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I just got a new laptop. However, I realize that my old one (top of the line when I got it three years old), is probably still useful for tasks less stressful then what I was using it for (*).

Now, it have a perfectly good, and properly registered copy of WIndows 7, so I don't want to reformat it. But, other than uninstalling all my developer tools, and defragging the drive, what else can I do get that machine back in shape?

(*) I was doing web developement, so I was running VisualStudio, SQL Server, and a web server, among other things.

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What exactly are you trying to accomplish? Is the old laptop's performance noticeably worse than when it was new? If it's an old laptop, it sounds like maybe you did an upgrade install of Windows 7 over something else like Vista or XP, in which case, bleah. (translation: it will never run as smoothly as if you had done a clean install). Is there some specific behaviour you've noticed and want to eliminate? Or does the old laptop just seem slow compared to the new one? –  boot13 Sep 3 '10 at 1:11
    
It had definitely been getting graduately slower--noticeably recently (which inspired the purchase of a new one). Windows 7 was an upgrade (over Vista) but there was no specific degratation associated with that event. –  James Curran Sep 3 '10 at 1:16
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8 Answers

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Assuming that you already have Anti-Virus software on it, I suggest using Advanced System Care, CCleaner and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware to clean things ups.

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two words: add RAM.

most cases, it boosts your computer's speed to some degree, I have done this to my old laptop...works well...

Also, reinstall the OS (operating system), it will clean up all the junk software and everything, it really helps with speed and the way the OS works, etc...

And of course, there is always Linux!

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Unfortunately, it's already maxed out (at a feeble 2 GB). If I could have added memory, I would have choosen that over a new computer. –  James Curran Sep 3 '10 at 1:19
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Here's a Slate magazine article “Get a Blazing Fast Computer for Free: How to Give your Creaky old Computer an Ubuntu Makeover”. And there are other linux distributions that are even lighter weight and more ideal for older hardware, including Ubuntu-based distributions like Xubuntu and Lubuntu. Yeah, I know you said you didn't want to reformat, but you don't have to. You could always dual boot. But do consider the fact that running Windows 7 may be part of what's slowing it down. A more minimalist approach may really reawaken it. You'd also have your choice of thousands of free open source programs, many lightweight options, and so it wouldn't be a huge investment.

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And remember, if you install linux you can sell your copy of Win 7 to someone else. –  Syntax Error Sep 3 '10 at 2:35
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For me, I always find a reformat and reinstall to be the best way to speed up a computer. I've witnessed the speed boost too many times to not recommend it.

I go on a rigorous 6 month reformat cycle since my computer is old (XP, P4, 256 MB RAM). With newer computers once a year or longer would really help.

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A fresh install would probably do wonders. You sounded like you don't want to have to deal with reactivation, so I would recommend following these instructions to back up your activation status, then reinstall Windows and start fresh.

Another thing you could do is install a faster hard drive if you currently have one of the slower 5400RPM drives. Upgrading to a 7200RPM drive can actually make a huge difference in performance.

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I have always wondered about how older hardware would perform with a shiny new SSD installed. Overkill? –  Syntax Error Sep 3 '10 at 2:32
    
Hahaha, one would probably be better off putting the SSD in their new computer, but man, that would still be cool! –  nhinkle Sep 3 '10 at 3:42
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You can turn off services that you don't need. I'm assuming 7 is the same as Vista -

run>services.msc

Depending on how you will be using it you can disable System Restore which chews on your resources sometimes. Same thing with indexing, although this can make searches very slow.

Turning off visual effects can also make things a little peppier. Turning off Aero would be a start, but there are other effects like shadows under menus that you can find if you poke around in your settings.

I recommend installing Google Chrome to make your browsing faster. Opera is also a good choice for speed. A faster running program will give you the illusion that your computer is faster, and you will enjoy using it more.

I believe you might be able to adjust your page file size for better performance as well.

Some of the things I've mentioned are probably debatable, or might only work in some circumstances, so I would recommend a little googling on the specifics before you try them.

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For whatever reason(s), Microsoft Windows has a tendency to accumulate digital cruft over a period of 1-3 years, causing a general slowdown and performance loss.

Generally speaking, the best fix is to reformat & re-install Windows. From there, try to limit the amount of cruft generating activities - for example, installing and uninstalling large programs (like Visual Studio) or trial software, etc.

To make things easier in the long run, you can use an imaging program like Ghost or True Image to make an image of a freshly installed & configured system. Keep your important data on a separate partition, and doing a periodic restore to a fresh system will only take a few minutes.

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Formating would be the most efficient way but if you don't want all this work, removing unused apps, defragmenting and creating a new user to substitute the slow one speeds up nicely XP, usually very similar to a fresh install. I never did that on win7 but I think it's a good try to see if it works before formatting.

This if you want to keep windows on it but as you have another laptop, you could also put a Linux - Ubuntu for example as suggested by other answer - and you would get a fast machine without slowing down problem over time. The machine would be faster and you would have 2 different machines instead of two similar machines, one new and one old which I don't think is very useful unless you sell it or give to another people.

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