Looking to fix your slow computer? There are any number of root problems which can lead to sluggish browsing, frustrating performance from your applications, unwatchable videos, or unplayable games. To help you figure out which combination of issues is holding you back, we’ll dive into each of the likely suspects:
- Hardware maintenance
- Software maintenance
Like any complex piece of machinery, your computer should be physically cleaned on a regular basis. There are any number of ways poor computer hygiene can lend itself to reduced efficiency; most commonly, you’ll see problems with too much heat generation, which can slow components, trigger cautionary failsafes, and age your components prematurely.
A can of compressed air can do 99% of the hard work here. Just make sure you shut your computer off and clean it rigorously—don’t leave dust sitting where it might cause problems.
Of course, hardware maintenance is only a tiny proportion of the upkeep necessary to keep your computer running quickly. You’ll want to make sure you keep the software clean and clear, too. There are a few components to this:
- Disc fragmentation. Most modern computers handle this automatically, but if yours doesn’t it can be a pain. A quick Google can tell you how your operating system handles fragmentation—and how to fix it if it’s not automatic.
- Excessive background processes. If you’re running too many programs at once, your computer will run slow. Often, we’re running far more programs than we realize in the background. Check for unnecessary programs in your task manager.
- Memory hogging toolbars and add-ons. Notice a bunch of extra buttons, bars, and frills in your browser lately? These can slow down your computer in a big way; each one is basically a background program in and of itself.
- Delayed updates. Make sure you’re installing recommended updates on a regular basis. This will upgrade drivers, patch security holes, and otherwise tweak your system to run optimally.
Malware and virus removal
Getting away from simple wear and tear aspects of your computer slowing down, let’s look at malicious infections. There are a few categories of bad data to be wary of as a computer owner. While viruses are the most dangerous and malicious, they’re not nearly as common as more mundane malware that redirects you to certain websites, forces popups on you, installed browser bars you don’t want, and similarly ruin your browsing experience.
Some viruses infect your computer to steal processing power, so the source of the infection can use your computer to hack other computers, sell your processing power, and so on. This will dramatically slow your computer.
Other malware slows your computer simply by existing and being poorly designed. A piece of software that adds extra links to every webpage isn’t just annoying, it’s often going to slow your system immensely because of bad programming.
Cleaning your system of these infections can turn a sluggish computer into a lightning fast one instantly, if enough of them are currently present.
Sometimes, computers aren’t slow because of maintenance issues or infections. Sometimes, they’re just getting a bit old for the task at hand. Understanding what needs to be upgraded in your computer can be difficult, but you get a general idea of the problem at hand by looking at the specific activities you’re struggling with:
- Videos. Video card, CPU, or hard drive.
- Games. Video card most likely, but potentially any component.
- Multitasking. RAM for keeping multiple programs active, CPU for switching quickly.
- Opening new programs. Hard drive or CPU.
- General computing. CPU, RAM, or hard drive.