One the most dreaded questions a PC tech hears is, “How do I fix my slow PC?” You start to explain various fixes but then the client shakes his head and says, "No...I'm not doing all that...what software do I buy?"
If you have spent any time on the Internet, you have seen the ads and websites claiming that they have this "software" or that "registry fix" that will "auto-magically" fix your slow PC. Well the truth is folks that most of those programs are just plain, old-fashioned "snake-oil" cures and are not worth the money.
In my experience, below are the top 10 causes of computer slowdowns and the best way how to fix them...
Cause 1 - Spyware & Adware
If this is your problem you have already seen an increasing number of nasty little popups. Or your homepage has been hijacked and replaced some weird website, and now you see a strange little "icon" sitting on your desktop telling you that your "virus protection" is not activated! Yep, you been slammed with a heavy duty dose of spyware/adware.
The Fix - Download and scan your computer with a good spyware/adware killer like "Spybot" or "Ad-Ware".
Cause 2 - Not Enough RAM
Your machine had done its best with what RAM (computer memory chips) it came with but lately it has become overwhelmed. You have been updating your operating system faithfully and have added several new programs that you let you run your new scanner/printer. And all that is just too much for the original memory.
The Fix - Check your owner's manual or look your computer up online to find out what type, size and speed RAM you need.
Cause 3 - Viruses
Your PC is crashing and restarting by itself every few minutes or it just locks up and stops running. Programs you used to use everyday are not working properly or have stopped working together. You can't print anymore and now you are getting lots of strange error messages and warnings. You are officially infected.
The Fix - Download a good anti-virus program like Norton, McAfee or AVG and scan all your files.
Cause 4 - Program Overload
You just have too many junk programs. Like a cluttered closet you have downloaded too many applications without cleaning out the old ones. Also a lot of programs use "Terminal but Stay Resident" applets. This means that the main program closes down but basically leaves a smaller "watchdog" program out monitoring your system. Too many of these can cause processor slowdowns and hog the PC's memory banks.
The Fix - Use the "Add/Remove Programs" function to get rid any old programs you no longer need. And use the "SysTray" to close down programs you don't need open.
Cause 5 - Dying Hard Drive
If you repeatedly keep hearing strange "tapping sounds" or "clicks" coming from your hard drive you may want to quickly do a backup because it may soon shuffle off this mortal world. Unlike the elephant's graveyard, a dying hard drive will not lead you a hidden treasure. More like a very nasty surprise in lost files and high repair expenses.
The Fix - Do a full backup as soon as possible and buy a new drive that comes with "drive image" software so you can make a "mirror" copy of your old drive onto your new one.
Cause 6 - Video Card Woes
Oddly enough video cards are seldom included in the line up of usual suspects that cause sluggish PCs. But in my experience a damaged video card or video card driver can cause a host of hidden problems that are difficult to detect in the normal course of running your computer.
The Fix - Locate and download the latest software driver you can find for your video card. Reinstall it and reset your display settings. Notice if the driver gets corrupted or stops working again. Instead of a software issue, you may have a video card slowing going bad and slowing down the entire system.
Cause 7 - Too Many Old Files
If you are like me, you may be a bit of "info-packrat". I download lots of information from the web and storage in my PC for research or whatever and put them on my hard drive. I make copies of every password and keep documents I have written, well practically forever. But too many files can slow down the access speed between devices in your computer and your hard drive.
The Fix - Archive those old files either to a DVD or like me to an external hard drive. I took an spare hard drive I had and bought an external case and use it to store all my old recipes, documents, etc.
Cause 8 - Removing Clutter
Even if you remove your old files, you may still have a bunch of old temp files from surfing the web, bits of half-installed programs, etc. These snippets of code like metal filings in a well oil machine can cause unexpected software crashes and lock ups.
The Fix - Run the built in Windows Disk Cleanup program, scan your hard disk for errors and finally run the disk defragmentation program to setup your system to run more efficiently.
Cause 9 - Overheating
If your PC keeps crashing and restarting you have already run a virus scan, Or say your computer runs fine in the cool morning or nights but slows down or locks up in the heat of the day? You have an overheating problem.
The Fix - Due to increase temperature sensitivity, newer CPUs can automatically drop to a slower speed when they become overheated. Open your computer case and use a small, natural bristle paint brush to clean away any dust or debris. Listen to the fan housing over your CPU and inside your power supply for strange rattles or whines.
Cause 10 - Operating System damaged
Windows is much more reliable than it used to be but it still can become corrupted over time and develops errors which effect overall computer performance. This type of problem is obvious due to increase number of "Blue Screens of Death" and runtime errors.
The Fix - Reinstall your operating system. Make sure to do a full backup If possible. Since Windows 2000, you can now do what's called a "repair install". This kind of install will save all your files and settings for other installed programs.
Don't waste your money on worthless software "slow PC cures" that you can easily fix using programs freely available from the Internet or already built into your operating system