A performance bottleneck slows down even the most capable computer.
If you are experiencing a slow computer, going through some or all of these exercises will speed things back up. Don’t run out and buy a new computer. You’ll run into the same slow computer blues you are experiencing now in a matter of months.
Speeding up an existing system is done by removing the bottlenecks causing the performance degradation. I write this on a 2008 iMac that I recently walked through this exercise on. It’s just as fast as the brand new iMac I spent time with a few weeks ago at a customer site.
Hard Drive Upgrade
Computers in the low and mid-range typically feature a mechanical hard drives. They are cheap and plentiful. Mechanical hard drives (aka HDD’s) are so slow that they become the primary bottleneck of any system (this includes servers, too!)
Replacing an HDD with an SSD will speed up everything on a desktop or laptop computer. I’ll spare you the physics lesson that explains it. How much faster is it? A factor of 8 or more. I’ve watched computers that took 2 minutes to boot with a mechanical hard drive improve to just under 20 seconds with an SSD. A professional can upgrade you to an SSD for less than the cost of a new computer. From it, you get the benefit of a super-fast experience booting up, launching programs and opening large files.
The reality is that everything needed to run a computer comes with the operating system (Windows and Mac alike). PC manufacturers love to load software you don’t need – including their own worthless utilities. These unwelcome space and computing hogs create their own unique set of bottlenecks on your system. It’s necessary to both remove these bottlenecks and optimize the system back to how Microsoft intended. It takes a professional in most cases – money well spent. Mac users have an advantage here – Apple doesn’t ship bloatware on a Mac.
Viruses, AdWare and RansomeWare
Bad stuff sneaks in through the front door now – most often through your email or web browser. The methods are so varied and numerous, it’s not realistic to attempt learning the kung-fu master skills you need. Once it gets in the door, your system will slow down and behave oddly. A good defense is running Microsoft’s Security Essentials at all times on the PC and avoiding downloading or browsing anything that sounds too good to be true. If you do get infected, a professional can help remove the unwelcome bits.
Beware: Commercially Available Protection
Mac users are at some risk of getting viruses and adware, though far less than their Windows counterparts. I’ve never seen a compelling reason to invest in any protection on a Mac other than to always install updates as soon as they are available. Windows comes with Security Essentials as mentioned previously – which is sufficient for most individuals.
So what’s the problem with commercially available protection? Most of it wastes computing cycles and impacts productivity in a bad way and redundant to what’s included with your operating system. Increasingly, malware disguised as protection is finding it’s way into computers as well.
Don’t feel like a fool if you’ve always paid for Norton or McAfee or other security solutions. Prior to Microsoft and Apple taking a hard stand on security, it was something you had to have. Those days are past us now. I do recommend having a professional remove your old protection software and turn on Microsoft’s Security Essentials for you if you’re on a Windows PC. Mac users will not often have this challenge.
Most of what we do with our computers is online these days. Slow Internet can cause your system to appear slow. The biggest contributor to this is your wireless network. If you’ve had the same wireless access point for 5 years or more, it’s time to upgrade. With more of your neighbors installing WiFi, you’ll find that your range and speed are lower than they used to be. This is caused by the fact that all WiFi shares the same radio frequency spectrum where there’s only so much room to share.
Newer wireless access points have more capacity to deliver the Internet to your computer faster. They feature the ability to tune themselves to different parts of the spectrum or be manually tuned by a professional to overcome the challenges of a crowded frequency spectrum. These newer access points often have the ability to track where your device is and ‘point’ the signal towards your computer or mobile device in order to cut through the noise.
There could be other bottlenecks in your setup that aren’t covered by this post. I highly recommend hiring a professional to audit your computer and make changes to remove bottlenecks – particularly if you find that after doing everything here that things are still slow.