Back HP Customer Care
Resolving slow system performance (Windows 7)
This document pertains to HP computers with Windows 7.
Use this document to help make Windows and other software perform better. The information below provides ways to improve system performance by making more resources available.
Common causes of slow system performance:
  • Temporary files, cookies, or a full recycle bin will cause less disk space.
  • No free disk space or disk errors.
  • Applications that require a lot of system resources.
  • Running multiple applications.
  • Nonessential graphic features.
  • Overheating due to intensive graphic applications or dust in vents.
  • Running multiple instances of anti-virus software.
To automatically improve system performance, click the Microsoft Fix it Solution:
MS Fixit 974820
Use the following sections to learn how to make your computer run faster.
Using HP Support Assistant to keep your computer running smoothly
HP recommends using HP Support Assistant on a regularly scheduled basis. Use this tool to keep your computer tuned up.
NOTE:
If you are not sure that you are using the latest version, or if the operating system was upgraded to Windows 7, download the current version of HP Support Assistant from the HP web site.
NOTE:
If your computer does not have HP support assistant or does not support HP Support Assistant, skip to the next section for steps that do not involve HP Support Assistant.
Run HP Support Assistant to scan your computer and get the status of any available maintenance tasks. After the scan is complete, a list of maintenance tasks displays. Review and perform all the recommended actions.
View a video on using HP Support Assistant
NOTE:
If you are unable to view the video, it may be due to the type of mobile device you are using. You can still use the written information on the screen or access the video with a PC or laptop.
Use the following steps to scan your computer with HP Support Assistant:
  1. Click Start, click All Programs, click HP, and then click HP Support Assistant. Or click the HP Support Assistant icon on the desktop.
  2. Click Updates and tune-ups on the main menu.
    Figure : Updates and tune-ups
    Updates and tune-ups
  3. Select HP Updates, then click Check for HP updates now.
    Figure : Check for HP updates now
    Check for HP updates now
    The HP Support Assistant performs a series of tasks to analyze your computer.
    Figure : Checking the computer
    Checking the computer
  4. When the update and tune-up is complete, perform any recommended actions and install updates.
Performing system cleanup without using HP Support Assistant
A computer's hard disk drive can have a major effect on system performance. Over time the hard drive can become cluttered with unwanted or temporary files, the data can become fragmented and stored in an inefficient manner, or there may be disk errors on the drive itself. All of these issues can impact system performance, and all are easy to maintain. This section describes methods to maintain hard drive performance through removing unwanted and temporary files, checking the hard drive for errors, and defragmenting the drive.
Emptying the Recycle Bin
Regularly emptying the Recycle Bin will increase free hard drive space and reduce the time it takes Windows to access the hard drive.
View a video on emptying the Recycle Bin
NOTE:
If you are unable to view the video, it may be due to the type of mobile device you are using. You can still use the written information on the screen or access the video with a PC or laptop.
To empty the Recycle Bin, use the following steps:
  1. From the Windows desktop, double-click Recycle Bin .
  2. Restore any mistakenly deleted items by right-clicking each file, and then selecting Restore.
  3. Click Empty the Recycle Bin. Windows removes the contents of the Recycle Bin from the hard disk.
  4. Select Yes to confirm.
  5. Close the Recycle Bin.
Deleting temporary files and directories in Windows 7
Deleting temporary files and folders increases hard disk space and reduces the time Windows takes to access the hard drive. It also resolves problems with spooling print jobs. Windows uses a Temp folder to temporarily store files intended only for temporary use. Over time, these files can build up and cause problems.
View a video on deleting temporary files and directories
NOTE:
If you are unable to view the video, it may be due to the type of mobile device you are using. You can still use the written information on the screen or access the video with a PC or laptop.
To delete temporary files, use the following steps:
  1. Close all open software programs.
  2. Click Start , click All Programs, click Accessories, click System Tools, and then click Disk Cleanup.
    Figure : Select drive
    Disk Cleanup: Select drive
  3. Select the drive you want to clean up, and then click OK.
    A message opens telling you that Disk Cleanup is calculating how much space you can free on the drive you chose.
    Figure : Disk Cleanup progress indication window
    Disk Cleanup progress indication window
  4. Place a check next to the types of files you want the Disk Cleanup tool to delete. Temporary files are safe to delete.
    CAUTION:
    Selecting some options can have a negative effect. Examples: Selecting Hibernation File Cleaner can prevent the computer from entering hibernation. Selecting Setup Log Files deletes the files that online phone support agents use to help troubleshoot setup problems. If you are unsure about what to delete, do not delete the files until you know if the files are not important for your use of the computer.
    Figure : Disk Cleanup
    Disk Cleanup files to delete
  5. Click OK.
  6. Click Delete Files.
Checking for hard drive errors in Windows 7
Perform the following procedure to check the integrity of the hard disk drive in Windows 7. Close all open programs before beginning the disk check.
View a video on checking for hard drive errors
NOTE:
If you are unable to view the video, it may be due to the type of mobile device you are using. You can still use the written information on the screen or access the video with a PC or laptop.
To check the hard drive for errors, use the following steps:
  1. Close all open software programs.
  2. Click Start , and then click Computer.
  3. Right-click the hard disk drive that you want to check, and then click Properties.
    Figure : Selecting Hard Disk Drive Properties
    Selecting Hard Disk Drive Properties
  4. In the Properties window, click the Tools tab.
    Figure : Tools tab
    Tools tab
  5. Under Error-checking, click Check Now.
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  6. If desired, click the check box next to Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors.
    CAUTION:
    Checking and fixing disk errors can take an hour or more to complete, depending on the size of your hard drives, and you CANNOT use your computer during this process.
    Figure : Check Disk options
    Check Disk options
  7. Click Start.
    If a window opens stating that Windows can't check the disk while it's in use, click Schedule disk check and follow the on-screen instructions to restart the computer and scan the disk for errors.
    Figure : Windows can't check the disk while it's in use
    Windows can't check the disk while it's in use
Defragmenting the hard drive in Windows 7
The Disk Defragmenter tool takes all the scattered bits of program data and groups them together in more efficient areas of the drive.
View a video on defragmenting the hard drive
NOTE:
If you are unable to view the video, it may be due to the type of mobile device you are using. You can still use the written information on the screen or access the video with a PC or laptop.
Use the following steps to defragment the hard drive:
  1. Close all open software programs. This includes background programs such as virus scanners.
  2. Click Start , click All Programs, click Accessories, click System Tools, and then click Disk Defragmenter.
    NOTE:
    If Disk Defragmenter repeatedly starts, a hidden background program is still accessing the hard drive. Restart the computer in Safe mode and try again. For more information, see Windows 7 Safe Mode.
  3. Click Defragment disk. This could take a few minutes or a few hours, depending on the amount of data on your hard disk drive. You have the option to click Stop operation to stop the tool.
    Figure : Disk Defragmenter
    Disk Defragmenter window
Removing viruses and spyware with Microsoft Security Essentials
If the computer is performing slowly after connecting to the Internet, adware or spyware programs might be installed. Spyware and adware software programs use the Internet to download and upload data in the background. Some of this data might be sensitive information or unwanted advertising. Removing these malicious programs will improve the performance of your system. For more information, see About Spyware, Adware, and Browser Hijacking Software.
Microsoft Security Essentials is a free download for all computers running a genuine version of Windows. It provides protection against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Information on downloading and using Microsoft Security Essentials can be found in the document Using Microsoft Security Essentials to Protect Against Viruses and Spyware.
Managing applications in Windows 7 to improve system performance
Having unused applications installed to the hard drive, or leaving applications running when not being used, can both have a negative impact on system performance. This section describes how to remove unwanted applications and close applications that are not in use.
Freeing up space on the hard drive in Windows 7
Windows uses free space on the hard drive for different types of operations such as caching and virtual memory. The computer might not run reliably if the free disk space drops below five percent of the total disk space.
CAUTION:
You might see a RECOVERY (D:) or FACTORY_IMAGE (D:) hard drive. This hard drive is reserved for system recovery and should not be used for anything else.
To view the amount of free space on the hard drive:
  1. Click Start
    , and then click Computer.
  2. Right-click the hard drive, and then click Properties.
  3. View the amount of space available next to Free space.
    Figure : Hard drive properties
    Hard drive properties
View a video on removing unwanted programs
NOTE:
If you are unable to view the video, it may be due to the type of mobile device you are using. You can still use the written information on the screen or access the video with a PC or laptop.
Use the following steps to remove unwanted programs and increase hard drive space:
  1. Click Start , and then click Control Panel.
  2. Under Programs, click Uninstall a program.
    The Uninstall or change a program window opens.
    Figure : Uninstall or change a program
    Uninstall or change a program
  3. Select the program you want to remove.
  4. Click Uninstall or Uninstall/Change at the top of the program list.
  5. Read and respond to any messages that might open while the software is being removed from your computer.
Closing unused software to improve performance
Close software programs that you are not using. Minimizing a software program window does not stop that software program from continuing to use the processor and memory. Being connected to the Internet, watching TV or video, playing games, listening to music, and running virus scans are all software tasks that can use a lot of system resources. Running more than one can add up and cause the system to slow down. Run virus scans and other system tools when no one uses the computer or when you are away from the desk.
Managing startup programs by preventing background programs from loading
A startup program is software that opens when Windows opens. Over time, as you install more and more software programs, the number of small icons on the notification area increases (usually these icons are in the lower-right corner, next to the time). Each of these small pictures represents a program running in the background, and each one uses valuable system resources. Move the mouse pointer over each icon to identify what software it is. Common programs that load and run in the background are security software, Windows Update, instant messaging software, and multimedia programs. You can increase system resources by stopping some of these tasks from loading, or by changing their settings. This can be achieved in a variety of ways because these programs open from various different places.
This section describes how to remove unwanted startup programs using System Configuration and the Startup folder.
Using System Configuration to prevent programs from launching in Windows 7
The System Configuration tool can be used to make Windows use Selective Startup. This means that Windows prevents selected programs from loading when the system starts, thus freeing resources that can improve system performance.
View a video on using System Configuration
NOTE:
If you are unable to view the video, it may be due to the type of mobile device you are using. You can still use the written information on the screen or access the video with a PC or laptop.
Perform the following steps to selectively prevent items from starting when Windows launches.
CAUTION:
Disable only those items that are known and unwanted. Disabling system-critical items might cause problems.
  1. Click Start , and type msconfig into the Search box. Click msconfig.
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    Figure : Opening the System Configuration tool
    Opening the System Configuration tool
    The System Configuration tool displays.
  2. Click the General tab, and then click Selective startup.
    Figure : General tab
    General tab
  3. Select the Startup tab, and uncheck any tasks that do not contribute to the system and are unwanted.
    If you are unsure about a task, write the name down and research it on the Internet. Do not remove a checkmark if you do not know what the task is. For a list of files that are recommended not to remove, review the HP support document: Using Microsoft System Configuration in Windows 7.
    Figure : Startup tab
    Startup tab
  4. Click Apply, and then click OK to accept the changes.
  5. When prompted, click Restart.
    Figure : Restart the computer
    Restart the computer
  6. If Windows or other software stops working after a checkmark is removed from a task, restart the computer and reverse these procedures to replace the checkmark. If needed, you can press F8 after the first blue HP startup screen (after the computer has been turned on) to open safe mode. For more information, see Windows 7 Safe Mode.
By completing these steps, Windows runs using Selective Startup. If Selective Startup is disabled in the future, all the selected software programs will start again.
Removing icons from the Startup folder in Windows 7
The Startup folder contains icons for programs that will automatically run when the system is started. Each of these programs slows down the startup process and uses system resources. Removing unwanted icons from this folder will prevent these programs from loading when the system starts, and will improve system performance.
View a video on removing startup icons
NOTE:
If you are unable to view the video, it may be due to the type of mobile device you are using. You can still use the written information on the screen or access the video with a PC or laptop.
Use the following steps to prevent unwanted items from loading when starting up your computer:
  1. Right-click anywhere in an open area on the Windows desktop, and select New and Folder. Name the folder Notstartup. This folder will be used later.
  2. Click Start , click All Programs, right-click Startup, and then click Open.
    The Startup folder opens.
    Figure : Startup folder
    Startup folder
  3. Any icons in the list indicate programs that load when Windows opens. Right-click any of these icons and select Properties to reveal more information about the icon.
  4. Right-click any one icon you do not want, and then select Cut.
  5. Double-click the Notstartup folder on the desktop that was created earlier.
  6. Right-click inside the Notstartup folder, and then click Paste. The icon that was cut from the Startup folder is now placed in the Notstartup folder.
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 for other programs that you do not want to run at startup.
  8. Restart the computer.
    Any items removed from Startup no longer open when Windows opens. You can open the programs by double-clicking the desired item in the Notstartup folder.
Adjusting System Restore settings in Windows 7
System Restore is a feature of Windows that can revert system software and settings back to a particular date. System Restore does this by saving the changes made to system files in a restore point. These restore points use a lot of hard drive space. System Restore uses up to four percent of the hard drive with restore points if left unadjusted, regardless of the size of the hard drive.
CAUTION:
If you are experiencing system problems and may need to restore your computer to an earlier time, DO NOT remove the restore points.
CAUTION:
Selecting Turn off system protection will prevent the system from creating future restore points. You cannot restore the hard drive without restore points.
The following sections describe how to reduce the hard drive space system restore uses and how to manually create a restore point.
Reducing the space System Restore uses for restore points
System Restore points can use a large amount of hard drive space. Reducing the space used for restore points will free up hard drive space that the system may be able to use to improve system performace.
View a video on adjusting System Restore settings
NOTE:
If you are unable to view the video, it may be due to the type of mobile device you are using. You can still use the written information on the screen or access the video with a PC or laptop.
Use the following steps to reduce the space System Restore uses for restore points.
  1. Click Start , right-click Computer, and then select Properties.
  2. From the tasks pane on the left, click System protection.
    Figure : Computer Properties
    Computer properties screen
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    The System Properties window opens with the System Protection tab selected.
    Figure : System Protection
    System Protection
  3. Click Configure.
  4. To reduce the amount of hard drive space the system reserves for system restores, slide the Max Usage: slider bar to 2%. You can choose a higher or lower percentage depending on how many restore points you want and the capacity of your hard drive.
    Figure : Max Usage slider
    Max Usage slider
  5. Click OK.
Creating a restore point in Windows 7
System Restore automatically creates restore points each week or when system changes are made. You can manually create a restore point to save your current system files.
To create a restore point:
  1. Click Start , right-click Computer, and then select Properties.
  2. From the tasks pane on the left, click System Protection.
    Figure : Computer Properties
    Computer properties screen
    The System Protection tab opens.
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    Figure : System Protection
    System Protection
  3. Click Create.
  4. Type a description for the restore point and click Create.
  5. To view your restore points, click System Restore.
Turning off nonessential graphical features to improve system performance
Graphical features and programs can use a lot of system resources. Turning off these features can improve system performance. This section explains how to adjust visual effects for best performance and how to disable Windows Aero.
Adjusting visual effects for best performance in Windows 7
Windows 7 has various visual effects designed to improve the appearance of Windows during use. However, these effects use system resources, and turning them off can improve system performance.
View a video on adjusting visual effects
NOTE:
If you are unable to view the video, it may be due to the type of mobile device you are using. You can still use the written information on the screen or access the video with a PC or laptop.
Follow these steps to adjust visual effects, such as menu and window graphics, to optimize performance:
  1. Click Start , right-click Computer, and then click Properties.
    The System window opens.
  2. Click Advanced System Settings.
    If you are prompted for an Administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    The System Properties window opens with the Advanced tab selected.
  3. Under Performance, click Settings.
    Figure : System Properties
    Advanced System Properties
  4. Select Adjust for best performance, and then click OK.
    Figure : Performance Options
    Performance Options
Disabling Windows Aero in Windows 7
Windows 7 provides a visual experience known as Aero. Windows Aero can be used to change window colors, provide alternate tasking views, and make window borders transparent.
CAUTION:
Disabling Aero can greatly improve system performance, but might prevent certain software programs from opening. For example, if you have an HP Touch computer, disabling Aero might prevent the HP TouchSmart software from opening.
While Windows Aero does offer benefits to your computing experience, it comes at a cost in system performance.
View a video on disabling Windows Aero
NOTE:
If you are unable to view the video, it may be due to the type of mobile device you are using. You can still use the written information on the screen or access the video with a PC or laptop.
If you do not want to use the Windows Aero features and want to increase the performance of your system, follow these steps to disable Windows Aero and apply a different theme:
  1. Right-click an open area of the desktop and select Personalize.
    The Personalization window opens.
    Figure : Personalization window
     Personalization window
  2. Select a theme that is not an Aero theme.
Reducing heat inside the PC to improve performance
Heat buildup can cause problems for any computer. Generally, when temperatures inside the case rise above 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius), the risk of damaging important internal components increases greatly. The most common cause of overheating is the accumulation of dust inside the computer. The electrical components in a computer generate heat and fans inside the computer help move the air to keep the components cooled to normal operating temperatures. Inadequate cooling can cause excess heat to build up inside the case which can damage components and decrease system performance. The sound of the fan running constantly may indicate that the computer is not running as efficiently as possible and that there is a problem with accumulated dust clogging the air vents.
View a video on reducing heat inside the PC
NOTE:
If you are unable to view the video, it may be due to the type of mobile device you are using. You can still use the written information on the screen or access the video with a PC or laptop.
Symptoms of Overheating
  • Windows, games, or other applications have poor performance or stop responding during use.
  • Cooling fans inside the computer become louder since they are spinning faster to remove the heat.
  • When starting the computer, it sometimes freezes at a black screen and does not open into Windows. If Windows does open, it usually stops responding.
  • The mouse and keyboard stop responding.
Follow these steps to reduce the risk of your computer overheating.
  1. Computers have vents located around the case to allow air to flow through the case. If these vents become clogged or heat generating parts become covered with dust, the fan cannot cool the components properly and overheating can become a problem. Lint and dust accumulation prevents air from flowing around the cooling fins and causes the fan to work harder. If there is dust in the vents, you should clean the computer by blowing out the dust from around the fan and heat shield. This prevents dust from accumulating.
    CAUTION:
    Ensure that the computer is turned off and the AC adapter is disconnected before spraying with compressed air to prevent damage to the PC.
    Use a can of compressed air (a vacuum cleaner on blow function or a hair dryer in cool air mode can also be used, though the can of compressed air is better suited for this task) to remove dust from the computer's vents and prevent overheating. Removing the dust increases the air flow to improve cooling and allows the fan to run quieter.
    The cooling vents are located in various places depending on the PC model. You can identify the vents by looking for the copper or black fins inside the vents. You should also blow the compressed air into other openings such as the fan intake vent to help keep the air circulating and prevent dust from accumulating on components. By taking this action periodically as a preventive measure, you can greatly reduce the possibility of component damage and prevent the slowdown of the computer's performance.
    Figure : Notebook PC side vent
    Notebook PC side vent
    For more information on cleaning your desktop PC, refer to the HP Desktop PCs - Cleaning Your Desktop PC support document.
    For more information on cleaning your notebook PC, refer to the HP Notebook PCs - Cleaning Your Notebook PC support document.
  2. To decrease the likelihood of overheating problems, ensure the fans on your computer are able to ventilate properly. Proper ventilation for the system is important for system operation. Follow these guidelines to ensure adequate ventilation:
    • Keep the computer upright and on a sturdy, level surface.
    • Provide at least 6 inches (15.25 centimeters) of clearance around each vent.
    • If the computer is being used at high altitudes, above 5000 feet (1500 meters), take extra care to keep the computer cool. The maximum limit of 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) drops about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) every 1000 feet (300 meters) of altitude.
  3. If using an HP Notebook PC, HP CoolSense technology can modify your notebook computer's temperature by using its motion sensor to determine whether the computer is being used in a stationary environment or a mobile one. By using this information it automatically adjusts both computer performance and fan speed to keep the computer cool. You can set HP CoolSense software to your specifications. For more information on this see HP Notebook PCs - HP CoolSense Technology.
  4. If your computer is overheating, place it in a cooler room. A small difference in temperature might be all that is needed to prevent a component from failing. Move the computer to a cooler room in the house or office. If this is not an option, continue with the next step.
  5. If overheating issues persist after cleaning the vents and moving the computer to a cooler room, a hardware component might be damaged. Test the computer to see if any hardware, such as memory, the processor, or the graphics hardware, have failed. Most HP and Compaq notebook computers have diagnostic software to verify hardware failures. For more information, see HP Desktop PCs - Testing for Hardware Failures (Windows 7) or HP Notebook PCs - Testing for Hardware Failures (Windows 7, Vista).
    If hardware has failed, either replace the bad component or contact HP for further assistance.
Recommended maintenance schedule
To free resources and keep the computer running correctly, follow a maintenance schedule as listed below.
Recommended maintenance schedule
Daily tasks
Weekly tasks
Monthly tasks
Quarterly tasks
Manage e-mail
  • Delete e-mail from unknown sources.
  • Do not open attachments that you do not trust.
  • Organize e-mail.
Protect against viruses, adware, and spyware
  • Update definition files or schedule a weekly automatic update.
  • Run a full virus, adware, and spyware scan or schedule a weekly automatic scan.
Use Windows Update
Check for updates or schedule a monthly automatic update.
Set new passwords
Optimize system performance
Review the Start menu
Clean the computer, monitor, keyboard, and mouse
Use a portable vacuum to remove dust and debris from ventilation areas.
Clean up Web browser files
  • Delete cookies.
  • Delete cache.
  • Delete history files.
Clean up the desktop
Delete or remove unneeded icons and software programs.