If upgrading your PC is out of the question, fear not. You still have plenty of options for increasing its pep. A few simple software settings can lead to massive performance gains. Here's our best 14 tips and tweaks to turbocharge your PC with software.

Run a virus scan

Your PC probably doesn't have a virus, but why not make sure? Schedule your antivirus program to run a weekly scan during late night hours so it won't interfere with your day-to-day computer activities.

Upgrade your power settings

By default, Windows sets computers with batteries (that is, laptops) to the 'Balanced' power plan profile. That setting strikes a nice compromise between performance and battery life; but if you leave your computer plugged in all the time, battery life is irrelevant.

You can enhance your laptop's performance by using a higher-end power plan, which Windows hides by default. To access it, click the battery icon in the system tray and select More power options. Select the drop-down next to Show additional plans and choose High performance. Among other things, it will turn off options that put your computer to sleep, saving you significant restarting time when you step away from your PC.

Uninstall, uninstall, uninstall

There is no shame in having installed lots of software on your PC. After all, Windows was designed to run thousands upon thousands of applications on a familiar platform. The problem is that every application occupies space on your hard drive, and many take it upon themselves to open at startup, clogging system RAM whenever your PC is on, whether you use the program or not.

Visit the 'Programs and Features' control panel, and uninstall any application listed there that you're sure you don't use. Not using an iPod anymore? Apple alone accounted for six applications on our test PC. Watch for toolbars and device drivers for products (such as printers, WWAN modems, cameras, keyboards, and mice) that you no longer use. Click Uninstall to remove each one. You'll likely have to reboot multiple times.

Clean up your hard drive

Having a lot of stuff on your hard disk isn't a problem until the disk gets full and Windows has to work overtime to find spare bits here and there to store your files on.

Offload whatever you can to external hard drives or other archival storage; then run Disk Cleanup to get rid of junk such as temporary internet files, old installation programs, and Recycle Bin junk. To access Disk Cleanup, type disk cleanup in the Start menu search box, and press Enter. Select the boxes for each type of file you'd like to get rid of, and let Disk Cleanup do its magic.

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  1. From startup to shutdown
  2. ReadyBoost
  3. Scrub startup apps
  4. Kill compression