Remember when your PC was brand new and it seemed to respond instantly to every request? And now there's some days you're lucky if it even acknowledges that you've even asked it to do something? Given the ever increasing demans of the apps and websites that we run on our machines, unfortunately there's no way to get everything reacting as it did when you first took your machine out of the box. The only real fix here is to consign that machine to the scrapheap and start the process all over again. However, there are a few tricks you can try that may improve things right now.
Turn it off and on again
There's a reason this is a cliché in the IT community. It solves so many problems! It's almost always the first thing to try if something's suddenly stopped working that was working fine 5 minutes ago. It's also worth giving this a go if your machine is running slowly - especially if you're the sort of person that tends to leave their machine on overnight. While there are processes in place that try and keep your machine running OK for days, it's always worth giving it the odd restart so that it can clean everything out of its memory and start with a fresh slate.
Free up disk space
This one only really applies if you're running low on disk space. Using up space doesn't slow a machine down generally. However, the big exception to this is if you've almost filled your machine up. A PC needs a certain amount of free space just to do everything it needs to do to keep it running. If this space is limited, this can slow things down dramatically. We've written a guide on this that should help Windows 10 users try and track down where they can claw some space back from:
Try a different web browser
If you find that things grind to a halt when you start browsing the web, it may be worth giving another web browser a go. Microsoft devices come pre-loaded with Edge (and previously Internet Explorer). Apple's devices come with Safari. There's a whole range of alternative browsers available for both. The most ubiquitous of these Google's Chrome. That isn't the only other choice though. Mozilla's Firefox browser has just launched a major new version of their browser that fixes a lot of the issues that have slowed it down in the past.
Note that the actual speed difference between "box fresh" versions of any of these browsers is negligable. if you find that trying one of these improves things dramatically, it may be that various add-ons have slowed your original browser down. You may be able to restore it to its former glory by disabling these. However, it's always worth having a couple of browsers installed on your machine, just so you have an easy way ruling out browser problems when you encounter a website that isn't working properly.
Close unneeded programs
Every application that you leave open uses up some of your PC's memory. The amount of memory your PC has is finite. If you're switching between many different programs on a low spec machine, things will qiuckly grind to a halt. It's always a good idea to review what you have open and close anything you don't need. This will free up memory for other programs to use.
Run a malware scan
Unfortunately, even the most wary users can sometimes find that some nasty or another has managed to get itself installed on their machine. While some of these make themselves very obvious, some of them just work quietly away in the background - often harnessing the power of your machine to undertake various undesirable actions that, amongst other things, slow a machine to a crawl.
Windows 10 does have an inbuilt scanner that is supposed to catch such things, but it's always worth giving your machine an occasional scan with an alternative scanner - especially if it has noticeably slowed down recently or is behaving oddly. Our usual go-to malware scanner is Malwarebytes. It's worth installing the free version of this and giving your machine the once-over every so often.
Install an SSD drive
This one is a lot harder for the average user to do themselves, but if your machine doesn't have an SSD drive, this upgrade is relatively cheap, and will have a huge impact on your machine speed. However, most machines have had these as standard for some time now. If yours doesn't, it may well be time for a completely new machine anyway.
Check Task Manager and see what's using resources
Windows users can use Task Manager to list everything that their machine has open at the moment along with an indication of what resources they are using. Search for "Task Manager" from the search bar (Or just hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete and pick 'Task Manager') This brings up a table that lists all the apps that are open (amongst other things) and the resources they are using. Anything with an orange or red background is using a lot of resources. If possible, close these. At the very least, it's problably worth saving anything in these apps, closing, and then reopening.