“Why is My Computer So Slow?”

“My computer used to run like lightning – why is it so slow now?”  This is probably one of the most common questions PC users have, and while it begs an easy answer there may not be a single reason why things are running like mud.

Most people immediately think that they have a virus, and while you may have a virus that may not be the first place to look.  If your computer is slow and acting strangely, then think virus first.  Otherwise do some general maintenance: empty your recycle bin, delete temporary internet files, check for registry errors and defragment your hard drive.  While you can do all of these things using built-in Windows utilities, the free CCleaner program does all of them well and within one interface.  Then run your antivirus program and see if it picks up any viruses or spyware.

After that, think of what software has been updated recently.  Often new versions of software require more resources to run or load programs that start when your computer starts.  While these start-up loaders make your program load faster, because it is constantly running in the background it will make your system run a little slower.  Programs like iTunes and Photoshop often run loaders when your system starts up.  If you don’t want them to, you can prevent them loading in the first place.  Click on Start > Programs > Startup to see what programs are loading at startup, and download Startup Inspector to find more hidden files that load as well.

A prime culprit in slowing your system down is, unfortunately, your antivirus program.  Many systems grind to a halt whenever Norton or McAfee start a scan.  If that’s the case, set your antivirus to run late at night (if you leave your PC on all night) or set it to run only manually.  I find that if your antivirus runs in the background it can pick up and delete most viruses on-the-fly without having to do a full system scan every day.

If your system still runs slow, you may need to do some simple upgrades.  Adding more RAM can greatly improve speed, as can adding a faster processor.  Before you do either, check with your manufacturer to make sure you buy the right parts and do some research to see whether your upgrade will have the right oomph to it.  Replacing a 1.5Ghz processor with a 1.7Ghz is not going to make much of a difference, but adding RAM often produces dramatic results for less money.

So before throwing in the towel or spending hard-earned cash on a repair visit, do a little maintenance and see if things go back to they way they were.  You’ll be glad you did!

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Posted on October 17, 2009, in How To and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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