You may think computer maintenance is only for the Nerds among us, but there are many easy things you can do to speed up your PC without investing a lot of time or money.
Whether you’re a Windows or Mac user, performing some basic computer maintenance can ensure your system stays in top form. First, the easiest tip: shut down and restart your computer regularly so that it can install all necessary software and operating system updates.
Next, ensure automatic update is turned on, both for your Operating System updates as well as your anti-malware programs. If you don’t have an up-to-date anti-virus program on your PC, Windows users can download the newest version of Microsoft Security Essentials for free. Make sure you take the time to run a full scan.
Uninstall unused programs to free up hard drive space and system resources. Be cautious! Don’t delete anything you don’t recognize in case it’s a program file necessary for your computer to run. Windows users should consider Revo Uninstaller (free for 30 days, then $30). It performs basic maintenance and removes the pesky program remnants that Windows’ Add/Remove Programs Uninstaller can leave behind.
Mac users should check out OnyX (free, http://www.titanium.free.fr/download.php) for performing system maintenance and getting rid of extraneous files. AppCleaner (free) will help you safely delete unwanted programs.
Clean up temporary file folders on Windows or Mac systems with CCleaner (free). It can be customized to automatically remove unused files from your computer, freeing up hard drive space and potentially improving web page loading speed. Just make sure that you don’t delete anything you use. For example, if you like your username and password to pre-fill at sites you frequent, you may want to refrain from deleting your cookies.
There are several hardware upgrades that can significantly increase the speed of your PC. If you’re willing to try to a DIY project, there are some things to keep in mind:
First, track down a detailed, reliable walk through and review it in advance to make sure you’re comfortable with the process before you crack open your case. Lifehacker walks through installing all the hardware in your PC here.
If your computer slows to a crawl when you’re running multiple programs, upgrading your RAM can help. In most cases, it’s one of the cheapest upgrades you can do. RAM manufacturers like Crucial and Corsair have memory finders on their websites. Enter the make and model of your computer and quickly see the number of slots your system has (so you know how many sticks of RAM it can hold) and the maximum amount (GB) of RAM it can support. Aim for at least 4GB of total RAM for best results.
A solid state drive (SSD) hard drive can make your system more responsive. Don’t let the smaller storage space of SSDs deter you. Unless you’re storing massive amounts of data you’re not likely to miss it. If you do need more capacity, consider a hybrid drive that allows your OS to run on the SSD portion while your data is stored to a larger traditional hard disk. Replacing a hard drive is more ambitious, however. Backing up your data, installing the Operating System on the new drive and then reinstalling your data and programs is quite time consuming.
Finally, players of graphics-intensive video games may benefit from a new video card. The enhanced and/or additional graphics memory in a new card will likely make a noticeable difference in your speed and lack of latency. It’s not as hard to do as you may think – pop out the old card, put in a new compatible one and install any needed drivers.
Even relatively novice users can speed up their PC in less time than it takes to convince a cousin to come over and do it for you.
Photo used by permission: Sean MacEntee