Pump Up the Performance of Your Old Laptop

23 Feb, 2011 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager's Toolbox: It doesn't take much time or money to convert an aging computer into a useful CAD machine.

I've recently completed renovating a two-year-old dual-core laptop to create a traveling CAD machine with reasonable performance. The primary criterion for the upgrade was that it wouldn't cost much. Given that constraint, I was still able to make this machine run a lot better than it did prior to the upgrade, and the only expenses were a $109 Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade (which I will use on another machine once this laptop is retired) and a $30 SD memory card. Interested? Here are the steps you can take to juice up your laptop like I did:

Upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7 32-bit:
The upgrade option meant I didn't have to reinstall programs, so the process didn't take long. And since the machine had just 3 GB of RAM, I saw no point in moving to Windows 7 64-bit.

Turn off the Aero graphics theme: Go to Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization, where you can select the graphics theme for your computer. Choose one of the Basic themes rather than an Aero theme to conserve system resources and make graphics performance faster. This is optional, of course, but you should notice faster program swaps and less disk activity if you try it.

In the Appearance and Personalization panel, you can switch from an Aero graphics theme to a Basic theme.

Use ReadyBoost: Speaking of disk activity, your machine would be much faster if it didn't access the disk so often. Assuming your laptop has some sort of SD or memory card reader, purchase a 16- or 32-GB memory card and permanently install it in the machine so ReadyBoost can use 4 GB of the space for a smart disk cache. The remaining space can be used to back up key files or even to move files to other machines, if you temporarily disable ReadyBoost. For detailed instructions on configuration, see my CAD Manager's Toolbox tip titled, "ReadyBoost for Windows 7."

Reduce/reset System Restore usage:
Windows 7 makes use of the System Restore feature to create restoration points you can use to "roll back" your system. The problem is that there may be so much space allocated to this feature that your system will spend all its time writing restore information, thus slowing you down, or it will even fill up your hard drive. And when you reduce disk demand, ReadyBoost (see above) becomes even more effective in speeding your system. For detailed instructions on configuration, see my CAD Manager's Toolbox tip titled, "Windows 7 System Restore."

Enjoy: I was really surprised by the great performance of my old machine after I spent a little time — and very little money — to overhaul it. I'm not saying you shouldn't purchase new laptops if you can afford it, but if money is tight, why not get the best performance you can from your old machines?

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Re: Pump Up the Performance of Your Old Laptop
by: Greg Battin
February 28, 2011 - 11:12am
Thanks for this tip. I recently bought a laptop that has a little "dedicated RAM" so that working on 3D projects wouldn't be such a pain... After working on this laptop for a while, I noticed no real huge difference. After reading this tip and only implementing the tip about changing the "theme" for the computer, almost everything runs faster!!! Even when I am at school, I change the theme for my session and I am no longer frustrated with the performance. Thanks a ton for this tip Robert ~Greg
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