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

The speed value of an empty desktop

It’s common for people to replace their computers every three or four years. They seem to believe performance degrades so much that they need new machines to gain speed increases.

Sometimes that’s true. Hard disk drives,for instance, can wear over time. Inexpensive machines aren’t usually built to be upgraded.

But if you want to keep working with your current computer, there are a number of things you can do to keep it moving quickly.

I covered one tip in a June blog post. (Here’s something I forgot to mention in that post: Even though I claimed useless utilities are a Mac issue, Windows PC users also need to know when such “utilities” are “recommended” to them. Cheaper Windows computers usually ship with “bloatware” i.e. trial versions of frequently useless programs that promise to keep your PC in shape if you just buy them and use them. My recommendation: uninstall these programs and, if you must, buy reputable stuff.)

Now for this week’s tip, something that applies equally to Windows PCs and Macs. Why? Because they both have desktops.

The problem

Rendering complex graphics on screen can take so long that users may need to wait while the computer churns through the task. “Rendering” in this sense means putting all the pieces of a picture together on a screen.

It’s a sacrifice people who work with graphics-intensive software (e.g. photo, video, graphic design, architecture) often had to make. This process is slower on computers with:

  • older, slower processors
  • less RAM
  • older, smaller hard disk drives

The solution

Somebody must have realized that the computer had to work just as hard to render the desktop as it does graphical element that people need to work with. The more stuff people keep on their desktops – from fancy images to icons for documents and folders and so forth – the more computing power the computer needs to render the desktop. Most people don’t realize how often they go to the desktop, when they quit programs, minimize windows and so forth.

To keep your computer from chugging along just to redraw your desktop:

  • turn the desktop background entirely black. A black screen is the easiest thing a computer can render. To that end, remove any fancy images, especially software that changes your desktop image periodically.
  • keep very few, if any, files on your desktop. Put them instead in your Documents folder, or subfolders you create in the Documents folder. Each icon is one more thing your computer needs to render when you go to the desktop.

Whenever you minimize your programs, your computer ought to show your desktop much quicker if it’s plain black. That makes for one less type of delay during your computing day.

Do you have any tips that readers can use to speed up their computers? Please share them in the comments below.