A shiny new computer may not bring the sensory satisfaction you get from new clothes or a new car, but it offers the advantage of speed. Even if it's only one or two years newer than your last machine, a new computer usually feels much faster. That's only partly because of improvements to the computer hardware. Better hardware certainly speeds up your PC, but often changing your habits—or acquiring new ones—also has a dramatic effect.
Don't Be Fooled
The Internet is filled with places to download all types of applications, themes, skins, toolbars and wallpapers. Most of it is free or low-cost, so clicking on that flashing link offers immediate gratification without any apparent downside. You pay that cost afterwards, when your computer is filled with low-value files and software that take up both storage space and processor cycles. Even worse, this electronic junk is often used to conceal viruses, Trojans and other malware that can slow or even cripple your computer. For PC users, that same impulse is a fast road to slow computing.
Clean Out the Garage
Over time, your computer becomes the electronic equivalent of a hoarders' house, even for disciplined users. Doing that kind of cleanup manually is a daunting task, so you may want to download a software utility to do it for you. Several good programs are available at little or no cost.
Pick Up the Pieces
When you're done cleaning house, the next step is to organize what's left. You can improve your PC's overall performance by periodically defragmenting the drive. That means having your computer find all the fragments that make up individual files and programs, and rewriting them so the pieces are grouped together. It takes time, but you can tell your computer to do it overnight while you're sleeping. With all the data organized neatly on your drive, loading files or programs is a lot quicker.
Lose the Candy
Part of the fun of owning a computer is customizing it to look the way you like. Special visual effects such as animated icons and live wallpapers add a lot to the appeal of your system, which is why they're often referred to as “eye candy”. Of course, eye candy requires a portion of your computer's resources, like any other software, and that means RAM and processor power taken away from your actual work and gaming.
Ramp Up the RAM
Imagine you're baking a cake, but you only have enough space on the counter for half the ingredients and utensils at a time and have to swap the rest on and off the table behind you as needed. That's roughly what happens to your computer if you don't have enough RAM for your programs and data files. When it runs out of space, your computer swaps that information to a designated spot—the swap file—on your much-slower hard drive. Adding RAM gives your computer more working space, so it doesn't slow you down by swapping data in and out of memory.
A Solid Improvement
If you're willing to invest the time and money in a serious upgrade, consider getting a solid-state hard drive for your system. They're lower in capacity and higher in price than regular hard drives, but they're ridiculously fast. Back up your data and settings to discs or the cloud. Pop the SSD into your computer and install Windows® on it. With your operating system and swap file set up on the SSD, your computer will feel turbocharged. All your old data and programs are untouched on the original hard drive, so the backups are just for safety's sake. Set aside a day for the project or have it done at your favorite computer store.
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