Cheap Upgrades For A Faster Laptop

Slow, sluggish computers. Ugh. I hate them…almost as much as I hate the bank heist needed to buy a new laptop. They are both so inconvenient. My own sanctification feels slow enough. I don’t need to add my laptop to the mix. (I will be the first to admit what a slow computer reveals about my dreadful heart. Scary.)

There can be an attainable solution if you need a boost of speed for your laptop. And you will not have to moonlight as a diamond smuggler to afford it.

I am not sure where you rate yourself on the DIY scale, but I am here to tell you this is doable. Let me explain.

What Causes “Slow” Performance?

Ever asked yourself why the sweet, old lady in the motorized cart at Walmart moves faster than your computer? Ever yelled and belittled your laptop, hoping a tongue lashing might unleash higher performance? Have you ever been late to a meeting after an episode with this modern marvel of technology? At times, the “frozen chosen” is a phrase better describing our “luck” with computers. But we cannot attribute slow computer performance to “luck.” (I’m guessing there exists an excellent R.C. Sproul talk somewhere debunking such a myth anyway.) One frequent culprit, though, is RAM.

If you are thinking, “Cool, let’s talk Hemi’s, half-ton trucks and the ongoing debate between Ford, Chevy and Dodge”…I am referring to a different RAM. RAM is geek for memory on your computer. As Prof Hendircks used to say, “Let me put the cookies on the bottom shelf for you.”

  • Your hard drive is your “filing cabinet.” The bigger your HD, the more drawers you have in your file cabinet.
  • Your RAM is your desk. The bigger your RAM (desk), the more stuff you can spread out without having to go back and forth to the file cabinet. Start. Stop. Refile. Declutter. Pull another file.

Or to put it another way, imagine doing sermon prep with your desk from Mrs. Spicer’s 2nd-grade class. 2ft x 3ft. You could fit one open Trapper Keeper and maybe a No. 2 pencil on it. If you needed your spelling book, you would have to take the time to break down the Trapper Keeper, velcro that bad boy shut, push it to the outer limits of the desk, pull your spelling book out of the dark abyss beneath the faux wood surface, teeter it on your left thigh (for right handers), grab the Trapper Keeper without breaking the 1" x 1" velcro seal, shove it into the right side of the desk (never mind the social studies worksheet you just turned to origami), move the spelling book from thigh to desktop, center it, open it to page 27…and then the lunch bell rings. With less RAM, you only have enough space for your iPad and french press when it comes time for sermon study. There is not even enough real estate to fit your headphone plug in the iPad jack without knocking the single-sourced coffee onto the 2mm thick berber carpet. (That carpet was in Mrs. Spicer’s class before computers were invented. The carpet arrived by horse and buggy in the first half of last century.)

Now imagine sermon prep at the custom redwood table in Conference Room A at the big law firm in town. That thing is so long it sits in two time zones. You feel like a homeschool family that just upgraded from a Mini Cooper to a 15 passenger van. Score! The conference table holds your iPad, laptop, iPhone (on vibrate), purified water bottle, french press, favorite coffee mug, 3 commentaries, several legal pads, your moleskin, hip leather bag, and a half-eaten bagel. Welcome to an upgrade in RAM.

Before you freak out over cost or get intimidated by encroaching geekery, let me set your mind at ease. While 30-foot long redwood conference tables cost twice your annual church planting budget, RAM is inexpensive. The price has dropped significantly over the past decade. This means royal lineage or son of an oil tycoon is not a requirement for an upgrade in RAM. Also, upgrading your RAM does not necessitate the hands of a surgeon nor the mind of a rocket scientist. Thanks to manufacturers who plan on future RAM upgrades, and free online videos at our disposal, the power is in the hands of the people.

Are You a Candidate?

How do you know if a RAM upgrade is for you? After all, who doesn’t want a faster computer? But think of it this way…who doesn’t want a perfect church? We don’t always get what we want. Amen? Here are some guidelines to help you check your potential benefit from a RAM upgrade. Grab your laptop and follow along. (I must break from regular programming to divulge that I am “Mac” guy. I will try to help my Microsoft minions too. But my allegiance lies elsewhere.)

And we’re back.

Symptoms To Look For

If you can measure the age of your laptop alongside the age of your middle child, you might be a candidate. Many (but not all) computers that are over two years old could enjoy an upgrade in RAM. Some of it depends on the setup when you purchased it a few years back. If you bought from the “filet mignon” side of the menu, you might still be in good shape. If you went with the “I’m just gonna stick with the free chips and salsa” approach, you are likely a good candidate. One way manufacturers save money is skimping on the RAM. You save a little dough up front, but the trade off is you walk out of the store with the bare minimum required to run the current operating system. When Microsoft or Apple releases a new operating system the following week, guess who is no longer sitting at the cool kids table at lunch? That’d be you and your double-lined Lands End lunch bag and matching dinosaur backpack. Oh snap.

Spinning wheels. They can be fun in a 4x4 Jeep in a muddy pasture. Not so fun on your laptop. There is a reason the lyrics read, “the wheels on the BUS go ’round and ’round” and not, “the wheel on your LAPTOP goes ’round and ’round.” You may notice lots of spinning when you open programs or save documents. Some is expected, particularly when working on a large document, like a Sunday presentation with numerous pictures. But not after every supplemental save of a single-page document. If you can squeeze in a family vacation while a program opens, you are in need of an upgrade.

Do you remember in seminary when you were learning Bible study methods? Remember looking for ‘authorial intent?’ Then remember that prof showing you how John was nice enough to be explicit with his purpose (John 20:310–31)? Your computer can do the same. Rather than dancing around issues or dropping hints like your wife nearing a wedding anniversary, you get the alert. “Low memory.” Or her cousin, “Out of memory.” Guess what? That means you are running low on RAM. Not good.

Here is one final symptom. Screen display issues. If you open a document, start scrolling down, and the screen has difficulty displaying the document, you could be in need of an upgrade. You may find this when scrolling longer, word-heavy websites or documents. You scroll, then wait for the screen to refresh and catch up.

What Can I Do About It?

Stellar question. I will give you one quick tip…and a teaser for next week.

Quick Tip: Quit It!

You do not get an award for how many programs you can have open at one time. I see it all too often.
Dude, my computer is crawling. What’s the deal?
“Let me see.” (Quick glance at the screen)…
“Sweet Commodore 64! You’re running more programs than the U.S. Defense System.”
Really? Is that bad?
“Any chance I could shut down either Mine Sweeper, Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, Netflix, your 18 open browser tabs, Microsoft Word, Pages, Mail, Notes, Twitter or this Backyardigans Dino Joke of the Day app?”
Absolutely. That Joke of the Day app was Hunter’s idea. He’s always loading apps on there. You tell me how a four-year-old figures that out.

Remember our desk analogy. When you have numerous apps up and running at the same time, you have crammed your desk with items you do not need at the moment. It is as if you are doing sermon prep with your high school yearbook open, your old batting glove and bat from that all-star little league season in 1992, a signed poster from the Phillips, Craig and Dean concert that rolled through town, an old Mountain Dew, the service records of the mini van, and a People magazine featuring the top summer destinations of the Hollywood A-list. My guess is, that old high school crush is not going to pop in and ask to sign the yearbook. It was in fact, no accident that she passed the first time…in spite of the strong facial hair showing you put out there.

Only open the apps you need at the moment, for the current task. Completely quit the rest. Do not simply close the window and leave the app running. Quit the actual app. Kill it. Stop it. Shut that thing down.


I mentioned it in jest earlier, but I do yell at my laptop. I cuss. I swear. I hold my breath. (Ok, I have not actually held my breath…because I have not figured out how to hold my breath and curse my computer at the same time.) These moments of glorious ineptitude are more heart squeezers put around the chest of the church planter. You know, those private moments of embarrassing rage and behavior that surface while some 1’s and 0’s do their thing. I will admit I am a techie with high expectations of my technology. I buy the good stuff and expect it to perform. When it fails to deliver at the breakneck speed I need, milliseconds before my meeting is supposed to start…s%#t happens. Mine. Surfacing like an old cork freed from a lodged rock, my mess pops up to say hello. Great. Now I have to roll into this meeting that I called, to which I am late for, for which I could not get the agenda to print, to discuss ‘Promptness is a gospel virtue’ with five recent college grads who asked me to mentor them into the real world of being a responsible man and leader. Are you [fill in the blank] kidding me? (We have now resorted to lecturing an inanimate object whose sole purpose is to output what we input. Who is the one with ‘artificial intelligence’ now, mate?)

Good News

Jesus had interruptions. He had moments where things did not perform as expected. I don’t doubt a first-century carpentry apprentice had many such moments…in front of Joseph. Yet, sinless he remained. No unmitigated anger hurled at a cypress timber who just implanted a splinter into the index finger of the King of kings. No lectures of the hard hearted disciples to “Shut up and leave me alone!” Jesus, the Good Shepherd, uses obstacles of RAM and HDs and software bugs to spit out an error log connected to our hearts. The Spirit is our personal popup window which reads, “Your heart burst into a fiery fit of rage at your laptop. Would you like to send this report to the Father who loves you so that He can transform your heart moving forward?” While I don’t think Jesus ‘chuckles’ at our techno-tantrums, I do think He is glad to step in. While I am shocked at my outburst, he is not. While I cannot fathom why my $2k laptop chose NOW to crap out, he can. An understanding High Priest, he sympathizes. A victor over sin, from subtle to scorching, he brings hope. And though you will likely never hear a sermon focus on Jesus as The Rescuer for the Rage Revealed in our Techno-Baffles, he is nothing less than that. To presume that he does not care or can not save ‘this area’ is a grave underestimation of his victory over the grave.

Next Time (The Teaser)

Nick Burns

Keep your eyes peeled for next week’s installment on a more permanent solution to your RAM woes. We will look at how much RAM you need to maintain your status as a cool, hip church planter, how to check your RAM, and how to upgrade it like Steve Jobs. I promise you this, I will NOT make you feel as if you just had a run in with Nick Burns, Your Company Computer Guy.


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