Breathe New Life Into Your PC or Mac Computer

Breathe_new_life_into_computer_RAM_macbook_pro_appleFor 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

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Hi, I'm Harry, the owner and head writer for Your PF Pro. I started this site back in 2011 in order to create a place where young professionals could come and get all of their financial questions answered. On the site, you'll find articles on everything from asset allocation for retirement to saving money at Chipotle! So enjoy..

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  1. Occidental Charlie Hearse says

    Thanks Harry. The details in this blog entry are exactly what I need for my upcoming purchase of a new Mac desktop, regardless of whether I opt for the 2012 mini or the 2012 iMac.

    I agree that Apple’s prices for RAM upgrades are ridiculously high, so I’ve used your links to find and bookmark the appropriate pages for my upcoming purchase.

    • says

      Great, I’m glad I could help. I saw a commercial for the Vizio all in one(PC) this past weekend and I was really impressed with their product. It looked like you could get a top of the line 27″ touch screen Vizio for $1,500. Keep me updated on your purchase because I’m very curious to see how it compares to the iMac as this is the PC competitor.

      I believe the 2012 21″ iMac’s RAM can’t be upgraded(Apple claims this is because they want it to be very thin). But the 27″ can be upgraded to a whopping 32 GB which is pretty ridiculous. Or you can always go for the 2011 versions which I believe you can upgrade yourself.

  2. says

    Thanks for the tip Harry. My wife has MacBook Pro, it’s about 2.5 years old, and she absolutely loves it. I am certain it has nothing to do with her love of all things Apple. ;) We might be looking to do something like this at some point this year as we continue to bring on new business and have more stored on it.

  3. says

    This works pretty well with the old models (we upgraded the RAM on my old Powerbook and have upgraded it on Mr. PoP’s 2008 Macbook). But watch out on the new models as some have the RAM soldered onto the Motherboard, so it can only be replaced by Apple.

    • says

      Yea I know this really pissed me off! I think Apple’s reasoning is they want to make their computers thinner but that’s total BS. You will never find this on a PC, Apple’s going a little over the top here IMO. You should be able to upgrade your own RAM, hard drive, etc. Either way, I have an old MBP and won’t be buying a new one for a while so I don’t need to worry about it.

  4. Bichon Frise says

    Same goes for hard drives. I dropped my MBP while it was running and it killed the hard drive. A $70 trip to Fry’s, a youtube video and about 15 mins later I was installing the OS. And my hard drive more than doubled the storage I previously had.

    • says

      Nice, that’s a great tip too. I think the hard drive might be a little more complex but with the help of youtube/google you can pretty much figure out anything if you put your mind to it.

      I like products that have replaceable/interchangeable parts. On my new S3, you can switch out the battery, memory, etc very easily. The same cannot be said about my old iPhone.

  5. says

    I have upgraded RAM so many times on different computers that I could do it in my sleep now. You should also think about cleaning up your hard drive, defragmenting, and running any disc cleanups that you have. These are easy ways to clean up your computer, but you can only gain so much power. The only other alternative is to increase your processor speed, which is not something most people know how to do.

    • says

      Nice, yea it gets easier and easier each time. I think it’s easier for non-computer people to just pop out the RAM and put some new ones in than to defragment and go through all the other steps you mentioned. But those are definitely good options too.

      How do you increase your processor speed?

    • says

      Haha probably or maybe you are visiting a lot of shady sites?? jk :) But in all seriousness, it does help a lot, I effectively doubled the RAM in my computer and now everything is lightning fast once again. Only problem is I’m maxed out on RAM now.

  6. says

    Our PC was rebuilt back in 2009 and we’ve been using it ever since. It seems to be ok although it runs slower I’m sure for all the reasons you discuss. We were wanting to replace it with a newer model and thought about Apple. We’re not sure yet but thanks for the tips in this post.

    • says

      Nice, I’ve been looking at the Vizio all in one(similar to an iMac). Really nice computer for $1,500 for the top of the line model. I don’t really need a desktop but it’s making me want to buy one.

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