Even if you are building a brand new computer, odds are you have some old gear around the house you'd like to get as much life out of as possible. From phones to old laptops to old TVs, here are some tips to speed up and clean up your older tech.
10. Back Up, Clean Install, and Restore
If the technology we're talking about are computers, phones, tablets, or other devices that are likely struggling under the weight of data, patches, subsequent updates, and all the applications and tools you've installed over the years, it's hard to understate how useful it can be to do a clean install and start fresh.
Just make sure you back up your data before you get started, and then make sure you do your clean install and then immediately update with the necessary security patches and updates for your system. Then go about restoring your most often used programs and data. You may be surprised with how little you can get by with once you've wiped the slate clean.
9. Restore Factory Settings and Then Update
If we're talking about old TVs, appliances, game consoles, or other gear that doesn't get traditional updates the way that desktop PCs and laptops get, consider restoring them to their factory settings. Just about every device has a "factory setting" option, from phones to smart televisions. "Smart" and "connected" devices are especially susceptible to the inevitable bitrot and sluggish performance over years of use. Make use of your restore settings — especially on those devices where "setup" implies "typing in passwords to Netflix and your Wi-Fi network," and give yourself that fresh-out-of-the-box feeling.
8. Uninstall Unnecessary Software and Clear Out Space
One of the fastest ways to speed up just about anything is to cut through the kruft and remove any pre-installed crapware that might be lurking on the device. Whether it's a "smart" TV loaded down with streaming apps you're not using to a laptop you've been using for years, now is as good a time as any to free up some space and de-crapify your gear.
This process is easiest on Windows PCs for sure, but don't overlook macOS (and AppCleaner is great for this), since some Mac apps can come bundled with the stuff. On the mobile side, iOS is pretty simple, and on Android, try Debloater — it works pretty well.
7. Overclock Where Possible
Overclocking isn't for everyone, and obviously there are some things you just can't reliably overclock (but some that you might be surprised to find out that you can), but if speed and a little more performance is what you crave, a little overclocking can eke out some more life from hardware that's starting to show its age.
Of course, we have guides on how to overclock your processor, and another guide for overclocking a graphics card, but did you know you can also overclock a Raspberry Pi? (And the Pi 2 makes it even easier.) Give it a try.
You can even overclock an Android phone if you really want to.
6. Go Lightweight and Open Source Where Possible
Another great way to breathe some new, speedy life into your old gear is to ditch whatever ageing software that powers it and install something newer, lighter, and faster. That might mean installing Linux on an old PC (or even dual-booting it) or on a Chromebook to breathe some new life into it. It might mean installing fast open firmware on an old Wi-Fi router to give it a power and signal boost. It could even mean installing a custom ROM on your Android phone, or Ubuntu on your Android tablet.
Of course, you can only really go this route with devices that offer you some level of openness in the first place, so don't expect to be able to just "root" your TV or iOS device, for example. However, if your "smart" TV is slowing you down, maybe a cheap set-top box is in order, or better yet, something hackable you can install whatever you like on, or building your own HTPC you can upgrade or tweak whenever you prefer.
5. Give Your Consoles a Hard Drive Upgrade
It's no secret that adding an SSD to your PlayStation 3 or 4, or any other game console that will work with one for that matter, will give you a huge performance boost. We've shown you how to do it with a PS 4, but other consoles, especially older ones, are a little trickier.
In some cases, you may not want to replace the internal drive at all, and instead just give yourself a storage boost with a good external drive — but if you're feeling more adventurous and willing to void those warranties in the name of faster load times and quicker boot times, hit the web and look around for people doing the DIY deed with your console. You're bound to find them.
4. Choose the Best Upgrades for Your Gear
Not everything can just be upgraded, of course — you're not going to be able to stuff more RAM or a faster processor in your iPad or your TV, for example (but that's where overclocking, which we mentioned above, comes in), but if you're looking at a sluggish PC you need to last a bit longer, a RAM upgrade or a shiny new SSD can make all the difference.
This is especially true if you're getting by on less RAM in the first place, or your old PC is still running a traditional spinning hard drive for its primary disk. Just make sure you do what you need to to take most advantage of it when you do upgrade.
3. Disconnect It from the Internet
This is perhaps especially the case for "internet of things" devices, but it applies to just about any device you may have lying around that doesn't need an internet connection: disconnect it until (or unless) an internet connection is required. Keeping your "connected home" gadgets offline may be a pain if you want to manage them when you're away, but if you set up everything properly (or configure your router to only allow certain devices access to the wider internet), you can have your cake and eat it too — meaning you can manage your devices when you're home on your own network, but no one can attack them, hack them, or force them to join a massive botnet from outside.
Check out our guide to securing your connected home to get started, but also keep in mind that some devices may not be too happy with being restricted from the web. Keeping them offline can keep them safe though, and keep them from malware or vulnerabilities that will slow them down. After all, if there's no reason for your fridge to have broad internet access, it shouldn't — and it probably doesn't really need it. Keeping them offline also lets you control when they call home, and what updates they get and when they download them.
2. Keep Up with Regular Maintenance and Updates
Speaking of updates, one solid way to make sure your gear is not just safe but as fast and optimised as possible is to keep up with those updates — just do it intelligently and on your own schedule. Don't dally on them — regular feature and security updates are important, and without them you may actually wind up with a slower device and an unsafe one, but not every update is a necessary one.
For example, we've talked about all the space you can get back from old Windows update and installation files, or language files you probably don't use on the Mac, but in the process of investigating those, you shouldn't avoid the big feature or OS updates that actually make your system faster. Read the patch notes and see what's optimised. Keep up with hardware or system drivers you rely on. Be an informed user, willing to read up on what you need and what you don't, and you'll end up with faster gear as a result.
1. Give Everything a Good Cleaning (but Don't Ruin It!)
Finally, don't underestimate the power of good, clean hardware. Sometimes a slow computer is one that's not cooling itself properly because its fans and vents are caked with dust, or a graphics card that desperately needs a cleaning.
The same applies to your TV, or other appliances that have to keep their components nice and cool. Make sure to keep your gear clean, keep its airflow clear (whether it's a TV, computer, or any other appliance), and if you're looking at a phone or tablet right now, make sure it and its connector ports are good and clean too.