My PC is slooooow. Can I speed it up? Should I replace it?

This article says desktops should be replaced every 5 to 8 years and laptops every 3 to 5 years. As always, mileage may vary.

Here’s a list of things you may observe to make you wonder if it’s time:

  • Is it noisy? Computers can be like cars, their parts break down over time, especially the moving parts like fan and the hard drive. Newer models (and older more expensive models) have solid state drives (SSD) which don’t have moving parts.
  • Are apps taking forever to open? This is pretty much always the first thing you notice, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s just because you’ve not turned it on for days and it has a bunch of windows updates to install. So when you’re done using it, leave it on over night and see if it’s better tomorrow.
  • Are you on Windows 7? As of January 14th 2020, Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows 7. Older versions of operating systems (like Windows 7 or Mac Sierra) have trouble keeping up with newer websites and other technologies. That’s one of the reasons they’re always eventually replaced. Macs should be prompting you to install the new version (if you can) and you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free (as of 1/17/2020), see how here:

Ok, so you’ve notice one (or all) of the things above. Here are some things to think about:

  • How expensive was the PC? Some people feel that Macs last longer than PCs but that’s not always the case. Macs are generally more expensive, which (again generally) means that the hardware is more robust. But while you can usually expect a cheaper computer to have trouble making it to the far end of the range, a more expensive computer doesn’t have any guarantees either.
  • How much stuff you do have on it? This means both files and applications. The more full a PC is, the slower it’s going to run. You should be backing up your personal data anyway, so if you think your problem is you PC is too full, delete some stuff (after verifying it’s in your backup location of course!)
  • How many changes have you made to it? Even if you don’t have many apps on the computer, if you installed and then uninstalled a bunch of apps that can bloat the registry and make the PC slower. I really don’t recommend cleaning the registry, though. Mistakes there can cause big problems

OK, I’m Getting Rid of It, Now What?

Move your data

There are automated ways to do this, Carbonite, Google Backup and Sync, iCloud Backup. That said, even if you do this, you’ll want to do it manually one final time before moving on from your PC. The easiest way to do it is to:

  • Plug in an external hard drive
  • Open two File Explorer (or Finder) windows.
  • Navigate to your documents in one window and to your external hard drive in the other
  • Hit ctrl+a (or cmd+a) in the documents window to select all the files and folders
  • Hit ctrl+c (or cmd+c) to copy all the files and folders
  • Go to your external hard drive window and hit ctrl+v (or cmd+v) to paste it all
  • Repeat with photos, music, and whatever other files you want to moce.

Wipe your hard drive

There are a few different ways to do this. You can either pick one or do all three in order. Here’s a handy article if you want to know more about any of them:

  • If you still have your Windows (or Mac) installation disc you can re-install the operating system, which will wipe everything out.
  • This is usually good enough but if you want to take it to the next step, there are programs you can run to wipe it according to such requirements as those put out by the Department of Defense. You usually have to install it on a USB drive or DVD drive and boot to that device. The article linked about has more info.
  • Lastly, you can always take a hammer to it and toss it in a bucket of water. Seriously. physically damaging the drive will make it very hard to access any info that may have been left on it.

Recycle if you can, toss if you must

Desktop PCs are now ok to just throw out with your other trash. Monitors need to be disposed of properly. Since laptops have monitors attached, this means they must too. Some towns, like Wilmington, have electronics recycling programs.



Here’s a Google Search of other options in the area:

Food for Thought

One of the oldest computers still in use today is Fujitsu’s FACOM128B. It’s been running since 1959. It’s not really cutting edge anymore, it’s basically a giant calculator.

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