September 22nd, 2014
Your PC’s crawled to a halt again. You’re ready to throw it out of a 4th-storey window (even if that means finding a taller building)!
The culprit we’re going to deal with today is the RAM (Random Access Memory).
What is RAM? This is the ‘working’ memory of your computer, as opposed to the place where your photos and documents are stored. A bit is used up when you open a program, and becomes free again when that program is closed. When too much is used up, your whole machine can become slow, with even the most trivial tasks seemingly taking hours.
Here are five things to do before you go looking for the ‘sledgehammer solution’.
1. Close some windows
The quickest fix, for certain.
Close any programs that you’re not using right now. Alternatively, close extra windows in your current program, keeping only the one you’re using. For example, if you’re trying to write a letter while listening to music, it’s a good idea to cut out those tunes for a little while. And if you’ve got 20 tabs open in your browser, surely you can close a few!
These are the usual suspects, the heavy RAM gobblers:
- Music players
- Video players
- A dozen simultaneous browser tabs
- Photo and video editors
- Backup programs
Just pause, or shut down these extra little things while you get on with the important work. It’ll be good for your concentration too!
2. Battle hidden programs
Even when no windows are open, there’s still a lot going on behind the scenes.
While much of this is essential to the running of your computer, some is made up of normal programs which don’t like to be closed! They like to lurk, then jump up quickly when you want them, pretending that they’re nippy little things. It’s all an act, and they’re stealing your PC’s resources!
The first place to look for these critters is the right hand side of the taskbar – the little area of icons next to the clock. If you’re on Windows 7 or 8 there’s also a little ‘up’ arrow which, when clicked on, can reveal a whole lot more icons. (If you’re still using Windows Vista or XP, then the arrow points left).
Hover over each of these icons, and a little bit of text should pop up and tell you what the program is called. Right click on it and a menu appears (depending on the software) with further options. If one of these is ‘Exit’ or ‘Close’ then you can safely click on that to free up some RAM, and speed up your PC. The program will come back as normal when you next start up your computer, or you can likely find it in the Start menu or Start screen.
3. Stop resource hogs from launching in the first place
Windows has a list of programs which launch when you turn on your PC. The easiest way to access this list, and monkey around with it, is to download and install the popular CCleaner software from Piriform.
Under the ‘Tools’ button in CCleaner is the ‘Startup’ option. This shows everything which starts along with Windows, and down the left is a series of tick boxes. Simply click on the boxes to remove the tick, and you will not be troubled by that process unless you re-tick the box in the future.
Restart to your PC to see what effect your trimming has had.
Note: Be careful what you do here! You’ll lose the benefits of whatever software you deactivate, and it’s all too easy to turn off such things as your anti-virus if you’re not careful!
There is a more nuanced way to deal with these start-up programs. Instead of blocking them completely, you can delay them so they only load once your computer is ready to deal with them. Soluto is a service which can do this for you, plus many other things. See the article Speed up your PC with Soluto on how to do this.
4. Remove unnecessary programs
Perhaps you’ve stopped something in the task bar, and your computer jumped back into life, or you spotted something running which you really have no use for. Now you want rid of the thing permanently.
The simple way to get rid of troublesome programs is to go to Control Panel (in the Start Menu) and find the entry called ‘Add or Remove Programs’ (Windows XP) or ‘Uninstall a Program’ (Vista, 7 and 8). Simply hunt down the offender and click ‘Uninstall’!
Do this not just for annoying taskbar programs, but anything else which you suspect is tying your machine down.
5. Install more RAM
Now we’re getting into more technical territory!
Adding RAM to your computer is the quickest way to get an enormous speed boost. You’ll notice the difference straight away, and it’ll improve everything you do, from surfing the Web to editing home videos.
It’s important – and a little tricky – to get exactly the right RAM for your particular computer. You need to go about the upgrade carefully to avoid damaging your PC. The website of US company Crucial have an excellent tool, the System Scanner, which tells you exactly which type RAM you can install. However, it’s not always the cheapest site, so shop around once you know what you’re looking for before you hand over your money.
RAM isn’t always expensive. At Ship Shape PC Repair I’ve upgraded dozens of desktops and laptops over the years, and if you have a particularly old PC (perhaps it’s running Windows XP) then I can often give you the RAM for free! In all, it’s a recommended upgrade.
Get your PC to that Ship Shape state
These are just a few of the ways in which you can improve your computer’s speed today. However, Ship Shape’s PC Spring Clean service will do all this and more, in your home, for as little as £30. I can advise on upgrades, but I can tailor the service to fit you and your hardware, all the while taking the worry out of messing with your PC’s insides.
To get a professional, tailor-made service to speed up your computer, give me a call today!
Images: All images are released under Creative Commons licenses, and were discovered on Flickr.com.