25 August 2010
Comments: 0
25 August 2010, Comments: 0

One of the most common complaints IT technicians recieve is “my PC is running slow”. Fortunately, there are several things that can be checked and changed to crank that extra ounce of performance from your computer, especially if it’s an older machine. In this post, I’ll detail some basic PC housekeeping and maintenence techniques you can use to speed things up.

A word of caution here, this applies to the system as a whole running slow. If you’re experiencing problems with a specific program, such as Internet Explorer is crashing or iTunes takes ages to load for example, the steps here may not solve the issue. However, if you click “Start” and your pc takes 10 seconds to display the menu, read on….

Check Your RAM Memory

The first thing to be aware of before begin is the specifications of your computer. You can find some basic information by right-clicking your “My Computer” icon located on the top left of your desktop and selecting “Properties” from the drop down list. This will provide a system overview, but the items we’re interested in for troubleshooting speed problems are memory and processor. As a general rule, Windows XP will (just about) run with 256MB RAM as an absolute minimum, but don’t expect it to be a smooth experience! 512MB RAM was standard about 5 years ago, but as technology has progressed and people are increasingly using memory hungy applications, this just doesn’t cut it anymore. To get decent performance from your PC, we recommend at least 1GB of RAM for basic browsing and word processing, but you’re better off with 2GB or 3GB. Fitting extra RAM is generally a failsafe method of increasing your PC’s performance, and RAM is cheaper these days than in years gone by. So 1st port of call is to look at your RAM and see if it needs a bit of extra oomph.

Choose Which Programs Load on Startup

Now, if getting more RAM is not an option, or you already have a fairly good amount of RAM but your pc is still running slowly, the problem is likely to be software that’s running in the background that loads up automatically when Windows starts up. Luckily, there are a few ways of identifying which bits of software are loading, and whether you need them or not. It’s worth noting that stopping items from running on startup will not prevent access to these programs, you can still get them by running them from a shortcut or by finding them in the start menu. Stopping them simply means they won’t be loaded into system memory the moment your PC starts up. The first method is using a utility built into all versions of Windows called “msconfig”. You can access this by clicking on “Start”, then “Run”, and typing “msconfig” into the run box. On Windows 7 and Vista computers, you can use the search box that appears at the bottom of the start menu instead of the run box. When the window opens, click on the “startup” tab. This will display a list of everything that’s running on startup. From here it’s simply a case of unchecking anything you don’t need. Common culprits are Adobe Reader, Google Updater, LimeWire and printer monitoring and reporting utilities. Unticking them will stop them loading on startup. If that all looks a bit scary, there are several programs out there that will provide an easier interface to manage startup programs. My personal favourite is Tune-Up Utilities, which will categorise startup items into necessary, optional or uneccesary, and provide information on which programs do what. A free fully functional 30 day trial is available from their website. Try stripping your startup list down to absolute essentials, and see if you notice a speed increase.

Housekeeping with Anti-Virus, Anti-Malware and Windows Updates

There are a few other tips you can try if things are still running slowly. For instance, you can check your hard drive for fragmentation, which can slow a pc down if left unchecked. Click Start > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter and then select your C Drive from the interface, and click defragment. Note that this process can sometime, most likely a few hours and will slow down your pc while it’s running, so do it during a quiet time, when you’re not using your computer. It’s also worth making sure your Anti-Virus & Anti-Spyware protection is up to date and protecting your PC properly. A lot of slowness problems are caused by malware and other malicious software, so making sure your PC is clean is always a good idea. Try running a scan with MalwareBytes Anti-Malware (again, a free download) to find and clean any nasty software that may be lurking. Finally, make sure you have the latest updates to Windows with Automatic Updates. If you have Microsoft Office installed, it’s also worth visiting the Microsoft Update site and signing up for free, as this will bring in updates for Office and other microsoft products as well as updates for Windows.

Overview of Steps to Take

1. Upgrade your system’s RAM memory.
2. Remove any unwanted programs from the computer’s startup.
3. Uninstall any programs from the Control Panel which you no-longer use.
4. Defragment your C Drive.
5. Update your anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
6. Run a full malware scan of your computer using a tool like MalwareBytes Anti-Malware.
7. Update your Windows operating system through the Microsoft website or directly from your computer.

What to do if That Fails to Work

If you find that the above has worked for you and fixed your issues, congratulations. However, if you have tried the methods above and still find that your computer is running very slow, the best thing to do is to contact our IT technicians who can look into it further. We have resources available which can scan your entire system, not to mention the expertise and experience in dealing with these kind of problems on a daily basis.

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