When you unpack your shiny new computer or first install Windows, it will run like a dream, booting speedily and quickly loading new applications. Over time, computers start to slow down, running out of steam to do the simplest of jobs. There’s no need simply to accept this situation, however: over the next few pages, we show you the simple steps you can take to make your computer feel like new again. We’ve looked at both hardware and software tweaks to improve performance, focusing on improvements that don’t break the way that Windows works, either. For example, some advice suggests that you disable the Windows fileindexing service; while this can have a small impact, particularly on older computers, it also makes finding files far slower, and who wants that?

Refresh your computer

The easiest option is often just to wipe Windows 10 and start again. Here’s how you can do it.
When Windows gets really slow, rather than trying to fix the problems individually, it’s often easier to start over again, wiping out everything and reinstalling the applications and files you need. There are several ways to do this, and we’ll take you through them. Before we get started, you should back up all of your documents, just in case. Our preferred method is to use a cloud service, such as Google Drive or Dropbox , constantly synchronising our files. That way, if we ever get into trouble, we know that we can just wipe our computer, install the synchronisation software and all of our files will come back. Alternatively, you can back up to a NAS or external hard drive.

Windows has a built-in tool to refresh your computer back to factory settings
Windows has a built-in tool to refresh your computer back to factory settings

Refresh your computer Windows 10 has a tool to help you refresh your computer, going back to factory defaults so that you can start from scratch. There’s an option to keep your personal files, although you should still take a backup just in case. Go to the Start menu and type Reset, and then select Reset this PC. Then click Get started under Reset this PC. Click the Get started button underneath Reset this PC. You’ll see an option to keep your files or remove everything, so select the best option for you and follow the wizard through. Windows 10 will then reset your computer and reinstall the operating system. Note that the Reset option will only put your PC back to its default factory state. If you bought your computer from a manufacturer (rather than building it yourself), you’ll get back to the initial state your PC was in when it shipped, complete with any junk software that came with it.

The reset option

Fortunately, Windows 10 has a nuclear option, which will install a completely clean version of Windows. Again, go to the Start menu and type Reset, then select Reset this PC. This time, click Learn how to start afresh with a clean installation of Windows. This will launch Windows Security, where you’ll see the Fresh start page.

Windows 10 gives you the option of installing a completely fresh OS
Windows 10 gives you the option of installing a completely fresh OS

As the description says, this option will reinstall and update Windows to the latest version, keeping your personal files but removing most third-party apps, including security software and even applications that came preinstalled. If you’re happy to continue, click Get Started and follow the wizard. You’ll see a list of applications that will be removed, so check this carefully before proceeding. In total, the reset procedure should take around 20 minutes, after which you’ll have a PC that looks and feels like new. You’ll need to reinstall the applications you want.

You can take an image backup before starting to refresh you computer

Taking a complete image of your computer is a neat way to build a custom restore. The idea is that you get a fresh install of Windows, install the key applications and drivers that you need, then take an image. That way, when you refresh your computer, you’re starting from a key point with your software ready to go. Windows has a basic backup tool built in that will do the job. To run it, open the Start menu and select Backup, then choose Backup Settings. Underneath Looking for an older backup?, select Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

Windows has a free backup tool that you can use
Windows has a free backup tool that you can use

Next, select Set up back-up, and choose the drive where you want to save your backups. This can be a USB hard disk, or you can back up to a NAS if you select Save on a network. Click Next when done, let Windows choose the backup settings, and click Next. By default, Windows will run the backup job every Sunday at 7pm, but click Change schedule to disable this. When ready, click Save settings and run the backup. Your computer will now be backed up. To restore your computer, it’s best to use a Windows installation disc, which you can create using the instructions on page 104. When you boot into the Windows installation, click Next until you get to the Install now screen, then click Repair your computer. Select Troubleshoot, then System Image Recovery. If you have an external disk plugged in with your backup, Windows should find it, but it won’t find a network backup. If Windows can’t find a backup, it will show an error message, so click Cancel, then click Next to select a system image.

Click Advanced, then select Search for a system image on the network; you’ll need to type in the network address of your NAS and enter a username and password. When your image has been found, click Next and follow the wizard to restore your computer. Back at the Windows Desktop, you’ll need to restore your files and applications, but you’ll be back at the point at which your computer was initially working.