How Can I Speed Up My Aging Laptop?

Dear Lifehacker, My laptop is only two years old, but it's running really slowly. I've upgraded the memory already, but what else can I do to speed things up? Signed, Crawling in Crawford

Photo remixed from an original found on 2black.

Dear Crawling,

One of the most common complaints about laptops is about how slow they seem after a year or two of use. So how can you effectively speed up your laptop without buying an entirely new one?

Clean Up the Cruft

The first thing a lot of us try involves completely reinstalling your operating system. After a number of years you start to aggregate no-longer-used programs, files and other riff-raff on your system which all work to slow things down. However, you really shouldn't need to regularly re-install Windows and addressing the root problems (like bad apps) can be just as effective as reinstalling.

Upgrade Your RAM

If you've already cleaned up your machine, upgrading your RAM (your computer's memory) is a great step. A lot of us have already upgraded RAM (you mentioned you've already done so), and most of us really don't need more than 4GB of RAM.

The Best Upgrade for 2011: Get an SSD

So what's left? You may be able to get a few more years out of your laptop by upgrading your hard drive to an SSD.

Many laptops ship with tiny, slow-spinning hard drives, running at 5400rpm because of power and overheating concerns. While these drives can work fine, and they're certainly cheaper than faster options, they slow down data access on your laptop considerably, and you can feel it across the board: when booting up, running programs, gaming and general web browsing.

SSDs, or Solid State Drives, both run cooler and much faster than the old style platter/disk based hard drives, and they're easily one of the best upgrades you can make to your laptop. The big holdup for mass adoption has been the high prices of SSD drives, but 2011 is the year when they will hit mainstream, and we've already seen some low sale prices. Photo by liyanage.

We're all big fans of SSDs around Lifehacker HQ for the speed boost they can bring to any hardware, and Whitson has a great tutorial on installing one in your MacBook, though an SSD will work just as well in any laptop. You may have to purchase a 2.5-inch SATA to USB adaptor if your laptop only has one spot for a hard drive. Once you get it installed, you can do a fresh install of your operating system or clone your existing drive using a program such as CloneZilla.

After you are up and running, installing previously mentioned SSDLife on a Windows computer or following our other tips for taking full advantage of your SSD will help you keep tabs on the health of your SSD and make sure you are running it to its fullest capacity.

If your computer's hardware is more than a few years old, you may be better off just upgrading your laptop. But an SSD can breath new life into relatively new laptops and even add a few years of usability. The change in speed from a 5400rpm hard drive to an SSD drive is astonishing.

Cheers Lifehacker


Comments

    I'm surprised you didn't hav this tip;

    If you are running windows then ditch it as your OS and get a good linux distro

      Mean troll.

        linux is hardly usable for non-geeks.

    This weekend I'm speeding up my Mum's notebook so this article is particularly relevant. My tips from this experience (Windows specific):
    - Upgrade from Vista to Win 7
    - Add RAM
    - Full reinstallation of OS and ignore all crapware and supporting software that comes with driver discs (e.g. printing utilities)
    - Re-install only required software
    - Drop mail clients in favour of web based mail

    My netbooks hard drive just failed. I was about to pick up a new hard drive for it, is an SSD drive worth it? I don't need a lot of space but when an SSD drive of about 30GB is only $80 it seems good enough. I only use it for general activities... aka what a netbook what designed for. Thoughts?

    Here are some other tips

    - Install PaleMoon Browser. An optimised firefox build.

    - Overclock your CPU.

    - Clean the inside of the case with a can of air blower. You will need to if your CPU is getting hot.

    - Update all your device drivers and bios firmware. I use Driver Genius Professional to check all my driver updates.

    - Check your bios start up options and ensure that your computer is starting off your primary drive and not doing any CD or USB checks.

    - If you're on a wireless connection, ensure you are using the latest and fastest protocol.

    The best thing to do is wipe it and start fresh by loading the OS again, always.

    You neglected to mention defragmenting and tweaking. I get about a 20-40 percent increase for speed and performance just through tweaking windows.

    Check how hot your laptop is running. You may need to clean the heatsink and dust out of it. There is a number of free apps to do this just search on google.

      So there's an app that can clean dust out of a heatsink...?

      What an amazing world we live in.

      /sarcasm

    Short stroke the C: drive using Seagate Seatools (dos version) & replace the DVD with a hard drive caddy for a 2nd HDD. Move swap file onto the second drive, turn off indexing service & turn off fade/slide effects in the 'Visual Effects' tab.

    Install MSSE anti-virus and not any other virus program. Also, install your software onto the second hard disc.

    2 years old? Hah my laptop is nearly 6 years old and still running well. and without the need to update ram, etc.

    Partition the HDD so that your "stuff" is saved to the second drive, install programs on the first drive and regularly clean your machine.

      Me too..

      I bought a top of the line HP well over 5 years ago, and it's still working a charm, which is a relief, as the motherboard won't allow me to upgrade anything beyond what it came with...

      Mind you, most HP stuff these days seems to be a pile of crap that dies right after the warranty does.

    The battery on my old Acer was permanently flat but it continued to draw power, enough to slow down the CPU. I disconnected to battery in Device Manager and hey presto, it runs like new, as long as I have it plugged in.

    Really in this day and age it's hardly worth while "upgrading" laptops. Unless your running a top of the line machine, upgrading the RAM and especially your HDD to an SSD will end up costing you more then a whole new laptop. My girlfriend got a Laptop from her father recently, 1 Gb of Ram and 40Gb HDD, I looked into upgrading them and it would have cost me about $400 to get something worth our while, why would I bother when I can go and get a $499 Compaq that would have much bigger HDD and more Ram that what I was upgrading to, not to mention faster CPU and better screen, throw in the added benefit of a new 1 year warranty and a fresh battery and it hardly makes any sense to upgrade.

    A a Seagate Hybrid drive, MUCH cheaper than an SSD, with a lot more storage space and brings performance pretty damn close. That, plus extra RAM should put a zing in your old lappy.

    Can I install any SSD into my laptop so long as it's the same size? e.g. 2.5". Or are there limitations like RAM?

      i.e. compatibility issues...

        Just make sure it supports Sata II and is 2.5inch

        Get a Vertex 2, Get a Vertex 2!!! if you have a MAC you have to get a Vertex 2, if its not Sandforce based without tirm it will slow down over time.

        Older laptops may have an IDE interface to the HDD rather than the current standard which is SATA. IDE SSD are available but I wouldn't recommend spending money on one as the technology is on the way out; better to invest it in a new laptop. If you currently have a SATA HDD and want to buy an SSD, at least you can later move it to your next new laptop.

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