This was the highlight of my weekend

I’m getting increasingly sick of slow computers.

Maybe it’s because I’m a convert to the cheap, fast, cloud-connected Chromebooks. These things blow fuddy-duddy old PCs out of the water.

I’ve written about them a couple of times before. If you’re looking to upgrade your computer, or get into the increasingly important ‘cloud’ way of life, I recommend you take a look at a couple of articles I wrote on the subject here and here.

Chromebooks are all well and good, but from time to time I still have to boot up my old Windows PC, what a drag it is!

But that may be about to change. I’ve recently discovered a straightforward way of making my old laptop – and desktop, for that matter – miles more productive.

If, like me, you begrudgingly boot up your slow old PC, you may want to pay attention. The change I made this weekend has made my old PC a joy to use. At the very least, it means I won’t have to go out and trawl for a new one any time soon.

It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s not particularly expensive to do. I just wish somebody had told me about it years ago, that’s why I feel compelled to tell you now!

Let me explain what I’m talking about.

Turn back the clock

The thing about your standard PC, Mac, or whatever, is that it tends to become rather decrepit after a few years.

There are things you can do to slow the ageing process, but unlike my hallowed Chromebook – which only ever seems to get faster – these old machines tend to age in the same way as I do. Badly!

But there is a cure.

If you know all about the wonders of solid state drives, you may want to tune out now. If not, listen close…

You see, probably the biggest heartache for your PC is its laggardly old hard-drive… you know, the thing that holds all of your vital details, and all the expensive programs you’ve paid for.

But there’s something you can do to give it a new lease of life.

Introducing the solid state drive

It’s simple – replace that old whizzing hard drive with a modern solid state drive (SSD), and suddenly your PC is back in action.

These things are amazing. They operate on a similar technology to the ubiquitous USB sticks and memory cards we all use. Only thing is, this one sits inside and drives your PC.

Like a gramophone record, standard disk drives have a spinning plate and a stylus-like reader. As you can imagine, they are delicate, use a lot of energy and are prone to a lingering death. They certainly don’t take well to being dropped!

But once you replace that archaic bit of kit, suddenly you have a new machine. A machine with barely a moving part, which cuts down on heat and battery use.

The result? You get rid of that awful whirring noise and experience life in the fast lane – even with an old unit!

So why isn’t everyone doing it?

There’s a reason the military uses this tech

Well, the answer to that is: some people are!

Top-end users like the military have long-since made the move to solid disk drives, because  they apparently provide better security and they’re more robust.

The only thing stopping widespread adoption, up until now, is that they’ve been a very expensive upgrade.

But as technology has advanced, these things have become much cheaper. And if you’re looking to upgrade a desktop, then the economics get even better.

With a desktop you can usually keep your existing drive and just add a small additional solid state drive. You just run the operating system from the new one.

And if you’re worried about shelling out money fitting a SSD to an old PC that may die anyway, never fear. Even if your computer does give up the ghost, you can always shift the new drive onto another machine.

It’s easy. Here’s how you do it.

A seamless switch

I know, I know, when considering making the switch to a new drive,  your first concern is how can you keep all your data and programs safe, right?

Well, of course you can take your unit to a pro and let them deal with it. Or you can do as I did. I bought a kit for around £15 – which included a CD and the leads needed to connect the new drive to my existing PC.

Then you simply copy everything direct from the old drive to the new one, effectively doing a computer back-up. The operation takes a few minutes to set up and then about half an hour to run.

Once the new drive has been ‘cloned’ (to use geek-speak), simply replace the old hard-drive with the new one.

Then reboot the PC, and you’re off. Boy, in my case this thing was now moving at lightning pace, nearly as quick as my Chromebook!

And the best thing? From beginning to end, you can do it all yourself.

Do it yourself

There’s loads of guidance on how to replace drives for particular computer models on YouTube.

I spent 20 minutes online researching the right drive for me. I spent 5 minutes ordering it. I waited one day before it arrived and then invested 45 minutes actually putting in the new drive.

Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, then just don’t do it. I dare say you know somebody with the requisite skills – and if not, simply get a pro to do the job.

But 20 minutes research, 45 minutes installation – that’s significantly less time than I’d spend even just browsing the web for a new laptop. £15 is certainly a lot less money than I’d spend on an upgrade.

And to top it all, I’ve got a laptop that’s functioning not as good as new, but better!

So there it is, a slightly different Right Side for you today – I hope you enjoyed. I’d love to hear your views on the subject.

Anyway, next time we’ll be back to cold-hard financial investments.

  • WRC

    I did the same for my ageing laptop a couple of months ago. Best bit of IT hardware I’ve ever bought. I now have a super fast computer and I saved a few hundred quid by not buying a new laptop. Win win.

  • Pappous

    SSDs are not particularly new. My 3 years old PC has had one from new and wasn’t expensive even then. It runs the OS and programs with data etc., on on board ‘old fashioned’ HDDs which is immediately backed up on external drives. The SSD is also cloned.

    SSDs may be more robust but there’s one drawback: if they fail they tend to fail without any warning signs (just like sticks on which I never keep anything important because of their failure rates). One minute they’re perfect and the next you have a failed system which is why mine is cloned and updated regularly. At least with the old HDDs there are usually little niggles that warn that all is not well.

    By the way, I’m not a ‘geek’ but a ‘silver surfer’ who’s quite adept at using a few specific programs but my technical knowledge of computers is very close to zero.

    SSDs are useful and fast but they’re not the holy grail.

  • Pauly

    Next best thing – download free CCleaner and run it against your machine. After over 30 years getting used to machines gradually getting slower, this software has made a massive difference. It clears out old registry entries and all sorts of other crud and the difference in boot up time and responsiveness has been amazing. I have no connection with this product in any shape or form. Paul

  • John Wynne

    I notice that much on-line advice is that an SSD is not advisable for an old laptop running Windows XP. Does anyone have input/experience on this? Indeed, Bengt, what software is on your rejuvenated machine?