How to Speed up Your Computer

OVERVIEW

To make your computer run faster you need to know the following:

  1. Key resources of a computer
  2. Typical ways resources are used by your computer
  3. What can slow down your once fast and responsive computer

Once you know these, you can make a better decision about what you can do to make your computer run faster.

COMPUTER RESOURCES

To understand how to make your computer run faster, you need to understand the primary computer resources that impact the performance of your computer. These resources are what help your computer perform its job. They are as follows: processor (central processing unit or CPU, the brain and processing power of your computer), memory (your computer’s RAM, or primary memory), hard disk drive (HDD, your computer’s secondary memory), network interface (your computer’s connection to the world-i.e. the Internet). The network interface could be your modem, your WI-FI card, or the built-in fast Ethernet network interface of your computer.

If at least one of these resources gets taxed, the computer’s performance gets worse and thus the computer slows down!

Depending on what you are doing with your computer or what it is doing on its own, certain resources will get taxed first. Once a resource is taxed, your computer slows down. Here are some typical scenarios to illustrate this.

  1. Having many applications open or windows open will tax your computer’s memory. For example, if you have a lot of Internet browser windows open, your computer will start slowing down.
  2. Running a program that performs heavy calculations will tax your computer’s processor. For example, if you are running a CAD program and are doing some image rotation, you will see that your CPU usage will increase.
  3. Performing a large file download or upload will task your network interface. For example, when you upload a YouTube video, your computer’s network interface will be busy. It can impact your computer’s responsiveness.
  4. A simple file copy from your hard disk drive can impact the performance of your computer. For example, copying a huge multi-megabyte file to your flash drive will tax your hard disk drive, and thus slow down your computer.
  5. Your computer gets infected with a malicious adware or worm. Most malicious adware will cause multiple Internet browsers to open and cause memory, processor, and hard disk drive to be completely taxed-making your computer totally useless. Almost all worms will use up all of your computer’s resources causing your computer to slow down as well.

TYPICAL WAYS RESOURCES ARE USED

Unless your computer is infected with some form of malware, its resources will typically get used up in the following manner:

  • The first resource to get used up is memory-your computer’s RAM. When a computer program runs, it uses up memory and disk space for any temporary file it uses.
  • When RAM is in short supply, your computer starts using virtual memory. Virtual memory resides on your computer’s hard disk drive. The hard disk drive is the slowest of all computer resources. Thus, the moment your computer starts using more virtual memory, your computer will start to show poor performance-i.e. it will become less responsive. When the hard disk drive starts to flash frequently and you aren’t explicitly reading or saving a file, this is a sure sign your computer is depending more on virtual memory. At this point, your computer is probably running sluggishly.
  • Files on a computer’s hard disk drive are stored in storage units called blocks. A computer can extract data faster if the file is stored in a contiguous sequence of blocks. Over time, files change and thus get scattered in the hard disk over non-contiguous blocks. When this happens, the file gets fragmented. When more and more files get fragmented, the computer will take longer and longer to read files. This is why computers perform better when you first get them. Then over time, it starts to perform poorly as data and program files get fragmented on the hard disk drive.

WHAT CAN SLOW DOWN YOUR ONCE FAST COMPUTER

You might notice that when you first opened up your computer, applications and other utilities are pretty responsive. Over time, your computer starts to get sluggish. The items enumerated below will account for this sluggishness.

  • Installation of New Devices. When you install a new device (e.g. a printer) various additional programs get installed on your computer to help make it convenient for you to manage that device. For example, a printer installation will install at least a couple of programs that run in the background-a printer management utility and a printer driver/software updater.
  • Applications in General. When you install an application, the application will also install a program that will help keep the program’s version up-to-date. This program will run in the background, periodically checking for software updates. When it detects an update, it will download the update and install it.
  • Internet Browser Plug-ins. Adobe and Java are two of the most notorious plug-ins that use up your computer’s resources. These and other plug-ins typically download updates frequently and often-causing your computer to slowdown when it is downloading, probably without your knowledge.
  • * Virus Infection. Antivirus software will occasionally fail to detect a virus infection. When your computer is infected with some virus (or some type of malware or malicious adware), your computer will start to slow down. Depending on what the virus or malware is doing, your processor, memory, or network resources could easily be used up.

MAKE YOUR COMPUTER RUN FASTER

Now that you have the proper background, there are things you can do to help make your computer run faster. Some may cost you, but most can be done at no cost. Here is a quick overview of what you can do:

  • Perform a full virus scan of your computer
  • Perform a disk defragmentation
  • Uninstall or disable unnecessary programs
  • Add more RAM
  • Add faster disk drives

Before you spend money, the first thing you should do is to perform a full virus scan of your computer. To do this, you need to:

  • Make sure your antivirus program has the latest updates
  • Boot in safe mode
  • Run a complete scan of your computer; making sure all disk drives are scanned

By doing this, you will help guarantee that a virus, malware, or adware isn’t slowing down your computer.

It is generally good practice to periodically defragment your main computer disk drive. Defragmenting will help your computer load data or program files into memory faster. On Windows, you will typically find the Disk Defragmenter tool in the Systems Tools folder, under Accessories.

Uninstalling or disabling programs or services can help your computer run faster as well. There are two ways to approach this-in Windows XP they are Add Remove Programs and MSCONFIG.

Do not attempt this if you aren’t sure of what you are uninstalling, but if you are, by all means do so.

In Windows XP, the first way is to open up the Add Remove Programs utility in the Control Panel. In the Add Remove Programs utility, look for programs you no longer use, and uninstall them. By doing this, you free up disk space and possibly remove any memory resident programs that the program installed. The other approach is to use the MSCONFIG utility (Microsoft System Configuration utility). To run MSCONFIG, simply click START, select RUN, enter “msconfig” in the “Open:” field, and click OK. Look for things you don’t need in the Startup and Services tabs. In the Services tab, you can reduce the chance of disabling key services by making checking the “Hide all Microsoft Services.” This ensures you don’t impact key services used by your operating system.

If you still find that your computer is slow, it is probably because the programs you are using require more memory, or the way you are using applications require more memory. In this case, purchase and install more memory. Check how many memory slots your computer can take, then make sure to consult your manufacturer’s specifications to ensure you purchase the right type and size RAM. If you aren’t comfortable dealing with hardware, you can always get the help of someone who is.

If you use a lot of data files, it may also be to your advantage to purchase a fast disk drive. Install the fast disk drive as a slave drive and place your data there. A faster disk drive can also help speed up your computer if you replace your boot drive with a faster disk drive. Note, however, that it takes a lot of time to replace your boot drive with another. You may want to consult the help of a professional of a competent friend to do this.

SUMMARY

There isn’t one quick action you can take to make your computer go faster-aside from buying a new one. You must first have some basic understanding of the key resources that affect your computers performance-processor, memory, disk drive, and network interface. You also need to understand how these resources are typically used up, provided your computer isn’t infected with a virus. Some key examples of things that over time slow down the performance of your once fast computer can also help you understand. With the proper background, you will make a better decision about what to do to speed up your computer.


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