Purchasing a new laptop usually comes with the anticipation of lightning-fast speeds and seamless performance. However, what if your shiny new machine doesn’t live up to these expectations and runs frustratingly slow? And while there’s a lot of legitimate reasons why an older laptop will slow down over time, opening something out of the box and having speed issues should not be the case. There could be multiple reasons for this unexpected lag.
Sadly, one of the most common reasons for this is that manufacturers sometimes sell some really poorly designed units that don’t even meet the manufacturer recommended requirements for Windows and most programs (this is especially true with low-end laptops). For example, you can technically run Windows 10 or 11 on 2GB-4GB of RAM and there are actually laptops out there being sold to meet that requirement. But nobody in their right mind who knows computers would recommend having 2GB – 4GB of RAM in a modern system. We recommend AT LEAST 8GB for 64-bit Windows implementation and you’ll definitely notice the upgrade to 12GB or 16GB. Manufacturers skimping on things like RAM, CPU speed, storage capacity drive type (HDD vs. SSD), etc. are a huge reason why something can be slow right out of the box. Let’s look into some other common culprits and possible solutions.
Cheap Doesn’t Always Mean Efficient
While a low price might be enticing, it’s essential to understand that in the tech world, you generally get what you pay for. Some laptops, like the HP Stream, are priced lower but have limitations in performance. Before making a purchase, research the product’s reviews to gauge its real-world efficiency.
RAM Is Crucial
Microsoft’s minimum RAM recommendation for a 64-bit system is 2 GB, but for a fluid experience, having at least 8 GB is essential. Additionally, when a system with low RAM lacks an SSD, it leads to even slower performance. This is because the page file (a placeholder for RAM) reverts to an old-fashioned hard drive, causing the entire system to be as slow as that drive when switching between tasks.
Processor & Storage Limitations
Every processor manufacturer makes versions of their chips to match different market segments – and they each have a ‘lower end’ or entry level line. For Intel if it’s a Celeron, it’s usually slow. AMD doesn’t necessarily have a brand anymore for their lower end models (it used to be Sempron) but you can research specs on chips to see how well they perform. Here’s an example of some lower-end CPUs AMD/Intel/Snapdragon use:
AMD Athlon Gold 7220U
Intel Core i7-6970HQ @ 2.80GHz
AMD Athlon Silver 3050GE
Intel Core i3-9100TE @ 2.20GHz
Intel Pentium 6805 @ 1.10GHz
Intel Core i5-6350HQ @ 2.30GHz
Intel Core i3-8140U @ 2.10GHz
AMD Athlon PRO 300U
Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 @ 2.55 GHz
Snapdragon 7c @ 1.96 GHz
Intel Pentium Silver N5020 @ 1.10GHz
Intel Celeron N5100 @ 1.10GHz
Snapdragon 850 @ 2.96 GHz
Snapdragon 7c @ 2.40 GHz
AMD Athlon Gold 3150C
Intel Core i3-6167U @ 2.70GHz
AMD Ryzen 3 3250C
AMD Athlon Silver 7120U
AMD Athlon Silver 3050e
AMD Ryzen Embedded R1305G
AMD Athlon Silver 3050C
Intel Celeron 7305
Intel Celeron 6305 @ 1.80GHz
Intel Celeron N4020C @ 1.10GHz
AMD Athlon PRO 3045B
Intel Pentium Dual T2390 @ 1.86GHz
You have to research to know if you’re getting a fast or slow chip in the system that you’re buying. For example, some of AMD’s lowest performance processors are the 7000U line – and a lot of entry level systems are built on that. When you combine a slow CPU with low levels of RAM and a storage drive that isn’t fast – your system’s speed will suffer and multitasking capabilities will be severely limited. Ideally, for a better experience, consider laptops with at least an i3 processor, 8GB RAM, and SSD storage.
Other Possible Causes and Solutions
- Too Many Startup Programs:
- Cause: Many laptops come with pre-installed software, some of which automatically run upon startup, consuming valuable resources.
- Solution: Navigate to the Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc), go to the ‘Startup’ tab, and disable unnecessary applications from starting up automatically.
- Running in High-Performance Mode:
- Cause: Your laptop might be set to a power-saving mode, which can limit performance.
- Solution: Access the power settings and switch to a ‘High Performance’ or ‘Balanced’ mode.
- Outdated Drivers:
- Cause: Manufacturers often release driver updates which can boost performance. An outdated driver might hinder optimal operation.
- Solution: Regularly check the manufacturer’s website or use the device manager to update all essential drivers.
- Malware or Virus:
- Cause: New doesn’t always mean clean. Your laptop could have been compromised by malware or a virus.
- Solution: Install a reputable antivirus or anti-malware software and conduct a full system scan. Ensure real-time protection is turned on.
- Not Enough RAM:
- Cause: While your laptop might be new, it could be a model with minimal RAM, making multitasking a challenge.
- Solution: Consider upgrading the RAM. Even an additional 4GB can make a significant difference.
- Hard Drive Issues:
- Cause: If your laptop has a traditional HDD (Hard Disk Drive) instead of an SSD (Solid State Drive), it might operate slower, especially if the HDD is nearing its capacity.
- Solution: Consider upgrading to an SSD or ensuring your HDD has ample free space.
- Too Many Background Processes:
- Cause: Multiple applications or processes running in the background can drain resources.
- Solution: Regularly check the Task Manager and close unnecessary applications or processes. Additionally, your laptop might be slow if it’s installing updates in the background. Before jumping to conclusions, ensure all updates are installed. Go to Settings > Update & Security and verify.
- Cause: Laptops, when placed on surfaces that don’t allow proper ventilation, can overheat, leading to throttled performance.
- Solution: Use your laptop on hard, flat surfaces or consider buying a cooling pad.
- Outdated OS:
- Cause: An outdated operating system can cause compatibility issues and slow performance.
- Solution: Regularly update your OS. If using Windows, navigate to ‘Settings’ > ‘Update & Security’ to check for updates.
- OS Too Advanced
Windows 10/11 are feature-rich operating systems, but it might be too heavy for laptops with basic specs. Running such an advanced OS on underpowered hardware can result in sluggish performance.
First, make sure your RAM is adequate. We suggested at least 8GB. More is better. Moving on from RAM, if you don’t have an SSD consider upgrading to one. Solid State Drives (SSDs) can significantly boost your laptop’s speed. If your device comes with a regular hard disk, consider upgrading to an SSD. The difference in speed can be night and day. You can also try an alternative system that suits your needs better. If you’re mainly using your laptop for web browsing and basic office tasks, a ChromeBook might be a better fit. They’re affordable, efficient, and some even offer additional storage benefits like 100 GB of Google Drive storage for a year.
If your budget is a concern, look for older-generation laptops. They often provide better value for money, ensuring good performance without breaking the bank. For those seeking quality laptops under $400, exploring user recommendations and reviews can be beneficial.
Advanced Solution: Try Linux
Sometimes the issue isn’t the hardware but the software. Inefficient or bloated software can bog down even decent specs. For those struggling with Windows 10/11’s performance on limited hardware, switching to a lightweight Linux distribution, like Mint with XFCE or even Ubuntu might make a difference. This isn’t always practical for many reasons because laptops have limited drivers support (Linux may not even work on your laptop) and many users won’t be able to find their way around in Linux or use the software they need.
Conclusion: Regaining Your Laptop’s Speed
While technology has made significant advancements, some individuals still face issues with their brand-new laptops performing below par. If you’ve recently purchased a laptop and found it to be unexpectedly slow, you’re not alone. Let’s dive into some of the reasons why your laptop might be underperforming and offer potential solutions.
A new laptop running slow can be disheartening, but with a systematic approach to diagnosing the problem, you can often identify the cause and rectify it. If, after trying these solutions, the problem persists, it might be worth consulting with a professional or reaching out to the laptop’s manufacturer.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- How often should I update my drivers?
- It’s good practice to check for driver updates every couple of months.
- Can browser extensions slow down my laptop?
- Yes, some extensions, especially if you have many installed, can consume significant resources. Regularly review and remove unnecessary extensions.
- How much free space should I maintain on my HDD?
- Ideally, keep at least 15-20% of your HDD free to ensure optimal performance.
- Does screen brightness affect laptop speed?
- Directly, no. However, higher brightness can lead to quicker battery drain, and if the laptop is in power-saving mode, it might then limit performance.
- Can a faulty battery cause performance issues?
- While a faulty battery primarily affects power, severe battery issues can sometimes lead to system instability and reduced performance.
Before making any tech purchase, it’s vital to balance price with performance. Understand your requirements and choose a laptop that meets them without going overboard. And if you’re ever in doubt, remember: sometimes it’s worth spending a bit more to ensure you don’t end up with a product that leaves you frustrated.
When I’m not writing about tech I’m playing with my dog or hanging out with my girlfriend.
Shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to see a topic discussed or have a correction on something I’ve written.