Does your iPhone seem a little sluggish these days?

Snail and iPhoneIt may just be one of those psychological things, that once the thought has crossed your mind that your iPhone isn’t quite as fast as it used to be, then it seems to get slower and slower. My guess is that it’s just because you start looking out for signs of sluggishness after you’ve noticed it the first time. Whatever the reason, there are some things you can do to perk it up a bit.

iPhone polishing

You can also give its insides a bit of a clean

I’m not saying that each of these suggestions will have a noticeable effect on its own but, taken together, you might get a significant boost and feel happy with your iPhone for another year! Also, I’m not pretending that these suggestions are in any particular order of effectiveness. Indeed, some “authorities” contradict others – such as whether it is a good thing, a bad thing, or a pointless thing, to stop apps from running in the background. Nevertheless, the next time that Coronation Street isn’t quite as rivetting as you normally find it (!), you could multitask by giving your iPhone a bit of a springclean while you are watching it:

  • Restart the phone. This takes a minute or so, but you don’t have to engage brain. Just do it. It can make quite a difference. Press and hold the button on top of the phone. The “power off” slider appears. Slide it to the right or just keep your finger on the top button for a few more seconds. After everything has gone black, release the top button and then press it again until the Apple logo appears. Let go of the button and just wait for the phone to restart.
  • Remove apps you don’t use. Go to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage > Manage Storage. The apps are listed in (approximate) order of the amount of space they use up. While it is obviously better to remove larger apps, even smaller apps have an overhead on the system. Tap on an individual app to get to the link to deleting it or (sometimes) the option to just delete its data while leaving the app installed.
  • Clear out Safari temporary data. Go to Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data.
  • Turn off Background App Refresh. Go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh. Either turn off all background refreshing by sliding the top slider to the left or choose apps individually.
  • Turn off Automatic Downloads. Go to Settings > iTunes & App Stores > and turn off automatic downloads as desired.
  • Turn off Motion. This is a bit of fanciness that “rocks” some aspects of the visual display if you shake the phone a bit. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduced Motion, and then slide the switch to the right (ie turn it on).
  • Reduce Display Transparency. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Increased Contrast and then slide the switch next to “Reduce Transparency” to the right.
  • Ensure that you have at the very least 1gb of free storage space on the phone. If you have cleared out unwanted apps (see above) then you’ve probably now got a minimum amount of free space for the phone to comfortable operate. If, however, you’ve only got 1gb or so of free space then it’s no surprise that your device is slow. If your phone is full of videos, music, podcasts, photos, then it should be easy enough to get rid of at least 1gb of such data. If you really can’t bear to be without any of your data then, assuming you don’t already have an iPhone 6 with 128gb storage, you can always go out and buy one – Carphone Warehouse are offering them for just £649 (or you could, of course, get a midrange laptop with 1tb or 2tb of storage space for that kind of price).

Go Faster iPhoneIt’s worth noting that some of these steps (such as reducing motion and turning off background app refresh) may make the battery last significantly longer between recharges as well as improving the phone’s responsiveness.

Last week’s blog about defenestration seemed to strike a few chords

(blog about defenestration)

Overheated Computer CartoonOne of the possible causes of wanting to resort to such drastic measures has cropped up more than once amongst my clients in the last few weeks. I think it is well worth bringing it to more people’s attention as it’s particularly exasperating and the cause is not at all obvious.

The problem manifests itself in computers starting to become s..l..o..w..e..r and s…l…o…w…e…r. I don’t mean the slowness that develops over the months and years of a computer’s life as it gets more bogged down with permanent files, temporary files, and larger programs that put more demands on it. I’m talking here about a slowness that seems to happen all of a sudden. The symptoms can range from a slight sluggishness to glacial progress in doing the smallest thing.

I’ve seen this happen several times over the years. It’s very definitely a seasonal thing and it doesn’t necessarily happen at all in the given season. Are you ahead of me on this? Yes, it’s heat. When the ambient temperature stretches higher than the norm for our summer (say, somewhere about 24 degrees C,) then computers can feel the heat and slow down.

Fellowes Air DusterIf you suspect that it’s happening, then the first thing to do is to listen to see if you can hear the fan. If the computer is fairly warm or hotter and you can’t hear the fan, then it’s possible that the fan has stopped working. This is not a happy state in which to run any computer as overheating can fatally damage electronic components. If you can’t hear the fan and the computer is hot I would recommend taking the computer for hardware repair. If you are taking it to one of the small “computer repair shops” that often double up as internet cafes and/or mobile phone repair shops then I strongly recommend asking if the repair can be carried out in front of you on the spot. I would be unwilling to leave any computer of mine in such a place out of my sight and control.

As a computer support consultant, I’m not really geared up to help with replacing internal fans as I couldn’t possibly carry all the stock on the off-chance it would be needed one day, and the alternative of opening the case, ascertaining what’s needed, going off to buy it, and then returning to fit it, would probably be prohibitively expensive.

If you can hear the fan, then the next thing you can try is to get an aerosol can of compressed air from somewhere like Rymans or Maplins and give short sharp bursts of air into the vents in the case of your laptop or desktop computer. Don’t shove the nozzle right into the vents as it’s possible to damage components inside if the blast of air is too close. You’re not doing this to cool it, of course, but to blow away dust that inhibits the free flow of air inside the case.

Next, try and get an ordinary domestic fan and place it within a metre of the overheating computer. It may well take half an hour for it to bring the temperature down, but it can seem miraculous how performance picks up as the temperature falls.

Laptop Tray

This six-fan laptop tray is powered via a USB cable.

Another thing you can try – particularly for laptops – is laptop trays that have one or more inbuilt fans that draw heat away from the bottom of the laptop case. They work better than you might expect and can be bought cheaply.

My guess is that I only see this problem cropping up a couple of times in a summer and only maybe one summer in three. However, having seen it happen twice in the last month, I definitely think it’s worth pointing this one out. It can be a great relief to find out that what looks as if it might be viruses, malware, internet connection problems, memory problems, or hard drive problems, is solved by the simple expedient of cooling things down a bit.

Finally, if your computer is switching itself off for no apparent reason, then this could be a different symptom of the same problem. Most computers have inbuilt thermometers that cause the computer to defend its electronics by shutting down in the event of overheating. It seems, though, as if the hotter days of our summers are enough to affect performance without causing complete shutdown.

© 2011-2017 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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