Sent to you by Chris Hunter via Google Reader:
Has your computer loaded this webpage yet? If it has, you'll be halfway toward working out just why it seems to be running so slowly. There are many reasons for desktop and laptops to chug along at their own, slow pace, defying the system specs and performing more like a relic from the 1990s.
Where you're browsing the web, word processing or gaming, poor performance will cause problems. The irony is that in most cases, these problems are avoidable, or in the worst case scenario, easily resolved. From relying on old hardware to poor application management, bad airflow and the need to defragment your hard disk drive, the following list will tell you everything you need to know about finding the reason for your computer's poor performance. You'll be able to deal with these problems quickly and in most cases with zero outlay.
1. System Startup
Booting Windows typically takes around the same length of time on any computer – it's when it comes to loading the drivers and startup files that things slow down. As you add software to your PC, any that is required to launch as part of the Windows startup will result in sluggish performance, and perhaps even freeze your computer.
To fix this you will need to reduce the number of applications that are loading at this time. Various utilities can be employed to deal with a slow Windows startup, from MSConfig to the very useful Autoruns.
2. Fragmented Hard Drive
One of the most common causes of a slow computer is a fragmented hard disk drive, although the actual effect of this has been called in to question in these days of faster, larger drives and massive games and media files. Nevertheless, checking the disk for fragmented data won't take too long and can help with dealing with slow performance issues. In Windows, open Start > Computer and right-click the C: drive, selecting Properties > Tools > Defragment Now and following the instructions displayed.
Note that while you can't defrag an SSD, you can optimize it for peak PC performance.
3. Too Many Permanent Temporary Files!
Temporary folders are supposed to make using Windows and your browser faster by providing easily-accessed files that can be loaded up extremely quickly. This might be data that is downloaded from the web or regularly required by other applications.
When your hard disk drive becomes over 90% full you will find that performance dips markedly. In order to combat this, one of the best things you can do is delete your Windows temp files and clean your web browser. While deleting your Internet history and temporary Internet files is something you can do from your browser, CCleaner is a good option for tidying up the Windows temp folders.
How To Uninstall Applications Efficiently And Remove Obsolete Files deals with the use of CCleaner.
4. An Incorrectly Configured Pagefile
Error messages and slow performance can be due to a problem with the Windows Pagefile, a temporary portion of your system memory that is used for processing functions, part of which involves the temporary holding of data.
Increasing the Pagefile is easy. First, open Start and right-click Computer, selecting Properties; from here, open Advanced > Settings > Performance > Advanced. Under Virtual Memory, select Change, and alter the size of the Pagefile so that a larger portion of RAM is available.
Note that if no more RAM can be allocated you will need to install additional memory modules.
5. Uninstalled Applications & The Windows Registry
When you uninstall software on Windows, the uninstaller doesn't necessarily remove everything from your computer. While you can employ the Piriform CCleaner utility to remove software completely, historical uninstalls and other problems will have caused issues with your Windows Registry.
The Windows Registry is like a vast database of filepaths and instructions for the operating system and installed software, and it can become corrupted and overloaded. These issues will cause slow boots, poor performance and a very slow shut down, as well as an inability to resume from sleep/standby modes.
Once again, CCleaner can be employed here, but there are many other tools that can be used to fix problems in the Windows Registry. Remember to back up the registry before running tools that might cause problems, even if your PC is running slow.
6. Slow Network?
While network speed might not have a direct impact on your computer's performance in many cases, if you're relying on downloading data or perhaps using a cloud application or even a remote virtual platform, slow network speed will come into play.
To overcome these issues, first check that your network cabling is secure and undamaged. If you have a wireless router, make sure that you are getting the very best connection, and spend some time checking the configuration on your router. You can use the Windows command prompt to check the speed of your Internet connection using the tracert command, while various websites provide live speed tests.
Don't overlook your local network as the cause of your problems, however. Network management software can be used to find out if anyone is piggy-backing your connection, and allow you to remove them.
7. Viruses & Spyware
If you're using security software, it *should* be protecting you from malware and viruses on your system. Malicious software is one of the primary reasons for slow or poor system performance, and can add themselves to your computer while you install software downloaded from the web. Malware doesn't just come in the form of viruses, worms and Trojans, however – there are plenty of toolbar hijacks and Facebook apps that can be described as malware or be the cause of malware ending up on your computer.
You can deal with malicious software by ensuring that your computer is fully equipped with anti-virus and anti-malware tools that run regularly. Removal of malware and viruses could prove difficult, however, if you don't have these tools installed.
8. Security Software Letting You Down?
Try to stick to anti-malware/anti-spyware applications with good reputations, however, as opposed to any that might have come bundled with your computer. There are plenty of free tools that you can use, but any of them can be responsible for drawing on too many system resources.
You can check whether security software (or other applications) are draining too many system resources by opening Task Manager, either by right-clicking the Windows taskbar or pressing CTRL+ALT+DELETE. Using the Processes and Performance tabs you should be able to identify which applications are causing the largest drain on resources – if it is your security software, you will need to deal with this in the application settings or even remove it completely. As there are many good free anti-virus and anti-malware applications available online, this shouldn't be difficult to replace.
(Note also that running two anti-virus applications will be counterproductive, as each is likely to identify the other as a threat, resulting in more slow PC performance.)
9. Old Hardware
Possibly the hidden villain of slow PC issues, old hardware can prove deadly to your computer. It's a familiar tale – the computer bought five or so years ago slowly upgraded component-by-component until it eventually has all brand new shining parts that simply cannot hope to perform as intended.
This is usually because of a single element, such as RAM that hasn't been upgraded or replaced, or perhaps a system that has been completely overhauled except for a motherboard with slow bus speed.
Elsewhere, old cables can result in slow transfers and data loss, impacting performances speeds and making an apparently decent computer look over the hill.
10. Positioning, Airflow and Ventilation
There are many factors that can determine the lifespan of your computer, but one of those that you should pay attention to is dust.
This single substance can wreak havoc in a computer, which is why machines should be regularly serviced to remove build-up of dust in vents, on cables, fans and heatsinks. The internal airflow of your computer should be such that the processor, graphics card and motherboard are kept cool – if this is not possible, performance issues will occur.
A computer should be positioned in a ventilated area, one which is relatively cool and largely dust free. You should also avoid covering the vents on your computer.
Speed Up Your PC With Regular Maintenance!
Using one, some or all of these solutions in tandem will enable you to speed up your computer, in some cases with remarkable results.
Note, however, that there is no substitute for regular maintenance. Whether that means keeping your hardware clean and dust free or running frequent checks with CCleaner and other utilities mentioned here, you should probably set aside one day a month to make sure your hardware is running at optimum speed for the rest of the time.
After all, computers are expensive pieces of equipment – looking after your investment will give you the best results.
Image Credits: Laptop dirty fan front view with dust via Shutterstock, Closeup of Virus Detected Sign on LCD Screen via Shutterstock, Knot in network cable, via Shutterstock, Broken hard disk drive via Shutterstock, Man on laptop via Shutterstock.