Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
5/21/2014
01:30 PM
Kevin Casey
Kevin Casey
Commentary
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Speed Up Your Old PC: 4 Tips

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.

[Can Microsoft's new Surface tablet really serve as a true laptop replacement? Read Microsoft Surface Pro 3: 8 Winning Features.]

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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EmilyNguyen12321
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EmilyNguyen12321,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/21/2014 | 7:58:40 PM
Not very helpful tips
I don't really like the tips. Seems to general and not specific to the issue. I'de recommend using tools like Synei System Utilities or Tune-Up utilities. All you have to do is 1 click "Optimize" button and it'll basically do all the work for you. Helped my pc out a lot. 
majenkins
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majenkins,
User Rank: Ninja
5/22/2014 | 9:05:27 AM
Weak List Sorry
No offence but Information Week is still a technical publication correct? Well that being the case there is nothing in this article that is new, anyone that has worked in this indiustry for more than 3 years should be able to produce this same list. If you published this article in USAToday or some other general news, general user, publication then it would be good.
INNO4_Chuck
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INNO4_Chuck,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/22/2014 | 9:20:41 AM
Missed an OBVIOUS one...
Upgrade to an SSD. Agree with other comments. This list is weak.
anon4400267247
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anon4400267247,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/22/2014 | 9:40:34 AM
Older PC's
If you have an older machine running XP or Vista then a simple tune-up is probably just putting lipstick on a pig. To be fair I did upgrade one of my older machines to Windows 8.1 but it was upper-end on the hardware specs when it was new. It is still quite viable for everyday use as long as you don't try stream or edit 1080P videos on the thing.

Honestly, I would rather take most vintage hardware and just overwrite Windows with a new copy of Lubuntu or Xubuntu and just roll with it. An old P4 or Core Duo with 2 gb of ram runs amazing well if you were used to an old bloated Windows install.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
5/22/2014 | 9:51:41 AM
Re: Weak List Sorry
I appreciate the feedback. Our readership includes users at many levels of technical expertise and we realize some articles may seem more basic to those of you at the higher end of the spectrum. We try to do different articles for different readers. If you guys have other tips to share, please feel free to share them in comments.
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
5/22/2014 | 12:17:35 PM
SSD
Biggest performance boost in nearly all cases is an SSD and an OS refresh, that is if by 'system', you mean the hardware.

In the case where one wants to preserve their OS install, an SSD can still help with opening files faster and such, used as a data storage drive.

How fast is an SSD? I got a Samsung 840 EVO maybe 6 months ago. It was pretty much top of chart at Passmark, once you exclude the super expensive exotic drives. Many people know how long it takes to open Photoshop. With that 840 EVO, Photshop opens in about a second.
boo radley
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boo radley,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/22/2014 | 12:24:46 PM
speed up tips
Here are more easy tips.

1. Go to control panel>system>advanced>performance options. set visual effects to "adjust for best performance" or select custom and remove anything you do not need.

2.While you are there make sure your swap file(vitual memory) set set to 2 1/2 times your ram. also set the file to a fixed size will speed up access, especially if you have 2 gig or less ram

3. Defrag your hard drive. auslogic an after market defragger also allows you to optimize your drive by moving system files to the fastest parts of the hard drive. Note on defragging: it sometimes takes two or three defrag sessions to fully defragment your hard drive.

4. Go to start run and type in msconfig this will show processes and startup options on your computer. Many printers and other devices will install a utility program with their driver. If you rarely use it uncheck it. You would be surprised how many companies like Google, Mozilla and Adobe have update programs that are sitting there sucking up resources. Caution: if you don't know what your unclicking best not to mess with it. I google the entry in question to find out what it is doing if I am uncertain.

 
boo radley
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boo radley,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/22/2014 | 12:41:09 PM
Re: SSD
There are several problems with an ssd upgrade that may not make it suitable for ths purpose. Many older machines are using a parallel interface for hd especially laptops. Compatible ssds for these are smaller and may actually run slower than a fast HD. The cost of ssds ramps up quickly for larger sizes making it cheaper to just buy a new system. negating the point of this article.
boo radley
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boo radley,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/22/2014 | 12:41:12 PM
Re: SSD
There are several problems with an ssd upgrade that may not make it suitable for ths purpose. Many older machines are using a parallel interface for hd especially laptops. Compatible ssds for these are smaller and may actually run slower than a fast HD. The cost of ssds ramps up quickly for larger sizes making it cheaper to just buy a new system. negating the point of this article.
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
5/22/2014 | 12:59:06 PM
Re: SSD
If its *that* old, its time to put it out to pasture.
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