The longer you use your computer and the more frequently you use it, the slower it will inevitably get. That is just a fact of life with computer systems. Installing many applications and putting a large amount of data on the hard drive cause quite a bit of load on your system’s resources. While contemporary computers can handle quite a bit of processing, if you pack enough applications and load it with enough data, even the fastest and best computers will see some deterioration, however slight, in speed and performance. This guide steps you through some common ways you can help to speed up your computer.
Constant Race Between System Requirements and Hardware
During the first few weeks after you brought your computer home or when it arrived from the mail, you were probably amazed at how fast it was. Opening files, processing tasks, and rendering pages were done very quickly. You would see that waiting icon or animation very infrequently. Even if you did see it, it would only appear for a relatively short amount of time and then the task is done. Who does not appreciate loading a video game really fast or rendering websites with heavy graphics very quickly? However, as you pack on more applications and install more programs on your system, you probably would start seeing processes taking a little longer. It takes a little bit more time to open programs or when you are opening data files directly linked to a program, it takes a little bit longer. Why does this happen? While contemporary computers can handle a lot of processing punishment and can process quite a bit of information and data and multitask several heavy pieces of software, it still has to juggle finite resources. Sure you may have gigabytes of memory on your mother board or you could have a really huge hard drive, but this can only take you as far as their physical limit. As the years roll by, software tends to become bigger as new features are packed in or new operations process certain tasks differently. All this adds up to a heavier strain on your resources. It is a constant race between the size and the system requirements of software versus the capacity of hardware to handle the load.
From a business perspective, this makes much sense. In a very real way, this process ensures that people buy new computer systems every few years. It also ensures a market for new “bigger and better software upgrades” as the years roll on. They complement each other in that when bigger software comes, it would need faster and more powerful computer systems. When those computer systems hit the market, software makers build software that fully takes advantage of that new capacity. It keeps ramping up. This may leave you, the consumer, behind if you use the latest version of software but did not upgrade your hardware to match the added requirements. Your system may be performing slower than it should. Here are some common ways to handle slower computer processing time and system inefficiency.
Upgrade Your Hardware
Most computer users fail to realize that the latest batch of software is adapted to the latest generation of computer hardware. As discussed above, they are joined at the hip in terms of development because this makes perfect business sense for software publishers and computer hardware makers. However, the consumer can often be caught in the middle if they fail to upgrade their hardware to accommodate the new software. There are three directions you can go when upgrading your hardware. Upgrading your hardware does not necessarily mean getting a new computer system. It would be very expensive over the long haul and quite impractical. If you use a desktop instead of a laptop, you have better options. Laptops offer a more limited range of options in terms of fundamental hardware upgrade because you cannot yank out the mother board, for example, to increase your processing capacity. There are three specific areas that you can upgrade in terms of hardware.
Upgrade Your RAM (Random Access Memory)
If your current system has less than 2 GB of RAM, you definitely need to strongly consider adding more RAM. Contemporary software uses RAM allocations that make conflict with other programs running in the background of your computer. What this amounts to is all this big software packages competing for a small amount of memory and this translates to slower processing time, your computer grinding to a crawl or certain operations taking forever. This can also lead to system crashes because the system just overloads.
Upgrade Your Hard Drive
When people consider hard drive upgrades, they tend to focus primarily on how big the storage capacity is. This is a fair assessment because when people look at hard drives, they tend to look at it as a device that stores information. It is like trying to get a bigger bag to store more stuff. However, your analysis should not remain at that level. You should also look at how fast the hard drive is.
Think of it this way, if you have a big bag it would take you more time to fish around insides especially if it is full to find the item you are looking for. The same is true with a hard drive. The larger the capacity, the longer it would take to find information. Invest in a higher capacity speed drive so your software can operate much faster or retrieve data and process it much faster. Look for something in the range of 10 or 15K RPM speed hard disk or even faster. This can truly make a huge difference because you are able to retrieve data faster, you are able to open programs faster because the hard drive is able to find it more efficiently.
Another alternative to fixing slow processing times due to hard drive issues is investing in an SSD drive. SSD stands for solid state drive. Unlike regular hard drives which consist of a platter that spins around and a magnetic head retrieves and sorts and the data, an SSD drive is a souped-up flash chip-based drive. Retrieving information is very fast and if you have a decent processor, this could truly translate to a much faster speed in terms of opening programs, opening data files that are linked to programs and other usually time-consuming operations. Finally, to speed up your system, you can also invest into disks. Invest in a larger disk for storage primarily and then invest in an SSD drive or a much faster RPM hard drive as your primary operating systems disk. This benefits you because all the common operations are handled by the faster disk. The tasks the operating system normally handles are performed very quickly because it is running on a faster disk. The data storage and opening applications that are less frequently used are handled by the larger disk. By having your system common files handled by the fast disk, your system will operate much faster.
Upgrade Your CPU
The central processing unit is the heart of the computer. It handles the processing of the instructions that make your software programs operate. This is the central operating unit of the computer. To make your system operate faster, you can invest in a new CPU. The great thing about CPU’s is that they tend to increase in speed after a few years. By investing in the latest CPU technology, you are assured that your system will operate in optimal speed for a few years until the software catches up to the CPU technology, then you buy a new generation of CPU. This option is not available for everybody. This option is great for people that have a mother board that allows for easy CPU upgrades. Some main boards are geared specifically to a particular CPU. If you plan to change the CPU, you have to basically buy a new main board. More importantly, the CPU upgrade only applies really to desktop users. Most laptops and notebook computers have an enclosed fixed board system and most manufacturers do not offer board upgrades. This option is not really available to them. This is one of the main draw backs of a laptop because in a laptop, you are pretty much locked in to that CPU unless the manufacturer specifically offers CPU upgrades.
Non-Upgrade Methods for Speeding Up Your Computer
The methods discussed above involve the hardware upgrades and hardware upgrades cost money. They are also fundamental changes to your system. The following tips are practical methods for speeding up your system that usually do not involve as much cost as hardware upgrade. We suggest you try speeding up your system through these suggestions first before going the hardware upgrade route.
Reboot Your Computer
If you notice that your system is fast when you first booted up and then noticeably become slower as you open more applications or kept a system running for a long time, this tip should do the trick for you. Computer memory is a finite resource and the more program you open, the more data sets those programs work with and the more resources are taken up. Eventually this finite resource may reach a point where the system becomes sluggish because of all these processes trying to take up memory resources. To clear this up, reboot your computer and you will immediately start seeing a dramatic improvement in speed.
As discussed above, most hard drives are composed of magnetic platters that spin at a high rate of speed and there is a head that records information randomly on these disks. Because it is a random allocation, eventually the allocation of the data becomes very inefficient and it takes longer and longer for the hard drive to find the data it needs to perform a process. This issue becomes larger the longer you use the hard drive, the more data you put on and the more files the applications create. Eventually, it reaches a point where data retrieval becomes slower and slower. Defragging goes a long way to aligning these data sets on the platter, so that the hard drive can retrieve them more efficiently. Using a defragmentation software should ease up the slow down of your system.
Uninstalling Rarely Used Programs
Every program that you load on to your system takes up space and depending on the program takes up system resources, whether you actively use it or not. Some programs load when your system loads. If you are not using this program, it is actually taking up valuable real state on your computer’s memory. To prevent this inefficient use of system resources, make a habit of reviewing the programs you are not using and try to rank them as to most likely to use in the future, likely to use and not likely to use. You may want to uninstall the programs that you are not likely to use in a near-term future and have a disk or a USB copy handy for the time that you actually would need it. Think of your hard drive in your system’s memory as a work table. The less clutter on it, the more efficient the computer workspace would be.
Install a Powerful Malware/Spyware/Antivirus/Security Program
One of the most common reasons why systems slow down all of a sudden is the spread of malware. Malware is truly a scourge of the internet age. Usually they are spread through spam e-mail that has either a URL or an HTML attachment. When you load the HTML, you are taken to an attack site and a trojan is loaded onto your system. If you are using the wrong antivirus or antimalware software, it would be unable to detect it and the trojan would then load the real payload which is a virus or a spyware that turns your computer into a spamming machine. Many users would see their cable modem or their DSL modem blink rapidly for no reason. More likely than not, it is because your computer is processing information from the internet and then relaying it somewhere else. It has become part of a botnet or worse your computer is being used as a part of a distributed denial of service attack where many infected machines are remotely controlled to load a certain website so that website server will crash. In addition to e-mail attachments, links in e-mails are also used by malware distributors to spread their wares. This is not much different from loading an HTML page. You click on a link and you are taken to an attack site and the same process applies. Malware, spyware and viruses are harmful not just in terms of what they do to your computer, linking it to a botnet or turning it into a spam machine, they can also slow your computer down because they take up space in your memory or they load data files that may get in the way of processing. Installing a good anti spyware and antivirus software insulates you from this threat.
Optimize Your Registry
The more software you install on your computer, the higher the likelihood that your computer will slow down. This happens because each software that is installed in a computer is recorded in the registry of the system. The more records in the registry, the more the system has to read through and process the registry commands before it can do anything else. However, throughout the lifetime of a computer, many users would install software and then do not delete it properly or they would install software and not use it. This really puts a heavy load on the registry files and since the operating system uses the registry files to process, this can result in some noticeable slow downs. Thankfully there are registry cleanup software available on the market that would optimize your registry and also let you control which partial uninstalls or problematic registry items are located in the registry files. By cleaning this up and optimizing your system’s registry, you can definitely improve system performance.
The Bottom Line: Computers & Speed
The longer you use your computer, the slower it will eventually get. That is a fact of life in computing. However, you do not have to lie down and resign yourself to that fact. Use the practical and basic guidelines above to help you keep your computer running at tiptop shape. Your computer exists to serve your interests and needs, but it is your responsibility to maintain your computer’s hardware and software so that it runs at optimal level so that your needs are met.