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A girl wondering: “why is my computer so slow?”

Why is my computer so slow?

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Why is my computer so slow? It’s a question that's almost always asked with distinct tones of frustration, and for good reason. Regardless of their make or model, we rely on our computers for a great deal, including some of the essential tasks that come up in our daily lives. An excessively slow computer can throw off your timing, and your schedule – worse, for people who depend on their Mac or PC for working remotely, a sluggish machine can interfere with your career in a big way.

For many of us, much of this frustration comes from not understanding why things are slowing down in the first place. With all the variables and potential reasons involved, the average person can’t be expected to delve into their computer and uncover the central issues. Luckily, two of the Computer Experts on JustAnswer have taken the time to sit down and share their wisdom with us. Their insights, which even the most technologically challenged among us can follow along with, cover the causes, prevention methods, and solutions for a computer that has slowed down.

Meet the Experts

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Cris is a Support Specialist with 10 years of Information Technology experience in both residential and industrial sectors. He has utilized this experience in assisting over 3000 satisfied customers to date on JustAnswer with their Computer and Mac questions and concerns.

You can contact Cris directly at any time for computer and IT help.

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Sadique is a Consumer Electronics expert with years of experience assisting clients with issues related to general electronics issues, printers, and computers. He boasts a versatile background, with time spent working with mobile phone issues as well as circuit analysis.

You can contact Sadique directly with your computer or electronics issues at any time.

Does the frequency of rebooting matter when it comes to computer speed? If so, how often should I try to reboot mine?

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Yes, a restart should be performed once a week to refresh the operating system and clear the system cache. Both Mac and Windows release security/system updates a few times a week to fix bugs and security issues that can hinder performance. Some updates will require a restart to be completely applied.

Cris

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Reboot/restart helps computers run fast because a reboot flushes the RAM by deleting all the temporary files stored on your computer's memory. When a computer is in the running state, the RAM keeps accepting the temporary data from all the applications you're running. If you don't restart/reboot your computer twice a week, you will have lots of unwanted data inside your RAM affecting the whole performance of the computer. Reboot or restart your computer twice every week before you do anything.

Sadique

The takeaway: If you haven’t been rebooting your computer regularly, it’s time to start. Restarting your system once or twice a week can help you keep it from slowing down.

Is there a connection between hard drive space and speed? How much free space is enough for my computer to run smoothly?

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Having less than 15% of free space will not allow your system to perform a defrag. A defrag allows the hard drive to gather data and organize so it spins less. Therefore, becoming more efficient and increasing performance.

Cris

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Generally, there is always a data exchange between the processor and hard disk. The hard drive doesn't affect how fast a processor runs, but a full hard disk will take more time to send the data to the processor rather than an empty one. I would always recommend keeping 20% of the hard disk memory free.

Sadique

The takeaway: To keep the transfer of information inside your computer from getting sluggish, be sure to keep at least 15 - 20% of your hard drive’s memory free.

Pinpointing the cause for slower computers sometimes requires an expert's assistance

Could a virus or malware be slowing my computer down? How do I find out if my computer is infected?

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An infected PC is the usual leading cause of a slow and failing PC. A virus will cause pop-ups and re-directs and install bogus applications, and all kinds of hidden rooted issues. Antivirus software, if installed, will run in the background, but does not always detect a virus. It is best to run a full scan if you are a heavyIinternet user, at least once a week. Malwarebytes is a free and very effective virus scan software, and ESET NOD32 Antivirus scores highest in detection and removal rate.

Cris

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A virus is nothing but another rogue program which runs in the background, eating up your RAM's memory, and in turn, slowing down your computer. If you notice frequent crashes of applications/programs, automatic system restarts, annoying pop-up ads, a slower system or one that responds very slowly, registry errors, programs/apps opening on their own etc., this indicates that your computer is infected.

Sadique

The takeaway: Computer viruses and malware are one of the most common reasons behind a computer suddenly slowing down. When in doubt, run a free scanner like Malwarebytes in order to identify whether an infection is at fault.

How do I check to make sure an outdated driver isn’t the problem? What about a hardware conflict?

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Drivers are a set of a program which helps hardware to interact with your PC. If you have been using an old driver for quite a long time without any problem and suddenly you notice that the system starts behaving in a weird way after you connected new hardware, then it's not a problem with your driver, but the recent hardware which you connected to your system. You can say this is a hardware conflict as well.

To resolve this, we can start searching for an upgraded driver to fix the incompatibility bug.

Sadique

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Most of the driver updates are released through Windows Updates and are normally scheduled. But also, many of the manufactures offer their own software, such as HP or Dell Assistant, which is pre-loaded onto the machine when built. The software can also be downloaded for free from their respective sites. When run or set on “automatically check for updates,” it will find the latest drivers/bios updates for the machine and apply them.

Cris

The takeaway: If you’re noticing odd behavior or sudden slowness in your computer after adding new hardware, there is likely a conflict of some kind causing the issue. As for outdated drivers, you can avoid this by enabling the setting that has your system automatically check for updates.

Could my computer just be getting too old? After how many years of use should I start looking for a replacement?

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Typically, a PC should have a lifespan of five years. But there are many factors that increase/decrease the years of use. From how the PC is cared for and maintained, to quality and room for upgrades. After a number of years, both Windows and Mac will end support for certain operating systems, therefore not releasing any more updates. This leaves you exposed to security risks and more if you decide to continue running a outdated PC.

Cris
Sometimes, buying a new computer is the only viable solution.

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You might want to replace a computer that’s more than five years old, because of improved hardware/technology coming in the market every quarter. Manufacturers are always on the quest to make laptops/computers thinner and lighter without any compromises to the performance or battery life.

Usually, you notice slowness in your computer after five years due to the accumulation of years of updates, program/app installs and uninstalls, temporary files, etc.

Sadique

The takeaway: Some things get better with age, but computers aren’t among them. If your computer has lasted beyond five years of regular use, you’ve made the most of your investment – but you also shouldn’t be surprised to see things slowing down. Getting a replacement at this point is recommended.

Are there any general guidelines you can recommend for maintaining better computer speeds moving forward?

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Clear your browser cache/cookies and temporary files every week, because every time you visit a website, a lot of info gets stored on your computer. Over time, the volume of these files builds up. You can use a freeware, CCleaner, to clear all these temp files.

Make sure you have a lower number of startup programs running on your computer, because whether you use these apps or not, they eat up your RAM's memory by running in the background. Keep tabs on the programs/apps you install. If you feel there are programs you don't require, then just go and uninstall those programs from the control panel.

Don't keep more than one anti-virus software in your system, because these programs look for programs that are monitoring and sending information about your system. If you have multiple anti-viruses in your system, then each of the anti-viruses will mistake the other for a virus and will try to block it. This, in turn, will slow down your computer. Generally, anti-virus programs use a lot of space, so the more of them you have in your computer, the more space they are going to take up.

Sadique

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Restarting your PC once a week and scheduling a weekly defrag will improve PC performance. But also, maintain a virus free PC by making sure your software is up to date and has the latest definitions. Run tools such as CCleaner, a free software that will clean all your temp/junk files plus clean your registry. A computer is pretty much like a car – the better you keep up with maintenance, the less issues you will have.

Cris

The final word

Unlike people and animals, the technology we rely on should never get “moody” or act up for no reason. If your computer has started to slow down, there’s undoubtedly something causing it – figuring out what’s wrong could potentially save you the need to pony up the cash for a replacement, unless the issue at hand is advanced age.

Of course, identifying the problems isn’t always a simple matter. If you’re trying to figure out what’s been weighing your computer down, and you don’t know where to start, the Experts on JustAnswer are always ready to point you in the right direction. Reach out today for the help you need, and you might just be able to put the pep back in your system’s step.

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