Computers & Electronics

Best freeware/shareware to optimize PC performance

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  • Dec 12th, 2022 9:39 am
[OP]
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Jun 28, 2003
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Best freeware/shareware to optimize PC performance

Hello folks, my wife has a laptop that is about 6 years old. She is only using it for email, online banking and updating financial spreadsheet (no macros).

It's becoming progressively slow over the years and I am wondering if you can recommend a freeware/shareware program that can help get rid of some junk and optimize the performance.

I did some quick Googling and it sounds like Iolo System Mechanic is a good candidate but if you have any other suggestions, I am all ears.

I am planning to clean up her laptop over the holidays and if the system performance doesn't improve, we may look at getting a new laptop for her.

Thanks very much.
39 replies
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Feb 8, 2014
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Remove all personal files, and reinstall Windows.
Many name brand computers have a software reset option built into them already.

But be very thorough on removing and backing up all personal files, from the desktop to download folders to everywhere else there are personal files.
Also i tend to do a Macrium Reflect image of the OS drive before the re-installation for extra peace of mind in case there are unforeseen issues.
In fact in Rand McNally they wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people
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Sep 1, 2001
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Kanata
best option replace HD with SSD ....HUGE difference.

SSD so cheap now
Sr. Member
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Jul 15, 2003
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Two things to speed up this laptop significantly.
1. If it doesn't have an SSD, replace the spinning hard drive with a cheap SSD (arround $40 for 500GB).
2. Install Windows from scratch on the SSD.

It's amazing how fast a machine is with a fresh Windows install and an SSD. I did both of this for a friend a couple of days ago and she was amazed how her sluggish old laptop is now snappy.

If you can't do #2, then just use Macrium Reflect Free to clone the hard drive to the SSD using a cheap drive enclosure (around $20), then install the SSD in the laptop replacing the hard drive.

If you don't have the knowledge to install an SSD, then backing up all the files to an external drive and reinstalling Windows as suggested by Quentin5 is your best bet.

In my experience system cleanup utilities rarely work well.
Sr. Member
Jun 21, 2008
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mississauga
spider wrote: best option replace HD with SSD ....HUGE difference.

SSD so cheap now
yep i did this with an acer, night and day difference
Deal Addict
Dec 11, 2008
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Man this got long. Sorry.

As others have mentioned, go with an SSD drive for the best performance boost. I would suggest using a Samsung 870 drive (if your computer only has SATA connections). If you're not sure, send me the model number and I'll look it up for you.

Don't bother with using most third party tools. You can easily mess things up by deleting the wrong things and a lot of these programs can easily get you in trouble. This is what I would do.

Exit out of all programs so nothing is running. It's probably best if you just boot up the computer and open Windows Explorer (to browse your drive, not the internet).
Go to C:\Windows\Temp delete everything within this folder.
Go to C:\Users\your username\appdata\Local\Temp delete everything within this folder.

When deleting the above, you may get a request telling you that you cannot delete everything. That's ok as it's expected.

Go to C:\Windows and sort by size and look for a file MEMORY.DMP. Delete it. This is a leftover from a blue screen (BSOD).

To speed things up. Go to The Windows Club and download UWT for your version of Windows. If you're using Windows 10, here's the link:
https://www.thewindowsclub.com/ultimate ... windows-10

You'll need to scroll down a bit but you're looking for a blue box with white writing "Download Ultimate Windows Tweaker".
Download it and extract the files. It should extract to a folder "Ultimate Windows Tweaker 4.8"
Run the program "Ultimate Windows Tweaker 4.8.exe" and click on Create a Restore point.
Once it's done, Click on Performance and slide all of the bars to the left and click on Auto End Non Responsive Programs.
Click on Apply Tweaks.
Restart your computer.

There are more options that you can select with this program but this will have the most bang for the buck.

You can hit CTRL-ALT-DEL and click on Task Manager from the list of items.
Click on Startup and then click on the column titled Status to sort by what's enabled or disabled.
Disable what you don't need to startup automatically, such as any Adobe related programs. Onedrive, if you don't use it. Cortana, Phone Link, SKype ...

Make sure that you don't turn off any anti-virus related programs but once again, ask if you're not sure.
Deal Fanatic
Jan 21, 2018
7831 posts
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Vancouver
SSD is a good step.

Don't use automated cleaners - they try to strike a balance between screwing up your computer and having too little effect on performance, and somehow manage to do both.

Windows gets slow in 2 ways:

The dreadful Windows registry keeps growing and accumulating junk until you re-install Windows from scratch. SSD will at least let it load 100x faster.

You keep adding new software and components that stupidly install themselves to load at boot and remain always running even when that's totally unnecessary, sucking up memory and CPU. Unfortunately these have to be painstakingly removed one at a time. Take a look at your Task Manager when the system is supposed to be idle, and start tracking down and eliminating things that have no good reason to be running.
Deal Guru
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Mar 13, 2004
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Only program I would suggest that may help slightly would be CCleaner, free version clean it all up and also registry section too. But really to make a big difference would be reinstall windows. Depending on the computer specs and budget as others have said an SSD would be a big difference in performance too. Getting rid of and stopping startup programs that are not needed can make a difference as well.
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Jul 15, 2003
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Canuck_TO wrote: Man this got long. Sorry.

As others have mentioned, go with an SSD drive for the best performance boost. I would suggest using a Samsung 870 drive (if your computer only has SATA connections). If you're not sure, send me the model number and I'll look it up for you.
I will not buy another Samsung SSD after the headache in getting a warranty replacement earlier this year. In Canada you have to get the warranty covered by the retailer you bought it from, and they often aren't keen on helping (ie. Amazon).

An Adata SSD that failed on me was simply replaced by mail; I opened a ticket, mailed them the old drive, and a new one arrived a week later.

For an older laptop I would just buy the cheapest name brand SSD you can get, regardless of whether it is has a cache or not. I bought a $36 Adata 480GB SSD last week for my friend's laptop and it made a huge difference in speed.
Deal Addict
Dec 11, 2008
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rodenti wrote: I will not buy another Samsung SSD after the headache in getting a warranty replacement earlier this year. In Canada you have to get the warranty covered by the retailer you bought it from, and they often aren't keen on helping (ie. Amazon).

An Adata SSD that failed on me was simply replaced by mail; I opened a ticket, mailed them the old drive, and a new one arrived a week later.

For an older laptop I would just buy the cheapest name brand SSD you can get, regardless of whether it is has a cache or not. I bought a $36 Adata 480GB SSD last week for my friend's laptop and it made a huge difference in speed.
Who was the retailer with your Amazon purchase? It seems very odd that a company would not stand behind a retailer and honour the warranty.

I can't advocate for buying the cheapest as buying cheap can easily get you burned.
Considering that I have to make sure that what I buy for my clients lasts, I go with what works. Saying that, I've had to drop WD as a drive company due to reliability issues and WD not properly dealing with a warranty. Even after I prepaid for a replacement.
Another reason I dropped them is because a NAS manufacturer no longer could recommend them due to high failure rates.

I've used Adata drives in the past and they were my goto for external, portable drives since they offered good drop protection. There was a specific SSD that they made that had high failure rates but I don't think that I see it in their product list anymore.
Deal Addict
Dec 22, 2007
1451 posts
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Mississauga
canabiz wrote: Hello folks, my wife has a laptop that is about 6 years old. She is only using it for email, online banking and updating financial spreadsheet (no macros).

It's becoming progressively slow over the years and I am wondering if you can recommend a freeware/shareware program that can help get rid of some junk and optimize the performance.

I did some quick Googling and it sounds like Iolo System Mechanic is a good candidate but if you have any other suggestions, I am all ears.

I am planning to clean up her laptop over the holidays and if the system performance doesn't improve, we may look at getting a new laptop for her.

Thanks very much.
try the reformatting after backing up files
also see what programs are running as there may be stuff that always starts which takes up resources
are you running more than one antivirus?
if your wife does everything online moving away from windows can also do wonders.. i have a ubuntu machine and its quicker than windows on the same machine
one final thought windows has grown in size and requirements over the last 6 years
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Jun 27, 2004
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Open a Command window and type: msconfig

Check out the Startup pane and see if there's any crap that you don't need running. Quite often, printer/scanner software utilities are running unncessarily in the background.

Services pane can be helpful if you know what you're doing. Check "Hide all Microsoft services" and see what's left. I find that some software have services running that keeps your software up to date. Personally, I disable them because I'm okay manually updating, but it depends on the user.

If there's 8GB of RAM or less, you may consider upgrading. Some email software, like Thunderbird, sucks up RAM like crazy.
Sr. Member
Jun 21, 2008
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mississauga
rabbit wrote: Open a Command window and type: msconfig

Check out the Startup pane and see if there's any crap that you don't need running. Quite often, printer/scanner software utilities are running unncessarily in the background.

Services pane can be helpful if you know what you're doing. Check "Hide all Microsoft services" and see what's left. I find that some software have services running that keeps your software up to date. Personally, I disable them because I'm okay manually updating, but it depends on the user.

If there's 8GB of RAM or less, you may consider upgrading. Some email software, like Thunderbird, sucks up RAM like crazy.
yep, i had an Hp printer with installed software, after uninstalling it, every time on cold start error message would come up "cannot find ....."
finally got fed up and did what you suggest and there's peace in the land again
Sr. Member
Jun 21, 2008
961 posts
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mississauga
DeletedMemories wrote: try the reformatting after backing up files
also see what programs are running as there may be stuff that always starts which takes up resources
are you running more than one antivirus?
if your wife does everything online moving away from windows can also do wonders.. i have a ubuntu machine and its quicker than windows on the same machine
one final thought windows has grown in size and requirements over the last 6 years
also chromebook would be a very good alternative
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Nov 15, 2020
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reinstall windows. If you were ok with the performance back then, then you should ok after the reinstall.
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Jun 4, 2013
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sickcars wrote: Only program I would suggest that may help slightly would be CCleaner, free version clean it all up and also registry section too. But really to make a big difference would be reinstall windows. Depending on the computer specs and budget as others have said an SSD would be a big difference in performance too. Getting rid of and stopping startup programs that are not needed can make a difference as well.
Might need to do this on my PC soon. I don't do much on my PC now just a few games here and there.
I would suggest OP to check the install programs to see what his wife actually uses. Often times laptop came pre loaded with tones of stuff you don't really need at all. Like who needs two to three anti virus or anti spyware? Using Windows defender is good enough for most people.

That's the one thing I like about Apple computer and laptops. They don't have all these crapware pre-installed. Just waht you need.
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Sep 1, 2005
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My advice is to ditch the laptop and just buy her a Chromebook [should've bought the Lenovo C13 for $170 all in just recently] ...that's all she needs and you'll save yourself a ton of aggravation. Re. simple spreadsheets - just use google "sheets" and you can access it anywhere anytime.

Chromebook - no virus, no slowdown over time, simple easy, fast bootups. If it slows down, it's a simple one button Powerwash.

Windows - bloody OS updates that don't work, updating virus software, doing periodic scans, driveby "alert you have a virus" messages etc. Forget about it.

I refuse to spend more time cleaning up old machines which are chugging.
We're all bozos on the bus until we find a way to express ourselves...

Failure is always an option...just not the preferred one!
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Jul 15, 2003
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Canuck_TO wrote: Who was the retailer with your Amazon purchase? It seems very odd that a company would not stand behind a retailer and honour the warranty.
Shipped and sold by Amazon.ca

Amazon at first stood by their 30 day return policy, and said I had to go through Samsung for the warranty. Samsung gave me the runaround for a week before telling me I had to go through Amazon.

Amazon eventually honoured the warranty after I got a web link to a letter from Samsung stating the retailer is responsible for the warranty. They wouldn't exchange it, but I did get a full refund.

There's a thread here on issues people have had getting warranty replacement for Samsung SSDs.
has-anyone-dealt-samsung-warranty-ssd-updated-2098075/
Sr. Member
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Jul 15, 2003
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Canuck_TO wrote: I can't advocate for buying the cheapest as buying cheap can easily get you burned.
I agree totally... I only buy drives from brands I trust based on my history with the brand or research on the specific drive

I generally trust the reliability of Adata, Kingston, Crucial, SanDisk, WD, etc.

As I mentioned before, I won't buy Samsung SSDs any more due to the challenge of getting them to honour the warranty in Canada, but their SSDs are fast and generally reliable drives... although I consider them overpriced.

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