PC feeling sluggish? Speed it back up with these free apps

Windows feeling a little … slower than it used to be? Sometimes it’s a sign that it’s time to add more memory, upgrade that old hard drive to an SSD, or give up on that aging machine and upgrade to a new computer. But before you do that, try out these apps that might speed up Windows for free!

One of my favorites is Smart Defrag 4. Here’s the deal: When you use a hard drive, the data gets broken into pieces and stored anywhere the drive has open space. This is called fragmenting. Picture stashing encyclopedias anywhere in the library where there’s enough space on the shelf to fit it. When you went to look for a volume, you would have to jump all over the place to find the pieces. The same thing happens on your hard drive. It’d be nice if the encyclopedia — or your data­ — was all neatly filed in sequential order in one place. The hard disk head ­– or your librarian — just zips over there and grabs the whole set.

That process is called defragmenting. There’s a defragging tool built into windows, but it’s slooow. IObit’s Smart Defrag 4 is much faster. Just be careful when you install it that you uncheck any boxes trying to install other apps at the same time. That’s a good habit anytime you’re installing a new app!

IObit Smart Defrag 4
IObit Smart Defrag 4

You don’t want to defrag a solid state drive (SSD), so avoid apps that tell you they’re defragging your SSD to speed it up. What you do want is the “trim” command turned on in Windows. That should already be happening if you’re running Windows 7 or newer.

One last thought about hard drives: If you’ve filled your SSD over 75 percent capacity, you’re probably slowing it down. If Windows panics and tells you you’re running out of HD space, copy what you can onto another drive, then run an app like Piriform CCleaner. Don’t use it for registry edits — I’m not a big fan of registry cleaning — but it’s a great tool to find files you can delete from your drive to make space!

Got your drive sorted? Update your drivers. Drivers are the programs, or bits of code, that enable Windows to use, Wi-Fi, the CPU’s chipset, and all the other hardware that makes up your PC. New graphics drivers can make and amazing difference on your favorite 3D games. You can check your PC manufacturer’s website, or figure out all the hardware in your system and root through the website for each manufacturer: Intel, Nvidia, Broadcom, etc. But you can save yourself a ton of time with a tool like Slimware Utilities SlimDrivers, or IObit’s Driver Booster Free. They’ll automatically scan your system, figure out which hardware you have, and help you download and install drivers for it. By the way, if you’re a gamer with a serious 3D GPU, you need to update those drivers regularly to get the most out of your games!

IObit Driver Booster 3 Free
IObit Driver Booster 3 Free

Did your Windows box slow down all of a sudden? Maybe your teenager downloaded some new apps, or went browsing places they shouldn’t have? You might notice weird pop-up ads, toolbars, or apps you don’t remember installing. Maybe you type in a Web address, and get taken somewhere else? These are all signs you might have malware or a virus on your machine. They’ll often chew up clock cycles and memory that your apps need to run fast.

At the very least, you should have Windows Defender on your PC. It’s pre­installed with Windows 10, and Windows 8 should have nagged you to install it if you don’t have any other antivirus installed. Avast, Malwarebytes and Bitdefender are all good antivirus and anti-malware options. Whichever you choose, open it from the Start menu and hit the update button. This will add the latest spyware and virus definitions. Now click on the scan button. Hopefully you don’t have any nasty stuff in there, but if you do, follow the directions to remove it. Rooting out nasty piles of spyware and malware can make an unusable machine fly! And keeping your antivirus up to date will help keep that from happening again.

Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Computing

Delete tracking cookies from your system by following these quick steps

Cookies are useful when it comes to saving your login credentials and other data, but they can also be used by advertisers to track your browsing habits across multiple sites. Here's how to clear cookies in the major browsers.
Computing

Stop your PC's vow of silence with these tips on how to fix audio problems

Sound problems got you down? Don't worry, with a few tweaks and tricks we'll get your sound card functioning as it should, and you listening to your favorite tunes and in-game audio in no time.
Computing

Change your mouse cursor in Windows with these quick tips

The standard mouse cursor is boring, so change it! With this guide on how to change your mouse cursor in Windows, you can choose to use one of Microsoft's pre-installed cursors or download something a bit more extravagant.
Computing

Is your PC slow? Here's how to restore Windows 10 to factory settings

Computers rarely work as well after they accumulate files and misconfigure settings. Thankfully, with this guide, you'll be able to restore your PC to its original state by learning how to factory reset Windows.
Computing

Hackers are scoring with ransomware that attacks its previous victims

Computer viruses are always evolving. In a new one, dubbed "Ryuk," hackers are targeting PCs with ransomware that scours an infected network in order to pinpoint and attack and enterprises with big money.
Computing

An update to Microsoft To-Do will help you keep up with your resolutions

If you're looking to stay productive in 2019, you might want to check out the freshly updated Microsoft To-Do app, now with additional integration with the Windows 10 Start Menu and more.
Computing

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Computing

Could the next Microsoft HoloLens be announced at MWC 2019?

After not having a presence at Mobile World Congress for three years, Microsoft is now sending out media invites for a press conference on February 24 during the annual event in Barcelona. Could a next-generation HoloLens be on the way?
Computing

Microsoft to separate Cortana from search with the next version of Windows 10

Changes are on the way for two key features in Windows 10. A separation of Windows 10 search and Cortana will allow Microsoft to more often innovate on each of the features independently.
Computing

Convert your PDFs into convenient Word documents with Adobe or a free option

PDF files are great, but few document types are as malleable as those specific to Microsoft Word. Here's how to convert a PDF file into a Word document, whether you prefer to use Adobe's software suite or a freemium alternative.
Computing

Nvidia’s next midrange card might be a GTX 1660 Ti, rumors suggest

Nvidia may be working on a non-RTX Turing graphics card called the 1660 Ti. Rumors suggest it will have around 20 percent fewer CUDA cores than the RTX 2060 and will lack ray tracing support.
Deals

From Samsung to HP, here are the best cheap Chromebook deals right now

Whether you want a compact laptop to enjoy some entertainment on the go, or you need a no-nonsense machine for school or work, we've smoked out the best cheap Chromebook deals -- from full-sized laptops to 2-in-1 convertibles -- with most…
Computing

Chromebook 13 vs. Google Pixelbook: Acer model takes on the king

Acer's Chromebook 13 is throwing tons of speed at the Chrome OS market, to go with a midrange build and traditional clamshell design. Is that enough to challenge the Google Pixelbook?