A lot of complaints I generally hear about people’s computers is that they have slowed down. Usually most tech will look towards one thing that is the most likely cause…spyware/virus (or whatever you personally call it). Though after ruling that out, what might be some other explanations for the slowness?
I want to focus on some of the things you can look at prior to the move of just formatting the hard drive and starting over again, reimaging or just plain old buying a new computer. Most techs may know to check these things out, and some may not, but in the era of tightening budgets it may become more prudent to get every last second out of a computer before disposing of it. Here are some of the most common issues I’ve run into…
1) Hard disk issues
Now unless you spent the extra money on the solid state drives, your hard drive is a mechanical device, and over times that device can start to wear out and can cause some issues. Signs of this are
- Slow access times on the drive.
- Bad sectors on the disk (if you run a disk check program)
- Intermittent boot failures.
- Disk spin sounds different
Often the signs of disk failure can be tricky to diagnose because it may come on slowly over time. One of the things that you may notice, if you use diskcheck, you’ll see more and more bad sectors appear on the disk. If you’ve worked with computers for a while, you may be able to tell that during the boot sequence on your computer the drive may sound different…or may even make an audible clicking noise. You may also receive a warning message if you have a SMART hard drive, that failure is imminent. Even if it is operating properly, your hard disk may be just fine and just be slower than your system can handle.
2) Windows services
If you looked at most computers, you’d find a lot of unnecessary services running. Depending on your set up some of these may not need to be running for your system to function. One trick to speed up a computer is disable those that you don’t need anymore.
Many Windows services are enabled by default. A lot of these services, however, are not required for your machine to run properly. You should review the services running on your Windows XP/Vista/7 computer and disable those that you don’t need. An easy way of controlling which services start is using the msconfig utility (see below). In Windows 7, click Start and in the search box, type msconfig. Click msconfig.exe.
Some secure Microsoft services will not let you disable them; Microsoft considerers these essential for running the computer. Check out this site to Disable unwanted services and speed up Windows 7.
3) Runaway processes
Another problem might be a program that you installed, but may not be working correctly, or may just be a resource hog. The quick way to look is by checking out the task manager to see what programs are using what resources. Any process that constantly takes up almost 95 percent of the processing time is likely a runaway process, unless it’s the System Idle process, that’s normal
To solve this little problem, you just need to right click on the bad program and click End Process, this should stop the program from running
4) Disk fragmentation
As files are added, deleted, and changed on a disk, the contents of the file can become spread across many different sectors located in physically different parts of the disk. This is generally referred to as file fragmentation.
5) Background applications
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at an users computer and saw about a thousand icons in the system tray. What you need to remember is that each icon represents a program that is running in the background (or foreground). Because of this fact, some users may not know they are running 10 extra programs that they can’t see.
Usually this is due to applications starting up automatically in the background after they are installed. You can easily find what programs are running at startup in the Startup tab of the System Configuration utility, uncheck the box to disable the program from starting at bootup.
These are just some of the common slowness solutions I try when it’s not spyware. Make sure you know what you are doing prior to changing anything on your system, or if you don’t, you get a full backup and are prepared to reinstall if you mess up.