Why Is My Computer Slow?

When we buy a new PC, it is in its best condition, free from any kind of unwanted information. The system is uncluttered, and it works unhindered to fulfill all your computing requirements. In due course, however, this changes. You start experiencing problems that slow your computer down, your screen freezes frequently while you are working on the PC, and at times, you may also encounter the alarming Blue Screen of Death that may stall your system and force you to restart. Although these problems are far less frequent in Windows XP, Vista, and 7 computers, they do occur from time to time.

Slow Computer: Causes and Solutions

For a quick fix to a slow computer problem, try the following:

  • Close the applications you are not using to free up the system resources.
  • Restart your computer.
  • Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to display Task Manager. On the process tab, check for a process (Image Name) that is using maximum resources (Memory) that you are not using. You can try to end the process to speed up the PC. However, take care that you don’t end a system process as that may make your system unstable and force you to reboot the computer.

For a permanent solution, you need to understand the various causes of the slow computer problem. The most common causes and their possible solutions are discussed below:

Not enough RAM

All computers have minimum system requirements, and RAM or Random Access Memory is one of them. For example, the minimum RAM requirement on a Windows 7 and Windows Vista computer is 1 GB. Although this is enough to run your computer, this minimum requirement is usually not enough to run numerous applications on the system. Moreover, as you work on your computer, the load may increase, requiring more RAM eventually.

Most of the time, doubling the RAM should effectively help in speeding up your PC. However, if you are using your PC for demanding uses like running graphics and multimedia applications and gaming, your PC may need much more RAM.

Too many applications open at the same time

Windows computers support multitasking, but that does not mean you can open too many applications at the same time. Remember that each application you open uses some amount of system resources, and with too many applications open at the same time, the resources will be divided too, and your PC will slow down. Close a few applications to instantly speed up your PC.

Too many startup programs

As the name suggests, startup programs are launched when you start your Windows computer. Although some of these programs are essential to run your computer, some are just features of third-party applications that you have installed on your computer. You can disable these programs to speed up your computer. To disable these programs, perform the following steps:

  1. Click Windows Start button and select Programs and browse to the Startup folder.
  2. Here, right click on the program(s) you don’t want to load at startup and delete them.
  3. Again, click Windows Start button, type msconfig in the Start Search box, and hit Enter, or use the Run function and type msconfig to display the System Configuration utility.
  4. On the Startup tab, clear the checkboxes of the programs you don’t want to load at system startup.
  5. On the Services tab, select the Hide all Microsoft Services checkbox.
  6. Next, clear checkboxes of programs you don’t want to load at system startup.
  7. Click OK.
  8. Restart your computer. 

Malware, spyware, or virus infections

Your computer was working fast enough yesterday, but suddenly overnight, it is as slow as a snail. What happened? Well, most sudden computer slowdowns can be attributed to malware infections.

In the early days of the Web, a computer virus was the only harmful infection to your computer. However, we now have spyware, adware, backdoors, Trojans, and many other malicious programs to contend with. So, what do we do if a computer is infected?

  1. First, update the antimalware tool on your computer. Disconnect your PC from the Internet and any network connection before running a full system antimalware scan. If any results are displayed, get rid of them. If your antimalware tool supports Command Mode and Safe Mode, run the scan in these modes for a more effective cleanup.
  2. Next, run Windows Update. Microsoft regularly releases security patches to fix any security loopholes in their software products. Updating the system will help in installing any new updates that were released recently.
  3. If your antimalware tool provides real time protection, turn it on. If this feature is not there, it would be good to opt for a tool that comes with this feature. This feature helps in preventing malware from infiltrating your PC in the first place.

Hard drive space shortage, or fragmented drive

Since you store all your data on the computer hard drive, it is the most used device on your computer. Hard disk problems usually arise when the disk gets fragmented or filled up. In some cases, damaged sectors on it may also create a problem. You may use the following Windows tools to fix these issues:

  • Disk Cleanup Windows XP and Before: Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup

    Windows Vista and after: Start > Type Disk Cleanup in Start Search box, and click Disk Cleanup in the Programs list.

    You can use this tool to clean up a lot of unnecessary junk data stored on your computer. You can also use it to delete old System Restore points from the system.

  • Disk DefragmenterWindows XP and Before: Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup

    Windows Vista and after: Start > Type Disk Cleanup in Start Search box and click Disk Cleanup in the Programs list.

    When you continually add and remove data from the hard disk, it tends to get fragmented. Disk Defragmenter helps in defragging these fragments and restores contiguity to the hard disk. From Windows Vista onward, you can also schedule this tool to run periodically on the system.

  • CheckDiskThis command helps in fixing bad sectors on the hard disk. This command runs only in Command mode. To run this command, start your computer in Command Mode and then type the following command and press Enter:

    CHKDSK /f

CPU Issues

One of the most common issues related to CPU is overheating. The causes for the same are:

  • Improper CPU installation: If the CPU is not installed correctly, problems on your PC may start almost as soon as you start using it for the first time. In this case, it is best to take it back to the vendor for repairs. Even if the problem occurs at a later date due to relocation or some other issue, it is best to get this issue fixed by an expert.
  • Dust deposits in the CPU and other hardware: Dust accumulation in the CPU may prevent it from cooling down and cause overheating.  This is why it is recommended that you clean your computer at least every six months to remove these dust deposits from the hardware components.
  • Problems with the CPU fan: The CPU may overheat if the fan is faulty. Get the fan replaced to fix this issue.

At times, there may be a problem with the CPU itself, and you may have to get it replaced to resolve the issue.

Problems with the Windows Registry

All Windows computers since Windows 95 come with a built-in centralized database known as the Windows registry. Hierarchical in structure, this database is used to store all hardware, software, as well as user profile configuration information. On a Windows computer, instructions for even a simple task like opening a new application or clicking a mouse comes from the registry.

The registry is so frequently used that it may become prone to errors. For instance, as your PC gets older and applications are installed and removed on it, the registry starts getting filled up with all types of entries. Some of these are needed, and some are just useless. Some even get corrupt due to system failure or virus infections, and then there are some orphaned and empty keys that stay behind after you remove an application from the system.

All this clutter within the registry makes it continually grow in size, which makes it quite unstable. Over time, the registry gets fragmented and damaged and starts causing slow computer issues along with computer errors.

A simple way to fix and even prevent these registry problems is to use a reliable registry cleaner tool. A good tool will scan your registry, detect all unwanted entries, and help you get rid of them.

Uninstall old applications

If you like to try new applications now and then, it is quite possible that your PC is filled up with too many of them that you no longer use. So, make it a point to open the Windows Add or Remove Programs utility once every three months to scan for a program you don’t need or use and uninstall it.

Disable Windows/Desktop features

Visual enhancements look good, but they require a lot of resources too. You can disable these features to speed up your slow computer. The following steps show how you do this on Windows Vista and Windows 7:

  1. Open Windows Explorer.
  2. Right-click Computer and select Properties.
  3. In the System Properties dialog box that is displayed, open the Advanced tab.
  4. Here, click Settings in the Performance section.
  5. Now, clear the checkboxes of the visual effects you don’t want to use. You can select Adjust for best performance if you want to disable all effects.
  6. Click OK to apply the changes and exit the dialog box. Your system will take some time to implement the changes.

Update Windows, installed applications, and drivers

All software manufacturers release regular updates for their software products. To keep your PC working at its best, it is important to install these updates on a regular basis. Most Microsoft products can be set to update automatically with the help of the Windows Update feature. Many third-party applications also come with a built-in feature that you can use to update them. If this feature is missing, you may have to check the software manufacturer’s website for available updates and install them manually.

Device drivers also need to be updated on regular basis. Although this can be done manually, it is usually easy to use a driver update tool that you can do the task for you automatically.

Format hard drive and reinstall Windows

If none of the above methods work, it will be best if you format your hard drive and reinstall Windows on your computer. You can do this by using the Windows OS CD. Before formatting, remember to backup all your data, such as documents, worksheets, photographs, emails, etc… because formatting the hard disk will erase the entire hard disk, and all data stored on it will be lost.

Upgrade the computer’s hardware

If your computer stays slow even after reinstalling Windows, it may help to upgrade your computer hardware. With new applications and devices coming in every year, hardware gets outdated very soon. Some of the components that may need upgrading include: RAM, hard disk, and CPU.