slow computersNo matter how often we write about it, the most common question we get is: “How can I speed up my computer?”

Usually, a computer slows down because it has too many programs, too many browser add-ons, and possibly some infected files. A Microsoft employee points out that Windows computers might never slow down if we didn’t add anything to them. Even uninstalling programs can leave bits behind.

A reader asked us about programs like “Tune Up Utilities,” which we used to recommend for speeding things up.  Our favorite tech guru feels these speed-up utilities are a sham. We thought at first it was improving Joy’s computer but she has since stopped using it, with no change in results.

The best way to speed up a cluttered computer is to dump its contents and restore it to the original factory settings. On most PCs, start by simply shutting down your machine. Then, when you turn it on, keep tapping the F11 key until you get the “restore” screen. In our experience, this is the best way to get a fast computer back. Joy says it always feels like she just bought a new machine.

Bringing a computer back to its factory state is a fairly drastic operation, because unless you save all those files to some other place, they will be wiped. Save them to a disk or storage space in one of the many cloud storage accounts you can buy. Microsoft has free storage called “One Drive,” for 15 gigabytes, which is quite a bit. Other free ones – with limits — are Google Drive and Drop Box.

Any programs you purchased will be wiped out, of course, so you’d best have the disks for those so you can reload. Any downloaded programs will have to be downloaded again.

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