Speed Up Your Laptop – Do you have a Slow laptop or computer? Before you go out and get a shiny new one, there are lots of things you can do to give your current machine a speed boost.
You can get a nice performance boost from tinkering with start-up programs or defragmenting the hard disk, but there are even more gains to be had if you’re willing to get your hands dirty. Here are nine affordable and relatively easy ways to squeeze every ounce of performance from your old PC or laptop. We’ve listed them as bullet points below and you can scroll down for more information on each tip:
- Upgrade your RAM
- Switch to SSD
- Defrag your hard disk
- Disable start-up programs
- Use alternative programs
- Disable animations
- Switch to Linux
How to speed up a laptop or PC: Upgrade your RAM
If you want a little more performance for multi-tasking, but don’t want to shell out on an SSD then a cheaper option is to start looking at some RAM upgrades.
If you’re running on a system with under 2GB of RAM, sticking an extra few gigabytes in won’t cost you too much and can make all the difference. Combine a RAM upgrade with an SSD, and it’s safe to say that your old PC or laptop won’t feel quite so old anymore.
Check out our tutorial on how to install RAM for all the info you will need.
How to speed up a laptop or PC: Switch to SSD
One of the best ways to rejuvenate a laptop or PC is to install an SSD. We’ve installed modern SSDs on everything from old Lenovo ThinkPad laptops to dusty old AMD desktop PCs, and the results are always worthwhile – boot times are a fraction of previously, and even the most frugal of processors feels more sprightly with an SSD working alongside.
Because there are no moving parts in SSDs, the read/write speeds are far superior to older optical (spinning disk) hard drives. Buying one won’t break the bank, but you might have to compromise a little on storage space, as SSDs still cost more per GB than mechanical hard disks.
Before you worry about finding your old Windows disks – don’t. It’s easy enough to clone your old disk and existing Windows installation onto your new SSD. Download a free program such as EaseUS Todo Backup Free, and cloning your old HDD onto a speedy new SSD is a fairly simple affair.
And even if you can’t replace your HDD easily, don’t abandon hope – it’s often possible to clone your operating system to an SSD connected via a USB 3 (or Thunderbolt) adapter. We’ve had great results moving an iMac’s OS from the difficult-to-replace internal HDD and onto an SSD with a USB 3 adapter.
For a detailed breakdown of how to improve your Windows-based system with an SSD, read our article on how to install an SSD.
3. How to speed up a laptop or PC: Defrag your hard disk
Got an old mechanical HDD? Then this tip is for you. (SSDs don’t suffer from defragmentation, so you needn’t bother with this step if you have one of those.)
One of the most common problems with long-suffering HDDs is disk fragmentation. With repeated use, the information on your hard drive can become scattered, meaning the computer has to work harder to find it. By performing a disk defrag, you can neatly reorganize all your information, which can significantly improve your computer’s overall speed.
You can find the Disk Defragmenter by going into the Control Panel, navigate to ‘System and Security’, and looking under administrative tools.
By using the buttons in the window, you can analyze your disk to see how fragmented it is currently, or just run the process straight away. You will need to perform this for every drive in your computer, so make sure to run the process on all your hard drives.
4. How to speed up a laptop or PC: Disable Start-up Programs
Another good tip is to disable startup programs. These are programs that boot every time you turn on your computer and run in the background until you need them. Often, they can be disabled and simply open when you want to use them, meaning they won’t slow down your PC with constant operation.
To stop these programs from starting automatically on earlier versions of Windows, open the Start menu and type ‘msconfig’. This will open the system configuration menu. Windows 8 users can find the list of startup programs in the task manager.
Switch to the ‘startup’ tab and scroll down the list; you’re looking for anything that you don’t immediately need.
Any antivirus services, programs from Microsoft or your PC manufacturer, or background programs you use regularly should be left on.
Things like Adobe Reader or any automatic update checkers can safely be unchecked, however.
Once you’re happy that you’ve unchecked everything you don’t want, simply click Apply and OK, then reboot your computer to finalize the changes.
5. How to speed up a laptop or PC: Use alternative programs
Older PCs can often have a problem with modern resource and graphics-intensive software.
Photoshop, for example, can slow less powerful computers to a crawl. For this specific example, a less intensive program such as GIMP – an open-source alternative to Photoshop – requires a fraction of the disk space and power, while maintaining a good level of sophistication.
Similarly, those with low-powered machines may want to experiment with using a lightweight web-browser. Google’s Chrome is a terrible resource hog, and we’ve seen it bring machines with 8GB RAM to their knees with its greedy memory demands.
Other browsers, such as Microsoft Edge in Windows 10, or Firefox and Opera, may give your PC an easier ride. In particular, Firefox Quantum recently rolled out designed to be faster and less power-hungry than previous versions. Alternatively, an ad-blocker may help if your PC is really struggling – sometimes the adverts can push older machines over the edge.
The best bet? Make a list of the programs you use most, and then do a bit of research. You might find that there’s a much faster alternative.
6. How to speed up a laptop or PC: Turn off animations
While all the animations and fancy visual effects certainly make Windows look pretty, they can also eat up a whole lot of your processing power – especially on old, power-starved machines.
Sure, turning these off will make your PC look like it’s from 1994, but it’s the same principle as drag racing; strip out everything but the bare essentials and it will be considerably quicker.
The quickest way to do this is by opening the Start menu and typing ‘Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows’.
Click the result under Control Panel, and it’ll open a dialogue menu.
You can disable specific visual effects and flourishes from the scroll menu, or you can simply select ‘adjust for best performance’ to turn them all off.
Click OK and, after a brief visual recalibration, you should be good to go.
8. How to speed up a laptop or PC: Switch to Linux
A more drastic option is to simply chuck your old operating system and install a Linux or Ubuntu distribution instead.
While it’s not ideal for gaming, for simple tasks like word processing, music and surfing the web, it can make ancient hardware feel like a new machine.
It’s free, easy to install, and there are enough versions to suit everyone, including low-resource options that will make your computer fly.
If you’re considering converting to Linux, avoid getting overwhelmed by choices with our buyer’s guide to Linux distros, and then check out our guide on how to install Ubuntu when you’re ready to get started.
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