One of the most common computer questions I get is probably “what can I do to make my PC faster?”
There are a number of things that can cause a computer to slow down over time:
- Hard Drive Fragmentation – the more a hard drive is used, the more likely it is for files to become fragmented on the hard drive. As files are deleted, copied and added to the drive, the free space becomes less contiguous and more scattered throughout the drive. Your hard drive has to do more work to read files that are fragmented, slowing down the system.
- Advances in technology: As the years go by, your computer stays the same, while other technology advances. Web pages hog more memory and new software demands much more of your computer.
- General software bloat: Lots of little add-ons for browsers, printer software, virus scanners and other apps that you install on your computer often run in the background, taking up valuable memory and processor time.
There are lots of things you can do to speed up your computer. Easy upgrades, like adding memory can reduce the amount of time your computer spends accessing the slower hard drive. More difficult upgrades (installing windows on a faster hard drive or completely reinstalling windows) offer temporary speed increases, but the old problems will eventually return.
Aside from building an entirely new system, I haven’t found many single upgrades that really speed up a system until now. Adding a Solid State Drive is the single biggest improvement you can make.
A Solid State Drive (SSD) replaces the traditional hard drive, which is usually the slowest frequently-used component in your system (not counting CD/DVD drives). SSDs are similar to flash drives only much, much faster. SSDs have a few advantages over regular hard drives:
- Low power usage
- No moving parts
- Low heat generation
- Extremely fast data access rates
Currently, SSDs are much more expensive than hard drives, but the speed increase is worth the extra cost — and the prices are already starting to fall.
I recently reinstalled Windows on a solid state drive on my desktop computer, and just yesterday moved my work laptop to a SSD. The difference is night and day. Since SSDs are a relatively new type of drive, the jury’s still out on how reliable they are long term. But the increased speed would make transferring data to a newer drive much less of a hassle.
I still have a couple of regular hard drives in my system for files, but having Windows and most programs on a solid state drive has been a very gratifying improvement.