Often we get machines into the shop that are running slowly. How do we speed them up?
Our starting point for a Windows machine is Task Manager. First step is to show all the features this tool has by getting it to show More Details and this gives a number of tabs along the top as well as some interesting totals on the processes section. To access Task Manager you can right click on the bottom bar (the task bar) in Windows 10 and choose Task Manager from the menu or press the CTRL ALT and DEL and choose Task Manager from the screen that comes up. Use the latter for Windows 11.
What to look for?
The scores at the top of the processes page are a good indication as to where your machine is lacking. If you see memory at 100% a lot of the time, then it is time to consider an upgrade. Windows 10 (and 11) prefer at least 8gb ram. Many machines are sold with 4gb on the basis that “this will do” and that is the minimum you can get away with. Low amounts of memory make the machine use the hard drive as extra memory storage. Depending on your drive this will make the machine slow and there will be a delay when doing things in programs. A common way this appears is when typing there is a delay before the words appear on the screen.
The next item that is commonly seen is the hard drive at 100%. Again, many machines are still sold with standard hard drives. These have rotating platters and a mechanical arm that moves across the platters. The drive takes time to spin up. It then takes time for the arm to read the correct part of the drive. This adds to the delay in using the machine. These drives are often included in machines as they are cheaper especially for larger capacities. Often machines with 1TB drives are still sold with standard drives. If you need a lot of storage the best compromise is a new type of drive called a ssd for the machine to start up from. This does not need to be that large, maybe 128gb or 256gb. Have a second larger traditional drive for your data.
So what is a ssd?
These are a newer type of drive that do not have any moving parts. They have been around for a while now but only recently have come down in price sufficiently to make them affordable to put in machines. The drive is basically just memory chips so very similar to what you would find in a table or phone. They are the reason these appear to start quicker and are more responsive than computers.
We find the most cost effective way to speed up a slow machine is to put in a ssd. At speeds of over 10x faster than traditional drives they make a massive difference to performance.
What else can help?
Checking your network speed and capacity can help with slow internet connectivity to the machine. If the speed of the internet coming into the building is low then only an improved connection will increase that. If you are getting good speeds coming into the internet box (the router) but these disappear between that and your machine, its time to look at your network card. To test your connection speed use the website Ookla when connected to the internet box with a cable.
Network cards have different speeds, whether they are of the type you plug a cable into or are wireless. The current wireless standard is called 802.11ac. The important bit is the “ac” on the end, leading some to say the new standard is a cool breeze. ac devices not only gives fast wireless connections but also better reach. If your wireless card is older than your internet box it will be running at a slower speed and an upgrade will improve your access to those all important cat videos!
Where you can, plugging your computer in to the box with a cable will always give you the best speed.
What about Macs
Macs are trickier to improve their performance. There is not a direct equivalent tool to Task Manager on a PC. There is Activity Monitor but this can be confusing for the ordinary Joe or Jane. Even if you identify an issue, upgrading is a problem. Components on the newer Mac devices are built onto the main circuit board. This makes it impossible to upgrade memory or hard drives, so bear this in mind when buying a Mac. Buy the best unit you can afford and not the minimum specification. You need to consider what you may need further down the line.
To help Macs keep performing well, CleanMyMac is the recommended go to tool. This helps optimise the Mac and clear out old system junk without you having to know where to look.
When is it time to let go?
Most machines are designed to have a life span of 3 -5 years. Businesses will replace their machines before they get beyond 5 years. Home users usually keep a machine running longer. After 5 years, the components in the device will have lasted their expected time and so failure is more likely. It is something to bear in mind if deciding whether to spend money upgrading a machine or bite the bullet and replace it.
If you are suffering with an old or slow machine drop it into the shop and we can advise what can be done to get it back up to speed.