Fixing a Slow Computer

There’s little that can be more frustrating than a slow computer.  Not only does waiting for a program to open or an Internet page to load cause a person to want to pull their hair out, but if you’re in business, waiting on a slow computer can get quite costly.  Unfortunately there’s no quick and simple solution to the problem.

A computer slowdown can be the result of a number of different problems.  Hardware may not be up to snuff, Windows may not be optimized, there may be too many programs running in the background, or there may be viruses are spyware on the system, or Windows updates may have caused a slowdown.  As a network administrator, I have a set of issues that I look for when a user complains of performance problems.  The tools I use to fix these problems can be quite advanced for an everyday user, but there are ways to deal with a problem on your own without an expensive technician.

The first thing to look for is whether or not the computer hardware is up to the task of running the programs that you run and the version of Windows you have installed..  Older CPUs may run too slow to handle newer versions of Windows and newer software packages.  Even more common is a lack of RAM memory.  RAM memory is vital to Windows operating smoothly and as a general rule of thumb, “more is better.”

Another problem that will contribute to a Windows slow down is Windows itself.  There are number of settings that can be adjusted to make Windows run faster.  In addition, as software is added and removed, errant programs tend to run in the background and consume precious resources.  Performance can be substantially enhanced by making adjustments to Windows itself and stopping unnecessary programs from running in the background.

In recent years spyware, adware, malware, whatever you choose to call it, has become a serious blight on PC performance.  There are few computers that are connected to the Internet that don’t have some kind of malware problem, however minor.  The problem with malware is not only that it is designed to steal information or deliver spam or malware to other computers, but it also consumes system resources and can drastically reduce a PCs performance.  From a security standpoint, it is vitally necessary to eradicate malware and from a performance standpoint, eradicating malware can go a long way toward speeding a computer up.

While there is no particular order in which a PC should be examined to determine the reasons for performance problems, generally I follow this outline:

* Check the hardware to make sure that it’s up to snuff
* Scan for and remove as much malware is possible
* Optimize Windows start-up programs
* Check that Windows is optimized
* If necessary, adjust the virtual memory settings
* Apply updates

For the most part these things can be done at home or in the office without the need for an expensive technician.  The trick is to use the right tools and to have a good idea of what changes or upgrades will be most effective.  Once you with resolved your performance issues it becomes a matter of prevention rather than reaction.

From a hardware point of view, there’s not a great deal that one can do except upgrade when necessary, and try to stay reasonably current.  Spyware, Windows settings, and start-up programs however can be managed quite nicely by being proactive in keeping malware out, keeping start-up programs under control, and keeping Windows updated.

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