For the past 5 years, all of my personal computer use has been on a 2009 Macbook Pro that I got as a graduation gift. I didn’t have to worry too much about the cost at the time since it was a gift and I got a small student discount. But recently, I started to notice a huge performance decline, it was running slower and I couldn’t run multiple programs at once. This slowdown was bound to happen eventually but I knew I wasn’t ready to spend another $1,500 for a new laptop.
I’ve compared the costs of Apple vs PC before and even though Apple computers are more expensive, I still prefer their laptops. I’ve gotten a ton of use out of my MacBook Pro and I’ve never had a major problem with it(It seems like it’s much harder to get a virus or infected with spyware too). On my old PC laptop, it felt like I was getting infected with malware/spyware once every few months and no I wasn’t clicking on any “You’ve won a free iPad” links.
What Causes The Slowdown
Computers won’t go through many physical changes as they get older like with a car or a refrigerator. There just aren’t a ton of moving parts that can break, so what causes your computer to slow down? Generally, as you acquire more and more programs and files, your computer needs to store all that information. Sometimes it can’t store it all in one place, so it ‘fragments’ it across multiple places. Every time you need to access this data, your computer will have to search through more and more stuff until it finds it. Makes sense right?
There’s also the fact that software updates will require more and more of your computing power so a newer version of Microsoft Word might use more RAM than an older version. This is a simplified explanation and there’s a lot more that goes into it, but know that eventually your computer will slow down and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.
You should be more concerned with how to speed things up! The most effective way would be to completely reformat your hard drive, essentially restoring it to factory settings. This can be a real PITA though, and it requires technical knowledge and the know how to make a full back up of your hard drive. Fortunately, there’s an option that requires no technical knowledge of computers at all and is very simple
The $40 Fix – Upgrade the RAM
This fix isn’t really a secret but most people don’t know just how easy it is to replace the RAM on your computer. It literally took me less than 5 minutes to install new RAM on my MacBook Pro and my computer is lightning fast again. It’s also a good idea to buy the lowest RAM option available on a new computer and upgrade yourself(you’ll save a couple hundred bucks doing it this way with a Mac).
My computer came with 4GB of RAM but it can handle up to 8GB. RAM is essentially the memory that allows you to access your data quickly. If you run out of RAM, your computer will use a portion of the hard drive which will severely slow down your computer. Below, I highlight in 3 simple steps how to upgrade the RAM for my late 2009 MacBook Pro. If you have a PC, you’ll have to google how to replace the RAM but it’s the same basic process.
- First Step: Check the amount of RAM currently in your computer by going to: Apple logo -> About This Mac -> Memory
- My computer had 4 GB 1067 MHz DDR3
- Second Step: Find out how much RAM your computer can handle. For some reason, Apple lists the maximum memory as only 4GB for my laptop but I went on a couple forums and found out that this is false. I used the scanner here to figure out how much RAM my laptop could really handle.
- I upgraded to 8 GB of Crucial DDR3 1066 RAM(aff link). Double check the Amazon reviews to make sure the RAM will be compatible with your computer.
- Third Step: Installing the RAM was probably the easiest part since all I had to do was remove the screws, pop out the old RAM and install the new RAM. A quick tip that is good for any project is to make sure you know which screw came from where even if they all appear identical.
That’s it! Once you’ve installed your new memory, use the first step from above to make sure that your computer is recognizing the memory and you should see immediate improvements. I like buying the memory from Amazon since if there are any problems or you buy the wrong RAM, returns are easy and hassle free. But there are tons of sites you can buy from.
Readers, have you ever thought about installing RAM or does the task seem too daunting? What do you do when your computer starts to slow down?
-Harry @ PF Pro