Nerd in an office setting, fixing or improving an old computer

If your computer is getting elderly you may want to start thinking about a replacement. However, it’s often possible to improve and upgrade an old computer. Here are some things to think about:

1. Free up hard drive space.

If your drive is full or nearly full, then your computer will slow down dramatically. Delete files you do not need and uninstall applications you never use, and then run CCleaner, a free program which cleans up old internet files and file fragments that might be clogging your drive. Finally, defragment your drive – the command varies by version, but it is Optimize Drives in Windows 8 – this consolidates fragmented files and folders. You also may want to Error Check your hard drive. If this doesn’t free up enough space, it might be time to pony up for an extra external drive for photos, videos, music, etc.

2. Add RAM.

Unless you already have all the RAM your motherboard can take (check your system specs), adding RAM is the quickest and easiest way to improve and speed up your old computer. It’s generally an easy “operation” to do yourself, but if you are uncomfortable reaching around inside your computer, you can take it to a local repair shop.

3. Clean, clean, clean.

One surprising cause of computer slowness is a clogged fan. Get a can of compressed air (you can generally get these at computer and hardware stores), open the case, and blow all the dust off of the fan and the motherboard. (Avoid opening your computer’s case on carpet as you can end up with lint drifting into the case). Your computer will thank you.

4. Install SSD.

Solid state drives are not cheap, but if you install an SSD and set it up as your boot drive, your computer will boot in a fraction of the time. If you don’t have space in the case, consider removing your optical drive unless you use it regularly. SSDs are generally small and should be used only for the operating system and the apps you use the most.

5. Remove startup items.

Go through your start menu and make sure to remove anything you don’t need to launch on startup. Windows installs a lot of these by default. Some of them are security stuff (for example, you do want your firewall to launch), but if you have a Blackberry Device Manager and don’t own a Blackberry, uncheck it.

6. Turn off Windows animations.

They look cool, but you don’t need them, and they can really slow down an older, lower-powered computer.

7. Use browser discipline.

The more tabs you have open, the more memory your browser uses – and web browsers tend to be memory and resource hogs. Bookmark and close tabs you are not actively using. Also, go through your add-ons and remove any you are not actually using them.

8. Run a malware and virus check.

You may have something nasty on your computer you didn’t know about. Some malware hijacks your CPU to run stuff for the cyber criminals. And keep your anti-virus programs up to date.

9. Reinstall Windows.

If nothing else is speeding up your elderly system, then reinstall Windows. This removes all of your junk. Windows 8 and 10 have the option of “Refresh” – which reinstalls Windows without affecting any of your files. You can also do a complete Reset, but that does delete all files – so make sure everything is backed up first.

If none of this works and you are still tearing out your hair over lag and crashes, then it may really be time to invest in a new PC. But a lot of the time, the steps above will speed it up enough that you can hold off on a major purchase for another year or two.



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