Disable shadows, animations and visual effects
Windows 10 has some nice eye candy — shadows, animations and visual effects. On fast, newer PCs, these don’t usually affect system performance. But on slower and older PCs, they can exact a performance hit.
It’s easy to turn them off. In the Windows 10 search box, type sysdm.cpl and press Enter. That launches the System Properties dialog box. Click the Advanced tab and click Settings in the Performance section. That brings you to the Performance Options dialog box. You’ll see a varied list of animations and special effects.
If you have time on your hands and love to tweak, you can turn individual options on and off. These are the animations and special effects you’ll probably want to turn off, because they have the greatest effect on system performance:
- Animate controls and elements inside windows
- Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing
- Animations in the taskbar
- Fade or slide menus into view
- Fade or slide ToolTips into view
- Fade out menu items after clicking
- Show shadows under windows
However, it’s probably a lot easier to just select “Adjust for best performance” at the top of the screen and then click OK. Windows 10 will then turn off the effects that slow down your system.
Turn on automated Windows maintenance
Every day, behind the scenes, Windows 10 performs maintenance on your PC. It does things like security scanning and performing system diagnostics to make sure everything is up to snuff — and automatically fixes problems if it finds them. That makes sure your PC runs at peak performance. By default, this automatic maintenance runs every day at 2:00 a.m., as long as your device is plugged into a power source and is asleep.
There’s a chance, though, that the feature has been accidentally turned off or you haven’t had your PC plugged in for a while, so the maintenance hasn’t been done. You can make sure it’s turned on and runs every day, and run it manually if you’d like.
Run the Control Panel app and select System and Security > Security and Maintenance. In the Maintenance section, under Automatic Maintenance, click “Start maintenance” if you want it to run now. To make sure that it runs every day, click “Change maintenance settings,” and from the screen that appears, select the time you’d like maintenance to run, and check the box next to “Allow scheduled maintenance to wake up my computer at the scheduled time.” Then click OK.
Get help from the Performance Monitor
There’s a great tool in Windows 10 called the Performance Monitor that can, among other things, create a detailed performance report about your PC, detail any system and performance issues, and suggest fixes.
To get the report, type perfmon /report into your search box and press Enter. (Make sure there’s a space between “perfmon” and the slash mark.) The Resource and Performance Monitor launches and gathers information about your system. It will say that it will take 60 seconds, but I’ve found that it takes several minutes. When the Monitor finishes, it will launch an interactive report.
You’ll find a lot of extremely detailed information in the report, and it can take a lot of time to go through. Your best bet is to first look at the Warning section, which details the biggest issues (if any) it found on your PC, such as problems with Windows, with drivers and so on. It also tells you how to fix each problem — for example, how to turn on a device that has been disabled.
It is also worthwhile to scroll down to the Resource Overview section, where you’ll find an analysis of how well your CPU, network, disk and memory are performing. Each result is color-coded, with green meaning no problems, yellow meaning potential issues, and red showing a problem.
Beyond that, the Resource Overview also reports performance metrics and explanatory details. For example, for the CPU, it might show green and a utilization of 21%, with the details “Normal CPU load.” Or for Memory, it might show yellow, with 62% utilization and the details “1520 MB is available.” Based on what you get, you might want to do something about your hardware — for example, add more memory.
Sometimes the biggest factor slowing down your PC isn’t Windows 10 itself, but bloatware or adware that takes up CPU and system resources. Adware and bloatware are particularly insidious because they may have been installed by your computer’s manufacturer. You’d be amazed at how much more quickly your Windows 10 PC can run if you get rid of it.
First, run a system scan to find adware and malware. If you’ve already installed a security suite such as Norton Security or McAfee LiveSafe, you can use that. You can also use Windows 10’s built in anti-malware app — just type Windows Defender in the search box, press Enter, and then click Scan Now. Windows Defender will look for malware and remove any it finds.
It’s a good idea to get a second opinion, though, so consider a free tool like Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. The free version scans for malware and removes what it finds; the paid version offers always-on protection to stop infections in the first place.
Now you can check for bloatware and get rid of it. Several free programs will do this for you; your best bet is to run several of them, because no single one will find all the bloatware on your PC. Good choices are the PC Decrapifier, Should I Remove It? and SlimComputer.
For more details about removing bloatware, check out Computerworld’s article “Bloatware: What it is and how to get rid of it.”
Defrag your hard disk
The more you use your hard disk, the more it can become fragmented, which can slow down your PC. When a disk gets fragmented, it stores files willy-nilly across it, and it takes a while for Windows to put them together before running them.
Windows 10, though, has a built-in defragmenter you can use to defragment your hard disk. You can even tell it to run automatically so it stays constantly defragmented.
To do it, type defrag into the search box and press Enter. From the screen that appears, select the drive you want you want to defragment. Click the Optimize button to defragment it. Select multiple disks by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking each you want to defragment.
If you want to have your disk or disks defragmented automatically, click the Change settings button, then check the box next to “Run on a schedule.” Now select the frequency at which you want the disk(s) defragmented by clicking the drop-down next to Frequency and selecting Daily, Weekly or Monthly. (Weekly will be your best bet.) From this screen you can also choose multiple drives to defragment.