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How to Give New Life to Old School MS Computers

By Jay Geater*

At a time when recognition of technology and its possible educational benefits is growing, for some schools, the digital divide is widening every day. Many schools in low income areas are facing the cold hard fact that, thanks to archaic computers, their student body is lacking important technological knowledge.

Until the disparity can be solved by the U.S. Department of Education, many schools are stuck with outdated machines and wired connections. So how can school administrators and its IT department make the most of these increasingly slow dinosaurs and help their students to succeed in the digital age?

By increasing the speed of their current machines.

Why do computers slow down over time? As new software is released, more memory and hard drive space is needed to run it. When said software is installed on older computers, the machine slows down drastically.

Depending on the situation, speeding up an old computer can be a relatively simple task.

Doing Things the Easy Way

There are several things that can be done to increase a computer’s speed. Here are three effortless ways that can be performed by almost anyone:

  • Start by cleaning up the disk. Uninstall unneeded programs and delete space-hogging files that aren’t strictly necessary. Even if there is plenty of space, clutter can still slow things down. Some programs create temporary files meant to be sorted later. These files can be eliminated with a program cleaner. Finally, run Disk Cleanup and defragment the drive. This will almost always take a few seconds off boot time and application loads for any computer.
  • Put a damper on any programs that run at start-up. Click Start > Run and type msconfig at the prompt. Click the Startup tab and uncheck any programs that don’t need to run at start-up. Be careful not to disable any anti-virus programs or system components.
  • Run a full anti-virus and anti-spyware scan. If you don’t have a good anti-virus program, check out PC Magazine’s review of free programs here.

The Big Guns

If a computer is still running sluggishly after completing the above steps, it might be time to try something a little more drastic. Some of these steps might require a professional.

  • Upgrade the RAM. This will make almost any computer run faster. Older PCs rarely have enough RAM to run the memory-devouring operating systems and applications of today. Add a high- capacity stick of quality RAM and watch that slow-moving computer take off!
  • Reinstall Windows. If upgrading the RAM didn’t do the trick, it may be time to wipe the slate clean and start again. By reformatting the hard drive, reinstalling applications, and restoring data files from a backup, a huge difference can be seen in the way the operating system moves.
  • Upgrade the hard drive. When all else fails, it’s time to replace the hard drive. Since magnetic disks degrade over time, some performance issues could be caused by a failing hard drive. Upgrading to a new model will solve almost any problem, although it may be costly for multiple computers.

Keep Up That Hustle

To keep a computer working at a decent speed, some tasks need to be performed daily, weekly and monthly.

  • Clear cookies and other temporary web data. Web browsers respond quicker when they’re not bogged down with junk. Clear temporary internet files daily or weeks to keep your browser functioning beautifully.
  • Check for malware and spyware weekly. An infected computer is not only slow, it’s dangerous to other computers in the network.
  • Install automatic updates. It’s recommended to check for new operating system updates a few times a month. Many updates help close security holes and improve certain aspects of the operating system.
By using simple fixes to extend the life of old computer, low-income schools with thin budgets can focus on getting their students the other supplies they need to learn.

(*) Jay Geater is the founder and CEO of Solvusoft, a producer of PC utility software. When he’s not working hard on doing good things in the world of tech, he’s salivating over fast cars and even faster motorcycles.

Education & Tech

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