We all know that computers often slow down over time, but why is this and what can you do about it?
- Remove unwanted software and stop programs running automatically on start-up
When your new shiny computer first arrives there is usually nothing on it except for the operating system (usually Windows) and consequently it boots up in seconds and runs faster than Usain Bolt.
What you may not realise is that a lot of software you load will automatically add at least some element to the start-up routine of the computer so as soon as you boot the computer up the software starts running. After a while there will be quite a few of these programs vying for attention on start-up and/or continuing to run background services whilst you go about your work, all slowing your computer down.
So check what these are (or get your IT support company to) and remove anything unwanted or unnecessary.
- Keep your disk tidy
Files and programs are written to your hard disk in the most efficient way to read them back, which usually means the information is stored together. However, over time your disk becomes full and so the data often gets written in different areas making it slow to read back. This is known as disk fragmentation. Luckily a disk defragmentation program can move these all around and put them back in an efficient structure again.
Disk fragmentation is typically not an issue on modern Windows operating systems as they perform background disk defragmentation during idle time. However, if the disk is very full, defragmentation may never actually finish so you should make sure you have plenty of free disk space and perform a manual defrag every so often (when you’re not using the computer) to ensure it has run properly.
- Upgrade your memory
Programs and their data are typically only partially loaded into memory, with the remainder staying in temporary (“swap”) space on the hard disk. The relevant part of the program or data then gets loaded into memory (Random Access Memory – RAM) as it’s required. Not only is this process slow but as your disk get filled up (see 2 above) it gets even slower.
The more RAM you have the less likely your computer will need to swap data from disk space so consider upgrading the size of your RAM; it could make a huge difference for very little investment.
- Upgrade your hard drive
Given how your computer uses its hard disk drive (see point 3 above), a slow drive means a slow computer so consider replacing your standard hard drive (that has lots of moving parts and spins like an old fashioned record) with a new Solid State Drive (SSD). SSD’s have no moving parts and so are incredibly fast and don’t wear out like traditional hard drives. They are more expensive than standard hard drives but if you save 30 minutes every day you could make the difference back in efficiency in weeks or even days!
- Is your anti-virus checker efficient and up to date?
Some anti-virus software can be very intensive and use quite a bit of your computing power. Unfortunately some users, in an attempt to speed up the computer, remove their antivirus and then get infected with malware. Some malware is stealthy and if you don’t have antivirus installed you may not notice it except as a general slowdown, thus having the exact opposite affect the user wanted.
Check with your IT support provider that you have efficient anti-virus software and that it is configured correctly to give you maximum protection without slowing your computer down. Never remove anti-virus software!
Finally, do remember that computers do actually wear out and become obsolete as the technology around them moves on. Any hardware that is over 3 years old is unlikely to perform at its best.
For example, as the average computer gets faster and web technology advances, browsers and sites become correspondingly more complex and therefore, on the same hardware, slower. Your computer may not be able to run the latest and most efficient versions of software due to incompatibility issues or your graphics card may not be able to handle the wonderful enhanced graphics now used by browsers and software.
If you’ve tried all of the above and your computer is still slow then perhaps it’s time to move on a buy a new one.