As an IT pro, one of the most common complaints I hear from people is slow computer performance. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with a creeping computer.
Even if you’re not a computer geek like me, you can correct many of the most common causes of computer slowness.
Here are 10 reasons why your Windows computer might be slow. Some of these tips are more involved than others. I recommend reading this entire post before you try anything, so you can decide which of my tips might apply to you.
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You Haven’t Restarted It Lately
Computers still need a good restart every so often. Depending on what programs you use, that might mean once a week or once a day.
Restarting your computer is kind of like cleaning a whiteboard with alcohol rather than just wiping it with an eraser. It gives you a clean slate, flushing away everything that Windows has been hoarding in memory since the last time you restarted.
Your phone and tablet are the same way, since they’re computers, too. You’ll need to restart them on occasion to keep them working well.
Malware is an all-encompassing term for any software you don’t want. That includes viruses and Trojans as well as all sorts of browser plug-ins and supposed utilities that take up residence on your computer and can slow things to a crawl.
Not all malware hides itself. You can go through your add/remove programs list in Windows and Google anything you don’t recognize or aren’t sure you need. Uninstall any programs that don’t make the cut.
If you suspect malware but don’t see anything unusual installed on your computer, you may need to do a System Restore. Type System Restore into the Windows search box or Cortana to find it. You’ll want restore back to a time before you started having problems.
Sluggish Hard Drive
If you have a laptop, one of the least expensive ways you can drastically improve the speed of your computer is to buy an SSD hard drive. SSD stands for “solid state drive,” and it’s a different type of hard drive than most computers have.
If your laptop already has an SSD hard drive, it’s probably very small, since an SSD costs a lot more than standard hard drives. Fortunately, it’s cheaper to add one to an existing laptop than it is to buy a laptop with an SSD drive already in it.
You should get an SSD drive that’s about the same size as the drive that’s already in your laptop. A 500 GB SSD drive costs about $150. If you’re comfortable working with computer hardware, you can probably do the job yourself. Look up the user manual for your laptop to find out how to take it apart and replace the hard drive.
Rather than using whatever software comes with the SSD drive, you can use Windows Backup and Restore. Make a backup using an external hard drive and create a rescue disk using a blank DVD.
Replace the drive, then use the rescue disk to start up your computer and restore from the backup you created. With the new SSD drive, you’ll find that startup is amazingly fast and programs run a whole lot more quickly.
Not Enough RAM
Many computers seem to come with 4 GB of RAM, and it’s been like that for years. That amount works well for a lot of computer users, but for others, it’s not sufficient.
Fortunately, upgrading RAM is fairly inexpensive and, in most computers, an easy task. Unless you know what you’re doing, I’d advise looking up your computer’s manual online and finding out how hard it is to add RAM.
It’s pretty straightforward in most desktop computers, but some laptops require jumping through a few hoops to get to the RAM. You’ll want to make sure that you’re comfortable with how much delving into your laptop will be required before you purchase new RAM. You’ll need the manual anyway to look up what kind of RAM you need to buy.
If you spend most of your computer time inside a web browser like Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer, slow internet speeds can drive you batty.
Fortunately, you can troubleshoot and fix many internet and Wi-Fi problems on your own.
It might involve a simple fix or some new Wi-Fi hardware, but it’s usually something that doesn’t require a professional to sort out.
When it comes to anti-malware software, more is not better. In fact, if you have Windows 10 on your computer at home, you can do without anti-malware software altogether. That’s because Windows 10 comes with its own anti-malware software called Windows Defender.
If you still run Windows 7, you can download the free Microsoft Security Essentials program instead.
Whatever other anti-malware utility you install will probably slow down your computer without much benefit. Some folks end up with several anti-malware packages installed, which can make your computer painfully slow.
You can prevent most malware by not clicking on links in emails (even if they’re from someone you know) and by not clicking on pop-ups.
If you get an email from someone you know and it contains a link, check with that person to make sure he/she actually sent that email.
If you see a pop-up message that says you need to download an update to your browser or that your computer is infected with scads of viruses, do not click on anything. Shut down your computer by holding in the power button for about 10 seconds, give it a minute, then turn it back on.
You are by far the best protection against malware infections on your computer. No anti-malware software can come close.
Windows constantly runs a bunch of programs invisibly, in the background. Most of them work and play well together and don’t noticeably affect performance.
However, some background programs hog resources, and having too many programs can also cause things to creep along slowly.
Plug-ins (a.k.a. extensions) can make your Chrome or Firefox browser do fantastic things. Since most plug-ins are free, how well they work without affecting performance varies drastically.
I love having plug-ins for Chrome and Firefox, but I use them sparingly. I’ve learned that it’s not a good idea to install a plug-in because you think it might be something cool to have. I make sure that I don’t install anything that I’m not sure I’m going to make use of immediately.
Too many plug-ins or plug-ins that were poorly written can affect the performance of your entire computer. That’s because they can cause your browser to hog an increasingly large share of the available resources, leaving little for other programs.
Your Kid or Grandkid Was Using It
I’m not knocking kids. I have two of them and love them dearly.
The problem with kids and computers is when you let a child or teenager use your computer without creating a separate non-administrative login for him or her.
Kids and teens tend to play games such as Minecraft. The problem with Minecraft isn’t with the game itself, but with “mods,” which are game add-ons that kids can download to use with Minecraft. That’s the case with many other games as well, although sometimes a game itself comes with unwanted software bundled with it.
If someone has already messed up your computer, your best bet might be to do a System Restore back to a date before the problems started. System Restore doesn’t delete your files, but restores Windows programs and settings back to the way they were at a certain date and time.
Time to Upgrade?
If you’re a more advanced user comfortable with digging under the hood in Windows, visit the Event Viewer. Type Event Viewer into the Windows search box or Cortana to locate it easily.
Look under Custom Views, Administrative Events in the left pane, to see a list of warnings and alerts in the right pane. If you browse through these events, most of them won’t mean much to you and can be safely ignored. However, keep an eye out for hardware errors that say anything about your hard disk, RAM or other hardware.
You shouldn’t ignore consistent hardware errors in the Event Viewer. If they involve your hard drive or RAM, you should consider either replacing these yourself or getting professional help.
If the tips in this post don’t help and/or you see Event Viewer entries for hardware other than your hard drive or RAM, you might want to consider having an IT pro check out your computer.
If your computer is several years old, you could also think about replacing it. You’ll get the benefit of newer, faster hardware and a clean slate with only the operating system (Windows 10) and whatever software comes bundled with the machine.