Computers are never perfect. We’ve all been stuck with that annoyingly slow work computer, the one loaded down with way too many unwieldy enterprise programs and not enough memory. You might be able to build the sleekest rig in existence but your company probably won’t let you use it for work.
I’ve been working with a Windows PC for my day job that could definitely be faster. 2 GB of RAM and an older processor means there is only so much I can run at a time before it starts locking up.
Here are some quick tips I found to better manage system resources.
4 Tips for Using a Slow, Low-End Work PC
No more Chrome
Look, Chrome is great. It’s incredibly popular among power users because of its fast development time, modern interface, ease of use and deep library of extensions. I use Chrome on my personal computer because it’s fast and my MacBook Air’s 8 GB of RAM can handle it.
But here’s the thing. Chrome uses a lot of memory. Seriously, a lot of memory. From Lifehacker:
Chrome splits every tab, plugin, and extension into its own process, so that if one thing crashes—like Flash—it doesn’t bring down the whole web page, or all your tabs at once. This can lead to higher memory (aka RAM) usage, since it has to duplicate some tasks for every tab. But it also makes things a lot more convenient.
All that plus pre-rendering pages in the background means Chrome takes up a boatload of memory that you probably can’t spare.
The solution? Use Firefox.
In my experience, Firefox tends to be jankier and less sleek than Chrome. However, it also uses a hell of a lot less memory. It doesn’t even load tabs into your PC’s memory until you click on them.
No more Flash
I mistakenly thought the best way to listen to Spotify on a slow PC was to do it through the browser. Then it’s just a tab, and that takes up less memory than a desktop app, right?
Wrong. Internet Spotify runs on Flash, and
Web-based Spotify runs on Flash, and Flash is the worst. You are far better off just not using Flash (my build of Firefox seems to have it disabled by default) for power, memory, security and sanity reasons.
Use Small, Portable Apps
This is a win for sanity, security and memory. Once again, it means (in one case) avoiding an Adobe product.
Think of all the things you use your PC for. Opening a PDF. Composing a document. Editing a spreadsheet. Email. Now find programs that do those things while using the bare minimum of memory. Think of Sumatra PDF, WordPad, Google Sheets and a Gmail tab.
These programs have twin advantages of being easy on your computer and easy to install, even if you don’t have administrative access to your work PC. Avoid big, heavy programs like Adobe Reader and Microsoft Excel (unless you’re doing serious spreadsheet work). They are less safe, take up more memory and are just worse in a lot of cases than the simple alternatives. If you’re composing unformatted text, why bother with all of Microsoft Word?
Switch Your Windows Theme
Windows 7 and later versions in particular have partially transparent windows that look nice but require a good bit of processing power. You can switch it off to save a little speed when rendering windows.
To switch it off, Right-click on the desktop > Personalize > Themes > Windows 7 Basic. This switches all the windows to a flat color. It doesn’t look as nice but it is a little faster.
The biggest thing to do with a computer that doesn’t have a lot of memory is to use the right program. Firefox over Chrome, Sumatra over Adobe Reader, etc. Pick the program that does the bare minimum and stick to it.
Also, be sure to restart your PC every once in a while. Turning it off and back on again is the universal solution to most computer problems and can solve even most slowdowns.