We often hear friends complaining that their PC is getting old and slow. But PCs aren’t like people – they don’t get slower as they get older – and a well-maintained PC should always be just as fast as the day you first bought it.

There are things that can slow your PC down, of course. Two of the worst culprits are a fragmented hard disk, and a messy collection of startup programs.

The performance of your hard disk can slow down over time as it fills up and your files and programs become ‘fragmented’. This is where the files broken up and spread randomly around the disk’s storage space. This slows the disk down because the drive mechanism has to physically keep moving back and forth in order to locate the files that you need.

Startup items are the programs that launch automatically each time you turn the PC on. If you’ve got a large collection of these on your PC, you may have to wait ages for the PC to start up properly because it has to load each program individually before it can pay any attention to you.

Both of these problems can be fixed by Windows itself, as Windows includes separate tools for both defragmenting your hard disk and specifying which programs start up when you turn your PC on. However, a tune-up program such as PC Tools Performance Toolkit 2 can help to simplify these tasks, especially for less experienced users. (There are lots of other PC optimisation software programs, reviewed here.)

PC Tools Performance Toolkit can also perform some tasks that Windows can’t. A key option here is the ability to clean up the registry. The Windows registry is a file that stores all the settings for the many different programs on your PC.

Over months and years, the registry can get more and more cluttered, slowing your PC down as it sorts through all the settings in that file. So cleaning the registry out is another good way to tune-up your PC’s performance. PC Tools provides other features too, such as the ability to ‘shred’ files when you delete them so that they can’t be recovered by other people.

There are alternatives to Performance Toolkit, including several free tune-up tools which can be downloaded from the Internet. However, the program’s price includes a 12-month subscription that provides regular updates and improvements, as well as a three-user license so that you can keep multiple PCs in trim at home or in your office. The process is largely the same for rival programs, so you should still be able to follow the steps to the right.

How to speed up your PC

1. When you launch Performance Toolkit it displays the Dashboard window, which provides a quick overview of the state of your PC. The System Health dial on the left shows that our laptop is way over into the red danger-zone. To the right, you can see the measured boot-up time and a log of how many Windows and internet history items are stored.


2. Start with the Performance tab, which includes tools for defragmenting your hard disk and selecting which programs start up automatically when you turn your PC on. If something stops working after you've disabled programs, you can turn them back on.

Disable startup programs

3. One of Performance Toolkit's essential functions is its ability to scan and clean the Windows registry. The registry can get bloated and full of redundant or incorrect information over time and slow your PC down, so cleaning it out and slimming it down can speed things up.

Clean up the registry

4. Click on the Privacy tab, which includes options for erasing your web browser history and information stored by other programs. You can ‘shred’ specific files as well as ‘bleaching’ the free space on your hard disk so files can’t be recovered.


Next page: Delete hidden Windows information, recover deleted files and permanently shred files