When you first buy a laptop everything seems speedier - opening files and folders takes imperceptible amounts of time and starting up your PC is super fast. Over time, however the PC slows down as more and more you find yourself waiting for tasks to finish. It doesn’t have to be like this, though.

With a little judicious management of your laptop you can keep it running as quickly as the day you bought it. Best of all you don’t have to put to put much work in and getting the best performance from your laptop all the time no matter how much you use it is simple.

One of the tasks that you should perform with some regularity is clearing out the old software that you no longer use. Laptops today come with all sorts of free software pre-installed. You may find some of these applications really useful or fun, but if you never use them then you should get rid of them to free up space on the hard disk.

Getting rid of unwanted applications is really simple and there’s no excuse for you not to go through and trash all those bits and pieces of software you’ve barely used. In Windows 7 go to the Control Panel and then to Programs and Features; in Windows 8, go to Control Panel, then Programs/Uninstall a program.

After a few seconds all the applications on your computer will appear. All you have to do to remove the software is to click on it and then on Uninstall. Windows will ask you if you’re sure you want to remove the application and then all you have to do is confirm by clicking on Yes. After a few moments all traces of the software will be banished from your PC forever.

You should also be vigilant when you are installing software too. Many applications that you get from the internet these days trick you into installing toolbars and other items as part of the installation process. These toolbars just serve to slow down your computer, and especially your web browsing, so you should read each screen carefully when you are downloading and installing third-party applications. If you’ve inadvertently downloaded a toolbar you can easily switch it off in Internet Explorer. Go to Tools > Manage Add-ons. Here you’ll see all the extras that IE is using an you can disable them to stop them slowing your browser down.

If your PC takes ages to start up or seems sluggish when you first start to use it then you should take a look at your startup items. As the name suggests Startup items are loaded when you first boot your PC and though this, in theory, makes it quicker to get working by having your apps open automatically if you have too many it can just slow your PC to a crawl.

There are two ways to choose your startup items. First, check the applications preferences to see if it offers you the choice to open at startup or not. If it does then disable it there. Second, go to Start (in Windows 7) or the Charms bar (in Windows 8) and type msconfig into the search bar and press Enter. This will open the System Configuration window. Once you’re here click on the Startup tab. Here you can go through the list of applications and decide which to turn off or, if you really want to speed things up simply click the Disable all button.

The more you use your PC the more various log files, temporary items and crash reports can clutter up your disk. These files in themselves can be tiny, but some are quite large and can eat up hefty chunks of your hard disk. To go through and delete all these manually would be a tiresome job, but there is a tool in Windows that can help you dump all these unnecessary items and reclaim that lost hard disk space. Go to Start > All Programs > System Tools and then click on Disk Cleanup. After a short scan the Disk Cleanup application will let you know exactly how much space you can reclaim.

For a brand new laptop it isn’t going to be a huge amount, but once you’ve been using it for a while and installed Windows and Office updates the space can be quite large, multiple GBs in fact. To get rid of the files simply select the ones you wish to remove and click OK, you’ll be asked if you’re sure you want to delete the files, click Delete Files to free up your hard disk space.

You should always keep your Windows PC as up-to-date as possible. Microsoft is continually updating Windows to keep it safe and update the system and you’ll be better off keeping on top of system updates. You really should have your PC set up to check for and install updates automatically.

To ensure this is the case go to Control Panel and Windows Update - once you’re there click on Change settings and make sure that Install updates automatically (recommended) is selected and that they are set to install every day at a time when your PC will be powered up. This way you’ll always know that your computer is running the very latest version of Windows.

Finally, you should always have some form of anti-virus software actively protecting your PC from the Trojans and viruses. It’s unlikely you’ll be affected if you keep your system updated and are vigilant, but that extra line of defence will all but guarantee your PC’s safety. There are plenty of both free and paid for services offering a range of options. Take a look around for one that suits you and make sure you install it as soon as you can.

Looking after a new laptop and keeping it in top condition really isn’t that much of a chore and in many cases the work is done completely automatically in the background. With just a few checks done regularly you can make sure that your PC is always in the best condition and that you’re safe from viruses and other PC nasties while also making sure that your laptop is running as fast as it can.

Visit the Dell Tech Zone for more advice on family computing.