One of the greatest frustrations of the computer world is the slow desktop or notebook computer. Whether you’re launching a program, running a bunch of programs at once or just browsing the Internet a slow computer can have a big impact on your overall computing experience. In this week’s Tech Tip we're going to look at some easy upgrades that you or your computer store can do for you. This Tech Tip is geared toward the Windows crowd (that is – most of you out there) but it can apply to the Apple and Linux crowds too.
1) Best Bang for the Buck – Get More Memory!
Pure and simple, if you increase your computer’s memory, you increase performance. By computer memory, I am talking about the RAM that your computer has – not the hard drive space. Adding more RAM for your computer is almost always the first step that will give your computer the biggest bang for the buck speed-wise. Surprisingly, this type of upgrade is easier than it sounds and can usually be handled by a novice computer geek.
Here's what you need to do:
- Find out how much memory you have. You can typically find this information in the specifications that come with the computer. If you have -Windows Vista or Windows 7 - simply click on “Start” and in the search box type in: "System Information"; then, in the right hand pane, look for the line that says “Installed Physical Memory (RAM)”. If you have Windows XP, right click on "My Computer", and then click on “Properties”.
- Check to see the maximum amount of memory that your computer can take. For this, I personally just check out the website www.kingston.com. They not only have a vast database, but they also give you handy information like how many memory slots your computer has. Just enter your computer’s model number (usually on a tag on the computer). Many modern computers will take two gigabytes (2 GB) or four gigabytes (4 GB); however, some newer units are able to take even more. I'd strongly recommend upgrading to the maximum amount of RAM that your system can handle. A caveat is if you are running a 32-bit version of an operating system (OS), your computer can’t handle amounts above 4 GB. Check this chart on crucial.com for more information on the maximum amount of memory your OS can handle.
- Buy the memory and install it yourself, or pay a shop to install it for you. You can do a Bing search to cross check the part number Kingston.com provides you to find the exact specifications of the type of memory you want to use. Voila! More memory equals better performance!
Flash memory is cheap, and many of us usually have some old USB flash drives lying around. Why not put them to good use on your Windows Vista or Windows 7 system by using them as a "ReadyBoost " cache for your computer? Simply plug-in the flash drive, and a window pops up asking you if you want to use the memory for ReadyBoost. It is an inexpensive and easy thing to do to get more out of your PC. A bonus with Windows 7 is that it can take more than one memory module. If you want to "keep it out of sight", use a secure digital card (or similar) flash memory card in your card reader. This type of upgrade is fast and easy.
3) Keeping Your PC Secure
Even with hardware upgrades like we discussed above, your PC’s performance sinks fast if it is plagued with malware. A lot of the off-the-shelf PC’s will give you a trial program, but I like free things myself. One free suite that recently became available is "Security Essentials" from Microsoft. Unfortunately it isn't bundled with Windows, but it is just a click away. Really, if you look around, you'll find that there are many companies that offer free malware protection. If you are partial to some of the paid suites, by all means give them a go also. Remember to keep those payments current, because you need to be sure to keep it up-to-date.
4) Getting Rid of Old Files and Histories
Running a quick and easy program, such as the free CCleaner from Piriform, can help clean out old files from Windows as well as internet browsers that love to hang around “gunking up the works”. Best of all, it can do it in one fell swoop – there is no need to clear them out one program at a time.
5) Other Upgrades to Consider
5.1) Upgrading the CPU. Not for the novice but this is relatively easy to do on a desktop. However, it is not always easy to track down exactly "what" will work on your particular computer.
5.2) Upgrading the hard drive. Installing an SLC based Solid State Drive (SSD) will help with drive access times, and it is something that an intermediate geek can handle.
5.3) Upgrading the video card. "Regular" type programs wouldn't benefit much (web browsing, e-mail, business programs) from this type of upgrade; however gamers need a better video card for a better gaming experience. This type of upgrade can usually be handled by an intermediate geek.
Summing It Up
More RAM = better performance.
Adding ReadyBoost = better performance.
Keeping malware off your PC = better performance.
Keeping the gunk cleared off = better performance.
Better performance = one happy user!