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Why is my Computer So Slow? Part 1

by CyberBITS for Advice
Why is my Computer So Slow? Part 1

Why is it when your computer is new it seems like the fastest thing on the planet, only to find 6-12 months later it slows down to a snail’s pace?  In the next couple of posts I’ll discuss the why’s and how’s of this age-old problem.  Read on if you see too much of the Spinning Circle or Beachball.

This post focusses on the Hardware you buy.

The next post will contain useful tips on managing the software on your computer as this plays a significant part in how your computer performs.

Hardware – The old saying works very well here, “You get what you pay for!”  If you purchased a shiny new laptop because it looked nice and was a cracking deal at only £250 there’s your reason.  Laptops in this range are for the budget conscious.  Most have older fashioned spinning SATA Drives, low amounts of RAM and older model processors.  If all you do is surf the web all day and write a few documents and simple spreadsheets these may be ok.  However, as soon as you start performing any intensive work, larger spreadsheets, having multiple things open at one time you need something with more power.  Ebuyer have a great guide on buying laptops.  If you’re after a Desktop Computer, check out their Desktop Buying Guide.

Processor – The processor simply handles commands and instructions from programs.  The more commands and instructions it can handle at one time the faster the processor.  More information of how it all works can be found on Preslav Mihaylov’s article How does the Processor Work.  When looking for new hardware, make sure you’re looking for a minimum i5 Processor from Intel.  At the time of writing the current model from Intel is the 8th Generation Coffee Lake processor.  They are mid-range processors which are powerful enough for the standard user.  If you are into graphic design and video editing, go for the higher end i7 Processor.

Memory (RAM) – RAM (Random Access Memory) is simply like a desk.  The bigger the desk the more files you can spread out and pick things out as and when you need it.  This is exactly the same in a computer.  When you open a Document and then switch to a Web Browser to start browsing the Web, then you Copy a load of Text or Images from the Browser to paste into the Word Document, you add all that to RAM.  Now let’s say you open a spreadsheet while all of this is going on.  The desk is too full (the memory has run out) that document you opened in Word now ends up in what’s known as a Page File, some call it a Swap File.  What happens when your desk gets too full?  You put documents you’re not using in the Filing Cabinet.  When the computer runs out of memory it puts older items that you’re not using in a special area of the hard drive.  The idea being when you go back to that document later the computer swaps the now inactive spreadsheet into the Page File and returns the Document to Memory.  Exactly what you would do when you retrieve things from the Filing Cabinet.  This takes time, especially if you scrimped and bought a cheap computer with a spinning disk.  For a very in-depth article on how RAM Works, check out this great resource on Howstuffworks.com

32bit(x86) or 64bit(x64) – Whether you have a 32bit Operating System or a 64bit Operating system will have a big impact on the performance of your machine.  With 32bit (also known as x86) there is a limit of 4GB of RAM.  Along with this limitation your system will only be able to reference 3.2GB of that.  64bit can handle a lot more RAM so will perform a lot better than a 32bit equivalent.

Hard Disk – The Hard Disk (or, Hard Disk Drive whatever you want to call it) is where all of your programs and files are stored.  The speed of this drive depends on how quickly the system can retrieve data stored on it.  Spinning Disks are slower than Solid State Drives (SSD), fact.  If you see a Hard Disk (HDD) that has an RPM rating (5400rpm, 7200rpm etc.) then you’re looking at a Spinning Disk.  While these tend to store more data than SSD’s they have much slower transfer rates.  Current advances in SSD Technology means that boffins have been able to increase the size of drives to 4TB, but be warned, these drives are extremely expensive.  The most common SSD is 128Gb which I feel is too small for the average user.  256Gb is better but if you can afford it go for the 512Gb models.  Crucial have a great article highlighting the key differences between HDD and SSD.

I Hope you found this article helpful.  If you have bought the right hardware and you still see the spinning wheel in Windows or the Beachball on a Mac, please read my next post. I’ll publish the second part of this post soon.

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