Speeding up your computer

This is the flip side of my previous article: “10 things that can slow down your computer”. Nobody likes to work on a computer that feels slow … so, if you find yourself frequently waiting for things to happen on your computer …

  • first make sure it’s your computer that is slow, and not your Internet
  • then decide what might be slowing your computer down
  • then decide if you should upgrade your computer, or replace it

If most of your computer work is online, it’s sometimes hard to know where the slowness is coming from. If things seem slow, the first thing to do is check your Internet speed by going to speedtest.net … it’s an independent speed test that will give you 3 numbers: your ping time, download speed, and upload speed. If your numbers are <40ms, >4Mbps, and >0.4Mbps, respectively, then you’re probably OK. (Those numbers are a bit arbitrary … you might want to check the download/upload numbers against what you are paying for from your Internet Service Provider.) If you are online via wifi, you should also do a speed test with a wired connection to compare and see if you are losing speed due to your home wireless.

If you decide your Internet is OK, it’s time to check your computer. On Windows 10, you can do that via the Task Manager on the Process/Performance tabs … on OS X, via Activity Monitor (under Applications | Utilities). This will show how taxed your CPU, memory, disk, wifi/Ethernet, and GPU are. If your CPU or GPU utilization is frequently high, you either need to reduce what they are doing, or increase their capability (difficult to do without replacing your whole computer). If your memory use is high, it’s not hard to either reduce the demands for memory (shut down programs), or increase your RAM. If your disk is always busy, you can either reduce the demands for disk access, or replace your hard drive with a faster one. If network throughput is always busy, either reduce the demands for network access or create a faster connection.

If your computer is relatively healthy, you have at least 4GB of RAM, and your CPU’s benchmark (cpubenchmark.net) is well over 2000, then your most likely cause of slowness is your hard drive. Even if it shows no signs of dying, you should consider upgrading to a Solid State Drive (SSD) to get about ten times (!) the disk access performance. It’s possible to clone your hard drive to an SSD, so everything (operating system, programs, settings, data) stays the same … it’s just faster! This is the most common upgrade today.