Have you noticed your computer is running more slowly than usual? This isn’t an inevitable part of computer ownership. Let’s look at some reasons why your computer might be slowing down, and how you can fix it.
- Check your system tray programs – Some applications run in the system tray, or notification area. They typically launch at start up, then stay running in the background, remaining hidden behind the up arrow icon at the bottom right corner of your monitor. Click that arrow near the system tray, and right click any applications you don’t want running. Close them and you’ll free up your computer’s resources.
- Locate programs that are eating up your resources – When your computer runs slowly it’s because something is using up its resources. For instance, one runaway program may be taking up 90% of your CPU resources. An app might be using a large amount of memory, or an app might be using the disk a lot, which would cause other applications to slow down when they need to save something to the disk. Open the Task Manager to check this. Right click on the taskbar and select “Task Manager” to open it. Click “CPU”, “Memory”, and “Disk” headers to sort the lists by the applications using the more resources. If an app is using too much, close it normally. If you can’t then select it there and click “End Task” to force it to close.
- Disable start up programs – Rather than go through ending tasks after you’re up and running, go to the source and stop those applications from starting in the first place. On Windows there is now a startup manager in Task Manager that allows you to manage your startup programs. Go to the Startup tab in Task manager and disable the programs you don’t need. Windows should tell you which applications are slowing down your startup process. Free programs like CCleaner can also help you manage your start up programs.
- Malware and Adware – Malicious software is a big reason that many computers start performing slowly. It may not even be malware, it might just be software that tracks your web browsing so it can send you additional advertisements. This is annoying, and a potential threat. Scan your computer using a good, reputable antivirus program, then follow that up by scanning with Malwarebytes (a program designed to run alongside your main antivirus software). Malwarebytes has a great reputation for catching a lot of “potentially unwanted programs” (PUPs), that many antivirus programs will ignore. They sneak onto your computer when you’re installing other software, and you definitely don’t want them hanging around. They may not all be dangerous, but they will certainly slow your computer down.
- Your web browser – It’s a safe bet that you use your web browser a lot, and the browser itself may be slow. To help this, use as few browser extensions or add-ons as possible. They can slow down your browser big time and cause it to use more memory. To fix this go into your web browser’s Extensions or Add-Ons manager and remove the add-ons you don’t want. It’s also worth considering enabling ‘click-to-play’ plugins. If you enable the plugin then Flash and other content won’t automatically open when you open a web page; it gives you a choice whether to download it or not. This conserves bandwidth, improves page load times, reduces CPU usage, and can even extend battery life on your laptop.
- Get rid of programs you don’t use – Chances are you have programs installed on your computer that you never use. They can be taking up space and slowing your computer down, so go in and uninstall those programs. To do this, open the Control Panel from your Start menu and find the list of installed programs. Find the ones you don’t want or need and uninstall them. This can really help speed up your computer, as some of these programs might be running background processes, system services, autostart entries, and context menu entries, among other things. Deleting these unused programs will save room on your hard drive and improve system security.
- When all else fails…reset your PC or reinstall windows – If you’ve tried all the tips I’ve presented here already and you’re still having problems, there is one more thing you can try – get a fresh and clean Windows installation. This has gotten much easier with Windows 8, 8.1 and 10. It used to be you had to get Windows installation media to reinstall Windows. No more. Now you can simply use the “Reset your PC” feature that’s built into Windows and get a brand spanking new Windows system. This is very similar to the prior reinstall of Windows and will wipe your installed programs and system settings while keeping your files.
As you can see, there are many reasons that a computer might slow down. It might be only one of these things, or a little bit of them all. Use these tips, and hopefully you can get your computer running like the day you brought it home.