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You can drink four cups of coffee and a shower in the time it takes your computer to start. When it finally does boot, trying to get anything done feels like you're moving through molasses.

It ran so snappy when you bought it. Now you just want to toss it in the dumper and head for the nearest electronics store.

Try these tricks to speed up your machine first. Your wallet will thank you!

1. Free up and optimize hard disk space

A hard drive that's nearly full will slow down your computer. First, get rid of temporary Internet and Windows files with the free program CCleaner.

Then, in Start>>Control Panel, run Disk Defragmenter (Optimize Drives in Windows 8) to consolidate fragmented files and folders and speed up reading and writing to the disk. Also run the Error Checking utility, which scans the drive for bad sectors and file system errors.

If you're still close to your hard drive's storage limit, consider moving your photo, video or music library to an external drive. Use a free disk-visualizing program such as WinDirStat to see what other applications and files are taking up the most space.

Two more free programs help. Grab Revo Uninstaller to thoroughly remove any programs you don't use anymore. Zap trial software and other unwanted bloatware with PC Decrapifier.

2. Speed up your startup

If you can afford it, installing a solid-state hard drive will make your older PC like new again.

SSDs boot up and launch apps in a flash compared to conventional HDDs. You can install one in a second storage bay. If you can live without an optical DVD/CD drive, that can be removed and replaced with an SSD, too. Of course, it will set you back a bit. A 128GB drive costs about $120.

Before you do that, it's a good idea to check whether you have too many programs that start automatically when you turn on your computer. These take away resources that your computer needs during startup.

Autoruns is a freebie that can help reduce the load. It finds and disables programs that start automatically so they don't slow you down. But it won't stop those important startup processes you need, like security software.

Cleaning up your registry with CCleaner can trim your startup time, too. Don't stray too far from the program's default settings, though, or you can damage programs and Windows.

3. Increase your RAM

If you only have 1 or 2GB of RAM and do a lot of multitasking, upping your RAM to 4GB is a sensible upgrade.

When programs and files in current use fill up your available RAM, the computer processor has to read data from the much slower hard disk.

Click to read the next 3 ways to speed up your computer

By Kim Kommando

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