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The McLaren 570S is my favorite car of 2024

Only one car I reviewed in 2024 has brought my neighbors knocking on the door: the McLaren 570S. The hand-made British coupe may have had bright orange paint to help draw the eye, but even in more sober hues it’s hard to disguise a car that sits somewhere between scalpel-sharp functionality and automotive art. Yet it’s on the road that the 570S earns its place as my favorite car of the year.

Rarity works in McLaren’s favor. Yes, you get the coveting stares most exotica provoke, but there’s usually confusion in the expression too: the 570S simply isn’t as readily-identifiable as a Porsche, a Ferrari, or a Lamborghini might be. Those who do recognize the badge instantly have questions about the car.

Frankly, it’s what a supercar should look like, even if McLaren insists on drawing some artificial line and calling it a “sports car” instead. What I particularly love is the detailing. The scissor-lift doors – the 570S would have you call them “dihedral” – are an obvious parking lot pleaser, but they’re made extra-special by the hidden release button under the side sills. The trailing C-pillar buttresses are another gem, as are the neon-esque tail lamps.

It demands some of the same compromises as a supercar, too. The low, wide sills and even lower seats require focus if you’re not to set the audience the doors mustered tittering as you fall inside. The cabin is short on storage space – the glovebox is compact and the door pockets have a habit of emptying themselves when you open the doors – while the 5.3 cubic foot “frunk” is suited for a very small amount of luggage.

At the same time, the 570S is a surprisingly practical beast. The 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 and seven-speed dual-clutch Seamless Shift Gearbox (SSG) may be designed for screaming performance, but they’re unexpectedly content at commuting speeds too. The carbon ceramic brakes don’t suffer awful low-speed squeal that leave many supercars sounding like they’re actually fiberglass knock-offs about to fall in half when you slow for lights.

For all the everyday usability, mind, what the 570S really, really enjoys is going screaming-fast. 562 HP and 443 lb-ft. of torque add up to a 204 mph top speed; without a track (or an unused runway) to occupy me, I couldn’t test that out. Still, the 3.1 second 0-60 mph time is more than enough to press you back into the curvaceous and supportive sports seats.

That adds up to frankly sublime steering. The 570S is nimble and poised, dancing on its metaphorical toes as the V8 adds a soundtrack that could’ve been borrowed from McLaren’s F1 stables. It’s a banshee scream, spiraling rapidly as the next corner crash-zooms into view. The engineers tame it some in Normal mode, not massively but some minor relief for your neighbors, but in Sport it lets loose beautifully.

Compared to the 650S, there’s more rawness to the driving experience when pushed. That’s predominantly down to the 570S’ more conventional suspension. Where the more expensive car has McLaren’s own Proactive Chassis Control, almost supernatural in its grace over almost any road surface, the Sport Series uses individual adaptive dampers for each wheel along with front and rear anti-roll bars.

It’s a less cosseting setup, true – you definitely feel potholes and poorly maintained asphalt in a way the 650S disguises – but it’s also more playful and engaging. Sure, you can’t bury your foot and expect the McLaren magic to transport you around corners like a rollercoaster, but being forced to consider the road conditions helped ground me in a way that the 650S didn’t demand. Sometimes, in the more expensive car, I felt a little like I was just along for the ride as the various systems did their thing. Clever? Certainly, but there’s something enjoyable about the communication between road and driver that the 570S delivers.

If there’s a flaw in McLaren’s ointment, it’s that the same communication doesn’t necessarily continue into the infotainment system. IRIS, as it’s dubbed, is another homegrown system, but unlike the mechanical prowess shown by the 570S’ chassis and suspension, the 7-inch portrait-aspect touchscreen can be frustrating. The navigation is sluggish, while the menus are bemusing in their complexity; at one point the whole system just crashed completely, and stayed that way until I shut the car down and restarted it.

Bugs in McLaren cars don’t come as much of a surprise, though the rest of the cabin does much better. The bright, full-color display for the driver is well laid out and communicative, its graphics shifting according to which drive modes you have the powertrain and handling in. The steering wheel is slim and contoured, easily gripped, and McLaren simply nails the key ergonomics. The bespoke switchgear is beguilingly tactile. I only wish it was easier to trigger the front suspension lift for navigating trickier curbs, since right now you spend far too much time jabbing frantically at the stalk.

Do you care about economy? McLaren says you’ll see 16 mpg in the city, 23 on the highway, and 19 combined. I drove with nary a thought given to frugality and got 13.4 mpg. It’s hard to imagine anybody buying it will care much either.

That’s because, though it may be more affordable than the 650S, the 570S still isn’t a cheap car. The starting price of $184,900 puts it squarely in R8 territory, atop which this Ventura Orange (a $4,150 paint option) example lands a $3,660 sports exhaust, 5-spoke lightweight forged wheels ($3,720), the carbon fiber exterior pack ($9,380), and McLaren Design interior trim ($2,990). Another $6,530 for the Lux Pack with its B&W audio system, electric steering column, electric and heated seats, and soft close doors, and – with the $2,500 transportation charge for bringing it over from Blighty – you’re looking at $218,030

NOW READ: Vincent’s favorite track events of 2024

Honestly, though, I’d have the 570S over a 911 Turbo S, or an R8, or the achingly-clever NSX. All are handsome and potent, but the combination of nimbleness and shrieking power, plus the sharp design and conversation-starting nameplate give it a winning charm that I would gladly see on my driveway. Sadly my wallet isn’t deep enough for that, but it is all enough to make the McLaren 570S my favorite car of 2024.

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Dude, Where’s My Amphibious Car?

There’s a hard-scrabble serenity to Texas Hill Country. The rustling of live oak trees and the meandering clip-clop of furry Herefordshire cattle crossing the road all that break the windy silence. But that wasn’t always true. When Stonewall, Texas native Lyndon Baines Johnson was still alive, the former president was always ready to disrupt the peace, especially when behind the wheel of his lagoon blue convertible.

High-tailing around his property in the German-made contraption, Johnson would reportedly point the car downhill toward the Pedernales River, yelling to passengers that the brakes had gone—the car couldn’t stop. It was only when they hit the water, hearts in their mouths, that his guests learned the truth: Johnson’s little craft was built for rubble and waves.

Between 1961 and 1968, Berlin mechanics built 3,878 Amphicars, which were gobbled up by aquaphilic Americans including LBJ. Though the run was limited—Ford averages 2,472 pickups sales every day—it remains the largest production of amphibious cars to date. Since its post-war peak, the fantasy of floating cars in every dock and driveway has faded, diminished by engineering issues and other impracticalities. But experts say this truly all-terrain vehicle could soon see better days.

LBJ at the wheel of his Amphicar in 1965. Wikipedia

The first amphibious cars were built by the Nazis. Volkswagen produced 14,265 Schwimmwagens (translation: swimming wagons!) between 1942 and 1944. They never saw much action, but their mere existence was enough to inspire hybridization campaigns in other nations. The United States, for example, began production on the six-wheeled DUKW. These hulking machines, referred to as “the ducks,” later made their way to military surplus sales. Some were purchased by Mel Flath of Wisconsin, who filled them with tourists, and later took his “duck tour” company nationwide.

In the 1960s, the first amphibious car for civilians rolled off the lot. The Amphicar, with a capital A, was a sleek and effective vehicle, according to Scott Brunner, president of Gordon Imports, a major Amphicar parts supplier. “There’s a lever on the floor for the propeller drive, so you just shift it into forward, let up on the clutch, and there you go,” he says. As long as he pulled the bilge plug in the bottom of the hull closed, and tightened the extra latch in each door, Johnson could pull off his little prank and remain waterproof. “When you’re going to come back out, you can re-engage the four-speed lever into first, and let the propeller go,” Brunner adds. “When the wheels hit the ground, you just drive out.”

There was just one hitch: The half-boats were built, insensibly, from steel, which rusts with extended exposure to water. By the 1970s and 80s, many Amphicars had fallen into disrepair. “Of the less than 4,000 that were manufactured, probably half of those are still around, in all conditions,” Brunner says. “As far as usable ones, it’s got to be less than 1,000.”

Though it’s counterintuitive, the number of usable Amphicars actually increases every year. “For a long time, the cars weren’t worth that much. But nowadays, the value’s gone up,” Brunner says. “People are always finding them in a barn or a back field… and now they’re being restored and brought back into usability.” Replacing parts with more modern materials, along with regular paint jobs and oil, can stave off rust. But some have given up on steel, and turned to modern amphibious cars for their boundary-breaking needs.

But boundary breaking has a price. In the United States, these dual-purpose jalopies seem to evade regulatory agencies on land and water. Since 1999, 41 people have died in duck boat incidents in the United States and Canada. This has been attributed to a lack of oversight, and some peculiarities of their design. Seat belts, for example, save hundreds of landlubbers each year, but restraints can be deadly in a boat, preventing passengers from escaping a capsized craft. Similarly, many duck boats have a canopy cover to shield tourists from the sun. The only problem is, the soft roof can act like a net when overturned in water, trapping customers even when they’re wearing life vests.

A duck boat for touring the land and waterways of Missouri. Wikimedia

Tim Dutton is a U.K.-based manufacturer who’s been bringing his own amphibious designs to the street since 1989. When I asked why we weren’t all driving boat-cars around, he says it had nothing to do with technology. “We’ve pretty well sorted it out,” he told me. Unlike their mid-century predecessors, Dutton’s vehicles are made from lightweight but durable fiberglass, a mainstay of contemporary boat-building. Modern rubbers and quality plastics fill in the gaps. And the 8-inch propeller is enclosed like the fan in a jet ski.

One thing that hasn’t changed from President Johnson’s time to ours is speed. On land, the Amphicar went 70 miles an hour, but in water, it maxed out around 6 miles an hour, or 5 knots. “The speed now is absolutely identical,” Dutton says of his crafts. That has to do with the body of the boat. Planing hulls are the fastest crafts, allowing captains to cruise across the surface of the water. Semi-displacement hulls sit in the middle. And displacement hulls, common to barges and amphibious cars, sit low in the water—sturdy but comparatively slow. “No matter how big an engine you put in a displacement hull, it’ll only go 6 miles per hour,” Dutton says.

Competitors in the amphicar space have their own tactics, with mixed results. Mike Ryan of SeaRoader has turned existing car bodies, from trucks to Lamborghinis, into water-worthy vehicles—and viral eBay sensations. From 2002 to 2003, a New Zealand-based company produced the Gibbs Aquada to great acclaim. With submerged speeds of 31 miles per hour, it enabled eccentric British billionaire Richard Branson to set a new record for crossing the English Channel. (He went from coast to coast in 1 hour 40 minutes and 6 seconds.) But, like the 2004 Swiss-made Rinspeed Splash, the Aquada was a limited concept car, and never made it to mass-production.

Trade-offs aside, Dutton and Brunner believe amphibious cars are a feat of engineering—and totally ready to ferry. (Dutton bets his life on it; the inventor can’t swim, but trusts his life to these waterproof rides all the time.) So that leaves just one explanation for the aquatic car’s failure to dominate: few people actually need a two-in-one machine.

Each year, Dutton’s company sells about 10 submersible vehicles. About half are purchased for industry uses—scientists might use them for watershed research, for example—and the other half are for pure fun. Tallied up with restored Amphicars and hobby projects, the total number of usable waterproof rods indicates just a few hundred people feel the urge to (safely) drive their car into a river at any given moment.

As for the rest of us, we’re managing to make do with separate cars and boat—at least for now. “We’ll all have them, with climate change,” Dutton predicts. “When everywhere has three feet of sea level rise, they’ll make a lot of sense.”

Volkswagen’S Cheapest Car Is Rising To Its Big 2023 Challenge

Volkswagen’s cheapest car is rising to its big 2023 challenge

Volkswagen has revealed the 2023 Jetta, and with recent discontinuations the automaker’s cheapest model in the US has a lot resting on it. VW recently confirmed it would be cutting the base Golf and the Passat from its North American line-up, paring back some of its more value-focused cars as it pushes electrification in the ID. range.

So, the current VW Golf and VW Passat are the last of their breed, in the US at least. The 2023 Jetta will try to occupy the space that once took three models, along with its 2023 Jetta GLI sibling.

To do that, Volkswagen will have four different 2023 Jetta trims, each with a new engine and more active safety tech. There’ll be a new 2023 Jetta Sport trim, for those wanting a more aggressive appearance but without a big uptick in price. A rarity in the auto world right now, a six-speed manual transmission will be offered, too.

Under the hood, the 2023 Jetta will use the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine that Volkswagen adopted in the VW Taos crossover. That’s good for 158 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. It’ll also be more efficient, the automaker claims, with more low-end torque, and can be paired with either the manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic.

The 2023 Jetta GLI will stick with a 2.0-liter engine. That’ll offer 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, and come with the six-speed manual as standard. VW’s seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic will be an option, while the electronically-controlled limited-slip differential and DCC adaptive damping will be standard.

New for 2023, it’ll also be spreading to at least some models in the regular Jetta line-up. The new 2023 Jetta Sport will have the electronic differential lock and 17-inch dark graphite alloy wheels as standard, together with a blacked-out grille, mirror caps and window trim, a black headliner, and unique cloth sport seats. It’ll sit just above the base 2023 Jetta S, undercutting – and replacing – the old Jetta R-Line.

Outside, the front and rear bumpers are redesigned, while LED headlamps and DRLs are standard. The top-trim Jetta, and Jetta GLI, get projector LEDs. Inside, the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit with an 8-inch display is now standard on all Jetta trims; the GLI upgrades to a 10-inch Digital Cockpit Pro version. 4G LTE with WiFi hotspot is standard, as is rhombus cloth seats; top Jetta trims and the GLI get MIB3 infotainment with wireless charging and wireless App-Connect.

It’s active safety tech where things take a big step forward. All 2023 Jetta models get front assist, blind spot warnings, and rear traffic alerts. IQ.DRIVE – with forward collision warnings and autonomous emergency braking plus pedestrian monitoring, active blind spot monitor, lane-keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control – is optional on the low-end Jetta and then standard from the mid-trim and up.

Volkswagen is yet to confirm pricing for the 2023 Jetta and 2023 Jetta GLI, though the current models start at $18,995 and $26,345 respectively. We’ll know more closer to their arrival in US dealerships, which VW says it expects in Q4 2023.

Is 2023 The Year Of The Linux Desktop?

Setting aside how often we hear the phrase “year of the Linux desktop” in reference to the coming year, you might find yourself actually wondering what could be different in 2023. In this article, I’ll explain why this is less of an issue than you might think and where I think it’s headed as we travel into the upcoming year.

The entire idea of one year or another being the year of the Linux desktop has become an insider joke among many within the FoSS community. The reason: the entire concept is deeply personal. What was a good year for the Linux desktop for one person might not have been for someone else.

For example, I’d suggest that the year that Knoppix Linux became popular was clearly the Year of the Linux desktop. For the first time, anyone who wanted to try Linux on their PC without installing it, could do so very easily. A lot of people believe the first live distros were Ubuntu in nature when it fact, Debian inspired Knoppix and later Simply Mepis were among the first.

In recent years, we’ve seen changes to the Linux desktop that have surprisingly outperformed my expectations.

Before anyone says that it’s not, consider this – you can do just about anything on the Linux desktop these days. And I’ve seen evidence that people are jumping ship from OS X and Windows in a big way.

The statement above is what I believe really makes 2024 a compelling year for the Linux desktop. Not the fact that software development is exploding for Linux users or that new technologies are making things easier. No, what’s encouraging is that we’re seeing floods of people trying out Linux for the first time.

Case in point – when Apple did their latest product release in 2024, one Linux PC vendor had their servers brought to their knees with Mac users looking for alternatives. This doesn’t even account for those folks who are done with Windows 10 or having their Windows 7/8 PCs installing Windows 10during important activities without any user intervention.

Obviously not everyone trying Linux is going to immediately switch or even make it past the Live install phase for that matter. But I believe out of every group of people trying Linux, we’re seeing a higher retention rate than in years past. My inbox exploding with new converts seems to agree with this position.

I think the biggest news is going to be package management and new distributions. In 2024, we began to experience a Linux sphere where one could run the latest software package on long term release type distros. In the past, this wasn’t practical due to various dependencies. Today, Snap packages and Flatpaks are providing users with the ability to keep their software bleeding edge without running a rolling release distro.

Speaking of rolling release distributions, I think Solus is the distribution to watch. It’s managed to strike a firm balance between being up to date with the latest offerings while also making sure updates aren’t just being flung at their users. Point being, it’s one of the most stable rolling release distros I’ve ever used. I love that their users get updates in a tidy, orderly fashion. It’s also sporting a really great desktop environment while keeping a strong focus on speed.

This, my friends, is the future of Linux distributions. It’s without question, the distribution to watch in 2023. I see a lot of refinements and polish coming with Solus in the new year.

And finally, this might leave you wondering about the state of software as we hit the new year? Is the state of software polish and availability better than in years past? The answer to this question is a bit of a mixed bag.

During the last bits of 2024, I began to really see an acceleration in desktop Linux applications receiving a fresh coat of paint. LibreOffice is going to be offering its users a new menu interface called Muffin. Kdenlive is on fire, adding new features and bug fixes at a feverish pace. OpenShot has a new “point” release available.

Last but not least, we see Steam games for Linux releasing some impressive titles that actually sucked me back into gaming. Among these titles were Deus Ex, Mad Max, XCOM 2, Dying Light, Rocket League, Ark Survival, and Tomb Raider. I’m sure there are others, but these are the titles that drew me in. Gaming in Linux has come a long way thanks in part to companies like Valve and Feral Interactive. It’s awesome to see efforts from Loki Entertainment, LGP (Linux Game Publishing), and RuneSoft too.

This isn’t to say that we’re not going seeing new applications like Rambox and games like Arma 3. But I believe that 2023 will be a year of software refinement and polish.

I believe that like any year we’ll see new features, software and distributions, but that 2023 will also be another “year of the Linux desktop.” See, each year sees one specific trend for improvement. Sometimes this means brand new stuff and other times, it’s just a year for adding polish to an otherwise great user experience.

Because Linux is a kernel, which is included with various desktop environments and software to form Linux distributions, it’s pretty difficult to pronounce one year a defining year over another. I will say, however, that the last five years have been significant for Linux as a concept.

2024 Mclaren 720S Review: Beware The British

2024 McLaren 720S Review: Beware the British

It gets more attention than my bad British teeth, certainly. Even in this fairly subdued Paris Blue, one of the McLaren Special Operations’ specials, the 720S struggles to blend in. Not every angle is its most flattering, though there’s usually aerodynamic explanation for the more challenging proportions. The air vents integrated into the front lights, for instance, proved a regular topic of fascination when I was stopped in parking lots and road sidings. One man offered me free congress with his girlfriend, with the proviso that it happen within the car. I politely declined.

It replaces the 650S, McLaren’s previous Super Series model, and slots in comfortably above the 570 family. The influence of the more affordable car’s aesthetic is clear: the 720S is more curvaceous than its predecessor, a car which now looks almost sober in comparison to the flowing aerodynamic flourishes of this newest beast.

The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 M840T engine is right behind the cabin, paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch Seamless Shift Gearbox. There’s McLaren’s own Adaptive Damping, with double-wishbone independent suspension, electro-hydraulic variable-rate power steering, and an open differential with brake steer. What it lacks in raw capacity versus its supercar counterparts, it makes up for in potency and a sky-high 8,500 rpm redline.

It’s unusually easy to live with, though, for a performance coupe. The “dihedral” doors, which hinge up and outward, now cut into the roof: there’s less of the duck-and-slide movement required, which can make entering the 570 and 650 cars borderline awkward. Opt for the standard seats and it’s an oddly plush cabin, almost GT-like. Better, I feel, to go for the $6,210 carbon fiber racing seats, with their fixed shells and uncompromising support.

They’re snug, but the cabin manages to avoid claustrophobia. McLaren has engineered in plenty of glass, from the arching windshield to the clear C-pillars, and the result is a game-changing degree of visibility. I had no desire to scuff the 10-spoke super-lightweight forged wheels, or the skinny Pirelli P ZERO rubber they’re shod with, but the 720S feels oddly maneuverable in a way I don’t associate with such cars.

It’s not the only improvement. McLaren’s homegrown touchscreen infotainment system is now far more responsive than before, and the 720S’ display can actually be seen while you’re wearing polarized sunglasses, more than I could say about the company’s previous models. The optional vehicle lift, which nudges the nose up to avoid speed bumps and uneven surfaces, is now more readily accessed, something you quickly come to appreciate when the alternative is scraping part of the near-$11k carbon fiber exterior package. The potentially confusing driver display can now power-fold down to show the basics of speed, revs, and gear.

Turns out, though, the most important display is four small green blocks. They show the tire temperature, something I suspect most people don’t give much thought to unless they’re watching professional racing. With the 720S, however, it’s vital, lest you want to end up going sideways.

When they’re warm, the 720S’ grip is prodigious. Hit the “Active” button that unlocks the drive modes; switch the tactile knobs – all made in-house, of course – for powertrain and transmission, along with damping and roll, to “Track,” and you’re ready to dance.

Words like “nimble” and “communicative” come to mind, but then so do mildly-strangled howling noises from deep in your chest as a rocket ship’s worth of performance reveals itself to you. The 720S is so precisely, achingly adept, it’s easy to forget that there’s no all-wheel drive safety net nudging power to each corner. Straight line speed is, of course, brain-melting – McLaren quotes a 0-62 mph time of 2.7 seconds – but the way the car deals with turns is even more impressive.

The 720S is an excellent example of the latter school. That first whip around a corner, the McLaren simply taking your instructions and then enacting them precisely, does more for your self-assurance than any instructor might. It’s a light-bulb moment: this is not a car that wants to kill you, it just wants to play.

Honestly, the $284,745 base price is an absolute bargain. A steal, no less. With all its carbon fiber, barking sports exhaust, and more, this particular car reached a heady $375k. Trust me, it’s still worth it.

McLaren has a reputation in some quarters for being clinical in its prowess. Purposeful and refined to the point of ascetic. If your benchmark is the smoke and rubber-marks of overpowered muscle cars, I suppose, the 720S’ unblinking focus on doing what it does very, very well could be mistaken for a shortage of personality.

Here’s the thing about the British, though. I’m not meant to tell you, but the veneer of restrained propriety is just that: a wafer-thin layer of respectability beneath which, if not debauchery, then at the very least irreverence lies. There’s more than plummy vowels and sarcasm, we’re just not willing to show it to you unless we’re certain you’re game for the ride.

No, the 2023 McLaren 720S isn’t going to tell you it’s a hooligan when you’re first introduced. It’ll disarm you with its comfortable cabin, together with thoughtful design features and precision engineering that make it eminently suited to being your everyday driver. Get beneath the surface, though, and the 720S can be every bit as violent, raw, and downright disrespectful as you’d hope a supercar could be.

Why Is My Pc Slow?

Had we a nickel for every time a friend, loved one, or random stranger asked us, “What’s slowing down my PC?” we could shutter PCWorld and retire to live comfortably on a small, secluded island. But since no such deluge of small coins seems likely, we’ll instead outline some methods you can use to troubleshoot unexpected slowness on your PC, free of charge.

Of course, systems differ, software differs, and your specific system’s history is unique, so we aren’t in a position to pinpoint the source of your problem. Nevertheless, we can give you some generally helpful hints that you can use to dig out of the mess.

Know Your Hardware

It’s important to know what hardware your desktop or laptop PC contains. Don’t run for a screwdriver or some third-party program (though CPU-Z is pretty handy for the nitty-gritty details) to figure this out: If you built your PC, you should know what’s in it. If you bought it, look up the manufacturer specs online. Easy enough, right?

Second, understanding your hardware will allow you to target issues that you can look up within Windows itself. For example, suppose that you pull up the Task Manager (press Ctrl-Alt-Delete, and select Task Manager) and discover that your system has only has 2GB of physical RAM listed in the Performance tab. But you also know from checking the specs that your system shipped with 4GB of RAM. Conclusion: Perhaps your sudden slowdown is the result of a bad stick of memory. You can apply similar reasoning to an underclocked CPU, to missing capacity (or drives) within a storage array, and even to the absence of specific components that you’d expect to see on your system (Lost your optical drive? Maybe your motherboard is on its last legs, and its demise is affecting your overall performance in some way.)

If could choose between a free 1998 model car or a free 2011 edition of the same vehicle, which would you pick? The newer one, obviously–but for some reason many people don’t employ the same logic when it comes to their PC’s operating system, software, and hardware.

There are three major kinds of updates you can apply to your PC. Software updates are newer versions of the applications currently installed on your computer; some companies notify you of their availability via tiny icons in your taskbar or via pop-up windows within the application itself. Driver updates are the specific pieces of software that allow Windows to communicate with one of your system’s hardware devices. Firmware updates relate to application-level software programs stored on a device’s memory–the “brains” of your camera or wireless router, for example.

Why are these important? Because the updates that affect your software and hardware could influence your system’s performance on various tasks. Remember the slow file transfers that plagued the release version of Windows Vista? Microsoft corrected them with its huge Service Pack 1 update for the OS. Another example: More than 15 driver updates have been released for the Radeon HD 5870 graphics board since its official launch in September 2009; and depending on the game being played, these can boost your system’s frame rates by 2 to 38 percent.

Before you start worrying about exotic methods of bringing a sluggish computer up to speed, make sure that your system’s hardware and software have the latest available updates. When you fire up the latest versions of each, you may find that the problem vanishes.

Speed Up With the Scientific Method

If you’ve noticed a sudden slowdown when using a particular application or when performing some specific PC process, review what you’ve done since the last time the program performed perfectly.

If your Web browser’s ability to render pages has slowed to a crawl, for example, pay attention to how many tabs you have open and what those tabs contain. Have you installed any add-ons to your browser lately? Did your computer crash during a recent Internet surfing sessions (suggesting that it may be time for you to fully uninstall/reinstall your browser)?

If you want to multitask or play games, but your system is delivering significantly worse speeds than you’re accustomed to seeing, look for causes methodically. Is an application (or errant program) running in the background and eating up your system resources? Pull up Windows’ task manager and check your available memory and CPU usage. Are you background-downloading a huge file on Steam or uTorrent that’s sapping your bandwidth and making your online gaming stuttery? Have you not booted up your system for some time, and is it automatically running various virus scans, file backups, Windows updates, and who knows what else? Check, check, check!

And don’t forget Occam’s razor: When multiple explanations are possible, the simplest one is the most likely to be correct. In this case of system slowdowns, the likeliest culprit is you. What have you done that might make your system act sluggish? And short of a full system reinstall (or Windows System Restore), what can you do to reverse your most recent actions?

Let Windows Help You

Before you run out and plunk down your hard-earned cash for software apps that promise to speed up your system (FYI: they don’t), consider using the free diagnostics tools within Windows Vista or Windows 7.

First, consult the ‘Performance Information and Tools’ section in the Control Panel. Within it, you’ll find an Advanced link that links to all of the operating system’s flashier performance-related utilities. To compare the Windows-dictated speed of your system in its original, brand-new incarnation with Windows’ assessment of your system’s performance now, rerun the Windows Experience Index.

The Performance Monitor is a real-time method for looking at how your PC is using its hardware and system resources. Though it’s more descriptive than diagnostic, it might point you in the right direction to identify your system’s performance bottleneck.T o cut to the chase, fire up Windows’ official System Health Report. The OS will scan your activity for 60 seconds and then offer you suggestions for maximizing your system’s capabilities.

The ideal quick-fix supertool would scan your system, eliminate the junk that’s that’s bogging it down, and give you a fresh and speedy computing environment that would last for months to come. Technically, that operation exists; it’s called a wipe and reinstall of your Windows OS. Short of this drastic measure, however, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for transforming a sluggish system into a speedy one. The underlying problem could be a hardware issue, a lack-of-hardware issue, a software issue, an operating system issue, or a random unknown issue.

But by following the tips and suggestions in this article, you’ll have some tricks and tools to use in tackling a system that’s running slow. You may not have the ideal fix for every situation, but at least you’ll know how and where to look for one.

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