How do I speed up my system?

I see time and time again many people asking the basic question: How do I speed up my system? This is an important question; but is usually answered in the form of ads for the latest and self-proclaimed greatest PC Optimization Tool or Security App. I have tried many of these Tools in the past and found that not only do they not speed up my system, but usually make Windows unstable. If you really want to speed up your system here are a few actual ways that I personally found to help:

Reinstall your OS: Especially if you have been running it over a year. Windows has always been terrible at keeping the core system clean and it degrades over time from normal use, installing programs, swapping drivers, and such. Backup your documents, wipe your drive, and reinstall. When you boot back up the computer will run like it is brand new, that simple. If you are running Windows XP or Vista give Windows 7 a try, the base install is very streamlined. Once you have a fresh install only install the programs that you need. The more you install programs the more your system is modified and that can lead to problems.

Consider a hardware upgrade: Run some simple benchmarking software and see how you current hardware handles the type of programs or games that you run. I like SiSoftware’s Sandra , which has some extremely useful tools to help you understand and make the most of your hardware. For example If you notice your overall system is slow, but your processor and graphics card are fine, check your hard drive benchmarks. Last year I replace my old 7200 RPM 320GB WD IDE Hard drive for a new 10,000RPM WD Velociraptor Sata 2 Drive and was amazed at the results. It was like getting a brand new system. Windows 7 boots under 30 seconds, all my programs launch almost instantly (not iTunes though), I’m always first loaded in any game, and browsing the hard drive is super fast. Consider investing in a new hard drive if you have a Sata 2 capable system, as it is the number one upgrade to get more speed out of your system currently. You have the normal upgrade such as RAM and so on, heck Ram is so cheap right now most people can max out their RAM for under $50.

Try alternative software for your main apps: Sure we all want the most powerful, biggest, heavily featured software to run on our systems. But if you want a little more speed in your system or just to have your programs launch faster try this. There are many wonderful, often free programs that can match the core features of your most used apps. So give them a try; it is great to have programs that do just what you need without all the bloat that you don’t. They are smaller/light-weight, focused on getting the task done, and not getting in your way. ? is a great site that has alternative to some of the programs that you might be using. For example for the longest time I used Adobe Acrobat Reader for my PDF viewing. It is slow to launch, has a bunch of features I have never used, and always wants to upgrade with huge, slow to download, files before it will let me view the pdf that I want. So I found Foxit reader. A small, light-weight, and free pdf reader. It has a good amount of features, but is a tenth of the size of adobe, and lets me read pdfs within seconds of clicking on them. Foxit, over time, has made the hassle of reading pdfs into a smooth fast experience.

Here is my personal list of alternative software:
Foxit reader as a replacement for Adobe Acrobat Reader
Firefox or Chrome as a replacement for Internet Exploder
VLC as a replacement for Windows Media Player
NotePad++ sometimes as a replacement for Microsoft Word
Jzip as a replacement for WinZip or other UnZipping programs
Microsoft Security Essentials as a replacement for the main large security suites.
ImgBurn as a replacement for CD/DVD burning software.

A few other things to consider that can help speed up your system:
Overclocking – Easy to do free speed, just do a bit of research first.
Turn off unused stuff – Any feature or service that you never use. ie Hard drive indexing
Update Drivers – Go to the manufacture’s site and Download the latest drivers

There is a lot more I could say about each part of this post, but I have found that downloading all in one programs do not fix but create problems for my system. The best ways to actually speed up your systems are the old tried and true methods such as: Reinstalling the OS, Upgrading the Hardware, and choosing the more streamlined Applications. What is your favorite way the speed up your system? Feel free to comment.