10 ways to speed up a slow PC

10 ways to speed up a slow PC

Summary: Is your computer moving at a crawl? Don't give up. There are some things you can do about it.

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TOPICS: CXO, Hardware
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  • Is your computer moving at a crawl? Don't give up. There are some things you can do about it. Craig Simms of ZDNet Australia takes a look at some of the possible ways to motivate a PC that runs like a turtle and  bring it back up to speed.

    Dust build-up over time can impede airflow, and airflow is vital for keeping system temperatures down. If your system overheats, it'll likely throttle its performance down to cope.

    Cleaning out the dust is easier if you've got a desktop rather than a laptop — you can still clear the dust away from vents in the laptop, but be wary about opening it up to do a thorough clean, as depending on the vendor this may invalidate your warranty. If you're out of warranty, and you're confident of navigating the maze in most laptops, go for it.

    The first step is to remove general dust from around the system. You could use a moist paper towel and cotton buds to get into harder-to-reach areas, but one of the best tools you can employ is a can of compressed air. Make sure to avoid vacuum cleaners — or at least getting overzealous with them. We've known people to have sucked capacitors right off the board. There are other issues with using a vacuum cleaner, too, as Brian Cooley of CNET tells us:

    ...you might be tempted to stick a vacuum-cleaner hose inside and suck out the dust. Don't. Vacuums create static electricity, which is deadly to sensitive electronic components.

    On that same note, don't be tempted to reverse the flow of your vacuum and blow the dust out of the computer. The dust inside a household vacuum can be harmful to your health, and you'll be spreading it all over your PC. Also, you risk blowing out sizable particles, which could physically damage internal components, especially if you're using a workshop vacuum. The beauty of compressed air is that it's clean and particle-free.

    Before you start blasting, unplug your computer and take it outside — or at least to your garage. Now, working from the top down, blow out all that dust (put on a dust mask, unless you want a face full of grime) ... be sure to spray air in short bursts, keeping the can upright and the tube at least a couple of inches from the hardware.

    Next, you'll want to get your fans and heatsinks clean. Cooley has some tips here, too:

    Start by powering down your PC, removing the case lid and locating the various fans. Starting with the power supply, blow through the internal slits from inside the chassis, aiming so dust will exit the back.

    Next, blow into the intake fan (if there is one) to push more dust out the back. Finally, blow the blades of the rear exhaust fan clean. If possible, aim just beneath the centre, where the motor meets the fan assembly, and blast again. Repeat the process for each fan, keeping the can upright at all times.

    Now restart your PC, and while the fans are spinning, spray them once more — very briefly — to really send the dust flying.

    If a fan continues grinding or ticking after you've cleaned it, there's a chance that you can always add extra lubrication. But if this is one step too far, you could always just replace it.

    Credit: Fons Reijsbergen, royalty free

  • This is more applicable for the desktop, but the same basic principles apply for a laptop.

    There's a small possibility that the thermal conduction between your CPU or GPU and its heatsink isn't optimal, causing things to overheat. If you want to make sure that things are fine, you're going to need some isopropyl alcohol and thermal compound.

    Firstly, make sure that the heatsink is attached via mounting holes to the circuit board, rather than directly to the chip. If it appears as if there's no obvious way that the heatsink is held down on the chip, it's using thermal glue or thermal tape to form the bond. If this is the case, ignore and move on, it's unlikely these are causing you issues.

    After separating the heatsink from the processor, you'll notice some goop that was last used as a thermal interface. Clean it away by applying a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to a clean cloth and rubbing it until it's gone. Apply a thin but consistent veneer of new thermal paste across the top of the chip (application can be made easier by using a scalpel or old credit card to spread the paste), then reapply the heatsink.

    Credit: Matt Lauer, royalty free

Topics: CXO, Hardware

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26 comments
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  • 10 ways to speed up a slow PC

    Get rid of windows and install Linux, that should be number one on the list.
    guzz46
    • Yawn!

      N/T
      Ram U
    • i agree

      it is strange that installing a linux distro isn't on the list.

      P.S im a loyal linux user (fedora 16 with kde currently)
      emewify
    • Funny you should say that.

      Ubuntu chokes on my three year old hardware... Windows 8 however doesn't.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Ubuntu chokes on my three year old hardware... Windows 8 however doesn't.

        The I suggest you try another distro, Ubuntu isn't the only Linux distro around.

        I have Debian squeeze 64bit with Gnome 2 installed on my mothers laptop and it uses just 150mb of Ram compared to at least 500mb of Ram on windows 7 64bit... and that's without any AV software.
        guzz46
      • heh

        "The I suggest you try another distro"

        Well, the point is that Windows can be every bit as fast, or even faster than, a common Linux distro. This idea that Windows is slow/bloated simply does not hold water anymore. Windows 7 and Windows 8 have seen a decline in system requirements, and Microsoft really has put serious effort into performance.

        Yes, there are more minimalistic versions of Linux, but there's a tradeoff - you'll have give up some of the fancier, nice things that the larger distros come with.
        CobraA1
      • heh

        "Well, the point is that Windows can be every bit as fast, or even faster than, a common Linux distro"

        Dream on, you obviously haven't tried many distro's, if you tried you might be able to make Linux as slow as windows if, but you can't make windows as fast as Linux.

        Windows 7 using half a gig of Ram is not what you call bloated? how much Ram did XP use?

        Debian isn't minimalistic, its one of... if not probably the largest distro out there, I even have office 2007 installed through wine on my mothers laptop, so what is the tradeoff you speak of? using just 150mb of Ram?
        guzz46
      • @guzz46

        As you can see by their lame answers, you are dealing with Windows fanboys who've never used anything else besides Windows in their life.

        Give it up, Redmondphiles. You can't win on this.
        ScorpioBlack
    • yes your right it does make it fast but..

      the fact you can't get any good comercial apps will eventually make you return to windows. Linux will be nothing more than a toy for the techies or a plaform for web servers, netapps, and non MS databases.

      It's not and never will be a reall desktop os.
      Bakabaka
      • the fact you can't get any good comercial apps

        Really? I have been windows free for years now, and nothing would make me want to go back, it would just feel so limited.

        What makes you think most home desktop users need commercial apps anyway?

        And what is a real desktop OS? one that suffers from the problems mentioned in this article?
        guzz46
    • The trolls are becoming quite unimaginative of late

      guzz46's remark looked to be something that most likely took him hours to craft, and yet left many yawning.

      :|
      Tim Cook
      • The definition of troll

        "In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community"

        There is nothing trollish about my comment, it's the 100% truth, whether you like it or not.
        guzz46
      • @Mister Spock

        Flagged for trolling. Hypocrite.
        ScorpioBlack
  • Two best solutions: Linux or buy new computer

    The list makes sense, this was what I used to do. However, at the end you still have a slow computer. In particular, hardware upgrade on an old computers is very expensive. Here are the two best solutions I found:

    - Continue with the old computer, zero hardware upgrade, and install a lightweight Linux.

    - Or just buy a new computer. A modern CPU + integrated graphic + motherboard + DDR3 RAM will cost about $300. It's even better and cheaper than most of used computers people are selling.
    RelaxWalk
    • Installing a lightweight Linux is not the solution

      As hardware issues care very little for the operating system.

      Even if you install Linux, the unkept hardware will still be the weak link in the system.

      No matter what you install, cleaning and maintaning the hardware is a practice eveyone should follow.
      :|
      Tim Cook
      • Installing a lightweight Linux is not the solution

        It is if you want to speed up your computer, and this article is called "10 ways to speed up a slow PC"
        Linux will run fast on that unkept hardware.
        guzz46
      • Linux will run fast...

        ...on Pentium II and Pentium III processors.

        EPIC FAIL for faux pointy ears.
        ScorpioBlack
  • Missing link?

    In the paragraph near the end of the article... "While it can change from laptop to laptop, here's a "rule of thumb" chart for what needs to be done on a brand-by-brand basis to get into the recovery environment."

    There is no link. Easy to overlook but should be remedied. Otherwise reasonable content.

    Personally, unless someone's system is fairly modern, it might just be time to look at a new machine since prices are generally very good. Someone who has more time on their hands than money can run these steps. I've had people waste their time attempting to improve their old 286/386/pentium systems with old (back to 3.1) Windows when they should have just budgeted a replacement.
    MasterE@...
  • Linux is only a solution for tech people

    I don't have anything against Linux, I have a VM of it (don't use it much) but only a tech person is going to use Linux. The average person just turns on the computer and uses the internet and office, they are not going to be burning ISO's and backing up their data and loading a new OS. The list is not bad, a lot of standard maintenance stuff that I still do. I have a PC tower going on 5 years that is still very fast. 8 GB of ram, 1GB video card, Windows 7 with an AMD x64 processor. I may be a bit biased as I am a Network Engineer by trade, but the most 2 most important things on that list are RAM, and getting rid of stuff you don't use, especially in the start up menu.
    smscanl
    • Re: Linux is only a solution for tech people

      I'm a Professional Photographer and use Linux exclusively. It meets every RAW photo processing need I have. Do I use PhotoShop as I can in Linux? - No. I use G.N.U. / G.P.L. applications avoiding the ridiculous price of Adobe Products. My sales tell me Linux and the free apps that can be found is a good one. Yes!, Linux is for Non-Tech, everyday people.

      I create multi-media DVD's as well and once again!, Linux and it's apps is a great solution!

      Keep in mind, Linux is not for the compartmentalized thinker as Linux is a Kernel, not an O.S. The O.S. has been built on the Linux Kernel by many, agreed. The flexibility this offers a potential dissatisfied user of either Mac or Windows lowers the bar for learning something new and getting on with one's computing.

      For my photography and multi-media work, Windows 8 is drastically moving in the wrong the direction as touch is unsuitable for the picture and video processing I do.
      The Rifleman