Speeding Up An Older Computer

June 28, 2019

Can you switch on your PC or laptop in a morning and have a shower and breakfast before it has booted up? And does it feel like you’re wading through treacle once you do get a chance to use it?

If your computer is of a certain age, it is very tempting when it is behaving like this to head for the shops and buy a new one. There is, however, quite a lot that can be done with an older machine to give it a new lease of life.

Firstly, it’s best to check that a new – or newer – computer wouldn’t be the better option to consider. If you are running Windows XP or Vista, then you are using a machine that is very likely over ten years old. These operating systems are also no longer supported by Microsoft, and it is increasingly difficult to get new software and hardware to work with them. In this case, a new PC or laptop would be the best option.

Apple Mac computers are no different. Apple stops offering the latest version of its Operating system after about five years. Like Windows computers, you can continue to use your Mac, but compatibility can become an issue over time. It would be best to consider another machine rather than spending money on your current one.

Otherwise, there is plenty that can be done to help speed things up.

Free Up Hard Disk Space

It is a bit of a myth that having lots of things stored on your computer can slow it down – to a point. It’s a bit like owning a warehouse. All warehouses mainly have racks and aisles, and the workers in your warehouse can work just as well whether the shelves are empty or full. Where things change is when you have so much stuff in our warehouse, and you have to start stacking things in the aisles. Doing that makes it more difficult for the workers to get to the stock and do their job efficiently. The process of picking and processing the orders, therefore, becomes slower. Having your hard drive too full – with less than 10% free space on Windows, for example – has essentially the same effect.

Removing old programs – or apps – we don’t use, emptying the recycle bin or trash and even moving files onto an external device like a memory stick or hard drive can all help to gain space. But, remember, this is only necessary if your hard drive is so full that you are starting to stack your data and apps in the aisles. If you think you could be, however, get in touch.

Too Many Programs Running

There are two avenues to look at here. The programs or apps you have open and the apps that run in the background whether you like it or not.

Any open program takes up resources on a computer even if we are not using it. The primary resource, in this case, is memory, and it is good to think of memory, or RAM, as the workers in your warehouse. These workers will stick to a job, or an open program, even if you aren’t currently using it. They aren’t smart enough to leave that work and come to help you with your present task. It’s your job to make them. If you tend to leave files open – or lots of tabs on your web browser – and things seem sluggish, it is always a good idea to close as many as you can. Those workers are now available to help you out with your current job.

You may find that it is inconvenient to close the files or tabs on many occasions. You need them open to get things done efficiently. If that is the case and the computer becomes sluggish, then you may need to consider employing some more staff to cope with the workload. In computing terms, this may mean increasing the amount of memory in your computer. It is a relevantly cheap and straightforward option, but I would advise getting in touch with me regarding it. There are different versions of RAM, and there can also be limitations of how much you can install. It would be best to let the employment agency – i.e. me – get you the right staff!

The other area to look at are programs that startup with the computer. Some do need to run in the background – like your antivirus – but many others are not required and serve no great purpose. All they do is take up memory and other resources and slow things down.

Startup programs can be disabled quite easily but, again, it is best to get someone like myself to help. It is possible to disable important ones that should be left running.

SSD Hard Drives

SSD stands for solid-state drive and is the new-ish kid on the block when it comes to hard drives. Traditional hard drives are mechanical, whereas SSD’s have no moving parts. It makes them more robust – although they can still fail – they use less energy and, most importantly, are faster.

The one downside is that they are more expensive. Things, however, have started to change. You can now get SSD’s at very reasonable prices. At the time of writing a 480GB SSD is around the same price as a 1TB (1000GB) mechanical drive. OK, this is half the storage but, unless you are a real collector of data, it will very likely fulfil your needs. In my experience, it is not often a “normal use” laptop needs more than 500GB of space. A desktop computer, on the other hand, will usually allow you to install two drives. Ideally, an SSD for the operating system and programs and a larger mechanical drive for your files if needed.

The speed of SSD’s is palpable. The difference you will notice in booting up Windows or your Mac, for example, is often amazing. Programs also open more quickly and snappily. These drives do help breathe new life into an older computer, and that is why I now recommend them to anyone having to replace a failed hard drive. It is also possible to swop your old mechanical drive for one and improve the overall speed of your machine. Replacing and cloning drives requires expert knowledge and isn’t exactly a cheap and cheerful speed boost. If, however, you have a computer that is doing its job well but needs a bit more oomph, an SSD would certainly be worth considering.

If you have further questions on any of the above – or anything else – just get in touch.