So you’ve got a slow laptop and it’s driving you mad! It’s taking an age to boot up into Windows, and once you’re eventually logged in, the whole system seems sluggish. The start button is slow to respond, programs take an age to load and you get random system hangs. Or, even worse, your laptop crashes and you have to start over! Sound familiar?
There are three ways I would go about fixing this situation and I walk you through each of them here.
Overheating is often overlooked, but in my experience, it is often a major cause of a slow laptop. As your laptop gets older, it is inevitable that the heat sink, fans and vents become blocked with dust and fluff.
If your laptop can not cool itself efficiently, the CPU will decrease its speed automatically thus lowering its temperature. This process is called CPU thermal protection and it automatically kicks in as a fail safe to prevent the CPU damaging itself.
To fix this, you are going to need a screwdriver, Torx bit, thermal paste (eBay it) and your laptops user manual.
If you suspect overheating is the problem and you don’t feel confident removing components from your laptop, it is best you ask for help from a technical minded friend or your local PC store.
Most laptops will have an access panel to the heat sink on the underneath. Unscrew the panel and remove the heat sink from the CPU. You will probably find a “carpet” of dust and fluff blocking one side of the heat sink (See the image below). Remove this, and give the heat sink a good blow to remove any dust and fluff.
While you have the heatsink off, it makes sense to replace the old thermal paste. Clean off the old thermal paste using a cloth and alcohol from both the CPU and heat sink. Reapply a pea sized blob of new paste on top of the CPU. Reattach the heat sink and access panel.
2. Clean And Optimize
First thing I would normally do in this situation is use “Disk Cleanup”. If a hard drive has less than 20% free space, this can seriously affect its performance and cause a slow laptop. Once you (eventually) get you laptop running, right click on the system hard drive in “My Computer” and select “Properties” and hit the “Disk Cleanup” button.
For a more thorough system clean, check out my CCleaner walk though.
The next thing to do is to defrag your hard drive. As you use your laptop, information is constantly being written to the hard drive. Windows will randomly write to where ever there is free space on the hard drive and over time, this causes data to fragment.
Defragging the hard drive “clumps” all the data together and rearranges it in a more efficient way reducing access times.
In “My Computer”, right click the system hard drive and click “Properties“. Select the “Tools” tab on the popup window, then click on the “Defragment now…” button.
3. Upgrade Your Ram
Upgrading your ram means your laptop needs to use less of the hard drive for general tasks. Hard drives are much slower than ram. Using it will slows you laptop down. You will get the greatest increase in performance with large ram upgreads – like maybe upgrading from 512Mb to 2Gb ram for a Windows XP laptop.
For both Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, aim for a minimum of at least 4GB of ram.
Installing laptop memory is as simple as removing the back access panel on the underneath of the laptop, removing the old ram sticks, and snapping in the new ones (read our how to guide here). Just make sure you buy the correct type as buying the wrong ram may not fit or work correctly.
To find out what ram your laptop uses, refer to the user manual or the manufactures website.