Sunday, May 24, 2015

How To Speed Up Your Computer - What's the Single Most Important Upgrade?

Probably the most frequent question posed to a "Geek" is - How can I make my older computer run faster? This question has been around as long as desktop computers. Years ago the answers would always include - add more Memory (RAM), replace your CPU, get a new Hard Drive with faster seek/read/write performance, defrag the HD, cleanup the temporary files & cache, etc. In addition, the "smoke and mirror" programs that claim to boost performance have always been touted in advertising and TV commercials.

The truth is, some of the items mentioned above will provide marginal speed improvements. But, if you really want to significantly improve the speed and performance of a modern computing device, there is only one upgrade that is worth the trouble. Replace the Mechanical Hard Drive with an SSD. While this type of upgrade is not trivial, it is well worth the effort. Your computer will start faster and execute programs 10X quicker than when it was new. So, what is an SSD? The SSD is a Solid State Drive. Unlike the normal Hard Drive, that has a spinning magnetic platter and moving head, the SSD has no moving parts. It's similar to a high capacity Flash (Thumb) Drive. After upgrading, you’ll be amazed at the performance improvements and wonder why you waited.


I know what you're thinking - if this is so great why doesn't everyone upgrade. The answer has been cost. When SSDs first arrived they were prohibitively expensive. Too expensive for OEMs to include them on new computers. But, times have changed. Today, SSD prices have dropped considerably and they are well within reach of normal users. Larger capacity drives, in the greater than 1 TB category, remain pricey, but most users don't need this much storage for their applications and normal data. Music, Videos, Photos and other space intensive data can be stored elsewhere - even in the "Cloud".

A 256GB SSD is now around $100 and a 512GB (plenty for most folks) can be had for $200. Amazon and Crucial are good places to shop for SSDs. Crucial is a great starting place because they can match a suitable upgrade based on the Make and Model of your Desktop or Laptop device.

As I mentioned above, swapping out your hard drive is not for everyone. On the "Geek Scale" it would be 1 out of 10 in terms of difficulty. On the "Normal Folks Scale" it's more like 5 out of 10. If you are handy with a screw driver - give it a try. Basically, you have to "clone" (applications and data) your present drive to the SSD, remove the old drive from the computer and install the new SSD. Before you start, inventory your present drive and cleanup/uninstall things that you don't need. You will need to purchase an SSD that is at least as large as the "used space" on your present drive. Let's say you have a 1 TB drive, but you're only using 250GB. You may want to consider a 512GB SSD.

For "normal folks" I recommend a USB to SSD adapter and cloning software to make the process quick and simple. You can't go wrong with the Apricon SATA Wire Hard Drive Upgrade Kit - $20. It provides the cable and software you will need to "clone" your present drive to the SSD.

So, if you want to see a real boost and have an extra couple hundred bucks, it's definitely worth it. It's certainly cheaper than a new computer that may not include an SSD.