Slow Computer Huh?

Slow computers sure are irritating. They just never seem fast enough no matter how much computer technology progresses. But what if your computer used to be fast enough but now runs like a three legged dog? Chances are that you can bring it back to its former snapiness with a few tips from article.

Let's take a look at the main causes of computer slowdowns before jumping in head first. Some slowdowns can be indicative of failing hardware and impeding data loss so it's important to understand why your computer is being so sluggish lately.

Main causes of computer sluggishness

  • Search indexing service
  • RAM (memory) starvation
  • Spyware and viruses
  • Too many startup items
  • Failing hard disk drive

Search indexing service

The Windows Search indexing service is a huge performance hog that slows many computers down to a crawl. It speeds up searching for files but slows down everything else! We recommend disabling search indexing on your hard drives. To do this, uninstall Windows Search 4.0 if you have it installed. If you don't have Windows Search 4.0, indexing is probably still enabled. Go to My Computer and right-click on Local Disk (C:), then click on Properties. At the bottom uncheck "Allow indexing service to index this disk for fast file searching". Click OK and wait until Windows applies the changes to all your files. This can take a long time to disable but is well worth it!

RAM (memory) starvation

Computers need memory to store and process information. If there is insufficient memory the computer uses the hard disk as "virtual" memory which is extremely slow compared RAM. Your computer can run out of memory over time as additional demands are placed on it. A lot of times computers are purchased with bare minimum RAM installed. As more programs are installed on it, or those programs become more resource intensive the computer begins to run out of RAM and feel very sluggish. In these cases a simple and inexpensive RAM upgrade can bring new life back to your old computer.

So how do you know if you need a RAM upgrade? We could tell you to monitor page file hits and other techie nonsense, but there are some simple rules of thumb that work great instead. You probably need a RAM upgrade if:

  • You have Windows XP and less than 1 GB (gigabyte) of RAM
  • You have Windows 7 / Vista and less than 2 GB of RAM
  • Your installed RAM is less than the minimum required for any software you are using. (Check the side of the software box for minimum requirements)

A RAM upgrade is actually a very simple task that most people can do themselves. The main problem is getting the CORRECT memory upgrade for your computer since there are hundreds of different types of memory modules available. Please call us for assistance if you need help upgrading your computer's memory.

Spyware and viruses

Spyware and virus infections in the computer are a huge cause of system slowdowns. They can also put you at risk of identitiy theft and fraud so they must be removed ASAP. If you suspect you may have a spyware infection please call us to arrange a professional virus removal. You can also try our Basic spyware cleanup if you have some time on your hands.

Too many startup items

Many programs are set to automatically load when Windows starts up, and additional ones also load when users sign in to their accounts. Both types of startup entries result in longer load times, time to desktop, and a decrease in available RAM. The bottom right corner of your screen includes an area called the system tray, next to the clock. These are programs that auto-start and run in the background, sucking up valuable resources. If you have more than 8 icons in the system tray then your computer needs a tune up to remove unneccesary startup items.

The system tray tends to grow over time since most programs have a bad habit of installing auto-start entries when they are installed. The more programs you install the more junk you'll have running in the system tray. Note that preventing programs from autostarting and running in the system tray does not hurt them. They will start the needed background services automatically when they are manually run through the start menu or desktop shortcut.

We recommend keeping a handle on unneccesary startup items using a program called "autoruns" that you can find in our Recommended Software section. This program allows you to remove startup entries and services simply by unchecking them from the list. It doesn't remove anything from your computer - it simply enables or disables the selected autostart.

Failing hard disk drive

A failing hard disk drive (HDD) can cause system slowdowns due to increased read retries. If the problem is severe Windows may also drop the interface speed of the disk in an attempt get more reliable reads. Needless to say a failing HDD is a problem that needs to be fixed ASAP in order to prevent data loss. We recommend using a program called GSmartControl to monitor the health of your disks. You can find it in our Recommended Software section.

Tips to speed up your slow computer

Now that we've covered the basic causes of computer slowdowns, here are our suggestions to help make it just as fast as it was the day you bought it.

  • Upgrade the RAM to the maximum your computer will handle
  • Keep it free of viruses and spyware
  • Uninstall programs you don't use
  • Disable search indexing of local disks
  • Disable unneeded startup items
  • Monitor HDD health and replace failing drives immediately

With that advice there a two optimizations which we generally don't recommend. Those are registry cleans and disk defrags. In general it's a bad idea to clean your registry - Windows can manage it just fine on it's own and the risk of registry corruption is just too great, especially with all the crappy registry cleaning software out there. As far as defrags are concerned, you'll probably only see a performance increase if you're running an older laptop with a slow 4200 RPM hard drive. If you'd like to try it anyway, please use the disk defragmenter program that came with Windows and avoid 3rd party programs - there's no sense putting your data at risk for a minor speed improvement.