There is little more frustrating than your laptop slowing to a crawl. Programs stop working properly, files take an eternity to open and you just can’t get anything done. Don’t tear your hair out – this article has a few tricks you can try to speed things up and get back on track.
Hard Drive Space
Filling your hard drive to capacity can bring everything grinding to a halt.
Although less of a concern for solid state drives, you should always leave a few gigabytes of space free on a hard-drive. The rule of thumb often thrown around is 10%, but that can be excessive when you’re dealing with terabytes – 4-5 gigabytes is usually enough. Many operating systems need some breathing room on the drive, or else they become unstable. If there isn’t enough space they won’t be able to boot up at all!
Another reason for leaving some free space is to allow the drive enough room for defragmenting – shuffling things around so that files are stored in contiguous chunks rather than scattered across the drive. If your files are split up – as often happens when they’re added to the nearest available free space – it takes time for the read head to get across the platter to every chunks of the file it’s currently reading. This slows down how quickly your computer can load the files, and generally gums up the works.
If you’re using an SSD, defragging isn’t something you need to worry about. On the other hand, if you have a physical drive you’ll be surprised how much faster things will be if you set up regular defragmentation sessions.
Cool everything down
If your laptop’s fans are running full bore, it’s a sign of overheating. The CPU will throttle itself in an attempt to cool down, causing your performance to suffer. The first thing you should do to fix an overheating laptop is make sure it’s placed on a proper surface – a desk or a table. Make sure nothing is blocking the vents and it’s getting a good flow of air around the case. Despite the name, laptops aren’t meant to go on your lap!
Opening up the case and carefully clearing out any dust inside is likely to help with any overheating issues, and it’s a less daunting task than it may sound. Just keep track of any screws, ground yourself with an antistatic wristband, and make sure never to turn any of the fans backwards. Some gentle attention with some cotton buds and isopropyl alcohol will clean stubborn dirt out nicely, and you can use canned air to blast it out in bulk.
If your laptop is dust free and you’re still getting lots of heat and slowdowns, take a look at getting a laptop cooler, like the KLIM Cyclone. If you use an active cooler, make sure that you get a model that fits your laptop – don’t go pushing extra air into the exhaust port!
Upgrade your RAM
Any easy fix for a slow laptop is a RAM upgrade. Searching online for your laptop’s make and model is the best way to figure out how much you can install – and also to ensure you get the right type. Some manufacturers – for example, Crucial – let you download a small scanner program that will then tell you what you have and what you can install.
The many different types of RAM can be dizzying – if you aren’t sure, try and get more of the same type currently in your laptop. Match the DDR type and the MHz, and just get more gigabytes.
Clear out your startup programs
If you have a large number of programs starting up whenever you turn the laptop on, pruning these back can free up some much needed memory. Bloatware – extra software the manufacturer is paid to add onto the system before sale – is often a major culprit for this, with many programs you’ll never use cluttering up your system and hogging resources.
How to stop unwanted programs from starting up on boot varies depending on your operating system, but it isn’t especially complicated.
In Windows 10, it’s controlled from the Startup tab in the Task Manager. In earlier versions it’s done from a little utility called msconfig.exe.
In OS X, it’s in System Preferences, under Users & Groups. Each individual user has their own settings under the Login Items tab.
For Linux users it’s a little more fiddly – it’s all done with bash scripts. If you’re running a Debian derivative, the script you want to modify is probably found in /etc/rc.local. If your OS is some flavor of Redhat, you should look in /etc/rc.d/boot.local.
Removing unwanted programs entirely is again going to vary by system. Unless you really want to be using Nero DVD Burner or the Cyberlink Media Suite (here’s a hint: you probably don’t!), it’s worth taking five minutes to remove it.
On Windows machines, this is done through the Add/Remove Programs tool, found under the control panel.
In OS X removing programs is simple – just drag the program from the Applications folder to the trash.
Linux is, as always, a bit more involved. Depending on the flavor of Linux installed, there may be a software manager, or it may be done through the terminal with the command “sudo apt-get remove InsertNameHere”.