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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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Control the World With a Wave of Your Hand Using This $30 Motion Sensor
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Kano

"Learn to code" is all the rage in kids' toys—even those aimed at preschoolers. As educational toys go, though, Kano's are pretty fun. Earlier this summer, Kano released the Lite Brite-esque Pixel Kit, an LED board that kids (or anyone, really) can program to change and visualize information using the coding tutorials on the Kano desktop app. Now, the company has come out with a stand-alone motion sensor that allows you to see the impact of your code with a wave of the hand.

The $30 sensor kit is only a little bigger than a 50-cent piece, and set-up is as easy as attaching two pieces to a USB port and plugging the cable into a computer. The Kano app will show you what to do next, walking you through a series of "challenges" that hold your hand through the process of coding the sensor to change what you see within the app, whether it's changing the color of an image or playing a virtual game of Pong by waving your hand in front of your computer. The sensor can register three axes of movement, so that you can control different actions by moving your hand left-right, up-down, and forward-backward.

A blue Kano booklet of instructions sits next to a small blue sensor that looks like a periscope.
Kano

The tutorials vary from the very simple (make an arrow rotate according to gestures) to the slightly more involved (build a Pong game). But all of them are made extremely simple with drag-and-drop blocks of JavaScript code, step-by-step instructions, and highlights on the correct choices. If you put your code in the wrong place, the tutorial won't move on. No matter what your real level of understanding of the underlying code, you're going to build that Pong game. Hopefully, you'll pick up a few tricks on the way, though, which will eventually allow you to build your own games.

The motion sensor kit is the most accessible of Kano's products, both in terms of its price (the Pixel Kit is $80 compared to the motion sensor's $30) and the number of things you can do with it. The gesture-based controller can be used to play games, make moving art, or control music. You don't have to have any other Kano equipment, but if you do, you can plug it into other kits to make, say, a motion-activated Pixel Kit light show.

You can buy the Motion Sensor Kit on Kano's website starting today.

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Meet the 17-Year-Old World Champion of Excel Spreadsheets
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If you spend hours creating spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel for your office job, that work may one day pay off. The Excel World Championship recently awarded its winner a $7000 prize for demonstrating his “skills and creativity” while completing a series of tasks in the program. But the new champion doesn’t come from the professional world—he’s a student at Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, Virginia.

As the New York Post reports, John Dumoulin has won a total of $10,000 in prize money for his Excel expertise. He first discovered his talent when he took a Microsoft Excel 16 certification exam for an IT class at his high school. His score was the highest in the state and it qualified him to join other spreadsheet aficionados at a national competition in Orlando, Florida.

After snagging the $3000 cash prize at that event, he moved on to compete with pros from around the world at the Microsoft Excel World Championship in Anaheim, California. The competition included 150 participants from 49 countries. Never in its history has an American taken home the grand prize, but this year Dumoulin became the first.

The teenager first became acquainted with Excel in middle school, when he made spreadsheets to track the performance of his favorite baseball team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. He told the Associated Press that he’d like to one day make a career out of doing data analytics for baseball teams. For now, his focus is on graduating from high school.

[h/t New York Post]

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