I spend a lot of time, eight to twelve hours per day, online and so even small efficiencies can make a difference to my life. Over the past few years Iâ??ve tried many options to accelerate my progress, highlights of which follow below.
Upgrade your computer
Surfing the web may not sound like a demanding task, but modern browsers have a lot to do. In addition to displaying static content on screen they have to handle dozens of plugins from Flash to Java, while downloading content from multiple sources and processing audio, video and 3D animation.
As a result todayâ??s browsers are hungry beasts, with every tab requiring additional RAM. Our work machines have all been maxed out to their 8MB limit and some days we wish they had more.
Multicore processors are well suited to handling multiple tabs and so this is another area where you donâ??t want to cut too many corners. Any mid-to-high end i3, i5 or i7 should be fine, but avoid stripped down Celeron type cores unless youâ??re really on a bugted (in which case you should buy more RAM first).
Uninstall unnecessary applications
A few months ago I upgraded to a swanky i7 laptop thinking that it would run like a dream. On day one it felt great, much faster than my previous i5, however, by the end of the first month the difference was far less noticeable.
So, I used Soluto, a clever Windows boot up manager, to see what was taking so long and stopped many rarely used applications that were trying to preload when Windows starts. This saved a couple of minutes per boot (down from four minutes to two) and stopped my new machine from feeling like an old one. On older machines the time savings are even more significant and unlike hardware upgrades this solution is free.
Uninstall unnecessary plugins
In the same way that Windows can be reduced to a crawl by unnecessary applications your browserâ??s performance can be hampered by excessive extensions, toolbars, add-ons and plugins. No doubt some come in handy, but itâ??s worth uninstalling those you donâ??t use regularly since a fully loaded browser can easily have its load time increased from 5 to 25 seconds.
Clear your cache
When you surf the web, every icon, picture, ad, text block and video on each page you visit is cached by your browser i.e. quietly downloaded and stored locally, in case you want to see it again. Over time, this adds up to thousands of files, many of which are no longer required. It takes almost as much effort for your computer to keep track of a small file as a large one, so clearing bloated caches can make a difference.
Defragment your disc drive
Because it take similar effort to for your computer to keep track of a small file and a large one, itâ??s much more efficient to have a small number of large files than a large number of small ones on your hard drive.
These days most operating systems come shipped with defragmentation scheduling software pre-installed to all you have to do it tell it to run overnight, once a week to keep your data optimised.
Please note that this advice is for computers with conventional disc drives and may not apply to SSD drives, which work differently.
Upgrade your internet connection
Often itâ??s not your computer which makes the web feel slow, but your internet connection itself. Most of the UKâ??s broadband networks have been upgraded over the past couple of years and so many people can now upgrade to a faster package than theyâ??re on.
Even without the indulgence of a high speed fibre optic line, which are great when you can get them, most people in the UK can achieve actual download speeds of 11 to 20 Mbps through a BT telephone line, which is plenty fast enough for most users.
Further, gamers, homeworkers and other heavy users can often pay a little more to receive a prioritised line. This means that your traffic is prioritised over other users at busy periods (i.e. when it matters) avoiding that feeling that the whole web is slowing down when your fellow countrymen (and women) go online in unison.
Further, if your current provider doesnâ??t offer the service youâ??re after, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from. Beyond BT, you can choose from Virgin, Sky, TalkTalk, Plusnet (a BT subsidiary, but with more competitive packages and potentially better service) or any of the mobile phone operators.
The choice can be baffling so, if in doubt, try a broadband comparison site such a Uswitch.com. Not only do they provide the lowdown on the packages and prices of offer, but you can start off with a broadband speed test to see whether your connection can be improved.
Nathan Morgan has been an IT professional for 14 years.