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12 Easy Ways to Speed up a Slow or Freezing Dell Computer

woman working with dell desktop computer

One of the biggest complaints bothering we Dell users is speed — or rather, a lack of it. Often, an older Dell will start to put through even basic tasks, but sometimes a brand new Dell runs slowly or even freezes randomly.

The issue isn’t unique to just Dell laptops or desktops, but other Windows based PCs as well. It doesn't matter whether your computer is aging or brand new. There are many reasons that your computer might be running slow. I'm here to help you figure them out, and share with you 12 ways to cure a slow Dell.

Dell Performance Issues (with Symptoms)

When your Dell starts running slow (or runs slow straight out of the box), the first step is try to identify the issue. How? Just like you’d determine whether or not you have a cold or the flu: by the symptoms. This guide is for you if you are experiencing some of the following issues with your Dell PC:

  • Your Dell Inspiron is very slow and unresponsive
  • Your Dell laptop keeps freezing
  • It runs slow to start up
  • It runs hot quickly and overheats
  • Other performance issues

All computers may start to run a bit slow, but identifying when the computer runs slow will help. When does it run the slowest? All the time? At start up? When connecting to the internet? When using multiple applications at once? After running fine for an hour?

If your Dell is slow all the time, look at solutions 1-7 as well as 10 and 11. Those solutions can help with a Dell that’s starting up slow. Tip 8 will help a slow Dell laptop that’s also running warm to the touch, and solution 9 can help if the freezes are occurring while running a program. If you still can’t pinpoint the issue (or if you are working with a brand new Dell and suspect there’s an issue with the hardware), you can also run a Dell diagnostic test.

Wait ... Not a computer person? Or you don't have the time or skills to try out each manual technique? Go get this all-in-one PC speed up software to help!

  • Remove viruses and malware.
  • Clean your Dell hard drive.
  • Optimize startup times.
  • Fix all kinds of Windows system errors.

12 Ways To Speed Up a Slow Dell

1. Disconnect all external devices, restart your Dell.

It’s easy to blame your computer for running slow, but sometimes that blame is misplaced. Anything that’s plugged into your computer could be making your computer work harder than it should, causing it to run slow.

Since this is an easy issue to fix, try this first: unplug anything that’s plugged in to your Dell, like an external hard drive, SD card and printer. Then, restart your PC without any accessories and see if the issue can be fixed. If yes, there may be a compatibility issue (like using an old printer with a new computer). Or sometimes the device is working in the background — for example, setting up automatic backups to an external hard drive will cause a PC to slow down while the files are being copied in the background.

2. Check for malware.

Hidden software downloaded into your computer is a big culprit for a slow computer. Malware and spyware will run in the background, taking up valuable RAM without giving you anything in return. The easiest way to check for malware and remove them is to use BitDefender Total Security -- the software is very powerful, easy to use and will search your hard drive for malware, and if any is detected, eliminate it.

3. Defragment your hard drive.

Over time, data can become separated or fragmented, which makes your computer work harder to find the information. Running the defragment process will fix any stray pieces of data and put them back where they belong — but only for Dells with hard disk drives (HDDs). If you purchased a Dell computer with an SDD instead of a standard hard drive, or later upgraded to an SDD, DO NOT run the defragmentation program.

4. Keep multitasking to a minimum.

Technology ages quickly, and sometimes computers that are a bit older have a hard time managing today’s more advanced programs. The solution? Cut back on the multi-tasking. The more programs you run at once, the harder the computer has to work and the slower it will run. It’s also a good idea to check Task Manager to see if there’s a particular program that’s eating up all your RAM. Sometimes, this can be fixed by using a different program, like trading Firefox for Chrome.

5. Clean up your hard drive.

While the RAM that stores all the data you are currently using often causes computers to run slow, a full hard drive can cause performance issues as well. If your Dell hard drive is over 85% full, you’ll see a quick boost in performance after cleaning it up. Do this with CleanMyPC -- a tool that helps keep your Dell hard drive clean automatically.

Another (manual) way to clean up a full hard drive is to use an external hard drive or online cloud storage to store files that you don’t often use. Furthermore, remove applications you no longer use, run disk cleanup or remove temporary files. If you are a computer person, go clear out these caches, histories, plugins etc. that reside in your web browser.

6. Clear system clutters and errors.

Over time, hidden system errors can slow down your Dell computer as well. What's the best way to find and fix such hidden issues? We like PC Health Advisor because it can help you detect many different types of system errors automatically and help improve your Dell's overall performance.

7. Disable Intel SpeedStep utility.

SpeedStep is a technology developed by Intel. It has been built into many Intel microprocessors (e.g. i5, i7). Basically it’s primarily designed to adjust CPU processing speed based on performance needs, thus aim to minimizing overheating issues. While the technology sounds fancy, it sometimes leads to serious slowdowns reported by many Dell users who have SpeedStep enabled, according to this Dell knowledge article.

Dell laptops, especially the Inspiron and Latitude series, have pre-installed SpeedStep utility. Disabling the service can sometimes resolve certain performance issues you are experiencing. To turn off SpeedStep, you'll need to enter BIOS first. Shut down your Dell, press the Start button, then hold F12 key. Now select BIOS setup options > Performance > SpeedStep, select the option to disable the utility. Hit Apply and exit.

8. Update outdated device drivers or BIOS settings.

Drivers allow computer software to communicate with hardware — and if drivers go wrong, that can cause your computer to run slow. The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) driver, for example, activates hardware when your computer powers up. To check and see if a driver error could be causing your Dell to run slow or freeze, follow the instructions from Dell.

9. Prevent overheating by with a fan system cleaning.

If your Dell is several years old and you’ve never cleaned out the fan, chances are that dust build-up in the fan is causing your computer to overheat, which will affect the performance. First, locate the fan by finding the vent on your computer. Use a can of compressed air to gently blow out the fan, clearing the dust. For extreme cases, you may need to remove a panel to access the fan and clean it out, but that process varies a bit by what model Dell you own.

10. Update software programs.

Complete freezes are usually the result of software, and not the actual computer (though sometimes that may not be the case). If your Dell is freezing or running slow when a particular program is open, it’s time for update. You can do this in two ways: updating Windows, and updating the individual programs with the latest version. The process varies for individual programs, but there’s often an update option under File (try Account Settings or Help).

11. Upgrade the RAM.

If you’ve tried everything else on the list, you may be looking at a hardware upgrade in order to get the most out of your Dell. The RAM is the computer’s short term memory, more RAM will allow you to run multiple programs at once or run more high-demand programs quickly. If you have less than 4 GB of RAM, an upgrade will significantly improve your computer’s performance. Thankfully, most Dell computers are easy to update, but you’ll have to find your specific model for the exact instructions.

12. Replace an HDD with an SDD.

Solid State Drives or SSDs, unlike traditional hard drives, have no moving parts, so they are much faster. Most Dell computers are fairly simple to upgrade (if you see removable panels on the back of your computer or laptop, the process is simpler than if you have a computer without easy access panels). You can take your Dell into a local computer shop, or for the tech savvy, install an SSD yourself. Here's a useful video tutorial.

Like any computer, Dell laptops and desktops can run slow over time. If your Dell is brand new and it runs slow, be sure to contact Dell Support so you can fix it at no cost. Methods such as cleaning up the hard drive, scanning for malware and upgrading to an SSD can also help speed up a slow Dell. Hope you find these tuneup tips useful, and thanks for reading.

The content on this page was last updated on: April 17, 2017