:
Realtime (NOT Recommended)
Normal (Usually the Default)
Now select the level of priority - you may want to start with "Above Normal". Next, a box will appear asking... Do you want to change the priority of 'ProgramName.exe'? Please take note of the warning included stating, Changing the priority of certain processes could cause system instability. Click on "Change priority" if you want to proceed. Now resume your program using Alt-Tab again or clicking it at the bottom of your screen in the task bar. If everything works satisfactory, you can try using "High" priority and in extreme cases where increased performance is essential, you may want to try the "Realtime" priority - but I have had mixed results and do not feel it's worth the stability issues.
Unfortunately, you can not save the CPU Priorities and will have to do this procedure every time you start the program. However, you can use batch files to automatically start a program at a specific CPU Priority, but that is beyond the scope of this article. We may post this procedure at a later date.
Adjust Video Card Settings for Faster PC Performance
If your PC system is struggling to keep up with a modern PC game or a 3D application, you should strongly consider adjusting your video card graphic settings. You can easily use the general performance option to quickly gain an increase to your game's Frames per Second (FPS) therefore improving movement in the game.
Dedicated Video Cards vs Integrated Video Cards
First let's take a look at the two types of video cards to temper our expectations. There's no winner here, it's just to show you the differences. However, if you are purchasing a new PC and the features and price point are the same, you may want to lean towards a PC with a dedicated graphics card over an integrated one.
Dedicated Video Card - A separate piece of hardware, the dedicated video card can be easily upgraded to a new card when required. Also, unlike an integrated card, the dedicated card has its' own memory chips on board so it does not need to use up your PC's memory. Faster and more configurable than an Integrated (shared) card. The most popular dedicated video cards are made by nVidia and AMD (ATI). Their cards are also packaged and sold (sometimes with enhancements) under well known brands such as PNY, EVGA, MSI, ASUS, GIGABYTE, SAPPHIRE, XFX, and others.
Integrated Video Card - Found in many laptops and entry level desktops, an integrated card shares memory with the rest of your system. These cards are also soldered into the motherboard. Please be aware that an integrated video card will usually struggle with today's graphic intensive games. However, it's not impossible to still enjoy most games with a few changes to your integrated graphic card settings. Popular integrated brands include Intel, AMD (ATI), and nVidia.
Quickly Improve Video Card Performance
Many advanced PC gamers take the time to meticulously adjusts every setting in their video card control panel for each individual game. That's great and we encourage you to learn as much as possible by playing with the different settings. However, most of our visitor's want to quickly adjust their video card settings so they can get right to the action.
You should be able to fine tune your graphics card to perfection with video cards built-in driver utility such as nVidia's Control Panel. AMD's (ATI) version is called the Catalyst Control Center.
The video cards control utilities are usually included and installed automatically with your video card's drivers. However, if your graphic's card control utility is not installed, you should check your graphic's card web site. Be aware that integrated and specialized cards may not work properly with the "full" version drivers and control utilities. If you have an integrated or specialized card, you would be better off checking with your PC or video card manufacturer to see if they have a specific driver version for your card.
Access your graphic card's utility by right-clicking an empty space on your desktop and select the utility such as "nVidia Control Panel" or AMD's "Catalyst Control Center". Alternatively you may be able to find your Graphic Card's Utility by locating it within the Windows Control Panel which can be accessed by clicking on the Windows "Start" button (lower left of your screen).
nVidia® Control Panel Preference Settings: Performance - Balanced - Quality
Open the "3D Settings" task on the left side of the panel. Then select "Adjust image settings with preview". Under the preview image, choose "Use my preference". The control slider will now be active. As you move the slider, take notice of the preview image, it will give you an indication of the changes you are making to the quality of the image. Move the slider to "Performance" and you should notice a great frames per second improvement while gaming or using Video applications. If you find the image details to be too low grade, try the "Balanced" setting. If you ever want to go back to the default settings, simply click "Restore Defaults" at the top right of your nVidia Control Panel.
AMD® Catalyst Control Center Standard Settings: Performance - Balanced - Quality
Make sure you are using the "Advanced settings", and have read through all of the warnings. In the top left window, open the 3D heading by clicking the "+" sign next to it. Use the preview image to look at the differences in image quality as you move the slider to the various levels. If you want to speedup your PC performance, move the slider to the "Performance" selection. Click "Apply" and then "OK" and accept any warnings that may appear and you should see a massive improvement in your PC's gaming performance. return to the default levels at any time by simply clicking the "Defaults" button at the bottom of the Control Center.
As you can see there are many other individual settings you can change within your Video Card's control utility. If you are still not happy with the performance or image quality trade-offs, keep experimenting with the various settings until you hit the sweet spot for your particular PC configuration. Just take heed of any warnings that may appear. Oh, and beware of falling into the Tweak Trap, it got me once and I spent more time adjusting my video card settings than actually playing the game.
Loss of Image Quality vs Improved Performance
It's a personal preference, but I would rather have the freedom of movement in a game than all of the graphical eye candy distracting me from my main objective. How far do we need to take it? I actually prefer the more grainy look of older games than the photo realistic detailed textures in today's modern games.
In the end, I feel we just want to enjoy the game via the actual game play. The secret is to find the proper balance between your video card's performance capabilities and how much image quality you are willing to sacrifice.
Update Important PC Drivers for a Speed Boost
When things are working well on your PC, it's easy to overlook one of the more critical steps to keeping your PC operating smoothly and at maximum performance. Driver updates are indeed a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to speeding up and stabilizing your PC experience.
Most Important drivers to update.
You guessed it. The video card and sound card driver updates will optimize your cards for faster and more stable performance. They may also include exclusive improvements for individual PC games and app's. These are driver updates that you do not want to miss out on. Video card drivers are usually updated every few months or so, while sound card drivers can take a year or more to change.
NOTE: Windows Update will occasionally list new drivers for your PC, but these are sometimes a no-frills version that actually may be outdated due to the time it takes for those drivers to get approved. Your best bet is to go to your Video Card or PC manufacturer's web site and download the latest drivers from there. Also, if Windows Update is listing a graphics card or sound card driver, it's a gentle nudge signifying you probably left it go too long.
How to Find my Video Card and Sound Card Model
Using the DirectX Diagnostic Tool
Find Video Card Type: Click Windows "Start" (Bottom left of screen) and type dxdiag in the "Search" box. Then hit "Enter" or select dxdiag.exe from the list. Wait for the program (it's called the DirectX Diagnostic Tool) to load and then click the "Display" tab at the top. The name and manufacturer of your video card will be shown on the left, while your driver version with date will be displayed on the right.
NOTE: The "DAC Type" within the DirectX Diagnostic Tool Display tab may show you have an Integrated RAMDAC (Random Access Memory Digital to Analog Converter). This should not be confused with the integrated video card term. You can have a dedicated video card and still have an Integrated RAMDAC.
Find Sound Card Type: To find the Sound Card model, simply select the "Sound" tab within DirectX Diagnostics. Your sound device name is listed on the left and your sound driver is shown on the right complete with date.
How to Find My Windows Edition
For those who don't know their exact edition of Windows, please click on Windows "Start" (Bottom left of Desktop) and find your "Control Panel". Once open, choose "System" and you should be able to read which version you have at the top under "Windows Edition". The 32 or 64 bit version is displayed about halfway down under "System type". I did this in Windows 7, other versions may be slightly different.
How to Get Your NEW Video Card and Sound Card Drivers
Make Driver Updating Easy - Organizing your Favorites or Bookmarks with a specific "Drivers" folder will make it easy for you when looking to upgrade your important hardware drivers. The image below shows the "Drivers" folder we created within our web browser. We placed our bookmarked links to our video and sound cards' driver pages. Also, you can re-name your links by placing your mouse cursor over them and right-click, then simply left click on "Rename". It's best to rename them your model number, so it's easier when you visit the download page to choose the correct driver. We added the number 01, and 02 at the beginning to make it easy to sort them in our preferred order as the list continues to grow. Right-click within the folder and select "Sort by Name" to set the order.
Organize Your Browser Favorites (Bookmarks)
Find your driver links below to bookmark or add the page to your web browser's favorites in an organized fashion as shown in the image above.
Popular Driver Download Links
NOTE: For Integrated onboard Video Cards (ie: Soldered to Motherboard), your Video Card manufacturer may have an integrated driver version available. If not, check with your PC's manufacturer for a special integrated video card driver.
IMPORTANT: If you have an AMD (ATI) video card, apparently you still need to uninstall your old driver before installing a new driver.
These are by far the most popular video and sound card manufacturers. If yours is not listed, simply type your card's manufacturer name in your favorite search engine to find their web site For the most detailed and up to date information about how each driver download works, please read your product's web site support section.
a) nVidia Video Cards Driver Downloads
At nVidia's drivers page you can select 2 options, Manual or automatic. For the manual option, choose your "Product Type" (usually GeForce), then select your series and product - an example would be if you owned a Geforce GTX 590, you would select the 500 series. By the way, the M designation, such as 500M series means it's a Mobility video card - for a notebook or laptop. Finally choose your Operating System and language. Click "Search", then download your driver. The automatic option will install a browser add-on that you will need to give permission to scan your system so it can read your exact model. I'm not a big fan of allowing any browser add-ons. I like to keep my PC system clean as a whistle, but if you are not sure about which driver to select, this would certainly be the safest option. The next step is easy after you download your driver. Just run the file you downloaded and follow the on-screen instructions. Restart your PC and your new Video Card driver will be activated with all of the new performance improvements.
b) AMD (ATI) Video Cards (Graphic) Driver Downloads
A very easy to use the AMD driver selector. First choose your "type of system" which will usually be Desktop Graphics or Notebook Graphics. Note: if you have an integrated video card, make sure you choose "Integrated Motherboard Graphics" further down the list. next choose your product family or series. Then select your AMD Graphics card model name. Next, select your Windows version and click "Display Results". You will be presented with your driver download option. Simply follow the instructions. In the AMD FAQs, under the "Guide on how to install an ATI graphics card and / or its drivers", it reads, "Remove any pre-existing drivers / software for the graphics card." So it looks like it is recommended to uninstall your old drivers before installing the new ones. If you don't know how to uninstall a driver, please use the AMD support site for more information.
c) Creative Sound Cards Driver Downloads
You can choose to manually go through a massive list of similar named drivers (very confusing indeed) or take the safe route and look to the bottom of the page for the (in this case) very welcomed "Software AutoUpdate" button. I am usually against these programs scanning my PC, but compared to wrestling with the tremendous variations of Creative Sound Card drivers it's actually a blessing. If you run the program, just follow the prompts to automatically update your Creative Sound Card. Alternatively, if you know exactly which sound card you have, you can visit the Creative Product Selector page and go through the process of clicking through to your exact card. Then bookmark it so you have easier access next time.
d) HT Omega Sound Cards Driver Downloads
Clear and concise is how I would describe HT Omega's driver download page. It's very straight-forward, just choose your product and model. then click on the Driver's .zip file next to your Windows Edition. NOTE: you must uninstall any existing HT Omega Drivers first as stated on their driver page, "Please uninstall existing driver and rebooting [sic] system before new driver installation". Once downloaded to your PC, you will have to unzip the file by right-clicking on it and choosing "Extract All..." then select "Extract". Now click in the new folder that was created and you will see the "setup" file. Clicking the "setup.exe" file will initiate the driver install.
Use a Modern PC Optimizer for Maximum Speed
Considering the Windows operating system and your computer hardware configuration are preset at default levels. It's no wonder that our PC speed does not even come close to its' capabilities. All PC's, yours included, are setup to be ready for hardware and system processes that you will never use such as defunct devices and advanced programming aids. By default, this causes slow and sluggish PC speed. Every PC out there today has been configured to be compatible with devices and hardware that you will never use or have even heard of. This creates tremendous invisible bloat on your PC and reduces performance drastically.
Since it is impossible to manually over-ride the very configuration of your Windows services, registry, and hardware driver routines without great risk to your PC's stability - not to mention the months of training you would need. A software solution is the answer to safely and effective streamline your PC to extremely faster speeds with the added bonus of improved stability.
Beware though, there are many PC Optimizer Suites, Registry Cleaners, and Internet Accelerators that do more harm than good. Some even place speed-reducing Spyware on your PC - if there are two terms that do not belong together, it's PC Optimizer and Spyware.
"The days of optimizers being ineffective are over. These newly advanced PC optimizers dig deep into your PC and really do work. Reliability and stability improved too. A truly safe speed boost."
Use an advanced PC optimizer to gain serious speed increases in only minutes. All safely done with automatic advanced optimization routines that will propel your computer to a new level of improved responsiveness, stability, and best of all - a tremendous gain in performance.
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