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What Causes A Slow Computer?

What Slows a Computer Down?

By far, the most common computer complaint we hear from our members is that the machine just isn’t running as fast as it used to. Programs that should start up in mere seconds now take half a minute or longer to get going. Over and over, those extra seconds can really try your patience and add up quickly into wasted time! So what can you do to speed up a slow computer?

To help users better understand why computers run slowly over time, here’s a brief look into the most common reasons for reduced computer speed. You might recognize one of these in your own system, and your Technology Advisor can help you address it so your slow computer’s back to zipping along.

Too Many Files. Computer memory is vast, but it still has a limit. The more documents, photos, media, programs and games you have on your computer, the less free memory it has to run crucial background services–and the harder it has to work to find the files you want. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to clear up space on your computer, such as:

  • deleting old documents that you don’t use anymore,
  • saving photos, videos, and any other old files you want to keep on an external hard drive or USB “flash” drive,
  • saving photos, videos, and any other old files you want to keep to an online cloud service (like Amazon or Google Drive),
  • deleting multiple copies of the same file on your computer.

(Please note: iTOK does not officially endorse any brands hyperlinked in this article–they are merely provided as examples.)

Too Many Programs Running. Computers are powerful and fast, when running as intended, but they are not great at multitasking. When you have several different programs running at the same time–say, iTunes, Skype, Outlook, and Chrome–the computer has to divide its attention between them equally.

If you only have a few programs open, the computer can usually process things quickly enough to run them all without interruption. But if there are too many different programs running, especially programs that demand a lot of the computer’s processing power, then the computer will have trouble keeping up and everything will slow down. If you close applications when you’re done using them, you’ll fix some of your speed problems easily.

Trash Is Full. When you send files to the Trash (on Macs) or the Recycle Bin (on Windows), you haven’t actually deleted them yet–you’ve only sent them to a different part of the computer. Technically, the files are still there, and all you’ve done is erase the computer’s index (“directions”) to them. That’s why files can be restored from the trash bin until it is emptied.

Files sitting in the trash bin are still taking up valuable computer memory and contributing to computer slowdown. When cleaning out old files, remember to select “Empty the Trash / Recycle Bin” once you’re done to delete the files completely and free up that memory.

Viruses, Malware & Spyware. Malware can slow down your computer simply by taking up space, but many viruses take a more active approach to slashing your computer’s speed. Many types of malware are executable programs, and each running program adds up to slower computing.

Regularly run a trusted anti-virus software (such as Trend Micro Titanium, if you’re an iTOK member) and spyware removal tool to clean that bad stuff out, and your computer should speed right back up. The 90-Day Tune-Up includes this service, so give your Technology Advisor a call if you would like help removing malware.

Fragmented Hard Drive. Don’t worry, this isn’t as drastic as it sounds! Fragmentation simply refers to files whose bits are scattered across the hard drive. This process happens naturally as many files are created, deleted, changed and moved around. Your computer is perfectly capable of finding these fragments and putting them together into a complete file when you want to open it, but it takes longer than if that file was housed completely in one spot on the drive.

Your operating system should have a Disk Defragmenting program that will clean up fragmented drives. In Windows 7, for example, the Disk Defragmenter can be found under Administrative Tools in Control Panel –> System and Security. Simply running the Disk Defragmenter on a regular basis will improve your computer’s speed. It doesn’t have to be very often, either–anything more than once a week is overkill.

Excess Heat. Worded at the most basic level, one could say that computers work by precisely directing electricity through various components. Naturally, computers generate a lot of heat as they work, but excess heat can damage components and reduce efficiency, which leads to slower performance.

The heat-sinks and fans built into your computer will do a decent job of keeping the computer’s temperature at safe levels, but you can help by keeping the computer out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources. It also helps to keep the computer dust-free. These preventative measures won’t likely speed up your computer, but it will keep it from slowing down more.

We hope this guide has been useful! Knowing which things slow down your computer will help you prolong its lifespan. If your computer is still running slowly after trying the tips above, or if you need help with any of them, call iTOK any time to speak with a Technology Advisor. We’re experts at speeding up all types of slow computers, so don’t hesitate to reach out.