Imagine that you sit down, pop the lid on your laptop and fire it up.
As you sit there and wait (and wait) you begin to wonder if a newer laptop wouldn’t save the frustration of watching the screen slowly load. Perhaps you even fantasize about what a slimmer and faster machine might be like.
As with anything, time and usage can bleed the life out of electronics. Enough wear and tear can eventually bring about the need for a newer model.
Before making that decision though, there are a few things to consider.
Have You Properly Maintained Your Laptop?
It’s tempting to assume that age, in itself, can slow down a computer. The reality is that there’s always discernable reasons performance degrades. There’s no magic here – just maintenance.
Clean the Hard Drive
You’ll want to ensure your laptop’s hard drive isn’t packed with items that are no longer needed. This can involve uninstalling applications, removing temporary files and deleting other items that do little more than take up space.
Be careful and don’t go deleting (required) system files. Also, if there are items you want to keep but don’t use often, consider offloading onto an external storage device (USB hard drive, thumb drive, etc.).
Close Programs Running in the Background
Your computer has only so many resources to dedicate to the applications running. You’ll want to ensure you’re only running what is needed at any given time.
This doesn’t mean you should turn off your anti-virus (AV) software. That’s a necessary overhead. Still, there are other things to look for.
It’s important, particularly with Windows operating systems, to occasionally check what is running. A quick way to take a peek is to bring up the Task Manager (CTRL + ALT + DEL). In Windows 10, you should see a Startup tab.
You can right-click any items in this list and choose to Disable them.
Update Device Drivers
This won’t be an issue on a MacBook, but Windows/PC laptops must regularly have their device drivers updated.
These drivers are the software that tells how each device talks to the operating system. If they are out of date or corrupt, things can slow down – if not come to a halt.
Windows tries to keep these updated nowadays, but it doesn’t hurt to manually check on them. You can force them to upgrade from the Device Manager.
Run AV Scans
This might seem a no-brainer in today’s world, but it’s easy to be lax with security.
Aside from all the terrible things you’ve already heard that malware can do, one of the lesser (but still painful) experiences is machine performance.
If you notice a sudden decrease in speed or your machine tends to lock up, then you’ll want to scan your laptop with a good anti-virus (AV) program. While performance issues don’t necessarily mean you have a virus, it’s good to be certain.
Can Your Laptop Keep Up With Today’s Software?
There are thousands of applications that run on today’s machines. The type and usage of these various software packages will help determine how beefy of a machine you’ll need.
Consider what the requirements are for upgrading any applications to the latest version. Be careful with terms like “minimum requirements”. Just because something has enough resources to launch doesn’t mean it will run properly.
If your hard drive space is no longer optimal or the RAM in your machine is barely getting you by, you might want to consider upgrading those items before replacing the entire machine.
Also, keep in mind that older hard drives (the ones with spinning magnetic heads) are much slower than the newer solid-state drives (SSD). Most laptops should come with SSD today. Aside from faster speeds, SSDs are also more compact.
As for RAM, don’t settle for anything below 8 GB RAM. Unless your laptop is little more than a glorified web browser, that should be the minimum. Realistically, 12 GB or 16 GB is a safer bet.
Will Your Future Usage Require More Power?
The question of what you’ll be doing with your machine over the next year or two is an important one to answer.
Is your computer a desktop publishing device? Maybe it’s a repository for family vacation pics. Then again, you may play your favorite MMO from behind that keyboard. Whatever the case, ask yourself if the current laptop can handle the task(s) going forward.
If not, you can still consider some upgrades. Then again, if your machine is woefully inadequate, you may opt to simply replace it.
Let’s be honest, unless you have one of those gaming laptops, you’re better off sticking with a beefy desktop for serious gaming.
If your machine can’t upgrade its RAM to at least 16 GB (preferably more for some games), the video graphics aren’t stout enough or 4K isn’t supported by the current hardware/display, you might need to trade it for a more worthy model.
If mobility is important, consider a laptop dedicated to the task of gaming.
Your laptop’s power isn’t the only consideration here – as network bandwidth is paramount. That said, this is about your laptop and not your internet service provider.
Again, RAM, graphics power and display resolution are important here. If you can’t upgrade the individual hardware, you may have to consider a newer machine.
If you’re blogging, copywriting or writing the next great American novel, tweaking the machine’s hardware is the likely choice.
Also, a dedicated web browser doesn’t require a lot of resources – assuming you’re not streaming podcasts, etc.
In other words, you wouldn’t buy a sports car if you only need to commute a short distance – at a top speed of 50 mph.
Consider Your Options
At the end of the day, the decision to upgrade or replace your laptop typically comes down to two basic things – need versus cost.
Does it make more sense to upgrade an item or two? Is the harmony of that new and shiny laptop calling out to you just too much to resist?
If you have the cash to burn, go enjoy your new laptop. Otherwise, consider proper maintenance and upgrades to keep the current machine going.