Speed Tips for Your Laptop

Category: Laptops

An AskBob reader wonders: “How can I speed up my laptop? It's so much slower than my desktop for most tasks, and it bogs down when I try to open more than one program. Should I replace the hard drive, add more memory, or take some other actions?” Check out my advice on how to improve the performance of your trusty laptop. Most of these tips will help if you have a desktop, too! Read on...

Speed Up Your Laptop

Before we begin, here's the bad news: laptop computers are generally slower overall than desktops, unless you spend thousands of dollars on one of the highest-performance "desktop replacement" laptop models. Portability is lovely but speed definitely matters, too. The good news is that there ARE some things you can do to speed up your laptop, even if it's fairly new.

As you guessed, you may need to spend a few bucks on a new hard drive, add some RAM memory, do some cleanup, or tweak some system settings. Let's start by taking inventory of your hardware. For that, see my article A Look INSIDE Your Computer (no tools required). As the name implies, it will show you what kind of hard drive, the amount of memory, the speed of the CPU, and other facts about your laptop. And you don't even have to pop the hood -- it's all done with free software programs. Even if you have a desktop, it's worth your time to do this. You'll learn something interesting about your computer.

Many laptops, especially the lower-cost models, come standard with a 5400 rpm magnetic hard drive. They're reliable and have sufficient storage, but not very fast when it comes to launching programs, opening large files, or managing resources when multiple programs are open. Replacing a standard 5400 rpm hard drive with a faster drive is one of the best investments you can make to speed up your laptop.

Disk read/write operations are the biggest bottleneck in all but the cheapest, underpowered laptops. Replacing a laptop's hard drive is much easier than the same upgrade on a desktop machine. A 7200 or 10,000 rpm drive will be 33 to 50% faster, and an SSD (solid-state drive) will give an even bigger boost, albeit with a higher cost.

Speed up laptop

There's usually just one screw to remove the bottom of the laptop. Then you pull of the drive bay cover; pull out the hard drive; slip in the new one; format the new drive and install all your software and data. The restoration of programs and data is easier if you made a disk image copy before removing the old drive. See my article Here's How to Upgrade or Replace Your Hard Drive for some additional information on replacing a hard drive.

Adding more RAM memory will improve laptop speed, up to a point. Going beyond 8 GB yields only small performance increases so it's seldom worthwhile. However, if you use your laptop to manipulate large databases, video files, or graphic files, you may want additional RAM to avoid "paging." That happens when your computer is low on memory, and needs to swap information between memory and disk. The combination of low memory and a slow hard drive can result in frustrating delays. See [SILVER BULLET] Add Memory to Speed Up Your Computer? to assess your memory needs, find out what kind of memory you need, and where to buy it.

Defragmenting your traditional magnetic hard drive can provide noticeable laptop speed increases, particularly if your hard drive is running 75 per cent full or more. A file that is all in one piece can be read much faster than one that lies scattered all over the drive in several fragments. Windows has a built-in defragger that runs automatically, but there are third-party tools that promise to do a better job of optimizing your drive's performance. You'll find links to some of those in my article Need a PC Tuneup? Free PC Maintenance Tools. (SSD drives don't need to be defragmented -- another good reason to upgrade.)

Maybe the problem isn't your slow laptop. If the slowdowns are most noticeable when accessing websites, downloading files, or streaming video content, your Internet connection might be the cause of poor performance. See my article How to Get a Faster Internet Connection for some tips and tools that can help you go faster on the information highway.

Keep your hard drive free of unneeded files, so that the operating system has fewer files to index and search when one is needed. Empty your Recycle Bin and delete temporary files regularly. Uninstall programs and delete old pictures and videos that you haven't used in a long time. Don't be a packrat. See Here's How to Clean Computer Clutter for help cleaning digital clutter. That article also covers how to get rid of "bloatware," the trial software that comes pre-installed on new computers.

By default, Windows uses the power conservation features built into modern laptops to save battery life at the expense of some performance. You can change these settings in Control Panel > Power Options to use maximum performance all the time, but you should be prepared for shorter battery life. This may not matter if your laptop is plugged into an electrical outlet most of the time.

Hidden processes and startup programs can steal resources and make your laptop run slower. You can use the Windows utility MSCONFIG to control which programs load at startup. My article on Startup Programs will help you tune your startup settings, and improve the laptop startup time as well as overall performance.

Don't Try THESE at Home...

Overclocking a laptop is not advisable. Overclocking involves setting the computer's CPU to a higher frequency than its factory default setting. Overclocking does speed up some operations but it makes the CPU generate more heat. Desktop computers can be equipped with supplemental cooling systems to compensate for overclocking, but laptops have just one fan and it is not up to the job. You are likely to experience sudden shutdowns and data loss with an overclocked laptop, as the computer turns itself off to prevent overheating from damaging the CPU.

You might be wondering why I didn't mention just replacing the CPU with a faster model. That's an option, but in most cases, it's just not cost effective. And as far as do-it-yourself projects go, replacing the "brain" of a laptop can be tricky, because it's not always easy to gain access to the innards of the machine. If you have an old clunker of a laptop, and these tips don't get you into the fast lane on the Internet, your best bet for better performance may be to replace it.

Do you have something to say about speeding up a laptop? Post your comment or question below...

speed up laptop, improve laptop speed, faster laptop performance, faster hard drive, adding RAM memory

Ask Your Computer or Internet Question

  (Enter your question in the box above.)

It's Guaranteed to Make You Smarter...

AskBob Updates: Boost your Internet IQ & solve computer problems.
Get your FREE Subscription!


Check out other articles in this category:

Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:

This article was posted by on 3 Jun 2022

For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.

Prev Article:
Avoid These ISP Money Grabs

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
Can You Get a Virus from a QR Code?

Most recent comments on "Speed Tips for Your Laptop"

Posted by:

Nigel A
03 Jun 2022

My laptop js 12 years old and some years ago when I was treasurer for a volunteer organisation it wouldn't run our accounting program. I switched to a SSD and increased the memory to 8gb. Absolute transformation. It ran that program perfectly - as fast as my PC. That's my experience and my recommendation.

Posted by:

03 Jun 2022

"There's usually just one screw to remove the bottom of the laptop."

Really? In my experience the average is closer to 11 screws - and too many times there are some screws under the keyboard that must be removed as well before you can access all the innards. I will grant, however, that well-designed laptops (like some Dells) have a separate cover for the hard drive that is held on with one or two screws. Thoughtful design is always appreciated.

Other than that, I agree with the advice here. Whenever a client brings me a laptop for service, I advise pumping up the RAM and swapping in an SSD for better performance.

I also advise laptop buyers to buy the fastest processor and largest appropriate screen they can possibly afford, and skimp on the drive and RAM, since these can be upgraded later.

Posted by:

03 Jun 2022

I agree with Dan that it is usually more involved to physically get into the laptop. The older the laptop, the better. Newer, thin laptops are glued together with no screws and impossible for the average person to get into. Desktop are certainly easier to get into than most laptops. That said, if you can get into it, replacing the hard drive with an SSD does wonders, especially with a clean install of the OS, and provides years of additional useful service.

Posted by:

Chris R
03 Jun 2022

Dan and Sam beat me to it!

I've just upgraded an 8-year-old HP Pavilion laptop with an SSD and had to remove 25 tiny screws to do so. I also had to pry the keyboard out of the top panel and then pry the plastic top panel out of the aluminium base of the laptop, accompanied by a lot of alarming cracking noises as they came apart. There were also 4 ribbon cables to remove.

Best bet - look up the disassembly procedure on YouTube first in case you decide it's all too much!

But on the plus side, a RAM upgrade and an SSD upgrade work wonders.

Posted by:

Dave H.
03 Jun 2022

If you open your PC to get inside, be aware of possibly voiding a warranty. However, since this article applies mostly to older PCs, that's probably not an issue in most cases.

Posted by:

03 Jun 2022

The easiest way to speed up a laptop is to use a linux operating system. It can go on the same hard drive as Windows so that you can use either one. There are numerous varieties (distros) of Linux and all are free. You won't believe the speed of Linux.

Posted by:

03 Jun 2022

Total agreement with those who said getting into some laptops isn't easy. I have a Lenovo sitting in my bedroom. On top, it has four carefully labeled pill bottles with screws from different parts of the laptop in them. And I still haven't managed to pry up the keyboard (a necessity) to get at the insides. (By the way, I replaced the HDD in an old Toshiba laptop years ago. Several screws there too, but still MUCH simpler.)

Posted by:

03 Jun 2022

To me the best and most economical way to speed up your old laptop is to dump windows and install an Ubuntu type operating system like Chalet or one of the others. I did and with an SSD it is like a brand new machine. Some learning curve but worth it.

Posted by:

Brian B
03 Jun 2022

"Disk read/write operations are the biggest bottleneck in all but the cheapest, underpowered laptops" -- Doesn't make sense to me.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The bigger performance problem with the low-end laptops is the slow processor and limited RAM.

Posted by:

Sandy Jewell
04 Jun 2022

I had my drive replaced with the latest you beaut SSD and it is like magic. Works at light speed now. Best thing I ever did. 1/3 the cost of replacing the laptop.

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr.
04 Jun 2022

I have an old Acer laptop. It originally had 4GB RAM and a 500GB 5400RPM HD. I upgraded RAM to 8GB and got a 1TB SSD drive for it. The performance improvement was amazing.

Before the upgrades, I'd start it up and go to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee while it booted up. After the upgrades (and even today), I start it up and by the time I take a sip of coffee it's ready and waiting for me. Boot-up time went from somewhere close to 5 minutes before the upgrades to somewhere around a half minute after the upgrades (usually about 35 seconds).

The Acer is no longer in regular use, but it is still useable, and I keep it as an emergency backup machine. When/if I run across someone who needs a free laptop, I may wipe it, and put Linux Mint on it (or maybe make it a chrome box), and give it away. I never throw out functional hardware. If I no longer need it, someone will, sooner or later (usually sooner).

Posted by:

05 Jun 2022

Some Dells from 8 - 10 years ago, have at least a dozen screws that need to be removed from the bottom and beneath the keyboard. Also some of them are tied to the screen assembly, which if not removed correctly will result in a broken hinge. Older models were like Bob says, just a few screws and easy peasy to get to and change the HD. Not sure about the newer ones.

Posted by:

05 Jun 2022

My Dell, almost 10 years old, has 4 screws on the back. I've never been under the hood but the hard drive has been replaced with a solid state drive. It boots up quite quickly.

My old Amiga 3000 booted up from a 1-gig magnetic hard drive in 41 seconds. Amigas do not suffer from bloated operating systems.

Posted by:

Jim Maunder
01 Jul 2022

Be aware that some laptops have the SSD soldered onto the motherboard and can't be replaced. Check the interne for your make and model first - Google is your friend (and so is Youtube).

Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! Comments of a political nature are discouraged. Please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are reviewed, and may be edited or removed at the discretion of the moderator.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.

Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter

Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
About Us     Privacy Policy     RSS/XML

Article information: AskBobRankin -- Speed Tips for Your Laptop (Posted: 3 Jun 2022)
Source: https://askbobrankin.com/speed_tips_for_your_laptop.html
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved