Windows taking 50 years to load. A Flash video plays choppy even when fully buffered. The latest word processing software feels sluggish. If these symptoms sounds familiar to you, it might just be the time for a new computer. Unfortunately, paying for a brand new desktop or laptop may be out of the equation due to your budget, so here are some practical steps you can take right now to extend your computer’s life. Some of these tips will save you money, some will cost you a little bit of money, but overall they should be cheaper than outright replacing your computer.
1. Spring — uh, Fall Cleaning Time!
If little Timmy has been browsing around the web and downloading random stuff, there is an incredibly high chance your computer may now be riddled with spyware and other types of malware. These unscrupulous softwares can heavily tax your system’s resources. Beyond that, many of them are also an identity theft risk, so its prudent for you to keep your computer in tip-top shape.
Here are some great free tools you should consider:
- Microsoft Security Essential: Available for Windows XP and Vista/Win7, this security software from Microsoft is actually very good. Lightweight well rounded and well received in the industry, the software includes spyware, adware, and antivirus protection. While there’s no such thing as an end-all antivirus program, choosing one that doesn’t further hog your system resources can definitely help the computing experience.
- Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware: One of the best (and free) anti-malware tool available. If you’re still clinging onto the long outdated Spybot and Ad-aware tools, you should consider trying Malwarebyte’s offering as it will actually catch many of the newer spyware and adware.
2. More Memory, More Speed
Upgrading your system’s RAM (random-access memory) is always a surefire way to boost your computer’s performance. If you’ve purchased your computer because of a pretty cheap laptop deal, chances are high that the manufacture has installed the bare minimum for the operating system. If you have a Windows XP machine, consider at least 2GB of RAM. If you have a Windows Vista/7 machine, consider 4GB of RAM. OS X Snow Lepoard, 4GB of RAM will be a good bet too. Buying RAM can be a bit confusing at times, but essentially, you need to match up the right type/speed of RAM with your processor/platform. Many major memory/RAM manufactures will have a compatibility guide you can use to determine the type of memory module you should buy, after figuring that out, you can always shop around for the best price.
- Crucial Memory Advisor Tool: Available as an online buying guide and a scanning tool.
- Corsair Memory Configurator: This easy to use web tool will let you figure out what type of memory you need for your system.
- Kingston Memory Guide: For those that want to understand system memory even more, this guide will go through all the basic and technical side of things.
3. Solid Disk Drive Saves the Day
One of the most popular way to rejuvenate an old desktop, and especially, an old laptop these days is to slap in a cheap solid disk drive. If your storage needs aren’t astronomical, and your computer is otherwise fairly new (not over 1.5 years old), a cheap value/budget line solid disk drive may just be what you need. The solid disk drive market has come a long way since its early days, where dollar per GB cost were just too costly for mainstream usage. These days, you’ll have a wide variety of option in boot drives for the desktop, and low-cost replacement drives for the laptop. Quick tip: Running a modern operating system such as Windows 7 or Mac OS X Snow Lepoard will work much better with solid disk drives as they support the TRIM command (giving better write speed performance overtime for a solid disk drive). Even if you’re on Windows XP, you can still get some added benefits by choosing a SSD that works well over time. Here are some cheap, good SSD choices that will boost your computer’s performance:
- Kingston SSDNOW V Series 64GB: The V series can be found in 30gb/64gb/120gb etc. variations, for those running on Windows XP, the Kingston can be a good choice as its write performance doesn’t get too ugly even without TRIM support.
- Intel X25-V 40GB: A value version of the popular X25-M, the X25-V gives you lower performance but otherwise well rounded-speed and decent price.
- Corsair Force F60: Lastet SandForce controller and MLC for good random write 4k performances, this Corsair is a good choice amongst many. Currently on sale with a mail-in-rebate.
4. Tidy Startup For Fast Load Time
If it takes 50 years for Windows to fully load on boot up, you probably need to clean up the programs that are automatically loading during Windows startup. Common programs that loads during startup are iTunes, QuickTime, Adobe Reader, various instant messaging programs, and Office suite of programs. To manually select the type of programs you want to load during startup, on any Windows machine , click on the Start button, type MSCONFIG (Vista/Win7) or click on Run then type MSCONFIG (Win XP), and select the STARTUP tab once you’ve hit enter. Once the tab shows up, scan through the list of programs and their respective name and de-select programs that you won’t necessarily need on startup. If you really really need to have many programs load on startup, consider programs such as “Startup Delayer,” which will load each of the program in a timed delay (vs. all at the same time, bogging down the computer).
- Startup Delayer: Helpful program that will time delay programs loading during startup.
- Instructions on how to use MSCONFIG: Shows you how to access MSCONFIG in any version of Windows.
5. Kill The Eye Candy on Older Machines
Let’s face it, you’re getting work done and you don’t need things to be pretty. You don’t need the Windows to fade in and out when you open a new folder, nor do you need some transparent effects with your Excel sheets. Disabling Windows Visual effects on Windows XP machines, and disabling Windows Aero on your less powerful Windows Vista/7 computers can do wonders. If you especially like certain effects, you can customize which of them you want to keep base on your preference. Though the end result may make things more ugly, you’ll be surprise how much snappier Windows may feel when you have multiple windows and browsers open.
- How to disable Visual Effects in Windows XP: This guide will walk you through the necessary steps.
- How to disable Aero effect in Vista or Windows 7: If you installed Windows 7 on an older machine with an older graphics card, disabling Aero will definitely help performance.