Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How to Make a Computer Faster and Save Your Sanity

As computers get older they tend to get slower. Sometimes this is caused by the software getting more and more complicated as time goes by. Do you remember the days when you could load a program on to your computer from a floppy disc which contained just 1.4 Megabytes of information? Now a typical word processor program requires 2000 Megabytes of disc space available before you can install it!

Newer versions of software packages usually take up more computing resources than the old versions of the same package, so one of the simplest ways to make a computer faster is to downgrade to older versions. The disadvantage is that you will inevitably lose some functions, and if you've got used to having all the latest toys you may not want to.

The other main options for improving performance are increasing the power of your PC or making it work less. Increasing computing power is going to cost money - more memory or a faster processor will require actual hard-earned cash to be spent. Fortunately it's not always necessary to take such drastic action!

A lot of the time the reason for a computer appearing to run slowly has nothing to do with it not being up to the job. If it has slowed down over a period of months or years, it's more likely that it is clogged up - too much unnecessary data stored on the hard drive, and too many processes going on in the background. A lot of these processes might automatically start up even though you aren't going to use the software which they are part of that day.

The solution to these two problems is to do some serious housekeeping. The hard drive can be cleaned up by deleting a lot of unnecessary files, such as temporary files which are created during 'Autosaves' of documents, or temporary copies of the website which you are visiting. It can be made even faster by ensuring that the files on the disc are stored whole. Having a single file saved in several segments just makes the process of opening the file and doing anything with it much slower than it needs to be. 'Defragmenting' the disc can speed things up significantly. This normally take quite a while to do, so it's not worth doing daily, but one a month can make a noticeable difference in performance.

The second aspect of housekeeping is to ensure that you only have the programs running that you want to be running. All software engineers think that their creation is the greatest thing since sliced bread and that everyone will always want it to load up when the PC is switched on. Many programs are only used once a week, or sometimes even once a year. Having it running in the background when you don't need it is just wasting processing power. That's processing power that you could be using to make the task that you are working on quicker.

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