With the abundant pressure on family budgets and mountains of electronic waste growing more and more, many people will want to extend the life of their current laptop.
Cheap upgrades and free tweaks can keep laptops working happy for years, even if they’re too old for the current version of Windows or macOS.
Follow the tips below to get more life out of your laptop and save yourself an expensive trip to online stores.
Switch to an SSD
If your laptop still has a spinning hard drive inside, by far the most effective upgrade you can do is replace it with a solid state drive (SSD). SSDs are much faster than hard drives, which means apps will open in a fraction of the time and the operating system will boot faster.
Replacing a hard drive with an SSD is a relatively simple upgrade that you may be able to do on your own, but you will need a strategy for transferring your data from the hard drive to the SSD. Laptop Mag has a decent guide on how to do this on a Windows laptop.
If you are unsure of what you are doing, it is best to seek professional help. This is a simple job for a local computer repair shop and will be much cheaper than buying a new laptop.
Play games in the cloud
If you feel you need a new laptop because it is no longer capable of playing the latest games, streaming games may be a cheaper and better alternative.
For example, Microsoft’s Game Pass service lets you play a huge library of games, including FIFA 22, Fortnite, and Forza Horizon 5, via your web browser. It’s the gaming equivalent of Netflix, just stream the game from Microsoft’s servers. Performance is continually improving and with subscriptions starting at £ 7.99 per month, it’s much cheaper than buying a new gaming laptop which will cost at least four figures for decent performance.
Nvidia’s GeForce Now is another excellent cloud gaming service, especially for those who already own a large library of games purchased through Steam.
Turn your laptop into a Chromebook
By the time a laptop reaches four or five years of age, it can be difficult to even run the latest version of Windows or macOS. In fact, even laptops that are only two or three years old may not have the right hardware to run Windows 11.
A great way to supercharge a slow old system is to effectively turn it into a Chromebook, with free ChromeOS Flex. Even if your laptop isn’t on Google’s list of certified models to run ChromeOS Flex, it should be fine. We installed it on eight-year-old laptops not on the supported list with no problem.
ChromeOS is a lightweight browser-based operating system, so it’s perfect for those who use a laptop just to browse the web, shop online, watch iPlayer, or do light office work (you can use Google Docs or the online versions of the apps Microsoft Office).
One thing to note: ChromeOS Flex doesn’t support installing Android apps yet, unlike official Chromebooks.
While not as bad as it once was, one of the main reasons a Windows laptop slows down is the build-up of cruft and application builds over the years. Those apps you’ve downloaded once and forgotten about can creep into startup routines, take up valuable disk space, and generally slow performance.
Sometimes, a good cleaning is all you need. Windows 10 has a great feature for “Reset” a PC. This leaves all of your data – documents, photos, and other files – in place, but deletes all apps to get your laptop back in much the same shape as when you first bought it. You can find the option to reset a PC by pressing the Start button, then Settings> Update & Security> Recovery and following the onscreen instructions.
Make a full backup of your laptop data beforehand, just to be safe, and make sure you know where to go to re-download your key apps once the reset is complete.
Banish Show Pigs
If a reset seems a bit drastic, sometimes it’s possible to restore a laptop’s performance by simply banning one or two apps that are dragging the laptop down.
Identifying those pigs is key. In Windows, the Task Manager is your friend. Search for it from the Windows search menu. This will reveal all running apps that place huge demands on the processor (CPU) or memory (RAM) of the laptop. Sometimes it’s the apps you least expect that can hinder performance. Be especially careful not to have too many tabs open in a web browser, for example, which can be a real brake on a laptop’s memory.
For Macs, there’s a nifty little utility called iStat Menus that can identify memory and CPU issues, as well as provide a battery of other performance data on your MacBook that could identify what’s wrong.