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How to speed up Windows 10

Learn how to disable unnecessary services in Windows 10 and speed up the operating system if you're finding it to be sluggish

The Microsoft Windows logo with lights shining through on top of a dark background

Windows 10 has been Microsoft’s flagship operating system since its release in 2015, and many among us may still be using the same Windows 10-powered machine now that we were back then. Although these devices will still work as intended, it’s possible that they’ve lost their sheen, and that tasks that perhaps didn’t take too long to perform six years ago are now sluggish. Many users have looked to speed up Windows 10, with a number aiming to disable unnecessary services to accomplish this.

Generally, technology is known to slow over time, and this isn’t isolated to Windows devices, but macOS and Linux-powered systems too. While it’s really frustrating to see your machine slow down with time, taking longer to start-up, for example, it’s by no means the end of the road. Rather than binning your machine and purchasing a new one, there are a number of techniques we can deploy in Windows 10 systems to wind things back up. Think of it as a little spring cleaning.

Bloatware, for instance, is one of the most common causes of slowdown, preventing your machine from running at peak performance. These programmes aren’t necessarily malicious, rather they’re not necessary to the functionality of your device. They might be systems you once used but no longer have any need for, or add aesthetic alterations to the user interface that you can well do without. Generally, removing bloatware will serve to speed up your device without affecting how it operates on a day-to-day basis.

Make logging into Windows 10 quicker

The authentication or user accounts settings in Windows 10

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We cannot stress the importance of security and, most of the time, a strong password or two-factor authentication are an absolute must. However, when your old laptop is already taking forever to start up, logging in can make the process even lengthier.

Although we wouldn’t normally advise it, you might want to consider skipping this process by disabling password authentication on your Windows 10 device. Typing in a password might only take seconds, yet having to reboot your PC every time it falls asleep could cause your unsaved work to be lost, as well as take way more time off your schedule, potentially impacting your productivity.

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Considering that many of us are still working from home, the likelihood of someone manually hijacking your PC is minimal, especially if your devices haven’t left your own four walls since March 2020 and your area isn’t prone to break-ins. By disabling your password login, you’ll significantly cut start-up time and make the process faster and less stressful. 

However, if you find yourself regularly working from public spaces such as cafés, pubs, or workspaces, you might want to reconsider this idea – especially if your laptop tends to tag along. Although you could try to ensure that you never lose sight of your device, an unlocked laptop is heaven-sent for thieves and other threat actors, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

One way of interpreting this advice is to only apply it to stationary devices which never leave your home, such as a desktop PC. However, when it comes to tablets and laptops, you might want to skip this one.

Make shutting down Windows 10 faster

Creating a shortcut to shut down Windows 10

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If you like to shut down your computer after a hard day's work, then you will realise that the process still requires three clicks. To speed this up you can use a shortcut. Simply right click anywhere on a free part of the desktop then click New > Shortcut. In the Location field, type in the following.

%windir%\System32\shutdown.exe /s /t 0

Click on the Next to finish. Now each time you click on that shortcut, your PC will immediately shut down. Be careful though, as this will happen without a confirmation check.

Disable startup programmes in Windows 10

Disabling startup programmes in Windows 10

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Virtually every version of Windows allows you to disable startup items, and Windows 10 is no exception. Stopping some programmes from starting up will speed up the OS.

To find this option, right-click the taskbar and choose Task Manager. Tap 'more details' and then click on the Startup tab. Here you can disable the programmes you don't want to start up.

Remove bloatware in Windows 10

No one likes bloatware (except PC manufacturers) but it does mean your system is slightly cheaper as a result. But you can ditch this crapware. These are programmes such as disc burning software, backup tools from the manufacturer, or other utilities that you don't necessarily need.

Why programmes such as PC Decrapifier and CCleaner do a sterling job of getting rid of bloatware, if you have a brand new (but bloatware laden) computer, then a clean install of Windows 10 could be the best way of clearing out unnecessary software clogging up your system.

Make the Windows 10 Start menu and other windows zippier

Settings menus to make Windows 10 zippier

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Although Microsoft's new snazzy Windows 10 Start Menu is a breath of fresh air compared to the older version, bringing it up to speed with the likes of Apple's sleek interface, it can be a little slow to pop up if your machine isn't brand spanking new. This is because it takes more processing power to make it appear and if your machine doesn't have a newer chip, you might be waiting a few seconds for it to react. However, it's straightforward to shut down some of the animations to make them show up without the wait.

To do this, open up Systems Properties (type in the search field sysdm.cpl and press Enter), then click on the Advanced tabs and settings in the Performance options. By default, the Animate windows when minimising and maximising box will be ticked. Click to deactivate and then click Apply.

Not only should this add some speed to the Start menu opening, but also other windows that appear on your desktop. You can also disable all the visual effects throughout Windows 10 to speed up everything. Just click on the tick boxes to turn them off individually or choose the "Adjust for best performance" option to optimise the performance for your machine.

Turn on Windows 10 fast-startup

The power menu in Windows 10, a precursor to fast startup settings

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With Windows 10 there is a new "hybrid" startup mode that should cut down on bootup times. It does this by putting the PC into hibernation instead of fully shutting down.

To enable this, click on the Start button and type in "Control Panel" and press enter. In the control panel click on Hardware and Sound. A new page should appear, here click on Change what the power buttons do. Then click on Change settings that are currently unavailable. Finally, tick the box marked Turn on fast startup.

Disable services on Windows 10

Disabling services on Windows 10

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As with all versions of Windows, working in the background are services. While some of them are vital to smooth running, quite a few aren't for day-to-day use. If you disable these services, you can speed up Windows 10.

To turn off services in windows, type: "services.msc" into the search field. Then double-click on the services you want to stop or disable.

A number of services are able to be switched off, but this depends on if you work from an office or your home, and what you use Windows 10 for. If you’re looking to find out which services are able to be switched off, it’s a good idea to consult this guide.

It’s worth double checking as if you decide to disable or switch off a service, it can have an unpredicted effect. This could lead to some applications or components to stop functioning correctly, so it’s important to be careful.

Clean up your Windows 10 disk

The disk cleanup settings in Windows 10

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When you’re looking to get rid of files you don’t need, Windows 10 has a Disk Cleanup tool that is very useful to accomplish this. To locate this, simply select Start and find File Explorer. Then right-click Local Disk C: and locate Properties. Once you’ve done this, look for the General tab and you should be able to then see the Disk Cleanup button. Select 'unnecessary files (temporary internet files, etc.)’ and then click on OK.

If you are more of an experienced user, you can then choose to click on ‘Clean up system files’ to eliminate a greater quantity of files. Once you’ve done this, you can then proceed to defragment your hard drive on Windows 10.

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Defragment the hard drive on Windows 10

One of the simplest ways to improve your computer’s speed is to defragment the hard drive. The process essentially brings together the different sections of your files into the smallest possible sequential area on your disk. Read/write heads are more rapid at completing requests since they have to travel smaller distances.

It’s important to know that this doesn’t apply to solid-state drives, only physical, platter-based ones. Fragmentation won’t really have an affect on performance of solid-state drives (SSDs, since they store data in a specific way. Due to this, it makes defragmentation unnecessary. 

Regularly defragmenting is an extremely important method of making sure your PC stays up to speed, for users with physical HDDs. To carry this out on your hard drive, begin by clicking the Start button and selecting File Explorer. From here, right-click Local Disk C: and find Properties. You should see the Tools tab which, once you’ve entered it, you can click on ‘Optimize and Defragment Drive.’

Migrate Windows 10 to an SSD

Moving your operating system or your whole hard drive onto a brand-new SSD is considered to be the best, but most disruptive, way of improving your Windows 10 speed.

In the most basic terms, SSDs are like a standard USB stick, except they’re just larger and more sophisticated. SSDs don’t have any moving parts, in contrast to hard drives which possess a moving arm to read and write onto a physical disk. This means that SSDs are different to their older counterparts since they can process data much faster.

It’s the norm for many PC users to have both a hard drive and SSD running at the same time, with the much faster hardware being the place where the operating system is running. Despite this, it’s fairly cost-effective to move the whole of your data, as well as your software, onto a SSD thanks to falling prices and larger SSD capacities on the market.

Most operating systems, including Windows 10, perform very well on a SSD, helping to reduce boot times and load times to seconds. It’s worth taking a look at the spec sheet if you’re purchasing a new PC or laptop, and make sure they come with a SSD installed.

Although the process is a little complicated, it’s worth knowing that Windows 10 is able to be migrated to a SSD on an existing system. Take a look at our guide on how best to transfer the OS to a SSD, where you can learn tips on how to make sure your data isn’t lost in the procedure.

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