It’s 9:14 a.m., and you’ve just woken up. Within seconds, dread sets in. You have class in one minute.
Once upon a time this meant leaping out of bed to get dressed and gather your things, only to make it through the door late and be subject to the wrathful glare of your professor. But this is the world of online learning, where you can just log into your computer and go to Moodle to get to your class Zoom link. In a perfect world you would log in within the minute and make it on time.
The reality is our computers are being used a lot more now than ever before. They have to run classes, write papers, display textbooks, host digital hangouts with friends and the list goes on. Suddenly they have to sprint the marathon of a lifetime, and not every computer (or internet connection) can keep up with the pace. So let’s break down some easy ways to help your computer make it to the finish line, and keep you from being late to class.
Update your computer. Please.
It’s common for people to avoid, or just simply ignore, updates to their computers. But these updates are crucial to keeping a machine running smoothly. Software updates include all kinds of security patches, patches for obnoxious computer bugs, enhanced features, and can offer compatibility with new apps and programs. They might take forever to finish, but updating now could save you a lot of time down the road.
No, you don’t need 100 tabs open.
With how many tasks college students are juggling, internet tabs tend to accumulate quickly. But every single tab you open eats up a little bit of your computer's RAM (Random Access Memory), and with enough tabs open you can overwhelm the system. Ten, twenty, even thirty tabs won’t slow down modern computers too much. But if you know your laptop can’t handle the heat, get out of that digital kitchen. Close those tabs, and applications too. It’ll save you and your computer a lot of loading time.
The bed is for people (and pets), not for computers.
UP students can now take classes anywhere, including their own beds. Whatever you do, don’t set your computer down on the comforter, blankets, and pillows you curl up into at night. Your laptop needs air, just like you, because the amount of processing power needed to run everything generates heat. If the machine gets too hot it causes thermal throttling, which is when the computer slows itself down to cool itself off. So just do your laptop a favor, it doesn’t want to be comfy, it wants to be cool. If your day might just require not leaving bed, at least get a lap desk to keep your computer from being smothered.
Resolution won’t make it real.
As much as you might miss an in person environment with your peers, no amount of video resolution will bring it to life over Zoom. Jump into your Zoom settings, click on video, uncheck “Enable HD” and save yourself some internet bandwidth. Streaming HD video over Zoom will make your internet slower for you, anyone else in the house and everyone on the call.
If you know your housemates are in class, do them a favor too and lower your Netflix streaming quality for an hour or two. Or get off your computer and go outside and take in some sunshine.
We don’t live in a wireless world yet.
It can seem outdated to plug things in these days, but if the Wifi speeds are bad, and you know your computer still has an ethernet port, plug it in. You will get much better, more stable performance straight from the line then you would wirelessly. It’s not like you’ll be taking your computer to Starbucks anytime soon, so buckle up with that ethernet cable if possible.
It’s time for that paper from freshman year to go.
Students get weighed down by papers stacking up in their backpacks. That’s exactly what happens to computers. The less storage a computer has available, translates into less space for the operating system to function properly. This results in an overwhelmed and slow computer. Clean out those old files, unused apps, pictures, and videos still lingering from years past.
“Your PC ran into a problem and needs to restart :(”
People can go months without restarting their laptops, but eventually they don’t get a say in the matter. The computer will restart itself, because it needs to. Rebooting the system can help eliminate issues and bugs, and clear out any unwelcome programs loitering in the RAM. Turning it off and back on again might just fix it before it breaks.
Your computer is worried about viruses too.
You’ve (hopefully) been wearing a mask and frequently washing your hands for the past six months. Help your computer take the same precautions against viruses. Scanning a computer for viruses and other malware is the equivalent of washing your hands, keeping all the bugs and viruses out before they cause a problem. Viruses won’t just slow your computer down, but could damage it permanently, forcing you to reset it completely.
There are more than a handful of third party security suites to choose from, including Norton, McAfee, or Kaspersky. These apps can be free, but if someone wants some extra security they can pay for a “premium” version. This usually includes more intuitive software, and features like a VPN.
If you aren’t willing to pay for it, or just don’t want to bother with another app on your computer, most have native virus protection. Windows users have the Windows Defender application, and Mac devices have built in security software called XProtect. But additional security is rarely a bad thing.
Don’t neglect your router.
A lot of the time a Wifi router is the last thing on our minds. It sits in the corner, or the basement, and it’s never really seen or spoken of again. The truth is, that router can’t do it all. Especially in bigger houses. If you notice your internet is always slow in your room, it might be worth looking into some sort of router extension, or just getting closer to it to help boost speeds and stability.
It’s also a good idea to unplug that router every now and then and let it reset itself too, especially if you notice a huge change in Wifi performance. Routers also need firmware updates, which can usually be found at the support website for your specific router.
Clear out that cache.
When you’re using your web browser it’s doing all kinds of computations behind the scenes. It’s also collecting information and data from web pages you visit, and saving or “caching” them into your storage without you knowing. Usually with the intent of making those web pages quicker to open if you come back.
But in reality, because we go so long without clearing out that cached data, it really bogs down your browser. It’s important to go through and clear out that cache so it’s not affecting your speeds. You can clear the cache from the browser settings menu, and it will often ask if you’d also like to clear out cookies and browser history.
Computers don’t have feelings, but treat them nicely anyway.
None of these things are going to matter if you don’t actually take care of your laptop. If you go throwing it around, spilling drinks on it and using it like a dinner plate there’s no way it will be able to keep up with your needs. Treat your computer nicely, clean it regularly and give it a rest once in a while.
With your computer hopefully running healthier, it’s time to put it away for a bit. Get off of your laptop, get away from your phone, and take care of yourself too. All this screen time is really bad on the eyes. Read a book, have a conversation with a roommate, roll around in the grass, do something that you don’t need an internet connection for. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
Brennan Crowder contributed to this story.
Austin De Dios is the News and Managing Editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.