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Is your computer running slow?

Sometimes I get a call from someone who has a computer which is running progressively more slowly. "It is just getting slower and slower" they say. What they want is either for me to make it run fast again, or tell them how to fix it. Actually, there are things you can do which could help. Here are some things to try and consider.


Computers do get old. Software gets bigger and requires more power as it tends to do more stuff. If your computer is more than 4 or 5 years old, just get a new one. The old one will continue to get less and less able to run current software.

Needs a reboot or programs closed

A workstation computer that is used each day for various activities, needs to be rebooted every couple of weeks. The programs it runs, need to be shut down and re-opened so any memory leaks get re-allocated. If you never shut off your computer and leave software open all the time, then your computer will get cranky. Try and close all programs every night. Remember to shutdown or reboot your computer every couple of weeks.

Too much stuff running

  • Check all startups. Uninstall what you can. Keep others from starting. I find WinPatrol is best for this. Try and figure out what is starting up and what you need. Look them up using Google or WinPatrol's service. If you no longer need things, uninstall them. If you need them, but do not need them running all the time, then go into the program itself and see if you can stop it from starting up. As a last resort, if the idiotic program will not let you stop it from running, try and use WinPatrol to disable startup.
  • Check task manager to find out what is running and how much CPU power is it using. I open task manager with Ctrl-Shift-Esc. Once open, choose the Process tab and sort by CPU usage with the most at the top. Be sure and check the Show process from all users button. System Idle is Windows way of saying, "I ain't doing nothing". Sometimes an antivirus will be completing a scan, or other update is occurring. Once you know what is soaking up your CPU cycles, you can often end that process or uninstall that program or just wait for it to finish. If you aren't sure what to do here, just call me.

Under powered for the job

  • Often adding RAM can improve performance. If you only do one thing at a time, just browse the web or do email, then 2 MB of ram is often ok. Doing more will require 3 or 4 GB of ram for good performance. A 32 bit operating system won't use more than 4 GB of ram, so unless you have a 64 bit operating system don't bother increasing beyond 4 GB. You would need to be doing a lot of complex operations to have a 4 GB machine cause a slowdown due to not enough RAM. Task manager also lets you see how much of your ram is being used.
  • You can check out the power of your CPU by looking it up and comparing it to others on Passmark's CPU Comparison.

Heat issues

Sometimes computers overheat and slow down in order to reduce heat. This could be because a fan stops or the conductive gel cracks connecting the heat sink to the cpu, or the system gets dusty and the dust holds in the heat on components. I discuss heat issues in this article. It is normal for a cpu to run hot if it is working hard. When all 4 cores of your processor are pushing their capacity, it will run well over 150 degrees. But, when resting, it should be much cooler. Currently I like the Open Hardware monitor best.

Malware issues

You could have a virus. I assume that you have done a full scan with your anti-virus program. I suggest you also do a scan and clean with Malwarebytes free version, not the paid one, and or TrendMicro's Housecall. If those don't clean it up, and you still suspect a virus, you may need to consult a professional, but the next step is to boot off a special CD or USB drive (write protected) which automatically runs an antivirus scan. By not booting from your hard drive, or operating system, you can often find viruses which protect themselves from discovery otherwise. I've had good luck using the free offline Virus Scanners made for this purpose by:
  • Kaspersky
  • Avira
  • Fsecure
  • Microsoft
  • BitDefender
You may want to run more than one.

Maintenance issues

  • Defrag
  • Cleanup temp files
  • Hard drive issues. - Not enough space or bad spots. Run scandisk with full surface scan.
  • Uninstall all unnecessary software
  • CCleaner from Piriform can be used to do a better job removing temp files and extraneous waste. But use it with extreme caution. Be careful not to remove things you want. I'll help you with this if you like.
  • As a last resort, you can try CCleaner's registery cleaner. In general I HATE registry cleaners. The amount of improvement you can get is very small and the penalty for a screwup is catastrophic. So do it only as a last resort.

Call in an expert

Of course, you could bring it in for me to check out.

Date: June 2013

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