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Why Your PC Slows Down and How to Fix It

Posted October 28th, 2015

Slow Computer

After a while, computers start to slow down. This happens for a number of reasons, not all of which are easy to fix. Listed below are the most common reasons for why your PC is having speed issues and the things you can do to fix it.


1. You Haven’t Restarted Your PC in a While

Restarting your computer ever so often is a good way to keep your computer in working order. Simply go to the Start Menu and hit Restart. Doing this clears your computer’s cache, RAM, and forces a new registry read. Essentially what you’re doing is telling your PC to take a break from thinking, allowing it to reassess itself.

Performing a Restart is important after doing activities that affect functionality, such as installing/uninstalling apps and programs, implementing Windows updates, etc. Doing these things tells the computer that it needs to run with new registry entries, and a Restart allows it to do so.


2. Your Hard Drive is Low on Free Storage Space

full hard drive

Besides being used to store files and data, hard drive free space also functions as “swapping space” for files to move around in, as well as the virtual memory required for programs to operate. It’s a good idea to have at least 20% of free hard drive space and to increase it whenever possible.

To view how much free space your hard drive has, click on the Start button and go to Computer. Then click on the hard drive you want to check. The total size and available free space will appear in the Details pane at the bottom of the folder window.

You may also want to consider using a cloud storage service to house some of your data offsite.


3. You Need to Defragment Your Computer

Data on your computer can sometimes get moved around or become fragmented on your hard drive. When this happens, your computer has a harder time finding the right pieces of information to run programs properly.

To reorder your data, you need to run Disk Defragmenter. To do this, click on the Start button, then in the search box, type Disk Defragmenter. When you open the program, under Current status, select the disk you’d like to defragment. (If you have two hard drives, you should do both).

disk defrag

To determine if the disk needs to be defragmented, click Analyze. Once the analysis is complete, it will show you the percentage of fragmentation in the Current status column (for older versions of Windows it will appear in the Last Run column). If the number is above 10%, you should defragment the disk.

To do this, simply click Optimize (older versions of Windows will say Defragment disk). The defragmentation process can take anywhere between several minutes to several hours. It all depends on how fragmented the disk is and the size of your hard drive. You can still use your computer while it’s running the defrag, but it will run much slower.


4. You’re Running Too Many Background Programs

Sometimes when you install a new program, it will ask you if you’d like it to open upon starting your computer. Certain security software will also ask if you’d like it to perform scans in the background. Having too many programs running at the same time will use up your RAM and cause your computer to run slowly.

To prevent this from happening, open Task Manager by typing it into the search bar or right-click the Taskbar and select Task Manager.

Once opened, click on the Startup tab. Here you will see a list of programs that are set to run when booting up your computer. You will also see the level of impact of each program under the Startup impact column.

task manager

Start by disabling the programs that have a High Startup impact and move down from there. This may also be a good time to reassess the programs on your computer and consider uninstalling ones that you no longer use.


5. Your Version of Windows is Out of Date

Windows XP

Those running on an older operating system are much more likely to experience slowdowns and crashes. Older operating systems don’t receive as many updates, causing performance lags. If you can, update your computer to the latest version of Windows or at least something newer than what you already have.


6. Your Computer is Overheating

keyboard on fire

When computer processors get too hot, it tends to decrease computer performance. Some processors will even lower their speed to help cool themselves down.

Overheating issues are usually due to fans inside the computer not working properly or dust collection. To fix this, remove your computer’s covering and clean out the dust. You can do this by carefully vacuuming the dust or using a can of compressed air to blow the dust out. You should refrain from using liquids as it could severely damage your computer.

You may also need to replace the fan if it’s not working properly or install an additional fan if there’s room for one.


7. Your Computer is Infected with a Virus or Malware

computer virus removal

Viruses, spyware, and malware can severely slow your computer down and should be removed immediately as they can lead to other problems. To see if you have this issue, you should run a scan using anti-virus software. If you don’t have anti-virus software, here is PC Mag’s list of best free antivirus programs.

When you run the scan, make sure it scans the entire computer. Once the scan is complete, you should be able to fix any problems it detected with one simple click. To prevent your computer from becoming infected again, check out our post on email security tips.


8. Your PC Needs Additional Memory


Upgrading your computer’s RAM (random access memory) allows it to run more programs at once. Today, most computers are sold with at least 4 GB of memory. If you’re experiencing slowdowns while running multiple programs, upgrading your memory will help speed things up quite a bit.

To see how much memory you have on board, go to the Start menu and right-click on Computer. Then click Properties. In the System section, next to Installed memory (RAM), you’ll see how much your computer has.

To see if you have any open slots for additional memory or what kind of memory your computer takes, look on your computer manufacture’s website.


9. Your Computer is Old

Old Computer

Just like a car, computer parts start to wear down after a while. It’s also difficult for older computers to keep up with the increased performance demand of new programs. If your computer is over 5 years old, it’s likely time for you to get a new one.

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