Helpdesk Challenge – speed up your PC or laptop

by , Senior Business Researcher Computing Helpdesk 25/04/2014
Speed up PC

Waiting for your PC or laptop to load files, programs and software can be frustrating to say the least – especially if you forked out a sizeable sum of money for your machine. Instead of heading straight to the high street to upgrade to a newer model there are a few simple tweaks you can try first, from adding extra memory to using Window’s own software, ReadyBoost.

Here we take a look at some hardware options for all budgets that should give your computer an immediate performance boost.

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ReadyBoostGo faster with ReadyBoost – from £5

A quick way to get a speed boost is to use a USB memory stick (available from as little as £5), which adds extra memory to your computer in a similar way to adding more Ram.

Once you’ve plugged it into your computer, select the ‘Speed up my system’ option from the AutoRun menu. Windows checks the drive and if it’s suitable, you’ll see a ReadyBoost dialog box.

Tick the Dedicate this device to ReadyBoost box or select Use this device and adjust the slider to select how much free space you want to assign to ReadyBoost (see right). Any remaining space can be used for storage as normal.

Click OK to finish.

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Offload files to an external hard drive – from £50

Extrernal hard driveEvery document, spreadsheet and photo you save to your PC takes up space on your hard drive.  If you’ve used your PC for a long time, it’s likely that its hard drive is now packed with these files. Once it’s more than 85% full, you’ll probably start to notice a drop off in the speed of your computer.

To free up some room, it’s possible to swap your existing hard drive for a larger capacity model. However, a far easier solution is to store some of your files on an external hard drive. They’re relatively cheap (1TB models start from around £50) and are easy to use – simply plug the drive into your computer’s USB port and it will appear in Windows Explorer as a new drive.

You can transfer existing files to the external hard drive, save new files to it, and some models can even be partitioned so you can use some of its capacity for automated Windows backups.

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Install a solid-state drive – from £100

SSDA sure-fire way to speed up your PC is to swap the hard drive for a solid-state drive (SSD), similar to those found in top-end ultrabook laptops. Unlike standard hard drives, SSDs have no moving parts, which helps them to give super fast startup times and performance.

Before you make the switch, be aware that SSDs generally offer smaller storage capacities, so you may need to migrate some of your files to an external hard drive if you want to keep hold of them. They might be the most expensive option here, but they are also the most effective.

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More on this

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Computer troubleshooting – expert advice for using a PC
How to make your PC start up faster – more tips and tricks

6 comments

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David

These 3 tips will have hardly any effect ion a slow running PC – more real memory wouldn’t either, not unless the underlying problems why its running slow in the first place are dealt with – defragmenting your hard drive wont assist much either – I am surprised you ran this article at all.

David – 30 years repairing Slowwwww …. PC’s !

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Derek Putley

As regards the last of the 3 Which? suggests, fitting a smaller but faster hard drive might be difficult as a DIY operation for some Windows 7 users. I have an HP G62 i3 laptop with came with Windows 7 on a 320GB disc – its recovery media only allow the re-installation of Windows 7 to a replacement system disc if the capacity is 320GB or more.

For older machines, my two favourite hardware upgrades are to fit a significantly faster CPU and to make sure the machine has enough RAM (e.g. 1 GB or more for XP, 2 GB or more for later versions of Windows).

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John

This is all very basic stuff, what would be useful is how to clear out the gigabytes of junk Windows Updates and like leave scattered all over the hard drive and the registry.

Whilst there’s 100′s of such tools advertised on the internet, it’s impossible to know what’s safe AND effective and what’s dangerous. If you’ve already covered this somewhere, a link in this article would have been very useful.

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DerekP

Registry cleaners do seem to be a controversial subject on some websites. I’ve used Ccleaner for several years, because it was recommended by an e-pal who is an IT professional.

To find where all your disc space has gone, you can use the free Windows Sysinternals Disk Usage (DU) comand line utility.

My experience has been that I can usually manually delete most of the junk manually (e.g. by using an Administrator account).

In my user space, redundant duplicate copies of large files has always been one of my main problems. I have found DigitialVolcano’s free Duplicate Clearer to be a useful tool for dealing with this.

Keeping proper backups is always a wise precaution before any “extreme” housekeeping operations. For this, I have found that DirSync Pro is a useful free program to use with user files. Backing up (or “cloning”) Windows system discs is a good idea too. I have found that Acronis True Image is a good “paid for” tool for this. A free (but less user friendly) alternative is Clonezilla – but that needs to be run as live Linux system and used with care.

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Barry

On a related issue, does Which? or anyone else have any tips on how to stop unwanted adverts appearing on a laptop screen when you are using sites such as Youtube? Sometimes, they take up the full screen and if I delete the advert, I lose the connection to the site and have to log in to it again. When I signed up to BT Infinity, I thought the adverts would no longer getbthrough, but they do!

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Stephen

Try Adblock Plus – it’s generally very effective!

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