Slow Computer? 4 Ways To Speed Things Up

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Buying a new computer can really set you back a pretty penny. Some can cost in excess of $2,000 – especially if you’re a gamer – even a custom built budget gaming PC will cost more than $500. So what can you do to mitigate some of that cost? Well, have you considered upgrading what you have now?

In this article, I’m going to show you some simple, and cheap ways in which you can easily upgrade your computer in order to breath new life into the little workhorse, making it chime along as if it were a new box.

RAM Upgrade

In case you don’t know, RAM stands for Random Access Memory, and it’s used by your computer as a high performance form of memory when it is running. Anything that is running on your machine will normally be stored temporarily in your RAM.

However, if you exceed the capabilities of your RAM by running more applications than it can handle, your machine will start to use your hard drive space for temporary storage instead. The problem here, is that the hard drive memory (disk cache) is much slower than RAM, which means it will slow your computer down significantly. So, the more RAM you have, the faster your machine will be.

You can use something like Crucial’s system scanner to scan your machine, and offer up the right kind of RAM that is compatible with your system. I’ve personally used Crucial memory for many years, so I can personally vouch for their quality. Increasing your system RAM to 16 GB costs around $135, and should hold up for at least a few more years. Once you’ve bought your RAM, upgrading is extremely easy.

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crucial scan results   Slow Computer? 4 Ways To Speed Things Up

Graphics Card Upgrade

Many basic graphics cards steal a portion of your RAM for graphics rendering, and a portion of your CPU for graphics processing. So upgrading your graphics card to something with it’s own, on-board memory, and dedicated processor will really help the performance on your machine. As it will not only free up more of your RAM, but also leave your graphics processing to a dedicated card that is built for the job.

Unfortunately, this is only for the PC owners out there. You laptop owners won’t be able to upgrade your graphics card, well, not without a soldering iron at least!

Most modern graphics cards use a PCI-E x16 slot, which are the blue & black sockets shown in the image below. If your desktop is less than 5 years old, then it will most likely have an available PCI-E slot.

However, if you’re not sure, open up your PC (turn it off and un-plug it first) then look at the main board for a slot that looks like the ones below. It will be around 4 inches long and have a clip on the end of it, they’re not always blue or black, so don’t worry if yours is a completely different colour.

pci e slot   Slow Computer? 4 Ways To Speed Things Up

Once you have checked that you have a PCI-E x16 slot available on your device, head over to somewhere like Amazon and pick up a graphics card. If you’re not a gamer, then I’d recommend the ASUS GeForce GT610, which is actually the graphics card I use. It costs less than $45, so it won’t break the bank. It’s also fine for lighter games like Minecraft if you’re so inclined, like me.

Install A Lightweight OS

What if your machine is maxed out on the amount of RAM you can use, or what if you’re running a laptop where you can’t upgrade the graphics card? Well, there is still something you can do.

Windows is great, but it’s actually quite heavy on system resources. So what you could do, is replace the operating system on your machine to something much lighter, like Elementary OS. It’s completely free, really quick, and will undoubtedly give your computer a boost.

Installing a new operating system on your machine can be quite technical, and mean that you may need to completely wipe your computer. So make sure you make a backup of your computer before you try this.

Install An SSD

An SSD, or Solid State Drive is an extremely high-performance replacement for your hard drive. Similar to the memory that’s in your smartphone or tablet, it has no moving parts, so it’s very, very quick. The trade off here is that storage space is at a premium. However, if you’re using a desktop PC, then you could use an SSD for your operating system, then have a normal, large mechanical hard drive for all of your files.

ssd   Slow Computer? 4 Ways To Speed Things Up

Personally, I have a 120 GB SSD in my machine and it’s enough for all of my files. These can be picked up for around $150 on Amazon (for example, the OCZ 128 GB Vertex 4 Series SSD), and they will add a large performance boost to any machine. Plus, installation is extremely easy.

Conclusion

As you can see, with all of the options above, a fresh perspective, and some elbow grease, you really can breath new life into that tired old machine. So don’t chuck it on the scrap heap just yet, give it a much needed upgrade, and grow to love your once super-fast machine again.

Do you have any tips for improving performance on a PC? If so, we’d love to hear them.

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19 Comments - Write a Comment

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Ashwin D

You Could Try Linux Mint XFCE which is pretty lightweight even on a 512 MB RAM system!

Kev Q

There are so many lightweight Linux distro’s to choose from, it’s crazy. I’m personally not a fan of XFCE, I think it looks very out of date. That’s just my personal opinion though. :-)

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Bart

There are also more cheaper things like checking for deprecated software that is holding up precious RAM/boot time/… before running to the computershop for extra RAM/ a new graphics card/…
There are tools like Ccleaner en Revo Uninstaller that also help cleaning up the registry.

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Kev Q

Thanks Bart, whilst I agree that these tools are all valid, this article isn’t really about cleaning up a machine. But rather, cheap and effective ways of actually upgrading your machine, without having to shell out for a whole new system.

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Joel L

Good stuff. Going from a 2GB RAM workstation laptop to an 8GB RAM desktop was one of the best upgrades I ever made in terms of speed. Though I hear that gaming rigs are pushing 16GB and 32GB RAM these days… and that just blows my mind.

Kev Q

Oh yeah, large quantities of RAM are the norm now. Our work issues laptops now come with 32GB RAM as standard – and no, I’m not a professional gamer haha.

Our laptops are just expected to do so damn much. A friend of mine has 64GB of RAM (serious gamer). I remember upgrading my first PC with a 128MB RAM chip, and I was amazed by the blistering amount of RAM that I had ha ha.

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Christopher Wetmore

I’d love to see a guide to splitting the program files from the data files on Win 7 and OSX. Ubuntu is easy. Win XP was a little more difficult, but hardly impossible, but Win 7 seems to have made it impossible.

Kev Q

Hey Christopher, it’s actually extremely easy to change the default storage location of your profiles folders (Music, Docs, Pics etc) on Windows 7. Here’s how:

1) Open up Windows explorer and on the left tree, you should see a “Libraries” section that contains your profile folders like Docs, Pics etc.

2) Right click on the one you want to change the locations of, and select properties. You will then see a “Library locations field”.

3) Remove all the locations that are listed by default. Then add the new location that you want to add. For example D:My_Docs.

4) Click Apply, then Save.

Now, when you save anything to the Documents library, it will automatically be saved to your D: drive, which should be your secondary HDD.

If you want to change the default location of the Program Files & Progran Files (x86) folders (where programs are stored in Windows 7), then this is a simple registry change. Here’s how:

1.) Go to Start>Run, then enter regedit into the text field and click run.

2.) Go to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE Microsoft Windows CurrentVersion from the left hand tree.

3.) Change the Path in DWORD entries for ProgramFilesDir, ProgramFilesDir (x86) to the new path, probably just changing the drive letter is enough.

With those two changes in place, all of your personal profile data, and your program data, should now be stored on your secondary hard drive by default.

Hope this helps. :-)

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Christopher W

Thank you, Kev. I was trying to figure this out with the old XTEQ program (now freeware; Google for it, or I think Major Geeks has it), but it didn’t seem to apply. Many thanks…

C

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Christopher W

You realize that now I have to get an SSD, don’t you? :D

Kev Q

Since having an SSD, I would never go back. The performance change is just crazy. You won’t regret it.

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Nero T

Can I use 2 Ram sticks of 2 different brands? Because I have a kit of Kingston RAM and a stick of Corsair, my motherboard have 4 RAM slots and I don’t want to waste them.

Plus, I want to install two OS in my machine, is that possible?

Kev Q

Hi Nero,

The answer to both of your questions is yes. You can use different RAM manufacturers, as long as both sticks are compatible with your motherboard, then it will be fine.

With regards to dual-booting 2 OS’s, this can easily be done with Windows or Mac & Linux. However, I don’t think it’s possible with Windows & Mac.

Nero T

Hi Kev! Thanks for the answer. I appreciate it.
About dual-boot: You mentioned that Window or Mac can go with Linux. Can I install Windows and Elementry OS in my computer?

Kev Q

Yeah. Elementary OS is based on Linux.

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Paul P

120 GB SSD can be had for a lot less than $150:

http://www.amazon.com/Kingston-Digital-2-5-Inch-SV300S37A-120G/dp/B00A1ZTZOG/ $88.84 and it has a average 4.7 out 5 stars rating from 181 customers. No need to spend all that money.

Reply

Yosua Wisnu

+1 Elementary OS, best OS I’ve ever used.

Reply

Larry K.

In your next column of suggestions, could you please include something about pop-up blockers and useless tool bars which are just as bad as viruses?

At the moment, I am trying to get rid of useless tool bars, pop-ups, etc which have appeared in the last little while Even the bottom portion of the Google page has advertising in it. At the present time, you need a huge monitor just o be able to see a complete web age.

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Anonymous

A RAM upgrade did it for me.
My 5 year old Toshiba laptop running Windows Vista had become very slow.
Although it was fine when I bought it, it was installing all the updates (like you have a choice) that slowed it down.
Newer laptops come with more RAM, if it’s an older model upgrading is the best way to speed it up.

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