It might be time to replace our slow, old computer, but we’d rather make it last longer instead of forking over a huge sum when we don’t have to.
So, we’ve come up with the top things to do immediately in order to stretch the lifespan of an old computer, whether a PC or a Mac.
Here are the 3 steps to take for PCs:
1. Clean Out The Junk
For the most part, older computers don’t slow down from age, but from junk files in desperate need of cleaning out. These include temporary files left behind even after they’re needed. To clean house, use Disk Cleanup in Windows, which purges temp files, downloaded programs, setup logs, and the Recycle Bin, in addition to compressing many unused files so that they take up less room. Your computer will breathe a big sigh of relief after you do this. (To find Disk Cleanup, go from the Start menu to Programs, Accessories, System Tools. It’s there.)
2. Get Rid Of Bad Software
There are almost certainly multiple programs running in the background of your computer without your knowledge or permission, spying on your online activities. This includes spyware, trojans, rootkits, and various other forms of nasty stuff, collectively called malware. Computers generally come with an anti-virus preloaded, but the malware we’re talking about isn’t limited to viruses, and even the most innocuous sites could be loading spyware on your hard drive. You can’t stop most of this from coming in, but you can remove it for free. First, download a program called Malwarebytes. Let the program upgrade every time it runs, to make sure it’s up to date. Once you’re all set, click the Scan tab and then Scan Now. You don’t want any of the junk found by the spyware scanners, so check all the checkboxes and click “Remove.” Do this every couple of weeks, depending on how much web surfing you’ve been doing.
3. Install Anti-Spyware Programs
We also recommend you download Spybot Search & Destroy and Ad-Aware Free Internet Security. Ad-Aware will not only find and remove a large number of baddies, but will also install a real time monitor, called Ad-Watch, that guards against incoming spyware. Each of these will find malware the others may miss, so get all three. Once you’ve run these, your computer should run at least a little – and maybe a lot – faster.
Here’s what you need to know if you have a Mac:
1. Empty The Recycle Bin Regularly
Apple users have a great advantage in the area of malware, as Macs aren’t nearly as susceptible as PCs. However, you can keep you Mac OS X (the operating system) running quickly by minimizing clutter. Whenever you drop junk into the “wastebasket,” you’re not really throwing something away—no matter how satisfying that paper-crumpling sound is. The objects you toss are simply stored away, in case you ever regret your decision to trash them. To permanently delete, just hold down your mouse button over the Recycle icon at the lower right for a few seconds, until you see a little list pop up. (If you use a Windows-style two-button mouse, then simply right-click). Select “Empty Recycle Bin.”
2. Clear Off Your Desktop!
Although it’s easy to keep loads of files on your desktop for easy access (whether scattered about or in a folder that resides there), everything sitting on the desktop is being held in your working memory rather than being stored on your hard drive. That means that it’s taking up more computer resources. Instead of cluttering your desktop, store items on the hard drive itself—we like using pre-set folders like “Documents” and “Pictures,” but you can also create new folders such as “GMAT Prep” or “Sunday at the Beach.” The point is to keep your desktop itself as clutter-free as possible.
These tricks should help speed up your computer, giving you a little more use before you have to budget for a newer one.
Bill is a technology writer and computer consultant in Woodstock, NY, and co-author of The Geek Gap.