Spring clean your business – Part 3

If you’ve been reading our previous posts on giving your PC a good spring clean, you’ll have seen just how much you can do to breathe new life into your computer. In this third and final spring clean post, we look at some more advanced things you can do to extend the life of your computer to next spring, and even the one after that.

Hard

Add more memory

Computer memory, or RAM, can play a major role in the speed of a computer. Essentially, it acts as temporary storage for any programmes your computer is running. The larger and more advanced the programme, the more RAM it needs. The less memory available, the slower programmes will run as they have to share limited resources. Out of all the upgrades available, adding more memory is relatively cheap, especially when you take into account the performance boost you get for you money.

Adding new RAM is a fairly simple process as it just slots into a spare slot in your motherboard. However, there are a couple of things to remember when choosing and buying memory.

  1. Compatibility. Different types of RAM are used in different motherboards. Most modern motherboards are either compatible with DDR2 or DDR3 RAM. Check your motherboard’s instruction manual, or you computer manufacturer’s website, for more information.
  2. Matched pairs. Installing memory in matched pairs (i.e. a pair of identical RAM modules) can allow you to take advantage of dual channel technology offered in some motherboards, which can help make your RAM even faster.
  3. Replacement. To get the maximum amount of memory on your motherboard, it may be necessary to completely replace some of the existing memory. For example, if you have four memory slots and each has a 512MB RAM module, replacing each of these with a 1GB RAM module will allow you to double the total amount of RAM – from 2GB to 4GB.

To fit the RAM, all you have to do is remove the side of your desktop PC, locate the RAM slots and slide the new modules into place. Check out this guide for a bit more information.

Boost start-up time with an SSD

We’ve already touched on improving start-up times, and if you’ve followed our tips you’ll already have noticed a difference. However, if you want to further improve start up speeds, a slightly more complicated method is to install your operating system on a solid state drive (SSD), which the computer will then start up from. SSDs are similar to larger memory cards, and unlike standard hard disk drives, they don’t feature moving parts. SSDs are much quicker than HDDs, but are a lot more expensive and don’t have the capacity per drive of an HDD. By moving your OS to the SSD, and storing programmes and user data on the HDD, you can take advantage of the speed of an SSD and the cheaper storage of an HDD. It can take a while to install the new drive and transfer all the relevant data, but the speed boost will make you glad you made the switch.

The process is fairly lengthy, and involves a number of steps. Essentially, you need to back up your existing user data and install the SSD into a free drive slot, and then either copy your OS to the new drive using a cloning tool, or create a fresh install of your OS on the SSD. Check out these guides at Lifehacker and overclock.net for help on using an SSD as a boot drive.

Updates

Unless you’re working on a machine with components no longer supported by the manufacturer, chances are there will be updates for both the software and hardware that you use. No software or hardware developer is perfect, and there will always be problems, both small and large, in the software code. Manufacturers and developers launch new version of software and drivers to update these issues.  Often, an update can fix security vulnerabilities, improve effectiveness and add new features.

If you want to update your software and hardware drivers, you have a number of options. For hardware, you can use the Windows device manager (right click on My Computer, go to Properties, then click on Device Manager) to find the relevant piece of hardware and use Window’s built in features to search for the latest drivers. This guide provides a bit more information on this method. For software, there is often an option built in to look for the latest software update. However, there are also free tools out there to find the latest driver and software versions. Have a look at FileHippo’s Update Checker or Intel’s Drive Update Utility to help with this.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our series of spring clean posts. If you’ve been inspired to try and extend the life of your PC, let us know how successful you were. Don’t forget, if you’re looking for any hardware or software recommendations, we’re here to help.

Why your website needs to be mobile-optimised

According to a recent survey from internet payments system provider WorldPay, Britons now do 25% of their spending online. This is largely due to over half of Britons being in possession of an app-enabled mobile phone, which allows them to make the most of location-based deals and shop when out and about. According to WorldPay’s survey, one in six Britons will make a purchase on a smartphone. For a fast-paced, always-on environment, online and mobile shopping has further facilitated the impulse purchase and made the shopping experience more accessible to rural users.

The increased functionality of modern smartphones has changed the way we shop offline too – while many Britons don’t buy using smartphones, they do use them for browsing, price comparison and stock checking while out and about, so often a smartphone will help facilitate a more informed offline purchase. (Plus, the rise of handy mobile banking apps means shoppers can check their budgets more easily and get to purchase faster, with a survey by the Pew Research Centre finding 21% of mobile phone users using mobile banking and 90% of those checking their balance regularly before making online purchases.)

With this is mind, it is even more important for companies who have an online presence to optimise it for mobile browsing. While it shouldn’t be seen as a higher priority revenue stream than offline or traditional PC browser-based purchasing, it is a new way to help customers educate themselves further about your products and help facilitate a purchase.

So, what’s the best way to optimise your site for mobile? It’s as simple as getting inside the mind of a mobile user – they want the information they need in as few steps as possible, delivered in a format that handle slower mobile phones. To drive users to your site from their mobile web browser try these tips:

  • First off, test your site on a smartphone screen to see how it appears to your users
  • Shorten keywords and key phrases that you use to appear higher in mobile searches, and remember that Google’s predictive search term function is more popular with on-the-go mobile searchers
  • Remember that a smaller mobile screen means fewer search results will fit on the main page
  • Remember that a web page’s fold will appear earlier on a mobile’s screen than a PC screen – make sure your site has all the key information above the fold
  • If you already have a dedicated mobile site, make sure it auto-redirects when users view your site from a mobile

Is your site mobile-optimised? What challenges did you face, and have you seen an increase in traffic as a result?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and keep an eye out for BT Business Direct’s own mobile site, launching soon…

Spring clean your business – Part 2

In the second of our posts on giving your PC and workspace a spring clean, we’re going to take a look at some of the more technical things you can do to improve the way that your PC runs. Once you’ve gone through all these steps, you’ll be amazed at how much quicker and how much more responsive your machine can be. If you’ve had a look at the previous post, then you’ll already have improved your workstation and given your PC a good clean, so there should be nothing stopping you taking this one step further.

Medium

Defrag your hard drive

Nestled in the Windows Start Menu are a number of programmes that can help your PC run faster by cleaning up and streamlining the way it organises data and programmes. The Disk Defragmenter tool does what it says on the tin – it reduces the amount of fragmented data on your computer’s hard drive. While your files might seem organised when looking at it on the computer, behind the scenes the data isn’t necessarily stored in a logical sequence due to the way that computers save and organise data. Defragmentation remedies this, moving data on the hard drive so that relevant pieces are stored in sequence. This can speed up the responsiveness of a hard drive as it doesn’t have to look in multiple locations for different pieces of a particular file.

While there are third-party disk defragmentation tools, Window’s own Disk Defragmenter is easy to use, and gives you a visual representation of the different fragments that make up the data on your hard drive. To use it, go to Accessories on the Start Menu, then go to System Tools and click on it Defragmenter. Then click on the Analyze button to see how badly fragmented your drive is. Once the analysis is finished, you can then tell the programme to start the defragmentation process. Depending on the state of the fragmentation, this process can take a while, so be patient.

Remove unwanted applications and data

One of the simplest ways to remove unwanted data from your computer, and so free up valuable hard drive space, is to use the Windows Disk Cleanup tool. Once it is run, the programme will show you how much space is being taken up by unnecessary files, including temporary internet files and the contents of the Recycle Bin. Simply tick the box next to the data you want to delete, and click OK. This can allow you to free up gigabytes of storage space.

A more involved way to remove data that your computer doesn’t need is to use something like CCleaner to delete software that you no longer use, or which came pre-installed on your computer. Use CCleaner to list every programme installed on your computer, and go through the list to double check the ones you use. You can then delete anything you don’t need, further freeing up system resources. CCleaner can also be used to do a more thorough disk cleanup than the tool that comes with Windows if you’re looking to free up as much space as possible.

Speed up boot times

One of the biggest complaints against older computers is how long it takes them to start up. Many older machines can take minutes from being turned on to actually being usable. While it doesn’t seem like a long time, everyone knows that when you’ve got a busy data ahead of you it can seem like an eternity. One of the main causes of this is multiple programmes trying to load when the computer is booting up. Many programmes do this by default, and you can disable this in individual settings of the programme itself. Skype is especially guilty of this, as is MSN Messenger. These programmes all fight with the OS for a share of the computer’s resources during startup, slowing everything down. CCleaner can be used to analyse which programmes are trying to activate themselves during startup, and allow you to deactivate them. Just be careful to not deactivate something you might need when the computer starts.

In the third and final post of the series, we’ll tackle some harder projects, including adding more RAM, using an SSD to speed up boot times, and ensuring that all of your software is up to date. If you want a hand with any of this, why not get in touch with the team?