Speed Up Your Laptop

Asus70 asked the Laptops forum for speed-up tips.

You've got two approaches for speeding up a Windows PC (short of replacing it): improving the hardware and slimming down Windows.

The most cost-effective way to speed up any PC, hardware-wise, is to add RAM. You might be able to do this with your laptop--especially if you chose a money-saving configuration when you bought it.

To find out, download and run the portable version of System Information for Windows (SIW). Once the program is up, select Memory from the Hardware section to see what you've got and what the motherboard can take.

But don't be surprised if you've already maxed out your RAM. Owning a laptop limits your options for upgrading hardware. Portable PCs are just not as expandable as desktops.

Another hardware option is to replace the hard drive with a Solid State Drive (SSD). But that's extremely expensive, and will likely reduce your storage capacity.

So let's look at what we can do to speed up Windows:

Clean out your autoloaders. It's shocking how many programs load automatically every time you boot. This not only slows down the boot process, but can potentially slow down Windows itself. See Why the Slow Boots? for suggestions on fixing this thorny issue.

Consider sleeker security software. Two autoloaders you can't afford to turn off are your firewall and your real-time anti-malware (also known as antivirus) program. These really do need to be on all of the time. But some of these programs slow you down more than others. See Battle of the Security Superpowers for a discussion of how these programs effect PC speed. You might also want to check performance test results from Anti-Virus Comparative and Antivirus Ware.

Turn off Aero. The fancy, transparent look Microsoft added to Vista (and kept with Windows 7) takes up clock cycles. Personally, I think the transparent look is worth the modest performance hit, but if you disagree, turn it off by following these instructions:

In Vista, right-click the Windows desktop and select Personalize, then Window Color and Appearance. Click Open classic appearance properties for more color options (if you don't see the option, Aero is already off) and select a color scheme other than Windows Aero.

In Windows 7, right-click the Windows desktop and select Personalize. Select a theme that's displayed under the Basic and High Contrast Themes heading.

If you're running Vista, consider upgrading to Win7. It really does speed things up. But take the time to do a custom (clean) install. See How to Upgrade to Windows 7 for directions.

If upgrading your operating system seems a little extreme, than at least turn off Vista's Sidebar. Right-click a blank space on the Sidebar and select Properties. Uncheck Start Sidebar when Windows starts.

My thanks to Car54, Compnovo, and Rommel for their contributions to the original forum discussion.

Note: This post was altered on January 25 to correct an error. The error was in the Windows 7 screen shot.

Add your comments to this article below. If you have other tech questions, email them to me at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum.

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