General Software and Sytem Fixes

Speeding Up A Slow Laptop

A Brief Rambling History of the Problem

In this article I go about explaining how I improved the performance of my laptop without spending a small fortune. I've had the HP TX2-1015EA for a few years now. I was originally using one of their TX2635EAs which I loved with its Wacom digitiser for drawing and long battery life but as with the TX1000 and 2000 series it suffered from a poor CPU/GPU heatsink soldering and failed. The TX2 was the replacement they sent me and while the N-Trig digitiser was a massive disappointment with only support for programs that run on Microsoft's Ink system that left me without any way of using most of my professional image programs fully (Photoshop and Illustrator),  except Art Rage, I decided to keep it.

I've always found the TX2 to be a rather inconsistent beast where performance is concerned, some days it can barely run a single Firefox tab, other days it can run video, web, word processing without even breaking a sweat. Recently I was finding it leaning more and more towards the former state than the latter and I was considering purchasing a new, true laptop rather than a convertible tablet that didn't tablet very well. I recently purchased a second-hand Fujitsu Stylistic slate to fulfill my portable drawing requirements which works great. I decided to try and save myself some money and thought I'd try putting a faster hard drive in it, the current drive being a rather slow 5400RPM Seagate Momentus 320GB drive.

Potential Solutions

I then had the difficult decision of having to choose between a traditional hard drive and a solid state. Working with video and animation I can generate a lot of data rather quickly. This is something better suited to a hard drive where you can get upt to a terabyte (at time of writing) very cheaply even in a 2.5" form factor.

However, similarly, working with video and animation requires the fastest performing read/write speeds you can get, this is most suitable for SSDs. These, however are rather expensive, although currently dropping in price VERY fast, at time of writing about 60p-£1/GB making a 320GB drive (the size I had in the TX2 already) at least a £200 investment.

Herein lies a problem. I was already finding i was hitting the limit of my 320GB drive several times a week, having to move/delete/offload to another computer quite a lot of data. Now, I'd heard about the Seagate Momentus XT hybrid drives but like most things "hybrid" I was a little sceptical, hybrids often not being one thing or the other and missing the mark on both sides. However I looked around and found that the newer generation of XTs were being reviewed quite favourably and at £150 for a 750GB drive, over twice the capacity I currently had it seemed a decent purchase even if it didn't work out the way I wanted on the laptop speed front.

Results and Conclusion

Having installed the drive and reinstalled Windows on it I have to say that it truly is a worthy purchase if you want to eke out a few more years from your laptop. Boot times have gone from 2-5 minutes to being able to load a program to about 1-2 minutes in total. Where before if I loaded a large program like Netbeans while playing a video in the background I would lose almost all responsiveness and the video would become severely jerky I can now load Netbeans with a video running and while the video might still become a bit jerky I still have a fairly responsive OS and the load times are reduced quite a bit too. Overall I am pretty impressed with the improvements I've seen and while it might not be SSD levels of improvement it's good enough for me, having breathed new life into an otherwise dying laptop.

You may say that the improvements I'm seeing are due to having reinstalled Windows, with its ever slowing and corrupting registry but about 6 months ago I did reinstall Windows and I saw a negligible improvement which rapidly disappeared over a few days. I've now had the XT for close to a month and it's still running fast.

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