Using a slow computer can be frustrating when the performance is not up to our standard.
Here are a few steps that you can perform to at least determine why the computer is slow. These steps apply to Windows users.
The steps range from some software maintenance that can be completed in Windows to then eventually move to hardware maintenance, that may need support from a technician to be able to replace or upgrade those components.
There is a very good utility that can help with a general clean-up of your unit.
Click here to learn more about CCleaner.
Modern technology offers advanced sleep and hibernate options. Every so often be sure to perform a reboot of the computer.
Rebooting the computer will apply all updates and restart all the hardware drivers, clean the cached items in the memory, free the swap file and give a fresh start.
Very often a slow computer can be caused by programs that are activated at startup or that run all the time in the background.
Check the list of these programs and be sure of what you need available during standard utilization. This is to ensure that your computer can operate with the programs and applications that you are working on.
Many antivirus systems do background scans. Verify the schedule so that it is not happening during your normal use of the unit.
To better understand what programs are affecting your performances you can start Task Manager or Resmon, the Resource Monitor. These two applications available in Windows can help determine what is running on the unit.
Free Hard Drive Space
A low amount of available space on the hard drive slows down the performance because it affects also how the RAM accesses the hard drive and uses the swap file.
Clear the Temp Files
Temporary files can be removed to free space on the hard drive. As a computer runs these files get automatically generated.
To clean up some space the Disk Cleanup utility can be used, even if it does not delete all the files. To complete the cleanup manually search for files them typing %temp% in the Start Menu search bar.
Fragmented, Bad or Corrupted Hard Drive
A fragmented hard drive slows down performance. You can run Defrag, the Windows utility, or some third-party software. Defraggler is a good option.
To see if the hard drive has some bad sectors or hardware errors, there are utilities that run what is called a SMART test that generates a status report. The level of detail depends if you run a SIMPLE or DETAILED test.
ScanDisk or Check Disk (chkdsk) utilities are available on Windows to check if the hard drive has any issues, and provide valuable information.
If you find a bad sector or a corrupted hard drive situation, this is slowing down the unit. The only real way to fix it is to think of replacing the hard drive sooner than later.
Virus and Malware
These are enemies from a security standpoint, but also slow down the performance of your unit.
The first protection is you, being careful with your behavior regarding which websites you visit and how you manage your email.
Windows has Defender, a built-in anti-malware tool, designed to protect from viruses, spyware and other forms of malware.
You can manually scan for viruses. There are also other free versions of software that can be used.
Reinstall the Operating System
In some cases after years of installing different software and completing in-place upgrades, it can be beneficial to think about reinstalling your operating system to start fresh.
This erases everything on your hard drive, so you should perform a backup of your data on an external hard drive before thinking of this procedure.
A good practice is also to verify that you are in possession of the licenses of software you are using so that a fresh installation of these can be completed.
All programs get erased during a complete reinstall of the operating system.
This can be completed even if you are already up to the latest version of your operating system because a fresh installation will remove all the old files that the operating system may not discard for backward compatibility and downgrades.
Hardware together with software has to be perfectly functional to support the unit performance.
Device Manager in Windows is where to check if there are any conflicts, evaluate the status of your drivers and eventually update when needed. Verify that new installs have completed correctly.
For some more familiar with technology there is always a diagnostic tool that can be run at the BIOS level. This provides information about the unit and the different hardware components and can stress test CPU and memory.
There are also some third-party tools that report on the hardware status and can be useful to prevent hardware failure.
It is a good habit to verify that your system is not overheating. The overall operating temperature depends on the manufacturer of the CPU.
The majority of today’s desktop processors should not exceed temperatures of 45-50°C when idle, or 80°C when under full load.
It is a good practice to keep your computer clean and be sure that nothing is creating issues for your cooling systems (fans and heatsinks).
Depending on the unit, memory, hard drive, CPU and Video Card are components that can be easily upgraded to increase performances.
In general, if a computer is more than 10 years old there could be some physiological slower operations. It all depends on the use of the computer that you are doing.
There should be an evaluation for upgrades or for a computer replacement based on your needs and use of the unit to compare the cost of upgrades or of a new or refurbished system.