Here are a few practical tips for improving your computer's performance by using stock Windows utilities and a few programs you can download for free. Though the associated articles assume that you're running the latest version of Windows 7, many of them work just as well on older copies of Windows 7, Windows Vista, and even Windows XP. None of the optimization tips and tricks in this guide cost anything, so feel free to run them as often as you'd like to ensure that your computer runs lean and mean for as long as possible.
Of course the first step in optimizing your PC's performance is to figure out which programs are running and how heavily they're taxing your hardware at any given moment. Thankfully, Windows 7 comes with a slew of free utilities that you can use to pinpoint performance bottlenecks and uncover weak points like outdated driver software or missing Windows security patches. Uninstall unwanted programs and download the latest versions of your device drivers from the manufacturer's website to ensure that your hardware will deliver peak performance.