Both PCs and Macs are blazing-fast when you first purchase them. But PCs seem sluggish over time, while a Mac stays as fast as the day you bought it. You’re not imagining it. Although both get slower, Windows machines struggle more than Macs as they age.
Why do PCs gradually slow down?
The main reason why PCs slow down over time is data accumulation. Unused entries from uninstalled programs stay in the Windows registry, significantly slowing down the computer. Data fragmentation on your hard disk, software bugs, and demanding operating system updates also slow down PCs.
Slowdowns on storage devices
As you can probably tell by now, the main reason mostly concerns your storage disk.
Gradual data buildup from the various system and driver updates, programs, video games, etc., slow down your PC.
A hard drive will get way slower than an SSD as time passes. This is because hard drives use physically spinning disks. The disk stores the 0s and 1s that make up data on your PC.
The actuator in your hard disk isn’t fast enough to read everything at once. And the more data you have, the longer it takes to find all the corresponding data chunks.
The problem with Windows is that it’s horrible at storing all that data. A single program leaves data across half a dozen different databases and folders.
It stores temporary files in Temp and AppData folders. Services, registry entries, and drivers stay in the infamous system32 folder. It probably leaves configs and saves files in your Documents folder if it’s a game.
The next big one is Windows updates. You’ll find countless complaints about Windows updates online.
People don’t recommend updating your Windows unless there’s a significant security risk. Major updates can slow your PC because of bugs and compatibility issues.
Microsoft doesn’t account for the thousands of different hardware combinations. So, it’s impossible to optimize the operating system to work correctly.
Moreover, the updates increase the demand for processing power and RAM space from aging hardware. This is why running an outdated Windows version on an old PC is sometimes better.
Fans get slower over time, but it’s not an issue unless your PC is over ten years old.
Your CPU has a layer of thermal compound on its surface that allows for heat transfer. Unfortunately, the thermal paste gets dry and crusty after 2-3 years. So it’s best to change it annually.
Do Macs slow down over time?
Like Windows PCs, Macs do slow down over time. When a new macOS update is released, your old Mac slows down because of added features and complexity. Moreover, the more apps you have on your Mac, the slower it gets. Malware can slow down your Mac as well.
Why does an old Mac run much faster than an old Windows PC? It’s primarily thanks to the cleaner and better macOS updates.
But Macs suffer from the same problems as Windows PCs.
Although the updates are well-optimized for all Macs, older hardware isn’t powerful enough for the new operating system.
This is Apple’s way of saying, “Hey, it’s time to upgrade to a new Mac”.
So, in essence, Macs also slow down over time.
Poor-performing storage devices
Installing numerous programs on your Mac also slows it down, especially if it uses an HDD. It’s less of an issue if you have a newer Mac with an SSD.
Malicious software infections
Contrary to popular belief, Macs can catch malware and viruses. There’s always a risk associated with downloading files and programs from the Internet, even on a Mac.
Not enough RAM
There’s also the RAM issue. Insufficient RAM capacity means your Mac will be slower than usual when running a newer version of the same program. Final Cut Pro is an excellent example of such a program.
Furthermore, Macs are known to overheat and thermal throttle a lot.
Unfortunately, changing your Mac’s thermal paste is much harder than doing so on a PC.
If you’re not super tech-savvy and know how to remove a Mac display, it’s best to have a professional service do it for you.
Why Do PCs Tend To Slow Down While Macs Don’t So Much?
PCs slow down more than Macs because of major differences between the operating systems. Unlike Windows, macOS has no registry filled with keys from unused programs that slow down the computer. Moreover, macOS is better optimized for Mac hardware and gets less malware.
I explained what happens when you install any third-party program on a Windows computer. It stores data in a handful of different locations on the disk.
And when you delete that program, all that random data stays on the computer. This clutters your PC with unnecessary files.
1. Windows Registry
The Windows registry is also full of old keys from uninstalled programs. So, you can think of the registry as a massive instruction set for your computer.
Your PC becomes slow when your registry is cluttered with hundreds of worthless keys.
Macs don’t have a registry. Instead, the settings for various apps are stored within the app folder.
Each program on a Mac gets its chunk on the storage disk.
This simplified design makes it easy to delete all the program’s data. macOS doesn’t degrade over time like Windows.
2. A common target for malicious software
Also, Windows downloads far more adware, spyware, and other malicious programs when browsing the web. But then again, that could be because Windows is more popular.
Another important factor is OS updates. Apple releases a major macOS update every year or two.
Apple carefully plans what goes into the new update. They test new features extensively on older Macs. They also bundle all the driver updates you need to run the latest macOS version.
Conversely, chaotic Windows updates can break a perfectly functional computer. They don’t care about drivers.
And it’s virtually impossible to test a single Windows update on the millions of different computer builds.
Rushed updates lead to bugs in the OS that can slow down your CPU, SSD, and RAM.
Should I get a new PC when the old one gets too slow?
It would be best not to throw away your old PC when it gets too slow. You can often speed up your old PC by installing a fresh copy of Windows and upgrading a few components. Installing an SSD can speed up your old PC significantly. But if your PC is still slow after all that, you may need a new one.
We’ll talk later about how to make your old computer fast again.
Just because your old PC got slow over time doesn’t mean it’s time to get a new one. If it’s only a few years old, you can probably make it as fast as it used to be.
The accumulation of random programs and files is weighing your PC down. So, a fresh Windows install can speed it up.
Getting a few intelligent upgrades is also more inexpensive than a whole new machine if it’s a bit older.
You should only get a new PC if you’re unhappy with your current computer’s performance.
If you’re not getting the FPS you want in games, or it takes forever to open a new program despite a fresh Windows install, it’s time to upgrade.
How to speed up a slow PC or Mac
Keep reading if you have an older PC or Mac that you aren’t ready to give up just yet. I’ll share a few methods to make your device as fast as ever.
Delete unused programs and files
In addition to taking up valuable storage space, old programs slow down your hard disk.
The same goes for large data files like old system backups, saves of old video games, and various temporary files.
Here’s how to delete programs on your Windows computer:
- Click on the Start menu icon (Windows logo) and type Add or remove programs.
- Go through the whole list and delete all programs you no longer need. You should also delete any games you no longer play. Don’t worry about deleting essential programs because Windows won’t let you do that.
Here’s how to do it on a Mac:
- Open the Launchpad.
- Click and hold any app on the Launchpad. You’ll see an X icon in the corner of uninstallable apps when the icons start wobbling.
- Delete any app you no longer need.
It would help if you also went through your Documents and Downloads folders. Delete all files you no longer need. Your Downloads folder probably has gigabytes of useless program installers and other random stuff.
Disable startup apps
Remember that program someone told you to download three years ago that you forgot to install?
It’s probably still on your machine, running in the background.
These programs take up valuable disk, RAM, and CPU resources that your games and web browser could use instead.
This is probably one of the most common and impactful causes of slowing down a computer and increasing boot time lengths.
You can stop background apps by disabling them on startup. In other words, they’ll no longer run when you turn your computer on.
Here’s how to configure your startup programs in Windows:
- Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc simultaneously to open the Task Manager.
- Go to the Startup tab.
- Right-click on any program you don’t use and select Disable.
It would be best to disable everything you don’t recognize or need.
Here’s how to do it on a Mac:
- Right-click on a program you don’t use in the Dock.
- Hover your cursor over Options.
- Uncheck Open at Login.
Upgrade to an SSD
Old PCs and Macs don’t have SSDs in them. Instead, they use hard drives to store all data.
The problem is that hard drives are much slower than SSDs. It’s not a problem for programs and games but for your operating system.
Switching to an SSD and installing your OS will make an enormous difference.
It’s much harder to do it on a Mac than on a PC. So ask a professional service that works with Macs to do it for you.
Installing a new SSD won’t be much of a hassle if you know your way around computers. But, again, if you’re unsure, have someone do it instead.
Remove malware or viruses
If your computer is full of malicious software, no wonder it’s slow.
Although the built-in antivirus software in macOS and Windows does a decent job, you should still install something like Malwarebytes.
Run a full scan with a third-party antivirus once a month to keep your device malware-free.
Reinstall Windows (PC)
Doing a factory reset on your Mac can make it slightly faster. But since we know that macOS already has excellent digital hygiene, it’s not worth doing.
On the other hand, Windows can get super slow because it’s so complex.
By doing a fresh Windows install, you’ll eliminate all corrupted data, invalid registry entries, viruses, etc. You’ll also lose all the data on your primary storage drive.
If you’ve ever experienced a fresh Windows install on your PC, you know what I’m talking about.
If you have never done it, do it now! You’re missing out.
Don’t forget to back up all important files before you do.