Can't bear to part with that aged clunker on your desk? Give it a tune-up with these quick tips.
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We've all been there at some point in our digital lives. Whether at home or the office, we all get stuck with a plodding, cranky computer. Simply opening a web browser begins to seem like an insurmountable challenge. And as for trying to do two (or more) things at once -- well, forget it.
There are a bunch of reasons for poor PC performance, but one safe bet is that you're simply using an older machine. If you're trying to run today's applications on a seven-year-old desktop running Windows XP -- don't laugh, such a beast lurks in a dark corner of my home office -- don't expect "optimal" to describe the experience.
We all have our reasons for hanging on to old PCs, but I'd hazard an educated guess that this is the most common one: New computers cost money. For individuals and businesses alike, that often means stretching out hardware investments longer than we'd like.
Whatever your reason for hanging on to an older PC, there are ways to improve its performance. Let's look at four quick ones.
But first, remember: PC performance depends on a variety of factors; your mileage may vary depending on operating system, hardware, your usage, and so forth. If there's a bit of a Windows slant here, that's because, well, I mainly use Windows.
OK, let's get to it.
1. Add RAM. If your machine seems to groan any time you run two or more programs, "hangs" each time you ask it to do something, or generally seems to turtle its way through the day, then adding memory should top your list of PC renovations. Fortunately, you don't need to be a hardcore IT pro to do it yourself. (Of course, if you are a hardcore IT pro, you can probably do this in your sleep.) Google and YouTube are full of how-to articles and demonstration videos -- take your pick if you need a quick crash course.
This will cost some money, but only a fraction of what a new PC will run you. And it will take a little bit of time to do the upgrade, though that investment will earn you a machine that doesn't gasp for air each time you open a spreadsheet and a web browser concurrently.
Start by checking your System Properties to determine how much RAM you have. The memory vendor Crucial.com offers a free system scanner that will tell you how much memory you have and how much you can add. There's some debate about what's a "standard" or minimum amount of RAM these days. Your needs should dictate your decision. A gaming fanatic and an email-and-web user don't require the same specs, for instance. Anything less than 2 GB, though, means it's upgrade time -- 4 GB or more is preferable.
2. Scale back your startup programs. Slow boot times are a common complaint on older systems. It could be that your machine is sagging under too many applications set to run automatically at startup. You can -- and should -- change your settings to run only
Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses. View Full Bio
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