What programs can I uninstall to speed up my computer [ASK MR. NOOBIE]

QUESTION: I have two laptops and one PC. I would like to uninstall anything that is slowing these down. There have been numerous programs/downloads that came on all of these or have been added since I bought them. Can I uninstall some of these? For instance, Adobe flash player 10 plug in. I have 11 Active x and Active x 64 bit installed. Also stuff like Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 (lots of them), Best Buy PC app, and lots of other stuff. Or I am not smart enough to know that much about this and should have an EXPERT do it for a huge price? Any help would be greatly appreciated. – Juanita from New London, Ohio

ANSWER: You have the right idea here but perhaps the wrong approach. It’s a common misconception many people have with their computers—they mix up hard drive storage and memory. And it is more likely memory usage than hard drive storage that is slowing down your computer.

But let me quickly address hard drive storage first. The list of programs you mentioned in your question are all stored somewhere on your hard drive. They aren’t necessarily running on your computer. Uninstalling and/or otherwise removing them will free up space on your hard drive but won’t necessarily speed up your computer. Your best bet on doing something with your hard drive to speed up your computer is to run the built-in disk defragmenter.

Disk Defragmenter

On the other hand, programs that are running on your computer, and therefore using up your computer’s memory, are directly affecting its speed. And the biggest culprits are the little icons you see next to the clock, usually on the lower right hand side of the screen on a computer running one of the Microsoft Windows operating systems like XP, Vista or Windows 7.

Good news and bad news

Here’s the good news. You can usually tweak these programs to stop running when your computer starts up or, if they are completely unnecessary, uninstall them. In this case, uninstalling actually helps because not only are the programs taking up hard drive space but they are also taking up precious memory space since they are loaded into memory each time your computer starts up.

Here’s the bad news. It’s not as easy as it sounds to figure out which programs to stop and which ones to leave alone. Unfortunately, some of the programs that load when your computer starts up are actually needed. For example, an anti-virus or a computer backup program.

How brave are you?

It really comes down to how brave you feel. If you’re the brave type, you can selectively stop programs from loading when your computer starts up by using the built-in MSCONFIG utility. Follow this link for some step by step instructions on how to do this.

MSCONFIG

If you’re not the brave type, your options are pretty limited. You could try buying more memory for the computer. I’ve done this for several of my clients and all of them have been immediately impressed with the results. But a bit of more bad news. If you don’t know how to compare the maximum of amount of memory your computer allows vs. the amount of memory you currently have as well as determine the exact type of memory your computer uses, you probably shouldn’t be trying this.

Time vs. money

Which brings us to hiring an expert. It really comes down to what your time is worth. If an expert can come in and speed up your computer and/or add more memory for $150 and give you back your time spent being frustrated with your computer, would it be worth it? Only you can answer that question.

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10 Comments

  1. Penemuel

    In a related question, regarding hard drive space, what about all of those gobbledygook titled files that come along with Windows system updates? I have tons of those sitting on my hard drive, and if they aren’t needed, I’d love to delete them. I’m just scared that doing so will kill something vital…

  2. Patric Welch

    Penemuel, often those Windows Update files can be removed but I’m too nervous to tell you to go ahead and do so for fear of what could happen if you delete the wrong ones. So unless you are really cramped for space on your hard drive (most computers have more than adequate storage space now), I would just leave them be.

  3. Penemuel

    That’s kind of where I was with them—guess they’re staying.. Thanks for the response, though!

  4. Sonny

    Mr Noobie, are their no free fixit downloads like Speedmax PC.

    Does Microsoft, Windows or AOL offer anything to the customer for using their products.

    Thank you.

  5. Patric Welch

    Sonny, there are all kinds of programs that claim to speed up your PC. My issue with most of them is that they always want to trick you into installing toolbars, other software or signing up for some offer to use them. I have yet to find one I am 100% confident in using.

  6. sanjuz

    What all programs I should not uninstall, that ll harm the process or system of my computer

  7. Patric Welch

    Sanjuz, it would probably easier to concentrate on what programs you CAN uninstall. Look for things that you recognize as 3rd party software programs like iTunes, Apple Update, Adobe updates, etc. If you don’t recognize it, I wouldn’t remove it. Or at the very least do a Google search for the name or file name and see what it comes back with.

  8. sanjuz

    Thank you Mr.Patric Welch for the useful infos.

    • Patric Welch

      Patsy, uninstalling in Windows 8 is a little different. You can follow these instructions to start:

      http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/add-or-remove-programs-in-windows-8.html

      If that doesn’t work, put your mouse in the corner of the screen until the sidebar pops up. Then click Settings, then Control Panel. When the Control Panel window pops up look for “Uninstall a program”, find the Add This program (and click on it) and then click Uninstall.

      Good luck!