Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

Speeding up a slow computer

Computers can slow down as they “age” but following two simple pieces of advice can keep them relatively spry and useful for years to come. And if you’re handy with a screwdriver, you can do some of these things on your own.

Create more free space on your hard disk

It might sound odd to say in a day and age when even low-end computers sport 320 GB hard disks, but if you cram the hard disk to the gills, your computer spends much more time riffling though it for the information you need.

Having difficulty understanding this? Picture instead a filing cabinet into which somebody has stuffed so much paper that it’s difficult to open and close. You’ll have better luck retrieving things from a filing cabinet that is at least ten to twenty percent empty.

The same percentages apply to computer hard disks, and for much the same reasons. Fill them much above 90 percent and you’ll likely slow down your computer.

Should your computer be slow to the point of being unusable, check how full the hard disk is. Should the percentage full be very high, delete anything you don’t need right now.

If you need to keep more stuff than you have room for on your hard disk, consider buying a larger replacement disk or moving files (especially video, audio and large images) onto an external disk.

On Windows (XP at least – I suspect other versions of Windows have this), you can also run the Disk Cleanup Tool.

On a Mac, try a few of the tips in the following video.

Increase random access memory (RAM)

All things being equal, the one thing that speeds up computers more than anything else is a RAM upgrade. Find out how much RAM your computer has, how much it can accommodate, and then look for replacement RAM.

Stick to quality brands like Kingston or Crucial. You don’t want to take chances on downmarket RAM, given how important it is to your computer’s performance.

How do I upgrade a hard disk, or RAM?

You might not yet know how to upgrade your hard disk or RAM. No problem. If you know how to use a screwdriver and can spend five or ten minutes on the upgrade, try googling instructions for doing these things online. Good-hearted people even post videos of how to do these things on YouTube – check out the following examples:

So if you google things like “replace RAM (make of your computer)” you will get instructions from the manufacturer (as well as from other, very helpful people). Give it a try!