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Posts from the ‘Speeding up your Computer’ Category

The blazing speed of an SSD without the huge cost

November 10th, 2015

Martin

You’ll know all about the amazing speed boost of a Solid State Disk if you’ve read this blog for a while. The technology in this box of wonders means that, compared to the hard drives they replace, they’re an unbelievable turbo charge for your PC, Mac or laptop.

But you might also know that, in pennies per gigabyte, a Solid State Disk (SSD) is hugely more expensive. Compare the common Seagate 500GB hard drive for £33 to the Samsung 500GB SSD for £116 (at time of writing). That’s nearly four times the price!

Prices are coming down all the time, but at the same time your photo and video collections are getting bigger and your cameras are capturing ever larger images. A 500GB SSD is just not big enough any more!

There are two solutions to this conundrum. Read more

The SSD Upgrade: Giving my Mac Mini a kick up the backside

November 24th, 2014

Martin

I was disappointed in my Mac. I’d treated myself to one after a successful contract came to an end, and justified it on the grounds that it would help me fix the Macs of others. And indeed, it’s done that job well!

Read more

Top tips to fixing a slow broadband connection

September 29th, 2014

Martin

Quick note from Martin of Ship Shape PC Repair: This week, instead of my own usual post to help you with your PC, we have a guest post from Matt Powell, the editor of Broadband Genie, the broadband comparison website. Take it away, Matt!


Broadband providers have a reputation for overstating the speed of broadband connections but in the last few years this situation has improved. They’re no longer allowed to advertise speeds which can’t be achieved by a percentage of their customers, must provide a somewhat accurate estimate ahead of time, and in any case if you sign up for a fibre optic or cable broadband service you should usually receive a speed that’s very close to the quoted rate, unlike the less reliable ADSL broadband where speeds can be highly variable.

But this doesn’t account for problems which can crop up down the line and have a significant effect on your broadband line. Sometimes these are simple issues caused by settings, software or basic faults, but they can on occasion be a little harder to track down.

If you’re suffering from a slow broadband connection here are a few tips to help you diagnose and fix the issues and get back to full working order.

Test your speed

Before anything else, use speed check tools to confirm the performance of your broadband connection. This will tell you whether it’s just a particular service or site that’s running slowly or if there’s a more widespread problem. Make a note of the results in case you need to call technical support.

Check the ISP fault status

Many providers operate an online status page which will contain information about problems in their network, so if your broadband has suddenly gotten slower this could tell you why. Unfortunately if this is the case you can’t do much about it other than wait for the issue to be resolved, but if it’s been a few hours without any change you might want to follow up with a phone call to find out more.

Downloading?

Check to make sure your connection isn’t being saturated with a large download. This is more of an issue on ADSL where the limited bandwidth can easily be consumed by a single task, particularly something like a BitTorrent download, but it may be caused by something running in the background without knowledge of the user. Operating system and software updates can sometimes be very large.

Switch it off and on again

Sometimes just rebooting your home broadband router is all that’s needed to give the connection a kick in the behind. Be patient as it can take a good few minutes for the router to renegotiate the link.

Boost your Wi-Fi signal

If you only connect over Wi-Fi it’s worth taking the time to see if the problem lies between you and your router, rather than the broadband line itself. Weak wireless signals can result in a severe drop in performance so check the connection while standing next to your router or, ideally, use a network cable instead to bypass it completely. If there’s a noticeable improvement you can look at ways of improving wireless connectivity.

Try repositioning your router (it should be off the floor, away from walls and located centrally in your home) or use an inexpensive Wi-Fi signal booster gadget to help the signal reach further.

Another thing to check is that you’re not suffering interference from other networks. Delve into the router settings and you’ll see an option to select a channel for the Wi-Fi; if your neighbours have their routers on the same channel it can reduce the efficiency of your connection so try selecting a different number. If you want to get more technical there are smartphone apps which will indicate the signal strength and channel of nearby Wi-Fi networks.

Secure your Wi-Fi network

Wireless networking is convenient but it is open to abuse from people nearby using it without your knowledge or authorisation, which can impact your broadband speed. Make sure your Wi-Fi is password protected with the WPA standard, and change it on a regular basis.

Check the phone sockets and wires

Poor wiring or faulty and outdated sockets can result in big drops in broadband speed. As a basic rule you should avoid the use of extension cables for the broadband line, but if you do need one make sure it’s a high quality round cable and not a cheap flat wire, and don’t allow the cable to become tangled and compressed.

Only connect your broadband to the master socket (where the line comes in), and for ADSL broadband make sure you have a microfilter on every socket that’s in use around your home.

If you unscrew the master socket faceplate you’ll find an engineer socket which can be used to test the broadband without extension wires causing interference: if the speed improves you can fit an ‘I-plate’ or ‘BT Accelerator’ device which helps alleviate this issue. Newer sockets with BT Openreach printed on the front do not require this however as the technology is already built in.

Time to call an engineer?

If all else fails and you’ve eliminated your own computers, router and wiring as the problem it might be time to call out the experts. Speak to your ISP’s technical support line and explain the issues, they’ll probably have you run through many of the same troubleshooting methods but if the problem continues they should agree to send out an engineer to investigate further. The engineer will check both inside your home and the line outside to pin down the issue, and if the problem is not inside your property there should be no charge.

5 Easy Ways to Speed Up Your Computer Today

September 22nd, 2014

Martin

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.

Untitled_JohnStevenFernandez

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.

Easy!

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.

126/366 Old Memory Chips by Paul-Hudson

126/366 Old Memory Chips by Paul-Hudson

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.

Speed up your computer with this 15 minute trick, and save money on PC repair

May 6th, 2014

Martin

Many times when a desktop PC or laptop comes to me for repair, the only instructions I get are along the lines of: “Could you have a look at it? It’s running slowly and I’m not sure why”.

If this sounds like you, then this tip might save you money on a repair: turn the computer on, then walk away. Read more

The wonder of Solid State Disks

October 10th, 2012

Martin

I’ve just upgraded my Windows 7 desktop computer with a Solid State Drive, or SSD. These hard drives are the equivalent of the storage that your computer already has, but they have no moving parts. This brings many advantages, one of which is the blistering speed upgrade I’m experiencing.
Read more