How to Clean Your Windows Desktop to Speed Up Windows

Make better use of your computer's memory

Messy Desktop
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If your formerly fast-running computer has slowed down noticeably, take a close look at your desktop. Is it littered with icons, screenshots and files? Each of those items takes memory that your computer could put to better use elsewhere. To speed up your computer, clean your Windows desktop.

How Many Files Are on Your Desktop?

Each time Windows starts, operating memory is used to display all files on the desktop and to locate the position of all files represented by shortcuts.

If there are dozens of files sitting on the desktop, they use lots of operating memory, essentially for no purpose or gain. With less memory available, the computer runs slower because it has to swap out information from operating memory to the hard drive. It does this process—called memory paging—to keep everything the user wants to do running at the same time.

Clean Your Desktop

The best solution is to put your documents in the My Documents folder and your other files where they belong—anywhere other than the desktop. If you have a lot of files, you can put them in separate folders and label them accordingly. Create shortcuts on your desktop only for the folders or files you frequently use. Simplifying the desktop contents frees up operating memory, reduces the time and frequency the hard drive is used and improves the response of your computer to programs you open and things you do. The simple act of cleaning the desktop makes your computer run faster.

How to Keep It Clean

The more desktop items you have the longer it takes for your computer to start up. Make a conscious effort to "park" fewer icons on your desktop. Other steps you can take include:

  • Delete any shortcuts, screenshots or files you no longer use.
  • Gather all the files and folders you want to keep on the desktop and instead place them in a single folder on the desktop.
  • Hide all the icons on the desktop by clicking on the desktop and deselecting Show desktop icons in the context menu. Repeat the process to show them again.
  • Use the Start Menu in Windows 8 and 10 as a parking place for app shortcuts. Pin any app on your desktop to the Start Menu by right-clicking it and selecting Pin to Start. You may need to organize your Start Menu into groups to keep everything there tidy and accessible.
  • Most Windows operating systems come with a desktop cleanup wizard. People love it or hate it, but it's worth checking out.
  • Schedule a weekly or monthly cleaning to corral any stray items that have gathered on your desktop since the last cleanup.

Before you know it, hoarding files on your desktop will be a thing of the past and your computer will be running like it did when it was new.