Why is my computer so slow?

Computers all over the world commonly suffer from snail-like processing speed, a sluggish virtual memory and an error-ridden hard drive. These symptoms combine and manifest the disease of slow computer. When you buy a brand new desktop or laptop, it works fine and seems super speedy for a while but then it always seems to slow down.

It is true that a processor does wear down over time, but there are many other factors that contribute to this gradual loss of energy. Like any other machine, a computer also needs regular maintenance. In this article I am going to discuss the many reasons that could be progressively converting your machine into a relic of technology. Here we go!

Cause #1: Fragmented Hard Drive

A hard drive’s storage sectors can get fragmented over time, because we keep adding and deleting files. Due to all this writing and deleting of information, data does not store itself in neat rows, but rather wherever it finds room – sort of like you putting away one sock in a drawer, and the other in the kitchen cupboard because there’s no more room in your sock drawer!

Defragmenting your hard drive is like reorganizing the items in your house – neatly placing matching socks together in your drawer (and taking that saucer from your wardrobe and stacking it neatly with the others in the kitchen!) This means your computer can retrieve programs and your files in the same area of your hard drive, consequently improving performance and reducing lag time (not to mention wear and tear, as your hard drive doesn’t have to work as hard collecting every bit and byte from several different areas.)

Disk Defragmenter

Cause #2: Memory and Disk Errors

Your older computer generally crashes more frequently and pulls up the sinister blue screen every once in a while – a nightmare for every user! A possible reason for this malady can be a bad memory and disk errors.

Sudden program crashes, power loss or wearing of your hard drive cultivates errors and bad sectors in your hard disk. A bad sector will not only reduce the accessible storage space but also reduce the processing performance.

Cause #3: Cluttered Data

There are many files on your computer that you don’t need, and they cause bloating in your computer – a descriptive way to say that your computer loads and runs slow because there are so many programs loading into memory. Your Windows folder can become full of these unwanted house guests, such as temporary internet files, temporarily deleted files, hibernation files, etc. These files do you no particular good unless you are one of those people who accidentally deletes files and then keeps restoring them.

Make use of the Windows Disk cleanup utility to keep things clean and simple for both your computer and yourself.

Disk Cleanup

Not only do cluttered Windows files slow your system down, but over time you may have downloaded several programs, then forgot about them or no longer had a use for them. However, they could still be loading whenever you use the computer! It’s time to do some cleaning.

Cause #4: Too Many Programs Loading Into Memory

When your system takes so long in starting up that you get tired of interesting activities like tapping your fingers, looking at your reflection in the monitor, analysing how dirty your desk is, this is a sign that you have to get down and do some cleaning.

As you keep downloading stuff from the web, you may be inadvertently adding them into your taskbar as programs that start when you turn the computer on. Once upon a time, some programmer thought of the neat idea of “conveniently” having their program you love so much partially load into memory at all times, waiting nearby like a patient server at a restaurant. If you use a certain program each and everyday, on multiple occasions, this could be a good thing – it will indeed load faster and respond sooner.

However, what if EVERY program had this Startup command, and they all happily crowded in your memory together as soon as the Windows starts up? You guessed it – your computer takes forever to start up as all these programs chokes your system.

The most important things to keep in your Startup is the Windows Update and your Antivirus software. The rest can be loaded manually. There’s a few ways to do this – use a startup cleaner such as CCleaner or a Windows utility called Msconfig.

Note: Be careful with Msconfig – it is a very powerful tool that could shut down your computer permanently if you press the wrong commands. The safest bet is to only configure items on the Startup tab. Click here for more information on using it.

View of System configuration (msconfig)

Cause #5: Too Much Software on Your Hard Drive

Another reason for a slow and bloated computer can be the installation of too many unnecessary programs that you probably can’t even name. Multiple video/music players that start clamoring to render their services as soon as you click on a media file do no good except to bug you with update reminders and then scold you when they are outdated.

Another nuisance is the toolbars and add-ons that stick to your browsers and tout themselves as being extremely useful when in reality they are just redundant. You are better off without these tidbits because they are only making your system slower – or worse, they cause errors because of shoddy programming. This is where the Windows’ Add/Remove Programs comes into play.

Uninstall a Program

Cause #6: Viruses! Contagion!

If you have watched the movie then you are familiar with the disasters that novel viral strains can cause. Much the same as real viruses, computer viruses can wreak havoc with your system. In today’s age of technology when almost every product is downloaded from the web, the need for a top-notch antivirus is more pronounced than ever. An antivirus will keep you protected from unsafe downloads. A virus infection of your PC will manifest itself by disabling some of your important functions, such as being unable to open your task manager, programs crashing while working, corrupting folders or even deleting them, and even changing your power settings to physically harm your system!

By working actively in the background, they put loads on the processor and take up space in the memory, which has the notorious effect of slowing down your system to a crawl. Free antivirus programs are available such as Avast, AVG, and Avira. Kaspersky is among the best if you are willing to buy the service to get premium quality. I personally use the free version of Avast.

Cause #7: Spyware and Malware – Somebody May Be Watching You

While you’re busy surfing the web, spyware and malware can slip unnoticed into your computer and gather all kinds of data about you. These stealth programs lurk quietly in the background, and could compromise your personal information.

To delete these intruders, periodically run a scan using Malwarebytes and Spybot. Both programs are free.

Malwarebytes scan

Other Reasons, Causes and Solutions to Speed Up Your Slow Computer

  • Fancy Visual Effects: If you have a low capacity RAM and Graphic card, and you are running visual effects like Aero transparency in Windows Vista and Windows 7, then your system might run slower because of the load that the fancy graphics put on your hardware. You can turn these off from the Personalize menu available by right-clicking on the desktop.
  • Outdated Security and Drivers: Have your turned off Windows Update utility? That’s a mistake. If you think it takes too much space then you can always choose which updates you want to install and which ones you would rather pass on. The automatic update basically is very helpful in installing essential security updates and driver upgrades which will translate to an up-to-date system with a better functioning hardware and software.
  • Heavy Programs: There are many types of programs provided by different companies that are capable of performing the same jobs. It is better to use the lighter ones if you have small RAM and slow processing speed. For example, VLC media player is a much better program when compared to Windows Media Player because it takes less memory to load and can play a much wider range of videos. If you do simple editing of pictures, use Google Picasa rather than going for high-end heavy softwares like Corel Photo-Paint or Adobe Photoshop. Similarly, there are alternatives to MS Word and Internet Explorer as well. Try Google’s lightweight Chrome browser and OpenOffice instead of MS Office. Both products are free.
  • Old-fashioned Hardware: Do you have an old computer? If yes, then that means you have a slow computer. When software giants launch new products into the market, they expect you to have high processing speed, lots of memory and gigantic hard drives. Old is gold does not hold true when it comes to technology. 512 MB RAM is too little for today’s programs. Pentium processors no longer do the job well, and hard drives less than 100 GB seem like … floppy disks.
  • A dirty computer: A dusty processor fan can significantly slower your CPU’s performance. If you have a desktop, it is fairly easy to do a little dusting of the hardware by opening up your case and gently using a vacuum cleaner with a brush. If you have a laptop, you can still clean it but as everything is smaller it is recommended you get it done by a professional.
  • A cluttered Registry Your computer’s registry is like a vast library that tells programs where everything is. Broken shortcuts, missing DLLs (files shared with several programs), invalid paths, invalid installer references and a bunch of other things can stuff up your registry. This can lower the threshold of your machine’s performance. Do some electronic dusting by using a registry cleaner such as CCleaner.
  • Reinstall or Upgrade Windows A slow computer can be due to a slow Operating System. If you are using Windows Vista, ditch it. It is not one of the best products from Microsoft. If you have been using the same Windows for more than four years, it may be broken in several places. Reinstalling Windows helps with many computer problems.
  • More Than One Antivirus Program Installing multiple antivirus and anti-spyware programs is not a smart move. Use a single program with all its features. It can get pretty competitive with two antivirus in one system, so just stick to one to avoid all the jealousy and hissy fits.
  • An old version of BIOS can limit your computer’s performance. If you’ve installed new programs or new hardware in your computer, and things just don’t work right, you may still get mileage out of your computer if it just needs a brain transplant. Check to see if the computer or motherboard manufacturer’s BIOS has an update. These updates can tweak and improve the processor, and increases the compatibility with new products on the market. Click here for more information on the BIOS.

If everything else fails and your computer is still too slow and error-prone … it may just be time to buy a new one! Discover the symptoms of Need-a-New-Computer syndrome.

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