by Todd Haselton on February 8, 2008
There’s nothing as painful as the day you realize your laptop is old. It sneaks up on you. You wake up one morning, press the Power button, and two minutes later the laptop is still booting. When you finally get to check your e-mail it takes yet another minute (or more) to launch the application.
You can get all kinds of advice from people on ways to give your system some much-needed oomph, from adding more memory to loading system optimizers. We put the following seven tips to the test on two sluggish notebooks—one running Windows Vista
and one running Windows XP—to see if they actually help.
Add Some RAM
Claim: Short of upgrading the entire system, adding RAM is usually the go-to option for speeding up a sluggish computer. We recommend having at least 1GB of RAM for XP and 2GB for Windows Vista. Crucial, a RAM manufacturer, says that adding more RAM will noticeably increase your computer’s speed and let you run more programs at once. According to its Web site, your system will be “less likely to lock up or behave strangely.”
Adding RAM to our system didn’t drastically increase boot times (just 1 second faster in XP and 2 seconds in Vista), but it did improve our overall experience. With 1GB of RAM, our Vista system booted iTunes in 29 seconds. After adding a 1GB stick from Crucial ($82.99; www.crucial.com
), iTunes launched in 17 seconds. With 2GB of RAM we were able to run three chat programs, Google Earth
, World in Conflict, iTunes, WeatherBug, and two Internet Explorer windows before our test video in Windows Media Player became too choppy to watch.
Having just 1GB and running the same test was a lesson in frustration; we could hardly even load two chat programs, WeatherBug, and Google Earth before our notebook was crawling—not to mention the choppy video playback. We also saw a difference when zipping a 385MB folder. With 1GB of RAM it took 1 hour and 44 minutes, compared with 1 hour and 10 minutes with 2GB of RAM.