Computers seem to get slower with age. Anyone who has kept a computer for more than three years has experienced this problem. What once seemed fast begins to feel sluggish and ancient.

There are reasons for this. Operating systems tend to become more resource intensive over time, hardware obsolescence, and the exuberance felt in the first months of owning a laptop. That’s why some people often buy new laptops, but there are ways to make an older model feel brand new again.

take it away

old laptop new life

All computers acquire dust and dirt as they age. In the worst case scenario, your laptop may slowly choke on invading particles. Internal temperatures rise, reducing the efficiency of your equipment. As the problem gets worse, some components have to slow down, slowing down the laptop.

Cleaning a laptop is easy. All laptops, even Apple’s unibody MacBooks, can access their internals by removing the bottom bezel. This usually requires removing a few screws and then using a small sharp object to pry off the panel.

Once inside, use a can of compressed air to blow off the dust, dust off the corners and fans with the cotton Q-tips, and reseal the device. You may have to do this many times over the course of owning your laptop, but it will still run like new.

Reinstall or change operating system

give an old laptop a new life

Operating systems can become unreliable over time. Ideally, you should be able to fix any issues by uninstalling software, deleting incorrect registry entries, and the like. In fact, there seems to be a point where this becomes useless, or requires less effort than reinstalling the operating system.

While you are thinking about reinstalling the operating system, you should consider changing it as well. If you’re running an older version of Windows, especially Vista, upgrading to Windows 7 is worth it (though expensive, and again, you may feel it’s unwise to spend that much on an old laptop).

Or you can go the other direction and install an alternative operating system. Windows users are sometimes tempted to try OS X, but I don’t recommend it. Getting Hackintosh to work is a real pain, OS X is no longer forgiving of old hardware and is not free.

Something based on Linux is your best bet. Ubuntu is an old standby that is now quite mature. Lightweight versions of Linux worth considering if your laptop is over five years old. And don’t forget the Google Chrome OS, which can be installed on a wide range of hardware using the Lime build. .

Install more RAM

give an old laptop a new life

RAM is the default hardware upgrade recommendation for older laptops, and for good reason. New operating systems often feel slow, not because of insufficient processing power, but because of a lack of memory.

This update is also easy to recommend as it is (generally) easy to install. Most PC laptops have a small panel, usually secured with one or two screws, that covers the RAM. Remove this panel and you can upgrade it without dismantling the entire laptop. There may even be instructions in your laptop’s manual.

I recommend going up to 4 GB of RAM (no more, no less). You should be able to buy this for $60 to $80. Before you make a purchase, research the RAM the laptop needs, or just look at what RAM is currently installed. This is usually marked.

Buy a new wireless adapter

give an old laptop a new life

This is an often overlooked update. If you have an older laptop, it probably uses 802.11g, and if it really old, it can use 802.11a/b. These standards are inferior to the new 802.11n standard and the update will improve your web browsing experience.

You can buy an 802.11n USB 2.0 adapter for as little as $20. This is for the 150Mbps version, which is not top-notch, but is about as fast as most users would need. Faster dual-band adapters cost a bit more on average, but are still reasonable.

You will need a wireless router that can handle 802.11n. Consider the cost of a new router (about $50) if you don’t already have one that can support the standard.

Install a solid state drive

old laptop new life

Hard drive speed is a common issue. Most laptops come with 5400 rpm drives which have low spindle speeds and low data transfer rates. Worse, the cheap drives found in many laptops tend to have sluggish access times. This can cause your computer to freeze or process something when you open a new file. Often it’s not a processor fault — it’s the hard drive slowly turning the mechanical read/write head and the drive into a position where the correct data can be read.

Solid State Drives do not have mechanical parts. Even those made a few years ago had access times of less than ten milliseconds. Today, most SSDs have access times of just a couple of milliseconds. The data transfer speed is also much faster, so larger apps will load faster.

There is only one problem and that is the price. A decent 128GB mid-range model like the Crucial M4 will set you back $150. A 256 GB model can cost $300. This makes it the most expensive recommendation to date, and some users may think they’re better off buying a new laptop rather than spending so much money on an outdated one. Personally, I don’t recommend this update for laptops over 3 years old.


The tips here can help get your laptop back on its feet. I suggest trying them in order. If you are not happy with cleaning your laptop, reinstall the operating system. And if it still feels sluggish, upgrade the RAM.

Do you have any tips that are not listed here? We would like to know about them, so leave a comment.

Image Credit: Ivan Gabovich, Alex Gorzen

Похожие записи