Extending Your Computer’s Life: If Your PC is over 3 Years Old

I often hear the question from my customers, “My Computer is getting old.  What do you recommend I do if I can’t afford to buy a new one?”  Here’s what’s happening and what you can do.

The major issues that deteriorate the performance of older computers are:

1) Insufficient Memory (RAM):

Machines that are in the 3-5 year range of life have low amounts of RAM by today’s standards.  This is because as time goes by, all those Windows updates you’ve been getting have actually made Windows bigger, thus needing more RAM.

You may also have installed new software (programs) over time.  Newer software has more features, and so is often larger than older programs, thus needing more RAM.

2) The Hard Drive:

This is the storage device inside your computer.  It is a mechanical device and like any mechanical device, the more usage you place on it, the more it wears down.  It can become increasingly inaccurate as it reads and writes data, thus causing file corruption, data loss and a slowing down of its operation.  What can you do?

Defragment Your Hard Drive! This will make your hard drive last much longer and help your machine run faster.  Why?…. Over time, the data on your hard disk gets fragmented and spread out all over the disk.  This means the drive has to look all over the place to get your files and has to work much harder, stressing and slowing it down.

All versions of Windows have a built-in defragmenting utility, but in my professional opinion, 3rd party “Defraggers” do a better job.  I like the free “Defraggler” program, made by Piriform Software.

What if this doesn’t help? Then it may be a good time to replace the hard drive.  This gives you multiple benefits.  The most important preserving your data.  If you wait until it fails, you will lose your data, such as your pictures, documents, emails, address books and videos.

The second benefit is performance.  With a new hard disk, you have the chance to reinstall or upgrade your Windows to a newer version.  A fresh installation of Windows gives you a huge increase in performance.  Your PC will “run like new”.  Also, the newer hard drives are faster than older ones, giving you a further boost in speed.

3) Old Software and File Buildup (junk files):

A lot of the software that came with your PC is outdated and is taking up space.  You may also have lots of programs running in the background that you’re not even aware of.  Some of these programs came bundled with programs that you downloaded, but piggybacked themselves into the download and installed themselves without your knowledge.  The biggest culprits here are Toolbars (Bing, Google, Yahoo, Ask, etc.).  You should uninstall these unneeded programs, but be careful, if you’re not sure, don’t touch it.  Call a professional computer technician.

Finally, there are many files that get created automatically in the background by the programs you’re running.  These are only temporarily needed, but are left behind even after they’re no longer needed.  Clearing these out with a good cleanup utility, like “C-Cleaner” can help regain performance.  This free utility is also from Piriform Software, the same people that make “Defraggler”.

So there you have the basics.  The two utilities we mentioned can be a great help.  You can find these on our website’s links page, or at CNet’s Download.com site.

Turning Your PC Off – Good or Bad?

Well, it’s both.  This is one of those questions that seems to never get fully answered, as opinions vary.

One thing is certain.  You shouldn’t power your PC off every time you’re done with it.  Cycling the power can damage components because powering up a machine causes a lot of stress on the system.

However, you should turn it off every now and then to clear out the memory and let your components get some rest.  If you have an older (3 years plus) system, you can shut it down at night.  For newer systems, at lest once a week is good. We recommend twice a week if you use it heavily.

Newer systems have better power management and their sleep mode works pretty well, allowing your system components to power down fully or almost fully.  For Windows 7 machines, it works even better.  Still, you do need to shut it down occasionally to clear out the memory.  This will speed up your machine.

If you’re going out of town for a few days, it’s always a good idea to turn it off.  Another good time to shut down is during lightning storms.

For more information, tips and help with other computer issues, please visit our website at Saguaropc.com.