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Deleting programs can be as simple as removing files which won't have much impact on performance. Occasionally, though, it's nowhere near that simple.

If I delete certain programs(that I seldom, or don't use) off of my computer, will that help my computer run faster?

Maybe.

Strictly speaking the answer is actually "probably not"; however, when you uninstall a program, you often do much more than just remove it -- and that "much more" can, sometimes, have some pretty significant performance benefits.

It all depends on the program you're uninstalling.

Strictly Speaking

In its purest sense, uninstalling a program really just removing all the files associated with that program, removing shortcuts from the start menu and the like, and perhaps updating or removing registry settings associated with the program.

Aside from freeing up some disk space, none of that will really gain you anything significant in terms of your computer's overall speed.

"Running less software means the software that does run can run faster."

So in that sense, no, uninstalling programs won't speed up your computer.

On The Other Hand

It's running programs that affect your computer's speed the most. And many programs as part of being installed also install small programs that run constantly. If, after installing a program you find that there's a new icon in your task bar's notification area, then it's pretty likely that this is the case - particularly if that notification icon comes back after you reboot your machine.

Now, most of those programs are small, it's true. However, so many programs install so many of these little "applets", that it can not only be simply annoying as all get-out, but they can add up to have a serious impact on your machine's start up time as well as ongoing performance.

If you uninstall those programs, and if as part of that uninstall process they remove these little auto-start programs as well, then yes, absolutely: uninstalling this software will improve your performance. How much we can't say, since it depends on so many other factors on your machine, but there should be an improvement. Running less software means the software that does run can run faster.

But Wait! There's More!

Another source of system slowdowns has less to do with the quantity of software running on your machine as much as what that software is trying to do.

A great case in point are some anti-malware and system security packages. Occasionally, they can insert themselves into the system or into the data path of other programs (such as email or web browsers) in ways that on some systems can cause a serious performance issue.

As you might imagine, once you determine that they're the cause of a problem uninstalling those programs can help a lot.

However, before you do that we need to make sure that you're not left without malware protection. The proper thing to do is to have an alternative ready to install in its place. Since different tools work in different ways it's not uncommon at all for one program to cause an issue, but another to have no problem at all.

Sadly, it's often just trial and error before we determine which of the many reputable programs works on your system with minimal impact.

And naturally this isn't limited to anti-malware tools. Quite often so-called "system enhancement" or tuning utilities operate in similar ways, and can cause more problems than they solve - performance impact isn't an uncommon result.

So while the "strictly speaking" bottom line is that no, uninstalling a program shouldn't improve your performance, the practical reality is that uninstalling a program that has components constantly running or that inserts itself into your system in impactful ways can certainly improve performance.

As I said a the beginning: it depends on the program.

Article C4452 - September 17, 2010 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
Arthur Gladstone
September 21, 2010 3:53 PM

on the subject of slowdown; is there a way to keep programs that automatically start, and sample the internet for upgrades, without them starting at boot (or ever) without my permission?
I think that would make the computer faster; certainly at start-up....thanks;arthur gladstone

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