Speed Up Everything

Is your PC dragging? Does your broadband network creep along at dial-up speeds? These fixes will get you in the fast lane

Consider an SSD

Solid-state drives are all the rage these days, but the NAND flash memory used in the majority of SSDs varies wildly in speed. Most serve up data quickly, but some will bog down when writing data. Still, newer SSDs scream past disk-based rivals in performance tests, and faster models are rapidly becoming affordable.

When speed is paramount, study the fine print and opt for an SSD based on SLC (Single Level Cell) technology over an MLC (Multi Level Cell) model. Not only is SLC faster, but it should also last longer: SLC is rated for 100,000 writes as opposed to 10,000 for MLC. That said, 10,000 is actually a lot of writes for a data cell, so don't forgo MLC if you don't need ultrahigh speed or if you mostly want a laptop drive that can withstand a shock.

Fire Up Your Printer

Raw printer speeds keep improving each year, but we always seem to want documents to come out just a little bit faster. Thankfully, you can use a few tricks to boost printer performance. Whether you got a bargain inkjet in a bundle with your home PC or you charged a thousand-dollar laser printer to your expense account, these suggestions will kick up your print speeds.

Reduce Print Quality

Often the devil is in the details--with printers, that means detailed prints take longer to produce. If you reduce the quality a little, you can churn out faster prints and save ink.

In any application, choose Print and select Properties. Printer settings will vary, depending on your model; in our case, we found the necessary settings under the Main tab for one printer and the Paper/Output tab for another. Reduce the print quality--try draft mode--and see if the quicker results are good enough.

Fit More on One Page

Print speed mostly depends on the amount of graphics and text on each page, but page quantity also matters. You can slice the time to print in half by formatting two document pages to a single sheet. This method works best for retaining pages of receipts, spreadsheets, or other documents that you'll reference only occasionally, since everything will be smaller.

Choose Print, and then Properties. Your next step might vary with your specific printer. For our test printer, we clicked the Layout/Watermark tab and picked 2 pages per sheet.

Pick a Fast Interface

The kind of connection you use to hook your printer to the PC directly affects its speed. If you have an inkjet, you probably connected it with USB 2.0, which should be about as fast as possible. But if you have a network printer--or if a networked PC acts as a print server for a USB printer--select the fastest available network connection.

We recommend connecting your network printer to your router with an ethernet cable rather than depending on a wireless signal. A wired connection is more reliable, and it's almost always faster. Wi-Fi speeds deteriorate with distance, so if you have to use a wireless signal, try to place your printer close to your router. If you must go with a wireless printer, be sure that either the printer itself or any wireless print server you may connect it to supports 802.11n, which is the fastest wireless standard available.

With a wired connection, see if your printer supports 100Base-T or gigabit ethernet. If so, verify that your router and network can handle those speeds--if they can't, you're creating a bottleneck, especially when sending graphics-heavy files to the printer. For a complete guide to gigabit ethernet, see "Upgrade to Gigabit Networking for Better Performance."

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PC World Staff

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