How to Fix a Slow Dell Laptop on Windows 10/11

Dell makes solid laptops, but over time your Dell laptop performance will drop little by little. This isn’t unique to just Dell computers, but to any other PCs as well. It doesn’t matter whether your laptop is brand new or five years old, whether it runs on Windows 10 or the latest Windows 11.

There are many possible reasons behind a slow Dell laptop — aging hardware, software issues, etc., sometimes it’s really not that easy to get an accurate answer. That’s why we’re here to put together this guide, sharing 11 tips to fix a slow Dell laptop.

Dell Laptop Performance Issues with Symptoms

When a Dell laptop starts to run slowly, the first step is to identify the issue. But how? Just like you’d determine whether or not you have a cold or the flu: by the symptoms.

See if you are experiencing some of the following issues with your laptop:

  • It is very slow and unresponsive
  • It keeps freezing now and then
  • It’s extremely slow to start up
  • It runs hot quickly and overheats
  • Other similar performance issues

And does it happen all the time? Only on startup? When browsing the web? Or when you’re running multiple applications at once?

If your Dell is slow all the time, try Tip #1-6 as well as #9 and #10. Try Tip #7 if your Dell laptop tends to warm up or overheat, and Tip 8 if your laptop freezes while running specific programs.

Note: If your Dell laptop is brand new, run a Dell diagnostic test here first.

Tips to Speed up a Slow Dell Laptop

1. Disconnect all external devices and restart

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

How to Fix It: unplug all the external devices that are plugged into your Dell, such as an external hard drive, SD card, or HDMI cable. Then, restart your laptop to see if the issue is gone.

Sometimes 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 and spyware

Malware and spyware can run in the background, taking up valuable system resources.

How to Fix It: The best way to check for malware issues and remove them is to use lightweight security software.

3. Defragment your hard drive

If your Dell laptop uses a hard disk drive, files can become fragmented over time, which will make the system work harder to find the information.

How to Fix It: Run a disk cleanup, which will fix any stray pieces of data and put them back where they belong. Note that this operation is only for Dell laptops with hard disk drives (HDDs). If your Dell is loaded with SSD (solid state drive), don’t do it.

4. Keep multitasking to a minimum

The more programs you run at once, the harder your Dell laptop has to cope with them and thus your PC will run slower.

How to Fix It: first off, check Task Manager on Windows 10 or Windows 11 to see if a particular program is taking up too much RAM. Sometimes, this can be fixed by using a different program, like trading Firefox for Chrome.

5. Clean up your hard drive

A full hard drive can cause performance issues as well. If your Dell laptop hard drive is over 85% full, the machine will run much slower and freeze more often than it used to.

How to Fix It: clean up the hard drive by transferring some large files to an external hard drive or using an online cloud storage service to store these files. You can also manually remove applications that you barely use, run disk cleanup, or remove temporary files. Learn more here.

6. Disable Intel SpeedStep utility

SpeedStep is a technology developed by Intel. It has been built into many Intel processors (e.g. i5, i7). Basically, it’s primarily designed to adjust CPU processing speed based on performance needs, thus minimizing overheating issues.

While the technology sounds fancy, it sometimes leads to serious slowdowns as reported by many users who have SpeedStep enabled, according to this Dell knowledge article.

How to Fix It: Dell laptops, especially the Inspiron and Latitude series, have pre-installed SpeedStep utility. Disabling the service can sometimes resolve certain performance issues.

To turn off SpeedStep, you’ll need to enter BIOS first. Shut down your laptop, press the Start button, then hold the F12 key. Now select BIOS setup options > Performance > SpeedStep, and select the option to disable the utility. Hit Apply and exit.

7. 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 slowly as well. The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) driver, for example, activates hardware when your computer powers up.

How to Fix It: To check if there are some driver errors with your Dell laptop, follow the instructions here.

8. Prevent overheating by cleaning fan system

If your Dell laptop 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.

How to Fix It: First, locate the fan by finding the vent on your laptop. Use a can of compressed air to gently blow out the fan, clearing the dust. In rare cases, you may need to remove a panel to access the fan and clean it out, but that process varies a bit depending on what model you own.

Check out this video for more:

9. Update software

When your Dell laptop freezes, most of the time, it’s due to software issues, not the hardware. If your laptop is freezing or running slow when a particular application is open, it’s time to update that app.

How to Fix It: You can do this in two ways: get the latest Windows update, or update the individual apps to the latest version. Learn more here.

10. Upgrade RAM

RAM is the computer’s short-term memory, more RAM will allow you to run multiple programs at once or run more intensive programs quickly. If you have less than 4 GB of RAM, an upgrade will significantly improve your Dell laptop’s performance.

How to Fix It: most Dell laptops are easy to upgrade, but you’ll have to find your specific model for the exact instructions.

11. Replace HDD with SDD

Solid State Drives (SSDs) don’t have moving parts, so they are much faster than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). Most Dell laptops are fairly simple to upgrade (if you see removable panels on the back of your laptop).

How to Fix It: If you are not tech-savvy, it’s recommended that you take your laptop to a local computer shop. If you are a computer person, you can install an SSD by yourself.

Here’s a useful video tutorial:

Like any computer, Dell laptops can run slowly over time. If it is brand new and it runs slow, be sure to contact Dell support so you can fix it at no cost. Other solutions such as cleaning up the hard drive, scanning for malware, and upgrading hardware components can also help speed up your slow laptop as well.

We hope you find the above tuneup tips useful. If you have another tip or trick to contribute, feel free to let us know by leaving a comment below.

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