Here’s Why Your Gadgets Get Slower Over Time

It is a truth universally acknowledged that as gadgets get older they slow down—your 3-year-old laptop or phone isn’t 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 aren’t typically just the result of one cause (Apple’s 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 won’t 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.

It’s the same story with third-party apps too, as developers update their code to take advantage of newer hardware and tack on additional features—an extra instant messaging component here, a new AR filter there—while your hardware remains unchanged.

Take a look at iTunes, if you can stand to. It’s regularly had more and more capabilities pushed on to it, while largely trying to do the same jobs it’s always had to do in the past, from ripping CDs to streaming music from the web. It shouldn’t be a surprise that an application like this gradually seems to get slower over time, even if you aren’t building up a bigger and bigger media library.