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Here's Why Your Gadgets Get Slower Over Time

From Gizmodo - January 3, 2018

It is a truth universally acknowledged that as gadgets get older they slow downyour 3-year-old laptop or phone isnt going to have the same spring in its step as it did when you first unboxed it. But what are the factors that cause this inevitable sluggishness? Is your precious device quite simply wearing out?

Gadget slowdowns arent typically just the result of one cause (Apples recent battery issue being a rare exception) but rather several contributing factors working together, which is why the problem varies between devices (even of the same make and model) and can be alleviated to an extent in some cases. Both hardware and software can suffer, which is why a complete reset wont necessarily solve all your speed issues.

Software slowdowns

Every time Apple, Microsoft, or Google push out a new OS update, it typically includes more powerful features and more powerful apps. At the same time, older and less efficient code can get overlooked and left behind. The cumulative effect is that your phone or laptop is having to work harder to get the same results, as more demands get placed on it.

Its the same story with third-party apps too, as developers update their code to take advantage of newer hardware and tack on additional featuresan extra instant messaging component here, a new AR filter therewhile your hardware remains unchanged.

Take a look at iTunes, if you can stand to. Its regularly had more and more capabilities pushed on to it, while largely trying to do the same jobs its always had to do in the past, from ripping CDs to streaming music from the web. It shouldnt be a surprise that an application like this gradually seems to get slower over time, even if you arent building up a bigger and bigger media library.

If the latest and greatest smartphones and laptops have better hardware capabilities, then developers are inevitably going to take advantage of them by introducing more advanced features or by optimizing their code. Thats fine if youve picked up a flagship device in the last 12 months, but gradually, older devices struggle to keep up with the code changes and eventually get left behind completely.

And everything is getting updated at different times, causing an effect sometimes known as software entropy: Certain sections of code (such as APIs built into the OS) having to leave headroom for various different ways other apps might want to interact with them, and make allowances for an ever-increasing array of hardware and other apps. The more apps and developers participating, the more inefficiencies appear, which is one of the advantages of taking a more controlled approach to the operating system and apps, as Apple does.

Before you level all the blame at software developers, youre contributing to this yourself too. As you use phone apps and desktop applications, you add to their complexity with your user data, your settings preferences, your saved files, and so on. A podcasting app youve configured and filled up with content is going to take up more room and more system resources than it did when it was first installed.

For example, most of us are continually adding more extensions to our browsers, and setting up more programs to launch at the same time as Windows or macOS, and all of this increases the pressure on the hardware that once upon a time ran so swiftly.

The sheer number of apps and files makes a difference too: Whether computer, tablet, or phone, no device likes running out of storage space. In broad terms it means less elbow room for the OS to handle the apps youve got open, and the files you need to store, and that can lead to slow performance and eventually regular crashes when the amount of free space gets really restricted.

Again, both apps and users contribute. Applications sometimes dont clear up temporary, redundant files as well as they might (due to bugs or crashes, or just bad code), while we all regularly add stacks of photos and videos to the internal storage of our gadgets. Modern-day OSes have got much better at managing this over time, though its still an issue, especially if youre clinging on to older hardware.

Hardware slowdowns

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