End-of-Year Maintenance: 16 Steps To A Speedier Computer

This week, I’ll post my updated suggestions for three holiday activities that will get your computers and technology ready for the blitz of teaching that starts after the New Year. Here’s what you’ll get (the links won’t be active until the post goes live):

  1. 11 Ways to Update Your Online Presence
  2. 16 Ways to Speed Up Your Computer
  3. Backup and Image your computer

For regular readers of Ask a Tech Teacher, these are yearly reminders. For new readers, these are like body armor in the tech battle. They allow you to jubilantly overcome rather than dramatically succumb. Your choice.

Today: 16 Ways to Speed up Your Computer

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There are two ‘speed’ problems that arise when using computers:

  • the computer is slow, for lots of reasons
  • you are slow–meaning: You have too much to do. We’ll deal with this later…

I post this every year and have included several great suggestions from readers. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Sort through Documents and get rid of those you don’t need anymore. It’s intimidating, like a file cabinet that hasn’t been opened in years and is covered with spider webs. Do it, though. If you don’t, every time you search, the computer must finger through those unused and worthless files. It doesn’t understand the difference between ‘unused’ and ‘important’. Plus, it distracts you from finding the documents you really want. If you don’t want to toss them, make an ‘Old’ file and put them all in there.
  2. Empty the trash. Don’t even look in it. If you haven’t missed a file by now, it won’t matter if you throw it out.
  3. Learn to use that program you’ve been promising you would or delete it. Even better, go through your programs and delete the ones you no longer use–or never used (like the ones that come pre-installed on a new computer). Here’s what you do:
    • go to Control Panel>Programs and Features (this is different on Windows 10–just search “Control Panel”)
    • peruse the list and delete programs you downloaded by mistake, meant to use, or no longer use
    • uninstall
    • don’t look back
  4. Update any software that needs it. I don’t mean BUY a newer version. I mean click the free update that’s been nagging at you (Adobe Reader for example). My cyber-smart daughter (she better be; it’s her job) reminds me most of these updates relate to security. With all the hacking going on these days, security sounds good.
  5. Clean the junk off your (virtual) desktop. Put it in folders or create a folder for ‘Working on’. Don’t know how to create a desktop folder? Just right-click on the desktop and select ‘New>folder’ (this may vary depending upon your platform).
  6. Clean up your Start Menu. Remove shortcuts you no longer use (usually with a right click>delete). Add those that have become daily go-to sites
  7. Clean out your subscriptions. This slows YOU down as you sit to work. They usually arrive via email. Dragging through dozens of emails a day you know you aren’t interested in slows you down. Me, I have over 200 every day. I regularly purge blog and newsletter subscriptions that didn’t work out as planned.
  8. Make notifications weekly instead of daily. If you get Google alerts, set them for weekly (unless you really must know when someone posts on the term ‘Labrador puppies’). If you have social media, let them notify you of activity once a week instead of daily.
  9. Change your browser. Firefox and Chrome are faster than Edge and most others.
  10. Add more RAM. That’s the stuff that lets you keep more stuff open on the desktop (including tabs in your browser). If you don’t have enough, it’s like having a postage-stamp-size desk for planning your lessons. Upgrade yours to the max your system will take.
  11. Clean out your temp files.
  12. Delete unneeded fonts. Your computer must bring all those fonts out so you can use them. They’re small files, but not minuscule and take measurable time to activate. Who needs a thousand fonts? Settle for a hundred.
  13. This one’s a bit geeky: Install an SSD start-up drive. An SSD drive is one of those super-fast, expensive hard-drives. Get one just large enough to boot up your computer. You won’t store files on it or data–just use it to start your computer in about a third of the time it normally would. I did this to my desktop and no longer have time for a cuppa or a shower while the computer starts up. A warning: A lot of saving defaults to the start-up drive so reset where your auto-saves go (like temp files, images, and similar).
  14. Clean your computer. With a mini vacuum. Get all that grunge and dust out so it doesn’t get into the computer parts that will not only slow you down but stop you in your virtual tracks.
  15. A great tip from a reader: “A good starting point is to force the computer to do less tasks during the start-up. Just like it would slow you down if before you started writing, you had to get your coffee, check your email, chat with efriends, water the plants–oh, and finally start writing. The less your computer has to do–find fonts, open programs, that sort–the faster it gets to work.”
  16. From Andrew over at Andrew’s View of the Week: Also check the age of any physical computers/devices you own – desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, etc. The average life expectancy for a device with a hard-drive is about 5 years. And given the rate of change in the device area, devices over 5 years are close to the end of their life. Consider replacing or budgeting for new equipment – you don’t want “unplanned failure”. Yes, plan your computer failures. If you have data on USB drives, check them and back up the contents to a cloud-based storage system. and if you use a UPS (uninterruptible power supply), check the battery age and order a replacement if needed.

Finished? Take a break. Have some eggnog.

More

7 end-of-year maintenance for Macs

Optimize Windows 10 performance

10 Quick Ways to Speed up a Slow Windows PC


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

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