Does your computer feel slower than it used to be? Does it take longer to start up or for programs to load? If so, chances are your computer has accumulated some “digital dust” and needs a little spring cleaning.
To better understand what causes your computer to slow down over time (and what you can do about it), here are ten sources of “digital dust.” The tips are based on a blog post Agent Wiebusch did a couple years ago on reasons your computer may be running slow. I have updated the advice a bit.
1) Too many programs running at the same time.Over the lifespan of a computer it is common for users to download programs, applications and other data that ends up “running in the background.” Many of these programs start automatically and you may not be aware they are open. The more things that run in the background, the less “attention span” your computer has to do other things you are asking it to do. Here are instructions for viewing programs running on your Windows machine. If you are using a Mac, these are some instructions for seeing what’s running on your device.
Try to avoid downloading too many web browser-helpers like internet-search bars, programs that claim to “speed up” your internet or your computer, or multiple anti-malware programs. One or two may be fine, but too many will result in slow performance. Uninstall programs that you do not use. Once this deadwood is trimmed, you may notice you machine has become more responsive.
2) Not enough free RAM.“RAM” is what your computer uses for temporary working and thinking space. The more you have the merrier your computer will be. If you look back to reason 1 in this article and have determined you need all those programs running, perhaps your computer doesn’t have enough RAM to do that effectively. The hard drive inside your computer may make a lot of noise, accompanied by slow operation, if you are out of RAM.
RAM is a piece of hardware that can be added to your machine. Four gigabytes (4GB) is the least you want in newer computers, but the rule of thumb is to add as much as is affordable for you.
3) Virus/Malware infection.Virus or malware programs running in the background can divert your computer’s attention away from what you want it to do. Internet slowdowns and general slow operation of the entire computer can be one of the symptoms of an infection. You should have the computer scanned for a malware infection to determine if this is the cause. We have a free virus and spyware scanner available from our website.
4) Low hard drive space.This generally applies to older computers. Hard drives, which store all of your computer’s information, only have a finite amount of space. Once filled up the computer no longer has the ability to manipulate your files. The computer will slow down, eventually becoming unusable.
Generally, Windows will alert you to “low disk space” if this is the case. Moving some of your less-used files such as pictures, music, and movies to an external hard drive would be a viable solution to regaining hard drive space. You can usually install a bigger hard drive as well. Deleting temporary files and performing a disk cleanup are also good ways to reclaim wasted space.
5) Due for a restart.So, this computer has not been restarted in…um, I don’t know how long. Yes, every once in a while it is a good idea to restart your computer. Some updates cannot be completed until you restart. In addition, restarting your computer can free up some resources that could be getting bogged down by buggy programs.
6) Sharing a wireless network.“My internet is slow, but the computer is running fast!” There are many possible reasons this can be happening. If you are on a wireless network, check to see if anyone else on your wireless is streaming video, downloading music or playing online games. Those activities tend to suck up a lot of bandwidth. You should also make sure your wireless network is secure so someone else isn’t stealing your internet bandwidth. Wireless network security is your first line of defense against fraudsters and you should make sure you network is password-protected..
7) Too many bells and whistles.
Sure, that animated pointer and hi-resolution image of your favorite supercar look nice, but those kind of things can also slow your computer down. Animations and images must be loaded into memory every time you start your PC, leaving less memory available for other, more important tasks.
8 ) Scanning programs running.
Check to make sure your antivirus program, anti-spyware program or automatic backup program is not the reason for the slowdown. If it is, I suggest you wait it out. Usually this type of activity is a necessity. Manufacturers of these types of software try to make everyday operations unobtrusive to you. There are times, however, when an update must be done or scanning must take place. Your computer will be a little slow to respond to you when this is happening.
Remember it is not necessary to scan your entire computer every single day for viruses and spyware. Once per week should be fine. The same applies for data backups. A complete system backup doesn’t need to run every single day for the average home user.
9) Not meeting software requirements.
Software usually has a list of requirements called out in the product description or other accompanying literature. Things such as processor speed, operating system, memory (RAM), hard drive space, and minimum video card requirements usual appear with the product description somewhere. Please note that these are minimum requirements. These specifications are the absolute minimum to make the software run. Run it will – run well it may not. Try and meet or surpass the system “recommendations” of your software, not just barely make the “requirements.”
10) A “fragmented” hard drive.
This is becoming less of an issue with newer computers, but if you have an older PC it is worth a mention. Perhaps your hard drive needs a “defrag.”
Imagine a jigsaw puzzle. Computers like to store pieces of a file together, like a completed puzzle. Over time, with normal use these pieces can get scattered all over the hard drive; Similar to when your puzzle first came out of the box. The computer has to look to find all the pieces before it can access the file. This is not a problem if only a few files are fragmented. Once multiplied over several thousand files, however, we have a cumulative slowdown of your computer. Defragmenting your hard drive organizes all these pieces and puts them back together again.