Why Is My Computer Running So Slow

by Rod Dunne on August 19, 2010

in Articles, Performance

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Simply upgrading your computer’s RAM no longer guarantees you can maintain faster PC speeds. A little upkeep is necessary to reduce the strains that viruses, adding programs or code problems can cause. When I start to wonder why is my computer running so slow all of a sudden, I generally troubleshoot the cause and resolution as follows.

Slow Applications

Some modern applications can be naturally bulky, demanding a lot of CPU and RAM to function normally. This can be a major drain on older PC’s

Next time your computer is running slow with a specific application try the following:

  • Open the Windows Task Manager on the processes tab.
  • Check which applications are using a lot of CPU and RAM.
  • Research these programs online looking for known issues, patch updates to your versions or customer complaints about them making a computer run slow. Consider alternate programs. Close these programs if you don’t really need them, for an instantly faster PC.

Generally Slow PC And Random PC Freezes

If no one single program seems to cause the fault (i.e. the computer is running slow randomly) then consider some broader problems.

  • Check your PC doesn’t have a virus/malware/spyware – any of which can damage system files and settings or run demanding background tasks.
  • Check the page file usage in Task Manager/Processes. Over 90% usage and you may need to increase the maximum size (it is found in System > Advanced > Performance > paging file). Keep the maximum size above the recommended setting that is displayed.
  • How much empty space you leave on the disk can also impact the page file size (the paging file uses empty space as virtual memory). Keep 10% free disk space so that Windows doesn’t start constricting virtual memory. Using the Disk Cleanup tool (Accessories > System Tools) can help free some space. Under 4% free disk space and PC freezes occur repeatedly, even when running simple applications.

Slow Internet Speeds

Any programs making remote procedural calls across the internet (e.g. for dynamic updates, help files, etc.) can appear to hang when your internet connectivity is hanging or experiencing issues. You may then experience slow PC problems as the application struggles to cache download data. I once discovered my computer is running very slow after viewing Flash based websites and issue was due to browser support of the Flash technologies (updating the browser solved the issue).

Some checks to try are:

  • Browse to speedtest.net and analyze the upload/download speed for your connection. Track this over time to understand what average and sub-standard connectivity figures you can expect with a slow internet connection. Contact the ISP when the connection is running slow.
  • Disable browser add-ons where possible. They use up a lot of bandwidth downloading data that you often don’t need. You’ll have a better chance of faster PC internet speeds when using a trimmed down browser.
  • Tune your firewall settings to restrict web-access for some of your applications. Your slow internet connection may be due to the fact that several applications for your broadband bandwidth. Only critical programs (browser, anti-virus updates, windows updates, etc.) should be allowed web-access.

Slow Defrag

Defragmenting a hard drive can really speed up disk access times. However, you may experience slow defrag times (a) on the first time it is run and (b) if your applications have been producing a lot of small files.

This doesn’t mean you have a slow PC. It just means that the utility has to work harder to consolidate fragments of files on the hard disk. Doing a disk defrag every 3 to 4 weeks should stop the slow defrag speeds and maintain disk reading performance.

Hopefully, the next time you ask yourself why is my computer running so slow, you will find one of these resolutions will be able to help you out.

Related Posts:
- How to speed up my computer through upgrades, maintenance and repairs.
- Windows XP users can get more specific system tweaks in our guide on how to speed up XP.
- How to do a bad sector repair.

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