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How To Speed Up Your Computer
I’m sure you’ve seen the ads for Speed Up My PC or a dozen other incarnations of speeding up both your computer and your Internet connection. In fact, most people don’t need that software. What they need is something much simpler. While it’s true that computers can slow down a lot over time, you probably won’t get that 500% boost in speed that the ads would have you believe. If you took your exact computer and reinstalled everything fresh including everything you have running now, it would probably be no more than a few percent faster than it is now. What causes the slowdown is twofold. Below you will find the two approaches to speed up your computer.
Part 1: Remove That Old Software
One of the most common causes of slowdowns is the dozens of apps you’ve installed over the past two years. You install them because either they’re fun or they make your life easier or you just like them. It doesn’t matter the reason you installed them. However, the first way to speed up your computer is to get rid of all those old programs that you don’t use. Follow the steps below to do so.
1. Go to the Start menu and select Control Panel, then select the Add Remove Programs icon (or Programs and Features if you’re running Windows Vista or newer). This will bring up a dialog box that lists all the programs installed on your computer.
2. Go through the list with a fine-toothed comb, line by line, item by item. Look carefully. If you find something you recognize but no longer use, select it and press the Remove (or Uninstall) button.
3. If you see something you don’t recognize and don’t know what it is, I recommend asking computer Greek among your good circle of friends if you need it. Chances are good you don’t, but there’s always the chance it’s something major. Some of the software may require you to restart before you can go to the next software. Go ahead and do that. It won’t take a few minutes to get back to where you are.
4. After you have cleaned all the old software from your hard drive, you have two more things to do. The first is to examine what is running on your system tray. Many times software installs something in the system tray (that little bunch of icons in the lower right corner of your screen). That’s something that runs constantly and steals your processor’s precious free cycles. Examine everything in your system tray and if you don’t think you need it, right-click over the icon and select Exit or Close for that program. (Although this step in particular won’t speed up your computer significantly, it will actually help.)
5. Go to the Start menu and select Accessories and then System Tools. Within that group select the Disk Defragmenter icon. This will run a program called Disk Defragmenter. It will help keep everything nice and tidy on your hard drive so that when programs load, they load as quickly as possible with the hardware they’re running on. Select the Defragment Now button. When you get the list of drives, check Select all drives. You will see messages and possibly a graphical representation of the defragmentation. It will take some time to defragment the hard drive, but it will be worth it. What it does is arrange all the programs on your hard drive in order, so that when it loads or writes a program, it doesn’t have to move the read write very far. That alone will save time whenever your hard drive is accessed.
If you followed the procedure above, your computer is now running only what you want it to run and running cleanly and as fast as the hardware will take it. The 2nd part of this tip will do the best because if your computer is old or new, it probably has the same problem.
Part II: Refresh The Memory
The other reason your computer is slow is probably because it doesn’t have enough memory. This includes older computers and new ones. Just because you bought a brand new computer doesn’t mean it has an adequate amount of memory. You’ll know if your computer needs more memory with a fairly simple test: does your computer ever do “screen paints?” Screen paint is where the screen is re-displayed but so slowly that you can see it. Imagine the window you are looking at if it went down the screen by an inch per second. That’s screen paint! And it is the first indication that you lack memory. (Remember, this is memory, not a hard drive. The two are not synonymous.) Simply adding more memory to your computer will speed it up considerably, especially if you experience screen tints. If you’re not experiencing screen colors but extreme slowness, then you’ll probably need more memory as well. Follow the procedure below to determine if you need more memory and how to do it yourself.
1. First determine how much memory you have. By pressing (to the left of your keyboard) Ctrl-Shift-Esc (in that order), you’ll bring up the Windows Task Manager. Select the Performance tab. About halfway you’ll see Physical Memory (MB) or something pretty close to that. You want to see what it says under Total.
2. Each edition of Windows has a different recommended minimum that is stated on the side of the box. There is, however, a recommended amount of memory for it to work well. I will not quote the recommended values that are on the boxes, but what I have experienced, as the minimum, I would recommend on a computer. For Windows 2000, I would recommend at least 512 megabytes. For Windows XP, I would recommend at least 1 gigabyte. For Windows Vista (or higher), I would recommend at least 2 gigabytes.
3. If the size you found in the first step is not as much as I said in step 2, then it’s time to go ahead and find out about your computer. First find the make and model of your computer. You’ll find them on the front of the case if it’s a desktop or near the bottom or top of the screen if it’s a laptop.
4. Now it’s time to see what the maximum memory your computer can handle is. Start an Internet browser (Internet Explorer or Firefox or whatever is your favorite). Go to http://www.google.com. Put in the search box the make and model of your computer but add the word “specifications” at the end. It might take a league or two, but you’ll find it eventually. What you are looking for is how many slots your computer has and also what type of memory it needs. (If you’re having trouble here, just consult your favorite computer geek and bribe them with a beer or two or better yet a home cooked meal, to do this search for you.) You’re looking for things like DDR2 or PC2700.
5. Then look at http://bestbuy.com or other sites you shop at to find out how much memory is needed for your particular type. If you’re having trouble and don’t mind paying a bit more, then just go to Google and type in the make and model of your laptop (HP Presario 6440) and add “memory” to the end. You will find any number of websites where you can buy memory. One of the first links you’ll see is for your computer’s manufacturer. Go to the website and purchase the recommended amount of memory for your computer. If you have that little memory in your computer, then chances are you’ll throw out what you have and put in new memory. (For some desktops, they only have 2 memory slots and you will leave the installed memory because it is much smaller than what you will buy.) So buy the memory you need based on the recommendations above.
6. Finally, you’ll end up with a few sticks of memory that you bought at Best Buy or online from your laptop’s manufacturer. Now if you are a technically inclined person, this part will be easy. Turn off the computer. Again, remember to make sure your computer is turned off before doing this!
7. If your computer is a desktop, look on the back of the case for some screws that hold the metal or plastic cover. The screws are probably Phillips, but sometimes they are Flathead or Torx. Anyway, take the cover off. Then look for something that looks like the computer chips in your hand. Remove them and install the new ones. It’s as simple as that. Be sure to follow the instructions that came with the memory. It is important to seat the memory firmly in the slots and make sure the cover is properly attached after installing the memory.
8. If it is a laptop, there will be a small door on the bottom of it that you will need to open with a Phillips screwdriver. Under the small door you will find one to three slots where you plug in the memory. For both cases, follow the instructions that came with the memory. Finally, put the cover back on and make sure the cover is properly attached after installing the memory.
9. Turn on your computer. In some cases, it will stop and make you press the F1 key (or some other key) while it updates BIOS (the firmware that records such things as how big and where your hard drive is). But after that it should boot into Windows.
Congratulations! Your computer is now as fast as it can be! Some of my friends ordered the memory I ordered them (I follow the procedure above to find out how much they had in their desktop and where to buy it). They ordered it and installed and immediately noticed a difference. They were ready to buy a brand new computer! But all it takes is some cleanup of old software and some more memory to suit the needs of the latest incarnation of Windows. A little elbow grease and pocket change for some extra memory can make all the difference.
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