old ComputerLast time at Computer Repair Vancouver we discussed our first potential cause of a slow computer, a computer infection. Furthermore, we discussed how one would go about and repair an infected computer in order to mitigate this slowness.

Today we will be looking at a second potential cause of a slow computer; the age of the PC (or Mac) you are using. Obviously, the word old is rather vague. In some industries, 100 years is old. In other industries, hundreds of thousands of years is considered old. In the computing industry, unfortunately, old can refer to a time as recent as 4 or 5 years ago.

What is an Old Computer?

The biggest problem with the term old is that it is relative. Let’s say that a member of Computer Repair Vancouver bought a brand new, top-of-the-line, desktop PC sometime in 2010. Let’s also assume that he only engages in basic tasks on this particular machine: surfing the Internet, listening to music, and writing a variety of essays. This type of computer may not be considered old for 6 or 7 years. On the other hand, if one of our members bought a cheap, bottom-of-the-barrel machine in order to play the latest and greatest video games, this machine may be considered old in just a year or two.

As you can see, the term old is dependent upon

  1. The quality of computer you buy (high end | middle end | low end)
  2. The types of activities you wish to perform on this computer. This includes the programs you wish to install and run on your computer. Additionally, the type of operating system you have installed comes into play.

Quantifying a Computer

In order to simplify our discussion, we will classify a computer according to two factors:

  1. The amount of RAM (random access memory) it has
  2. The percentage of available space on your hard drive

This is obviously not a catch all; however, it will give you a general idea as to whether or not your computer’s specifications are causing its slowness.

Computer RAM

In order to determine the amount of RAM you have (assuming you are running Windows 7)

  1. Click on the Windows circle in the bottom left corner
  2. Right click on Computer
  3. Select Properties
  4. Look under the RAM row

Generally speaking, we here at Computer Repair Vancouver believe that if your computer has 2 GB or more, then it is relatively new, RAM wise. If you have less than 2GB (1GB, 512MB, 256MB …) then your computer’s slowness may be partially a result of your lack of RAM. Fortunately, if this is the case, there is generally an easy solution to the problem; just head down to your local computer repair shop and buy a couple extra sticks of RAM. If you are at all uncertain, get the repair shop to install it for you.

A slightly better way to diagnose your RAM situation is as follows

  1. Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete
  2. Click on Start Task Manager
  3. Click on the Performance tab
  4. Look at the row labeled Free.

If the amount of free RAM (the RAM your computer is currently not using) is 0 or close to zero then you may have insufficient RAM for your needs. Make sure to try this test while running all of your normal programs. There is no use doing this just as your computer starts up (since RAM is used by all the programs you use on a regular basis).

Hard Drive Space

In order to determine the amount of hard drive space used (assuming you are running Windows 7)

  1. Click on the Windows circle in the bottom left corner
  2. Left click on Computer
  3. Look at your C drive. Underneath it you should see X GB free of Y GB (where X and Y are actual numbers). The value X is how much data you are using on your computer. The value Y is the total amount of space available on your hard drive.

Although there is no hard and fast rule, we here at Computer Repair Vancouver use the following: your computer’s hard drive should be no more than 80% full. So if, using the values from above, X/Y (X divided by Y) is greater than 80% then you are probably using too much of your hard drive which can potentially create a slow computer. Why? We would rather not go into the complexities of swap files, and page files; however, if you would like you could Google these terms and gather a better understanding as to what is going on. Suffice it to say, you don’t want to be using all of your hard drive space as this will adversely affect your computer’s performance

Other Factors

It is important to note that computer requirements can be vastly different for different people. Some people love to play high-end video games. Therefore, other hardware components such as their video card will come into play when discussing what an old computer is.

Additionally, the amount of resources used by different operating systems (Windows XP, Vista, 7) varies. From what we have heard, Windows Vista is the hog of the family – requiring greater hardware resources to run than the others.

In general, don’t worry too much about all of these extra conditions. Perform our RAM and hard drive tests and make an educated guess as to whether or not they are appropriate for your specific uses.

Repair an Old Computer

So we have described a few general ways to define a computer as new or old So how do you repair an old computer? Ah – the million dollar question! If your computer’s age (in actuality, it’s hardware components) is causing slowness, there are only a few things you can do.

If you have insufficient RAM then the only way to repair the situation is to purchase new RAM. As mentioned previously, you can either install it yourself or have a computer repair shop do it for you. We at Computer Repair Vancouver encourage you to try it yourself, as it is only difficult to do the first time. RAM replacement is generally just click, pop, done!

If you have insufficient hard drive space you have a little more leeway as to how you can approach the situation. You can:

  1. Uninstall programs you don’t need
  2. Delete personal data which you no longer need
  3. Buy an external hard drive and move some of your data from your computer to the external hard drive
  4. Delete temporary files using a program like CCleaner (this can be potentially dangerous so make sure to back up all of your important data before you proceed)

Although you can improve your RAM and hard drive situations somewhat, at a certain point in time it may be necessary to consider a new computer. A computer which is 10 years old will likely remain slow simply because of the time when it was created. Just keep in mind that you can’t turn water into gold in the computing world, just like in the real world.

What’s next?

Assuming you have took a look at your computer and determined that it is in satisfactory condition, it is time to move onto our next potential cause of a slow computer – a disorganized hard drive.

Come back and visit Computer Repair Vancouver as we will discuss why hard drive data gets disorganized, why this leads to a slow computer, and how to deal with the situation (think defragmentation using a program like DeFraggler).