Limping along

My poor old laptop. It’s a Dell Inspiron 8500 which I’ve had for three and a half years. It’s been to America, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Ireland and is about to go on trips to Hungary, Poland and Spain. It’s been used almost every day. It has been a maid of all work, carrying out business and personal tasks for me and for Hels for the whole of that time. And the poor thing is beginning to show the signs of age.

This week, I’ve noticed that it’s been slowing down a lot. Partly, I’m sure, that is due to heat, as the fan is running a lot and the battery life is consequently diminished. But I also took the time to have a poke about in the innards and found that the hard drive is 94% full. This is clearly not sustainable. So I’ve shunted some of my less-frequently heard music files on to the external hard drive that I use to back everything up (6pm, every Thursday), used the disk cleanup utility and had a defrag. Things are running a little more smoothly now, but it is clear that this computer is not long for this world, certainly not as my main computer (I plan to retire it and give it to Hels to use).

However, I’ve decided that it must struggle on for a little while longer. Having looked at the specification required to run Windows Vista, it seems sensible for me to wait until after the launch of Vista and purchase a new machine then, bundled with the new operating system. It certainly makes no sense to buy a machine now and then have to fork out to upgrade the OS next year.

Of course, what I really need to do is spend some time deleting more crap from the hard drive. There are certainly some photos there that are of no value and could disappear. There are probably some music files too. And I suspect that there are one or two stupid games that I could live without. The problem is that I’m not very well disciplined with my hard drive – I tend to shove everything on it and treat it like a huge dustbin that I can go and rummage in when I need to find something.

So, what shall I do? Change my ways? Or buy a computer with a bigger dustbin?

11 Replies to “Limping along”

  1. I’m in a similar situation – I would free up as much space as possible on the disk BEFORE defragging also take a good look in the temp folders in any users folders on the document and settings folder in the c: drive, also firefox cache and ie cache?

    Finally check out PageDefrag and Power Defragmenter GUI which will defrag the places windows defragger can reach! 🙂

    Doing that improved the situation on my pc so it is usable again – but I think you have to free some space to get a noticable improvement. You’re right not to buy a PC now I think. With Vista on the horizon it really is a short-term fix.

  2. Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup will clear out your temporary internet files, recycle bin and temp files all in one go. Also, Control Panel > Add and Remove Programs. If there is anything on there that you don’t recognise, do some research on the web to find out what it is and if you can do without it.

    Then empty your recycle bin and defragment (using one of the tools that Darren suggested, if you like).

    If the 8500 suits your requirements, surely it is better to spend £100 on a hard drive upgrade than £600 or whatever on a new machine with Vista? Don’t upgrade to Vista just because it is there – you should make sure that you have a much more compelling reason to upgrade before you take the plunge.

  3. Also, one other thing you can do to improve performance: right click on your C: icon and choose Properties. There’s a checkbox with the caption “Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching”.

    If you’re like me, you rarely use the Windows search tool (because generally things stay where you put them). If this box is checked, uncheck it and click OK.

  4. I’ve done everything you’ve both suggested so far (except use a third-party defrag tool – I’ll investigate further) and things are going pretty well. I’ve also been thinking about what has been changed on my laptop in the last week or so that has caused things to slow down – the only significant change was an upgrade of Spysweeper from 4.5 to 5.0. I’ve just disabled it and suddenly everything is running faster. Hmm, I’m not keen on having this disabled, but it is clearly causing a lot of the problem.

  5. Memory isn’t the issue, it’s hard drive capacity. At the moment, I plan to get along by moving some less-used files to my external drive, which hopefully will give my machine another 6-8 months of usefulness, then upgrade to a new model.

  6. Sounds like Spysweeper is the problem. Also, what anti-virus do you use? In my experience, Norton software is very resource-hoggy too.

    Anti-spyware software is generally unnecessary. If you have a firewall installed and you use Firefox with the NoScript extension, then you shouldn’t need it.

  7. I’m using AVG which seems to get on without eating my CPU.
    I’ll keep the spyware disabled and maybe just run a weekly sweep to be sure.

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