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10 Easy Ways to Make Your Mac or PC Run Faster

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Nobody likes using a sluggish computer. Instead of banging your head against your monitor, here are 10 easy ways to speed up your Mac or PC.

1. RESTART YOUR COMPUTER.

Before you roll your eyes, consider there's a reason why this is the first thing your colleagues in the I.T. department tell you to do when you're having trouble. Certain applications experience “memory leaking”, the effects of which, after a while, add up to consume valuable resources (and thus, diminish performance). Rebooting gives your machine a fresh start and clears up any memory leakage-issues.

2. CLEAN UP YOUR HARD DRIVE.

Fresh off a reboot but still having problems? One of the best ways to make your Mac or PC run faster is to delete old files. While this process is easier said than done, there are a number of tools you can employ—that don't involve you manually clicking through thousands of files. Magican for Mac or CCleaner for PC are both programs that can help expedite what would otherwise be a pretty painful process.

One area you may not have considered tidying: your system’s language settings. Most computers come pre-installed with various alternative languages that you probably don't use, and yes, these too take up valuable hard drive space. Programs like Monolingual will go through and delete unnecessary language settings for you.

Daily hard drive maintenance and clean up will go a long way towards improving your computer’s speed and functionality.

3. UPDATE YOUR SOFTWARE.

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Those reminder pop-ups can be annoying, but they serve an important purpose: updating your software and operating system will help everything work better. If you have a Mac, make sure you have the latest version of Mac OS X (Version 10.11 “El Capitan”) from the Mac App Store. If you're on a PC, download the latest version of Windows (Windows 10). The new versions of each operating system were designed to make older computers run more efficiently, so take advantage of the upgrade.

4. MANAGE START UP …

If booting up takes up most of your morning, then it might be a good idea to cut down on the number of apps you have loading at login. In all likelihood, there are at least a few unnecessary programs that you had no idea were running. (Even if you aren't actively using them, they can still eat up memory and other important resources.)

For Mac users, go to “System Preferences,” then “Users & Groups,” and click on your username. Under the “Login Items” tab, you can check only the applications that you absolutely need when you start up.

If you're on a PC, from the “Start” menu, type in “msconfig” in the search bar. Click the “Startup” tab and you'll see the list of all the programs that boot up every time you start your system. Use this list to select only the items you absolutely need.

5. … AND BACKGROUND APPS IN GENERAL.

Too much multitasking can hinder your system’s performance, and lead to you not accomplishing any tasks at all. Curious as to which programs are causing the most problems? If you're on a Mac, open your "Utilities" folder under "Applications." Find the "Activity Monitor" for a detailed list of programs currently running. Click the "Memory" tab to find out which apps are taking up most of your RAM. If those apps aren't necessary for whatever it is you're currently working on, close 'em. 

If you're on a PC, go to the “Start” menu and search for your “Task Manager.” This is where you'll find a list of all the programs open on your machine. The “Processes” tab will help you figure out which unnecessary programs are taking up the most RAM. Then kill accordingly!

6. UNINSTALL BLOATWARE.

Once you've figured out what programs you want at startup, think more broadly about the programs you actually use. Our computers come pre-loaded with items that end up sitting on our hard drives, taking up valuable space. Unfortunately, many people don’t bother trying to uninstall them because they think they need these apps to in order for their machines to run properly.

There are tools out there that can help you decide what is necessary and what you can uninstall to make your machine work better, such as decrap.org for PC and AppCleaner for Mac. If you're willing to take more drastic measures, try reinstalling Windows or Mac OS X. Important note: This process will wipe your data, but will give you a fresh start—without bloatware. Please, please, please back up all of your data, documents, pictures, and videos before you reinstall.

7. CHECK FOR SPYWARE AND VIRUSES.

Prevention is key, but the popup overload associated with third party software can be almost as annoying as the malware it's trying to prevent. Windows 8 and 10 come pre-installed with antivirus software, and now this program, Microsoft Security Essentials is compatible for Windows 7 and Vista users.

Mac OS X already has antivirus software installed, but you should still enable “Stealth Mode” in “System Preferences” to prevent spyware. Go to “Security & Privacy” and click “Firewall Options.” At the bottom of the window, you’ll find “Stealth Mode”—make sure the option is checked.

It’s a good idea to scan for viruses and spyware once a week to keep your system running smoothly. Visit websites on the most up-to-date version of the browser you’re using, which nowadays can usually automatically detect if a website is malicious. Be smarter about clicking links in your email inbox. Never click a link or attachment in an email unless you can see the web address and avoid URL shortened links from unfamiliar senders.

8. KEEP YOUR SYSTEM COOL.

A computer will start to slow down if it’s overworked and overheated. To prevent this from happening, elevate your laptop on a stand or cooling pad to keep air circulating. (Avoid resting it on pillows or cushions, which obstruct air flow.) You can also install software, such as SMC Fan Control for Mac and SpeedFan for Windows—these will increase the speed of your CPU's fan to make it work faster.

In addition, you should also physically clean your system every other week. Dust, dirt, and other gunk can clog air vents and lead to performance issues. Turn off your machine and use canned compressed air or a vacuum to remove anything obstructing your fans. It’s also a good idea to clean your keyboard, mouse, trackpad, and monitor with baby wipes and cotton swabs on a weekly basis. Just remember not to get your computer wet.

9. MANAGE YOUR TABS.

The more tabs you have open in a browser, the slower everything gets. Using a tab manager browser extension, like OneTab and TabMan, can help you organize and consolidate your open tab—and greatly improve your productivity and speed. While you're at it, don't forget to clear your cache.

10. UPGRADE YOUR RAM.

If all else fails, take heart: you may not have to shell out hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for a new machine. First, try upgrading your computer's RAM (or Random Access Memory) to increase its speed. Depending on your usage patterns, it might be better to get more RAM, or it might be better to get faster RAM. So look around to see what’s best for you.

Upgrading RAM is generally easier for PC users than Mac users. If you're on a PC, you may be able to do it yourself. But if you're on a Mac, use a site like EveryMac.com and New Egg to figure out what kind of RAM you need and how much more you'll need for an upgrade. The folks at the Apple Genius Bar will be able to take it from there.

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Arctic Temperatures are Rising So Fast, They're Confusing the Hell Out of Computers
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This past year was a brutal one for northern Alaska, which saw temperatures that soared above what was normal month after month. But you wouldn't know that by looking at the numbers from the weather station at Utqiaġvik, Alaska. That's because the recent heat was so unusual for the area that computers marked the data as incorrect and failed to report it for the entirety of 2017, leaving a hole in the records of the Climate Monitoring group at the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), according to the Huffington Post.

The weather station in the northernmost tip of Alaska has been measuring temperatures for nearly a century. A computer system there is programed to recognize if the data has been influenced by artificial forces: Perhaps one of the instruments isn't working correctly, or something is making the immediate area unnaturally hot or cold. In these cases, the computer edits out the anomalies so they don't affect the rest of the data.

But climate change has complicated this failsafe. Temperatures have been so abnormally high that the Utqiaġvik station erroneously removed all its data for 2017 and part of 2016. A look at the region's weather history explains why the computers might have sensed a mistake: The average yearly temperature for the era between 2000 and 2017 has gone up by 1.9°F from that of the era between 1979 and 1999. Break it down by month and the numbers are even more alarming: The average temperature increase is 7.8°F for October, 6.9°F for November, and 4.7°F for December.

"In the context of a changing climate, the Arctic is changing more rapidly than the rest of the planet," Deke Arndt, chief of NOAA's Climate Monitoring Branch, wrote for climate.gov. The higher temperatures rise, the faster Arctic sea ice melts. Arctic sea ice acts as a mirror that reflects the Sun's rays back into space, and without that barrier, the sea absorbs more heat from the Sun and speeds up the warming process. “Utqiaġvik, as one of a precious few fairly long-term observing sites in the American Arctic, is often referenced as an embodiment of rapid Arctic change,” Arndt wrote.

As temperatures continue to grow faster than computers are used to, scientists will have to adjust their algorithms in response. The team at NCEI plans to have the Utqiaġvik station ready to record our changing climate once again within the next few months.

[h/t Huffington Post]

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Big Questions
What Could the Repeal of Net Neutrality Mean for Internet Users?
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What could the repeal of net neutrality mean for the average American internet user?

Zouhair Belkoura:

The imminent repeal of net neutrality could have implications for Americans beyond the Internet’s stratification, increased costs to consumers, and hindered access to content for all. Net neutrality’s repeal is a threat to the Internet’s democracy—the greatest information equalizer of our time.

With net neutrality’s repeal, ISPs could be selective about the content and pricing packages they make available. Portugal is a good example of what a country looks like without net neutrality

What people may not realize is that a repeal of net neutrality would also give ISPs the ability to throttle people’s Internet traffic. Customers won’t likely have visibility into what traffic is being throttled, and it could substantially slow down people’s Internet connections.

What happens when this type of friction is introduced to the system? The Internet—the greatest collective trove of information in the world—could gradually be starved. People who experience slower Internet speeds may get frustrated and stop seeking out their favorite sites. People may also lose the ability to make choices about the content they want to see and the knowledge they seek.

Inflated pricing, less access to knowledge, and slower connections aren’t the only impact a net neutrality repeal might have. People’s personal privacy and corporations’ security may suffer, too. Many people use virtual private networks to protect their privacy. VPNs keep people’s Internet browsing activities invisible to their ISPs and others who may track them. They also help them obscure their location and encrypt online transactions to keep personal data secure. When people have the privacy that VPNs afford, they can access information freely without worrying about being watched, judged, or having their browsing activity bought and sold by third-party advertisers.

Virtual private networks are also a vital tool for businesses that want to keep their company data private and secure. Employees are often required by their employers to connect to a VPN whenever they are offsite and working remotely.

Even the best VPNs can slow down individuals' Internet connections, because they create an encrypted tunnel to protect and secure personal data. If people want to protect their personal privacy or company’s security with a VPN [they] also must contend with ISP throttling; it’s conceivable that net neutrality’s repeal could undermine people’s freedom to protect their online safety. It could also render the protection a VPN offers to individuals and companies obsolete.

Speed has always been a defining characteristic of the Internet’s accessibility and its power. Net neutrality’s repeal promises to subvert this trait. It would compromise both people's and companies’ ability to secure their personal data and keep their browsing and purchasing activities private. When people don’t have privacy, they can’t feel safe. When they don’t feel safe, they can’t live freely. That’s not a world anyone, let alone Americans, want to live in.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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