A good computer is expensive, often rightly so, but you can't help but sometimes it's not worth the price you ask. After a few years, some PCs, portable or not, start to really take a hit, the most basic tasks take longer than normal and you find yourself envying the new machines on the market. Before spending several hundred or thousands of Euros on the device of your dreams, know that it is possible to give your machine a real facelift, at a lower cost.
Giving computer advice is quite tricky as there are so many different machines on the market. Perhaps the biggest distinction is between Macs and PCs, but even within these two categories there are big differences. Some Apple devices are easily removable, others are not. Ditto for PCs.
The tips below are general tips to improve the speed, performance, and reliability of your aging computer. It may not be possible to implement all of them, some are more complicated than others, and you will need to research well beforehand.
Delete unnecessary files
We all keep junk files. And these clutter up storage for nothing. Even the operating system keeps a number of them. It is obviously possible to delete them manually one by one, especially if you have large files. But the operation is often tedious.
On Mac, there are several options to find these files. You can use the built-in tool that Apple hides in “About This Mac” or you can go through a third-party tool like Daisy Disk or CleanMyMacX. Windows has a feature called "Storage Sense," which can help you clean up, and you can use a third-party tool like Cleaner. Whichever solution you use, make sure you have 15-20% storage available at all times.
An aging machine can have difficulty keeping up with everything you do on a daily basis. Launching multiple modern applications at the same time, each performing background operations, can easily put your computer on the ball.
An easy rule to follow is to limit the number of apps and activities you do at the same time. Try to close as many tabs as possible in your browser, close applications that you are not using or are not going to use again right away, try to launch Netflix or Spotify on your TV or Smartphone rather than your computer while you work. Do what you can to limit the stress on your machine so that it can focus on what you ask it when you ask it.
Perform a factory restore
A final software solution: factory restoration. Essentially, this is to erase the entire drive and reinstall the operating system. This allows the machine to get back on track in terms of software.
Before getting started, we will take care to have backed up all the important files. Indeed, everything that is present on the main disk will be erased. With macOS Monterey, Apple lets you erase your Mac without having to reinstall the entire OS. This is a good option, but if you still have issues, you will need to properly reinstall. For Windows, the procedure is quite simple.
Clean the fans
Most computers, laptop or not, have fans to circulate air and cool the machine. Over time, however, these fans get very dirty. When dust has accumulated, their effectiveness drops dramatically. As a result, the processor can overheat, which leads to a drop in performance.
Fortunately, the fans are easily cleaned, as long as you can open the machine, of course. Sometimes you can even remove them easily for cleaning. You have several options to do this: by hand, with a damp cloth, brush or the like, or with a can of compressed air.
Replace the battery
If you have an aging laptop, the battery is probably in a very bad condition. And the battery not only affects range, but also performance. If your computer can't get enough battery power, its performance suffers.
Hopefully your laptop battery can be replaced. In this case, it's simple. If the latter is glued, the operation is more delicate. If you are used to it, you will be able to remove it and replace it. Otherwise, you will need to take your machine to a repairer.
Replace the hard drive with an SSD
Newer machines often don't have this problem. If you have a hard drive with a turntable, get rid of it. These drives cannot compete with the much faster SSDs, which lack the physical elements. If your computer takes a long time to start or launch any application, your hard drive may be the cause.
Some machines have an SSD and a hard drive, each used differently. The SSD is often quite small, used for the OS and the most important files. The hard drive is used for storage itself. If the applications installed on the hard drive are slow, try running them to the SSD.
Apple has not released laptops with hard drives in many years, but released iMacs with hard drives until recently. It’s quite possible to run a machine with such a drive, but if you give it an SSD, it’s going to be performance night and day.
Most machines that have hard drives can be easily updated with SSDs. Conversely, manufacturers of devices with an SSD have been able to design chassis that are much more compact, and therefore more difficult to replace. Does some research on the web before you start?
RAM is the memory of the computer. It allows you to achieve what you ask of it. The more RAM you have, the more things you can do at the same time. Changing RAM is often fairly straightforward, but there is no one-size-fits-all rule. Some devices allow this very easily, for others it is outright impossible. Here again, you have to find out.
How much RAM to put in your computer is a whole different story? There is a maximum, depending on the device. Inquire.
Change thermal paste
As mentioned above, it is important to keep the internal components from overheating. Fans are part of the equation, but there's also thermal paste. This sits on the CPU and GPU and transfers heat from these components to the heat sink. After several years of use, the thermal paste may have melted, making this heat transfer more difficult.
If you are comfortable enough, you can do this yourself. And not just in the case of an aging machine. Very often the thermal paste that comes with the machine is of poor quality.
The choice of thermal paste itself is not easy. There are different brands, for all budgets. Find a trusted tutorial that is suitable for your computer and see which paste is recommended. Please note: the operation is the most delicate of those mentioned in this article. You could irreparably damage your processor, motherboard, or graphics card if you don't have control over what you are doing.