How to Improve your Computer’s Performance: A Definitive Guide
Does this sound familiar? You’ve turned on your laptop, but have gone to make a cup of tea because you know it will take at least 5 minutes to boot up. You then start to check your email and have to wait again for your inbox to load. In the meantime, you start opening some tabs and browsing the internet but you’re stuck with that annoying spinning icon. You then forget what it was you were doing on the computer in the first place and wander off to finish your tea. Twenty minutes later you are back again, but now have to re-input your password and wait for it to limp back to life.
Surely 2 years isn’t that old for your very expensive computer? So why do computers slow down? Here are some of the reasons your computer might be performing poorly:
In order to function, computers write information to the Random Access Memory (RAM). This temporarily saves information about the current programs you are using so it can access the information it needs quickly. It’s like our short-term memory. However, it can be pushed to its limits, and have memory leaks – especially if the computer is never allowed to shut down.
This was a concept designed in the 1920s by the electric light bulb company. Philips and GE both designed their bulbs to only last 1,000 hours. The notion of a planned end of life for a product quickly filtered into the gadget market. So today, PCs will have a pre-programmed end of life, requiring you to upgrade to the latest model. The increasing complexity of Software updates may mean that your machine is now under-powered or, even worse, incompatible. Like Logan (Logan’s Run), our computers may not make it past their second year! Apple and Samsung have recently been fined for deliberately slowing down their phones. And what’s worse, is that some models prevent you from opening them to upgrade them.
As we use the computer more and more, files start accumulating, RAM can be corrupted, bugs appear in the OS, even power surges can take their toll on your computer. You can also eventually run out of hard disk space, not have enough RAM to run the most recent software and batteries eventually lose their capacity to hold a charge. Degradation of the thermal paste may mean that your processor can no longer be cooled by the system, decreasing performance, or worse, causing complete system failure
Mechanical Slow down
If you are using an old ‘spinning hard drive’ (HDD) with an arm to write data, they just simply slow down as they age – and eventually die! Solid State Drives (SSD) use ‘flash memory’ so don’t have this problem, but also have a finite lifespan
Malware and Viruses
If your anti-virus software is out of date or you are in the habit of clicking unverified links, it’s possible that malware and viruses have taken up residence and are interfering with processes, at best slowing down your machine and, at worst, harvesting your personal details for a third party.
We want everyone to be able to get the most out of their computers, and for them to perform for as long as possible.
We are the experts in Laptop and PC refurbishment. With a 7 stage, 55 point checklist, we know how to improve computers so they not only looks as good as new, but perform better than new!
So we have compiled a definitive guide, with a whopping 26 steps on how to improve your computer’s speed and overall performance, ranging from easy tasks to more expert re-configuration.
1. Remove the clutter.
On a MAC you can use “Reduce Clutter” to help review documents that you no longer use and permanently erase them. (go to Apple Icon > About this MAC > Storage > Manage), or the PC equivalent (search for ‘Disk Cleanup’ from the taskbar and select the files to delete from the recommended options).
2. Remove files from your desktop.
If you save files directly to your desktop, it can slow your performance as the computer loads these files every time it starts up. It is also not as secure to store files on your desktop – transfer them to structured folders in your library and backup in the Cloud or to Google Drive.
3. Remove unwanted apps/programs.
On MAC OS X, you have to drag the icon for the relevant program you would like to delete into the trash bin. On Windows 10, go to the control panel, select ‘Apps’, click on the app you would like to remove and select ‘uninstall’. Check for any programmes or games that were installed with the operating system that you probably have never used.
4. Get a specialised cleaning kit and clean your computer.
Make sure your PC or laptop is unplugged and turned off before you start. Look for anti-static cloths to clean your screen. Also, use an air-duster to blow away dust from ports and under keys. Make sure you have all the right tools before you start.
5. Do an anti-virus / malware scan.
Use trusted review sites like Wirecutter, Macworld, TechRadar and Tom’s Guideto pick the best one for your computer. This Wirecutter article has great suggestions for various layers of security to add to Windows and Mac.
6. Limit what programs open at startup.
“The most common cause of a slow computer is too many startup programs. 90% of programs want that permission to start when your computer starts so that you’ll use them, and that can result in a boot time of five to ten minutes. When it finally does start, a ton of programs are already running in the background and if you’re not using a newer computer, that can slow it down.” Aaron Schoeffler, LaptopMD.
On a MAC go to Applications / Systems Preferences / User Groups / Login Items, then uncheck unneeded programs. Put unwanted desktop icons into the Trash. Windows 8 and 10: Windows key + “X” > Task Manager > Startup tab. Now right-click on the programs you want to remove and select Disable. Windows 7 and older: Start button, then search for System Configuration. Go to the Startup tab, then uncheck each of the programs you don’t want to start when the system boots up.
7. Restart regularly and shut down after use.
This gives your computer’s cooling fan a break and can improve the long-term life of your hard disk. Any updates can be installed and any bugs or errors can also be resolved.
8. Close your tabs.
9. Turn off desktop gadgets and system tray programs.
Older PCs with small amounts of RAM could be slowed down by having too many desktop gadgets running in the background. Windows runs system tray programs in the background that often don’t need to be open. Check the small arrow near the clock to see what is running.
10. Set your desktop background to a solid colour.
This helps free up RAM.
11. Set up Empty Trash Automatically.
12. Single Task.
By just using one application at a time you will stop battery drain and reduce RAM usage. You can also find out what applications are draining your battery the most. Plus you’ll increase your productivity by single tasking.
13. Remove browser extensions.
Having multiple browser extensions running in the background can decrease performance.
14. Enable Airplane mode on Windows.
Again – this is a battery drain.
15. Adjust your Graphics.
Settings Reducing your screen brightness can also extend battery life.
16. Defrag your hard disk.
SSDs do not need to have this done, so is better for older computers or where you have added a lot of files.
17. Keep your Operating System (OS) and browsers (i.e. Chrome, Firefox, IE, Safari) up to date.
Installing updates is important to keep your computer safe. MAC will push reminders through, while Windows 10 will automatically update. Most browsers will also automatically update as well. Make sure you regularly close your browsers. Keeping tabs open for weeks may mean you are delaying an update.
18. Use Cloud Storage.
Moving data to the cloud is a smart way of ensuring you don’t lose any data should your hard-drive keel over and die without giving you enough warning. Again, there are multiple options, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive. These store your files in the cloud.
19. Use a Backup-Service.
A backup service offers complete backup of all your data. There are multiple backup services< to choose from, like IDrive, Acronis or Backblaze. Or you can do your own backup to an external drive or use MAC’s Time Machine. The more different types of backup the better!
20. Disable Animations.
Animations are the way in which apps appear – for example fading into view or shrinking down into the taskbar. To disable this go to System Settings >Display > Simplify and personalise Windows and disable show animations. This will mean apps just appear and disappear.
21. Replace the battery (Laptop only).
You may need to ask a specialist to look at this – and remember, it may affect your warranty.
22. Adjust your Power Plan.
Both Windows and MAC have options for reducing your power plan from High, Balanced or Power Save modes.
23. Upgrade your RAM.
You can check how much CPU you are using on your Task Manager or Activity Monitor > Memory Pressure on the MAC to see how your RAM is performing. You’ll then need to shop around for the best compatible RAM. 16Gb is more than enough for MAC or PC at the time of writing; most tasks do not use more than this.
24. Check your Hard Drive’s health.
You can find HDD health check software online or check out PC Mag’s guides here. Make sure you take care of your laptop when travelling around as and knocks or drops could damage the moving parts within the hard drive.
25. Move to an SSD.
26. Do a fresh install of your Operating System.
Some people will reinstall Windows every few years to help ensure good performance. Microsoft can talk you through how to do this or there are guides online or demonstrations on sites such as YouTube.
If you have tried all of this and your computer is still running slowly, then why not look at our range of affordable PCs and Laptops. Cleaned, refurbished and optimised to run at least as good as new if not better, our computers have been through 55 checks to get them ready for resale.
Our PCs and laptops are often up to 70% cheaper than new which means that you can get your hands on a computer to replace your slow one at a low cost – so if you were soldiering on with your old machine because you thought you couldn’t afford a new one then think again! Get in contact with us to find out how we can help you.
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