Digital Hygiene Series: Tips for Optimizing Your Computer’s Performance
We all love working on a brand-new computer because it is fast and responsive. However, over time, our new computers seem to slow down until they eventually become difficult and frustrating to use effectively. In this first article of our Digital Hygiene Series, we’ll share steps that you can take to slow down your computer’s degradation which will in turn improve its performance and your user experience.
1. Remove Unused Applications
Over time we install applications on our computers we need for one reason or another, and then we often forget we installed them. After a while, we end up with many applications we never use. It is easy to forget about these because we no longer see them. However, they are still taking up computer storage and potentially processing power, so removing unused applications is vital. It’s essential to take the time to audit your applications list regularly to make sure you have only the apps you need and use. Immediately uninstall applications when you no longer need them to keep your applications list as short as possible and reduce the amount of computer storage used.
2. Disable Startup Programs
Some programs installed on your computer have components that automatically run when you start your computer and continue to run the entire time, and you may not even realize it. Even though a program is installed because you still use it occasionally, you may have no reason to have those components run at startup. So, it is worth considering which of your startup programs you can disable to reduce your computer’s load at startup. To access your startup programs, open Task Manager and go to the Startup tab. Here, you can see which programs are enabled at startup and choose which ones to disable by right-clicking them and clicking “Disable”. You should become familiar with all the items in your Startup tab, so research any that you don’t recognize immediately to decide whether it needs to stay enabled at startup.
3. Reboot Frequently
This one is pretty simple: Generally speaking, the longer your computer goes without rebooting, the slower it becomes over time. If you have ever worked on a computer that hasn’t rebooted in weeks or even months, you can probably observe a considerable improvement from a single reboot. It is certainly best to reboot your computer once a day. I typically recommend rebooting when you finish the day so you can start work the next day on a fresh boot. Rebooting your computer at the end of the workday instead of the beginning allows you to promptly begin work each day without waiting for a reboot. You’ll also be less tempted to skip the reboot because of feeling rushed to get started working right away.
4. Keep Up with System Updates
System updates are released monthly at the very least and often more frequently, especially patches for security vulnerabilities. It is best to install updates as soon as possible after they become available and have been reasonably tested to ensure they don’t cause instabilities. Both Windows and macOS offer the ability to automatically check for and install updates, which is better than having to remember to go in and check manually every so often. The worst thing you can do is ignore the need for system updates because your computer will likely slow down, could lose functionality, and you may risk exposing yourself to serious security vulnerabilities. It is also essential to ensure you are not only updating your operating system but also your BIOS and firmware. If you are part of an organization, your administrator should have a process for regularly deploying system updates across all computers.
5. Keep Up with Third-Party Updates
Third-party updates refer to any updates for applications and drivers you have installed on your computer. Some programs may require that you check for updates manually, but most programs have an automatic update process just like your system updates. Often you will see programs show a notification in the system tray alerting you that an update is ready to be installed. Like system updates, you should install third-party updates quickly once they have been reasonably tested. If you are part of an organization, third-party updates should be handled by a process run by your administrator.