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14 free software speed boosts for your PC

Turbocharge your computer from startup to shutdown

If upgrading your PC is out of the question, fear not. You still have plenty of options for increasing its pep. A few simple software settings can lead to massive performance gains. Here's our best 14 tips and tweaks to turbocharge your PC with software.

Give ReadyBoost a try

If you have an older PC with very little RAM, you can cheat your way to a modest speed increase by using ReadyBoost, which lets you plug a USB thumb drive into your computer and use it in lieu of true RAM modules. To use this strategy you'll need a high-speed USB port and a large, high-speed USB drive. If the drive is a good fit for ReadyBoost, Windows will give you the option to enable it when you plug it in. When the AutoPlay window pops up, select Speed up my system; then follow the instructions.

Try new drivers

According to conventional wisdom, you shouldn't install new drivers if nothing is wrong with your computer, because doing so may mess up something that worked fine before. Admittedly this undesirable result can occur, but you are far more likely to im­­prove your PC's performance.

To minimise your risk of breaking your PC with a bum driver update, first create a System Restore point that you can go back to if anything goes wrong: Type Create a restore point at the Start menu search box, and click Create... in the window that opens. This will create a safety net that you'll have access to, no matter what happens.

Your next stop in upgrading the drivers should be Windows Update. Click Check for Updates, and then click the text noting how many updates are available. Typically Microsoft classifies driver updates as optional, so even if the Windows Update text indicates that you don't need any critical updates, you should still click the link. Tick the checkbox next to any updated drivers, and click OK to install.

Next, visit the manufacturer's website for your computer and/or for the devices you have attached to it. Check the support page for your machine, and download any new drivers that appear. In most cases you'll have to know the particular piece of hardware that is in­­stalled on your machine (check the Windows Device Manager if you're not sure what a component's model number is), and you should download only the drivers you need. Install the new drivers as instructed; usually this step in­­volves running a simple executable file and then rebooting. Test your system thoroughly after each driver installation, and make additional System Restore points if you're upgrading more than a few drivers. The largest performance gains result from updating your BIOS, motherboard drivers, and graphics card drivers.

Kill splash screens

Splash screens don't bog down your computer per se, but they do insert a speed bump into your schedule whenever you launch an application, and that extra time can add up. You can turn off many splash screens in the programs' settings. Turning off splash screens may not make your application load significantly faster, but it may make it feel that way to you.

NEXT PAGE: Scrub startup apps

  1. From startup to shutdown
  2. ReadyBoost
  3. Scrub startup apps
  4. Kill compression

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