I always cringe when people spend hundreds of dollars to have their computer diagnosed and fixed by the Geek Squad at Best Buy or the local computer shop. I completely understand that some people are just not computer savvy, but if you are active on a computer, you can self-educate yourself on some basic principles to help keep your computer healthy and your bank account a little bigger. Here are a few things you can do to keep your computer from losing performance.
Upgrade Your RAM
One of the most common issues that the average computer user complains about is that their computer has become slow and sluggish. This is the issue that I am going to focus on the most to prevent, because if your motherboard or hard drive crashes, there’s not much you can do, unless you know how to replace those, which requires a little more advanced knowledge of computer hardware. RAM (Random Access Memory) is the short-term memory of your computer. It doesn’t necessarily speed up your computer, but the more you have, the more it allows you to multitask and keep multiple programs open at once. Some people don’t realize that your computer can only handle so many commands at once, so if you’re playing music, surfing the internet, using a word processor, and editing images, your computer will start performing sluggishly and hesitate quite a bit.
Upgrading your RAM is one of the easiest things to upgrade yourself, and it’s very cheap to purchase. There are so many resources to learn how to replace your RAM, but I am a visual person, so I would look for a video that explains where the slots are to replace it on your computer. YouTube would be a great place to search for a video like this. Knowing which RAM to buy is also very important, so learn how to remove your RAM first, then look on the label for the specification, and buy a replacement with those exact specifications. If you’re still not comfortable with doing something like this, you don’t have to pay someone to do this. You can most likely find a family member or friend who knows how to do this, and if they know what they’re doing, it will take them less than 5 minutes to replace it. So, don’t feel bad about not paying them to do it.
Download a Spyware Remover
For PC: Spybot S&D (FREE)
For Mac: Mac Scan ($29.99)
Spyware and adware are a very common reason why your computer’s performance gradually deteriorates over time. If you’re constantly on the Internet and visiting sites that may not be trusted, then you probably have some type of malicious software on your computer. This stuff downloads itself into your computer without you knowing it, runs in the background of your computer, and slows it down. Some of the worst kinds of spyware can even phish personal information from your computer and send it to identity thieves. It’s been a problem since the dawn of the Internet, but there are dozens of great software programs that will remove it from your computer. I gave you two suggestions above, but you can do a Google search, download any of them for free, and test each of them out. If you have a really bad virus or bad spyware, sometimes it requires that your computer’s hard drive be reformatted, which is more of an advanced level IT skill. However, most people just don’t like the pop-up ads and sluggish performance. Spyware software can help eliminate these symptoms for mild cases.
Pro Tip: NEVER click on a pop-up ad. Sometimes, those links are the gateway to adware or spyware that will be secretly downloaded onto your computer.
Clean Up and Defragment Your Hard Drive
Over a long period of time, your hard drive and registry gets bogged down a with a bunch of crap files that don’t need to be there. This can reduce the performance of your computer over time, so it’s a good idea to clean out your hard drive periodically. Most people don’t know how and where to do this manually in your hard drive, so download CCleaner. It’s the free program I recommend for PC users to clean up their hard drive. One reason why I love Macs is because they often don’t have this problem. Mac operating systems don’t have a registry and their software doesn’t download a bunch of unwanted garbage. Macs also don’t come with a bunch of pre-loaded trial software like many PCs have out of the box.
PC users, another great way to speed up the performance of your computer is to defragment the hard drive every couple of months. I won’t get into what this actually does to your hard drive, but just think of it like changing the oil in your car’s engine every few months. You can find the program under the Accessories folder in Windows. Start the program before you go to bed and let it run, because it takes a while to run, and it’s hard to multi-task while it’s running.
There’s nothing mind-blowing in this post, but I just wanted to remind many of you that there are plenty of self-maintenance and upgrade tasks that you or any of your friends/family members can perform on your computer without spending a bunch of money by taking it to a technician. Believe me, most of the stuff they do to fix a computer is so remedial that they often find themselves bored, and they spend half of their day talking about how dumb people are when it comes to computers. I honestly believe that average computer users can understand some of the basic upgrades and maintenance you can do to a computer to keep it running smoothly and efficiently. If you have any quick questions about this post or an issue with your computer, contact me and I’ll tell you if it’s something you can do yourself or if it needs to be serviced.
( photo credit: Jason Tromm )