Nobody likes working on a slow computer. When you have to wait 5-10 minutes for a program to open or it takes 2 or 3 minutes for a sentence that took 2 or 3 seconds to type out to show up on screen, it can drive you nuts and make you want to grab that slow as molasses computer and chunk it out the nearest window. (At least, that' s how it makes me feel, anyway...) But just because your PC is slow doesn't mean it's time to toss it in the garbage bin. There's a few tips and tricks you can use to bring your system back up to speed, without having to spend a dime. Here are just a few ways you can speed up your PC.

Clean up your desktop

More often than not, the primary culprit of PC slowdown is simply too much stuff on your computer. Cleaning up your desktop is a good place to start, especially if your desktop is so littered with various flies and documents that you can't even see your computer's background anymore. Spend a bit of time organizing your files and getting rid of all the ones you don't need anymore, and you'll be surprised how much of a difference that alone can make. Also, try uninstalling and deleting programs and applications you don't use anymore. Sometimes that old game or program you haven't opened in a few years can take up more space on your hard drive than you think.

If you want to take your cleaning one step further, you may also want to try using a 3rd-party cleaning program. But let me offer a word of warning: there are a lot of programs and websites out there that promise to speed up your system, but are really just scams or worthless promotions. You should stay away from cleaning software, or any other sort of software, that doesn't come recommended from a reliable source: such as a computer magazine or a trusted PC information website. My recommendation for a good 3rd-party cleaning program is CCleaner. This completely free, widely-used and trusted program removes all of the temporary Internet files, registry entries, and other unnecessary junk cluttering up your system and slowing down your PC's performance.

Speed up your Startup

You know your computer is slow when you can brew an entire pot of coffee in the time it takes for Windows to start up. But what you may not realize is that Windows isn't the only program that starts up when you first turn your computer on. There are actually quite a few programs that start up at the same time as Windows, and when they do, they take away valuable RAM and resources Windows needs to start.

To control which programs start up when you turn on your computer, you can use MSConfig, a lesser-known built-in function of Windows. To access it, click the start button and type in "msconfig," When you do, the System Configuration box should pop up. From there, go to the "Startup" tab and check the boxes of the applications you want to automatically start, and which ones you don't. For the most part, you can leave anything from Microsoft, your PC manufacture (such as Dell or Alienware) or trusted sources like Apple or Google. If you don't want to mess with the System Configurations, try downloading Autoruns, a free program that will help you identify and disable programs that start up automatically and could potentially slow down your system.

Scan your system for viruses

Sometimes, a system slowdown is the result of viruses or spyware clogging up your system. I cannot stress enough the importance of having good anti-virus software on your machine and running regular scans on your computer, and this is just one of the reasons. If you're experiencing a severe system slowdown, try running a complete scan on your system to see if the cause could be malware, spyware or some other kind of nasty virus. If you don't have an anti-virus program installed on your machine, check out my previous article for my recommendations on some great anti-virus software you can get for free.

Get Upgraded

No matter how cutting edge or high performance your hardware is, eventually technology gets old. And if you've tried everything possible to get your system back up to speed and it still refuses to speed up, you may be in need of a hardware upgrade. One of the most effective ways to speed up your system is to add more RAM, particularly if you do a lot of PC gaming or video editing. 4 GBs of RAM is a good amount of RAM for most PCs, and at around $50 is a relatively cheap upgrade, so if you have less than that and you're experiencing slowdown, it may be time to up your RAM amount.

Particularly for my PC gamers out there, some slowdowns can be fixed by upgrading to a new graphics card. And if worse comes to worse and it's still not speeding up, an entirely new hard drive may be in order. However, I would not recommend going out and immediately buying up the latest and greatest hardware just because your computer is slow. I'd recommend trying the above steps first, and only switch out your hardware as a last resort, because at least in my case, there's no sense throwing money at a problem that can be fixed for free.