Apr 15, 2016 - Internet

Sometimes, things run so slow on your computer that you can barely get your work done. Many people are inclined to blame their internet connection for sluggish computer behavior, but more often than not, it has nothing to do with your internet at all. Before you reboot your entire system for the third time this week, it might be time to look into other reasons why your computer might be running slowly. More often than not, the culprit is likely your computer’s own memory and hard drive space.

Whether you’re a Mac or a Windows user, your computer has the ability to monitor itself and keep its memory in check. Depending on your computer’s workload, though, it is often necessary to manually take charge of your computer’s space. To better understand why, let’s discuss the process by which your computer uses memory to access the internet.

When you access websites, your computer uses both memory (RAM) and storage space (your hard drive). The website that you’re looking at is stored in your memory, including all of the images, videos, banners—all the stuff on that website that’s not text—are also stored on your hard drive as temporary internet files. The computer does this so that when you visit the page again, all of that info is already stored on your hard drive, which makes the page load faster by accessing the data in a cache rather than over your internet connection.  

After a while, your temporary internet files can fill up your hard drive. Software and system utilities are getting better at keeping your temporary internet files smaller and smaller, but if your hard disk is also small, and you don’t do your own clean up, you’re going to have speed problems. You may notice that websites are loading slowly, have reduced visibility with content (like not loading banners and images), or you may have trouble opening new tabs. There is a lot that goes into deep cleaning your computer, but there some quick and easy ways to free up some space and let your internet speed soar.

Analyze Your Disk Space

The best way to figure out what is eating up all of your memory is to take a look at your hard disk and see real number displays which tell you which programs and features are using all that memory. This will give you a clear idea of what kinds of files you can consider deleting and where you can allocate more or less dedicated memory.

While some newer computers will likely have a built-in app to manage this task, you may want to consider using a separate app to do the job. For a Windows based OS, apps like WinDirStat (Windows Directory Statistics) will read your entire directory and give you three options for directory trees to give you the very best view of your computer’s systems. If you are a Mac user, Disk Inventory X will scan your hard disk and organize your space hogging programs and files into easily managed lists.

Delete Unused Apps and Programs

When you got your new computer, it likely came preinstalled with a ton of apps. Over the years, apps and programs pile up on your computer, and most people are happy enough to let them all sit there, whether or not they are used (or useful). If it is an application that you have used once, or never, removing it from you programs list can offer your computer some valuable space. There may also be processes running in the background that are being used in conjunction with that program, so removing those unused programs will also unburden the unnecessary load on your processor.

Delete and Clean Out Temporary Files

Though most computers do the job of clearing out those temporary internet files on a regular basis, those files can build quickly and take up a lot of unnecessary space. Since clearing you cache will mean that those sites will have to load from scratch the next time you visit them, this type of cleanup is especially good if you’ve just completed a large web browsing session or project which you are not likely to repeat anytime soon. There are a lot of temporary file clearing apps on the market, but the most often used is CCleaner, which is now available for both Macs and PCs. Once you have completed the cleaning, however, the cache will begin to accrue new temporary files as soon as you begin web browsing again.

Install a Solid State Hard Drive

Your hard drive is the most likely cause of slow startup times and decreasing speed on your computer. A solid state hard drive, or SSD, is a small(er) version of a hard drive which is installed directly into your computer. And it is one of the easiest ways to increase the power of your laptop too. Unlike a hard drive, an SSD moves information without the use of magnets, and the lack of movable parts means that data can be transferred far more quickly. While installing an SSD will not free up space, it will allow your computer to move and respond to programs a maximum speed.

Empty Your Trash

We are all familiar with the trash can icon on our taskbars and desktops, but how often do you clean it out? Those trash cans are filled with gigabytes of space that you are literally doing nothing with. Emptying a full digital trash can is one of the quickest and easiest ways to discard pre-sorted data from your computer, and you might be surprised just how much storage you have available after you take out the trash.