We all know the feeling. You've bought a shiny new PC or laptop and within months it's ground to an infuriatingly slow pace...

"Home computers slow down for a number of reasons, including failure to run regular updates and a general build-up of clutter from installing and uninstalling applications over a period of time," says software expert Richard Clooke of PC Tools. "And just like a car, your machine needs regular attention to keep it running at optimum speed and performance."

If you are running a PC at home there are three simple steps Clooke recommends to keep it running smoothly.

First, run a disk clean-up (Start>programs>accessories>system tools) which will remove temporary files and all sorts of other junk from your hard drive.

Secondly, disable any programmes you don't need that automatically start when your computer is switched on (start>programmes>startup).

Finally defrag your hard disk (start>programs>accessories>system tools>disk defragmenter). This will take several hours – you may want to leave it overnight – but it will speed up performance by more logically storing data on your hard drive.

If you are running a Mac make sure to clean up your dashboard as it eats up your machine's memory. Fire up the activity monitor (applications folder>utilities>activity monitor), if you see a lot of dashboard applications high up the list, consider disabling any that you don't absolutely need.

You can also download a disk inventory programme (such as Disk Inventory X, derlien.com) to give you a graphical overview of what's on your hard drive and if it can be cleaned up.