Computer running slow? Here’s 8 steps to clean the cruft.

It happens to everyone: that speed machine you had has slowly turned into a chugging, buffering, crashing headache. If you’ve slowed to a crawl here’s steps to take in order to make your PC purr again.

  1. Check for viruses. Yes you may have a virus stealing CPU cycles and bandwidth in the background, even if you have antivirus software installed. Make sure you have your antivirus updated and then run a full scan of your whole system to see if it finds anything. Also download a program such as Malwarebytes which helps finds not only viruses but other types of malicious files that antivirus programs sometimes miss. 
  2. Check your boot and startup files. Slow startups are often due to having a multitude of programs that load when your computer starts. Some of these are necessary Windows files, but others can be removed or delayed. A great program to handle boot times is Soluto: it recommends programs that can be moved to make boots faster and even shows you what others have done. It packs a lot of other features as well that help keep your system healthy.
  3. Remove unused programs. Doing this will not only save you hard drive space but prevent those programs from loading at boot, running in the background, and checking for updates. Windows’ uninstaller is fine, but Revo Uninstaller cleans extra-deep to get rid of files and extensions that Windows leaves behind.
  4. Clean out your browsers. If your main problem is slowness when browsing the web, check to make sure you don’t have adware toolbars installed that are slowing you down. In Internet Explorer click on Tools and Manage Add-Ons, and in Chrome click Tools and Extensions. You might be surprised by what you find there! Also clean out your cache and history every so often to get rid of anything that might be left tracking you.
  5. Check for registry errors. The Windows registry can be a very disorderly place. Use a registry cleaner such as CCleaner (which also does a great job of cleaning out junk files on your system) to repair your registry, and run it a few times as things sometimes don’t always get found or cleaned the first time.
  6. Downgrade your programs or don’t upgrade them. Programs tend to nag you whenever a new version is available. Sometimes those updates are necessary for security or to solve problems, but other times you can do just as well without them. Most newer programs often use more processor power than their older versions and that can grind your system to a halt. Apple’s iTunes is a prime example: my computer ran iTunes 9 like a champ, 10 not so well, and 11 hardly at all. If you’re fine with your old version of Office or Photoshop and don’t find a compelling reason to upgrade, hold off. Downgrading from a newer program can be done but it’s often not as easy as simply uninstalling the new and reinstalling the old.
  7. Check the hardware. It could be that things are slow due to a hardware problem such as an overheating CPU or a hard drive going bad. You can open up the case yourself and check to see if there’s a fan that’s not spinning or if something is loose. Even cleaning out the dust can help a lot if there’s an overheating problem. If all else has failed take your PC to a shop or have a pro look at it to see where there might be a problem.
  8. Consider an upgrade. If things are constantly slow or if you have recurrent problems it may be time for an upgrade. This does not have to be an expensive fix but it does require some homework or downtime. Check with your manufacturer to see if your computer can handle a new CPU or more RAM. I recently went from a 2GHz dual-core processor to a 3GHz quad-core and the difference was like night and day and only cost me about $80.
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Posted on March 22, 2013, in How To, Microsoft Windows. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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