Both PCs and Macs are blazing-fast when you first purchase them. But it seems like PCs become sluggish over time, while a Mac stays as fast as the day you bought it. You’re not imagining it. Although both get slower, Windows machines tend to struggle more than Macs as they get older.

PCs slow down while Macs don’t because Apple optimizes macOS updates for their machines. Moreover, Windows has a registry filled with worthless data and services from uninstalled programs. When you delete a program on a Mac, it’s gone forever. Also, there’s less malware on Macs than on Windows.

The rest of this article will go over why PCs get slower over time, whether Macs slow down too, and what differentiates the two. I’ll also share a few handy tips that’ll make your old PC or Mac faster.

Why do PCs slow down over time?

The main reason why PCs slow down over time is data accumulation. Unused entries from uninstalled programs stay in the Windows registry, significantly slowing down the computer. Data fragmentation on your hard disk, software bugs, and demanding operating system updates slow down PCs as well.

a woman expressing frustration with a slow computer

Slowdowns on storage devices

As you can probably tell by now, the main reason mostly has to do with your storage disk. 

Gradual data buildup from the various system and driver updates, programs, video games, etc., slow down your PC.

A hard drive will get way slower than an SSD as time goes by, though. This is because hard drives use physically spinning disks. The disk stores the 0s and 1s that make up data on your PC.

The actuator in your hard disk isn’t fast enough to read everything at once. And the more data you have, the longer it takes to find all the corresponding data chunks.

The problem with Windows is that it’s horrible at storing all that data. A single program leaves data across half a dozen different databases and folders.

It stores temporary files in Temp and AppData folders. Services, registry entries, and drivers stay in the infamous system32 folder. If it’s a game, it probably leaves configs and saves files in your Documents folder.

Windows updates

The next big one is Windows updates. You’ll find countless complaints about Windows updates online. 

People don’t recommend updating your Windows unless there’s a significant security risk. Major updates can make your PC very slow because of bugs and compatibility issues.

Microsoft doesn’t account for the thousands of different hardware combinations. So, it’s impossible to optimize the operating system to work correctly.

Moreover, the updates increase the demand for processing power and RAM space from aging hardware. This is why it’s often better to run an outdated Windows version on an old PC.

Overheating

Lastly, overheating can cause your PC to slow down. This is because overheating causes your CPU to run at a lower clock speed, making your computer much slower when gaming.

Fans get slower over time, but it’s not an issue unless your PC is over ten years old.

Your CPU has a layer of thermal compound on its surface that allows for heat transfer. Unfortunately, the thermal paste gets dry and crusty after 2-3 years. So it’s best to change it annually.

Watch this video by RBN Hardware to learn how to change the thermal paste on your processor:

YouTube video

Do Macs slow down over time?

Like Windows PCs, Macs do slow down over time. Whenever a new macOS update is released, your old Mac slows down a bit because of added features and complexity. Moreover, the more apps you have on your Mac, the slower it gets. Malware can slow down your Mac as well.

Why is it that an old Mac runs much faster than an old Windows PC?

It’s primarily thanks to the cleaner and better macOS updates.

But Macs suffer from the same problems as Windows PCs.

Aging hardware

Although the updates are well-optimized for all Macs, older hardware isn’t powerful enough for the new operating system.

This is Apple’s way of saying, “Hey, it’s time to upgrade to a new Mac”. 

So, in essence, Macs also slow down over time.

Poor performing storage devices

Installing numerous programs on your Mac also slows it down, especially if it uses an HDD. It’s less of an issue if you have a newer Mac with an SSD, though.

Malicious software infections

Contrary to popular belief, Macs can catch malware and viruses. There’s always a risk associated with downloading files and programs from the Internet, even on a Mac.

Not enough RAM

There’s also the RAM issue. Insufficient RAM capacity means your Mac will be slower than usual when running a newer version of the same program. Final Cut Pro is an excellent example of such a program.

Thermal issues

Furthermore, Macs are known to overheat and thermal throttle a lot. 

Unfortunately, changing the thermal paste on your Mac is much harder to do than on a PC.

If you’re not super tech-savvy and know how to remove a Mac display, it’s best to have a professional service do it for you.

Why do PCs slow down more than Macs?

PCs slow down more than Macs because of major differences between the operating systems. Unlike Windows, macOS doesn’t have a registry filled with keys from unused programs that slow down the computer. Moreover, macOS is better optimized for Mac hardware and gets less malware.

a guy with hand over mouth frustrated with a slow computer

I explained earlier what happens whenever you install any third-party program on a Windows computer. It stores data in a handful of different locations on the disk.

And when you delete that program, all that random data stays on the computer. This clutters your PC with unnecessary files.

Windows Registry

The Windows registry is also full of old keys from uninstalled programs. So you can think of the registry as a massive instruction set for your computer.

Your PC becomes slow when your registry is cluttered with hundreds of worthless keys.

Macs don’t have a registry. Instead, the settings for various apps are stored within the app folder.

Each program on a Mac gets its own chunk on the storage disk.

This simplified design makes it easy to delete all the program’s data. macOS doesn’t degrade over time like Windows.

A common target for malicious software

Also, Windows downloads far more adware, spyware, and other forms of malicious programs when browsing the web. But then again, that could be because Windows is more popular.

Updates

Another considerable factor is OS updates. Apple releases a major macOS update every year or two. 

Apple carefully plans what goes into the new update. They test new features extensively on older Macs. They also bundle all the driver updates you need to run the latest macOS version.

Conversely, chaotic Windows updates can break a perfectly functional computer. They don’t care about drivers. 

And it’s virtually impossible to test a single Windows update on the millions of different computer builds. 

Rushed updates lead to bugs in the OS that can slow down your CPU, SSD, and RAM.

Should I get a new PC when the old one gets too slow?

You shouldn’t throw away your old PC when it gets too slow. You can often speed up your old PC by installing a fresh copy of Windows and upgrading a few components. Installing an SSD can speed up your old PC significantly. But if your PC is still slow after all that, you may need a new one.

a computer requesting use to slow down with a large yellow slow down sign on the monitor

We’ll talk later about the various ways to make your old computer fast again.

Just because your old PC got slow over time doesn’t mean it’s time to get a new one. If it’s only a few years old, you can probably make it as fast as it used to be.

The accumulation of random programs and files is weighing your PC down. So, a fresh Windows install can speed it up.

Getting a few intelligent upgrades is also more inexpensive than a whole new machine if it’s a bit older.

You should only get a new PC if you’re not happy with how your current computer performs. 

If you’re not getting the FPS you want in games or if it takes forever to open a new program despite a fresh Windows install, it’s time for an upgrade.

How to speed up a slow PC or Mac

Keep reading if you have an older PC or Mac that you aren’t ready to give up just yet. I’ll share a few methods that’ll make your device as fast as ever.

Delete unused programs and files

In addition to taking up valuable storage space, old programs slow down your hard disk.

The same goes for large data files like old system backups, saves of old video games, and various temporary files.

Here’s how to delete programs on your Windows computer:

  1. Click on the Start menu icon (Windows logo) and type Add or remove programs.
  2. Go through the whole list and delete all programs you no longer need. You should also delete any games you no longer play. Don’t worry about deleting essential programs because Windows won’t let you do that.

Here’s how to do it on a Mac:

  1. Open the Launchpad.
  2. Click and hold any app on the Launchpad. When the icons start wobbling, you’ll see an X icon in the corner of uninstallable apps.
  3. Delete any app you no longer need.

It would help if you also went through your Documents and Downloads folders. Delete all files you no longer need. Your Downloads folder probably has gigabytes worth of useless program installers and other random stuff.

Disable startup apps

Remember that program someone told you to download three years ago that you forgot to install?

It’s probably still on your machine, running in the background.

These programs take up valuable disk, RAM, and CPU resources that your games and web browser could use instead.

This is probably one of the most common and highly impactful causes of slowing down a computer and increasing boot time lengths.

a hard drive with two ram modules and a CPU placed on top of them

You can stop background apps by disabling them on startup. In other words, they’ll no longer run when you turn your computer on.

Here’s how to configure your startup programs in Windows:

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc simultaneously to open the Task Manager.
  2. Go to the Startup tab.
  3. Right-click on any program you don’t use and select Disable.

It would be best to disable everything you don’t recognize or need.

Here’s how to do it on a Mac:

  1. Right-click on a program you don’t use in the Dock.
  2. Hover your cursor over Options.
  3. Uncheck Open at Login.

Upgrade to an SSD

Old PCs and Macs don’t have SSDs in them. Instead, they use hard drives to store all data.

The problem is that hard drives are much slower than SSDs. It’s not a problem for programs and games, but it is for your operating system.

You’ll feel an enormous difference by switching to an SSD and installing your OS onto it.

It’s much harder to do it on a Mac than on a PC, though. So ask a professional service that works with Macs to do it for you.

If you know your way around computers, installing a new SSD won’t be much of a hassle. But, again, if you’re not sure, have someone do it instead.

Remove malware/viruses

If your computer is full of malicious software, no wonder it’s slow.

Although the built-in antivirus software in macOS and Windows does a decent job, you should still have something like Malwarebytes installed.

Run a full scan with a third-party antivirus once a month to keep your device malware-free.

Reinstall Windows (PC)

Doing a factory reset on your Mac can make it slightly faster. But since we know that macOS already has excellent digital hygiene, it’s not worth doing.

On the other hand, Windows can get super slow because it’s so complex.

By doing a fresh Windows install, you’ll get rid of all corrupted data, invalid registry entries, viruses, and so on. Note that you’ll also lose all the data on your primary storage drive.

If you’ve ever experienced a fresh Windows install on your PC, you know what I’m talking about. 

If you have never done it, do it now! You’re missing out.

Don’t forget to back up all important files before you do, though.

Final thoughts

Although both PCs and Macs slow down as they age, the problem is worse on Windows. Windows is more complex and doesn’t automatically delete useless temporary files and registry keys.

Also, both Macs and PCs can get slower from OS updates and having too many programs installed. Uninstalling what you don’t need and upgrading your device can mitigate the slowdown.