Is My Computer Slow?
(and how to fix it)
computing systems tend to
get slower and slower as time goes along. Why is that? Based on my own
experience, I've compiled the following list of major performance
issues, roughly in the
order of frequency:
of garbageware and poorly tuned software is the leading cause of poor
performance. Garbageware includes a constellation of
programs, services, and tasks that run in the background, pointlessly
and uselessly consuming memory and CPU resources. Right out of the
gate, consumer-class systems come massively overloaded with
garbageware, which hardware vendors are paid to install by garbageware
vendors. Sony even has the audacity to offer systems without
garbageware for an extra
Interestingly enough, business-class systems do not come loaded with
garbageware, meaning PC vendors are quite happy to willingly cripple
brand new consumer systems.
Also, as time goes along, garbageware is
concurrently installed almost every time you install other software,
such as a printer driver CD, a broadband installation CD (unneeded),
mouse/keyboard driver CDs (almost never needed)
or free software such as itunes, Adobe Reader, Java, and many others.
While XP certainly has way too many useless services running in the
background, Vista and Windows 7 have even more
built-in garbageware services and tasks that continuously and uselessly
hard drive in
the background. I'm sure you've noticed the hard drive light flickering
almost continuously with Vista/W7, even when you're not doing anything. In fact,
Vista and Windows 7 will come to be known as the
great hard drive
destroyers because hard drives, particularly laptop drives,
more or less fail proportionately to the amount of use they
The solution to garbageware is to remove or disable unnecessary
software, services, and tasks..
Unfortunately, this usually takes an expert to do, as it is
often difficult to determine which software is needed and which
software is superfluous. Additionally, some software should be removed,
whereas it's best to simply disable other software rather than to
completely uninstall it, as auto updaters often detect missing
components and silently reinstall and activate them.
RAM, particularly in conjunction with Item 1, will really wreck system
performance. Most vendors skimp on RAM on consumer-class systems, even
though this is a relatively inexpensive component, and by far the most
effective means for improving performance. Just out of the
box, a system may perform barely acceptably, but one or two
unknowing garbageware installations later, system
performance can tank. Even with garbageware removed, adding RAM is a
win for RAM-starved systems.. Windows XP performs best with at least 1
GB RAM, and Windows Vista
and Windows 7 need a minimum of 2 GB RAM. On new systems that use PC5300 memory, the
cost of a 2 GB RAM kit is $60.00 for good name-brand memory!
all-in-one security systems like Norton and McAfee products
consume tremendous amounts of memory and CPU resources. Even worse,
they are ineffective against modern malware, and worst of all, they are
annoying and frequently cause awful system behavior problems, like
silently blocking access to some or all of the Internet. There are
free, lightweight, non-annoying alternatives that are more effective
than Norton and McAfee products.
- A failing
hard drive can kill system performance. Hard drives degrade over
time, causing the drive to silently retry failing sectors
repeatedly, as well as using up the limited number of spare sectors
available for reassigning to bad sectors. Unfortunately, Windows makes
this failure process completely opaque to the user, and by the time the
first (obscure) drive failure messages begin showing up in the
log, the hard drive is on the verge of crashing. Aside from slowed
performance, the first symptom of a failing hard drive is often the
crash itself or a hard drive activity light that stays solid for
extended periods of time. Even more unfortunately, it doesn't
have to be
this way since hard drives maintain onboard health statistics that
Windows ignores. However, third-party tools can be used to read these
statistics and determine whether a hard drive should be replaced.
infections usually create obvious havoc with both performance and
usability. However, sometimes malware infections have no other symptom
except awful system performance. With the proper techniques
and tools, malware can be
successfully removed about 95% of the time by a knowledgable person,
though sometimes malware
leaves behind residual system damage that must be manually repaired.
a hard drive is 85% to 90% full, performance will really tank as the
system struggles to find contiguous areas big enough to write new data
files on. The hunt for unused areas also works the hard drive much
harder than normal and can eventually cause the drive to fail
prematurely. The solution is to replace the old hard drive with a
new drive that has larger
capacity, first cloning the old drive onto the new drive.
- A compressed
hard drive or compressed system files will severely degrade
performance, as every time a file is read or written, the
system must decompress and then recompress the file, respectively.
Compression occurs when the hard drive compression box is checked on
purpose or accidentally, or more frequently and insiduously, people
naviely select the "Compress old files" option when
performing a Disk Cleanup. Uncompressing a compressed hard drive is
easy (assuming it's not too filled up), but takes a very long time and
requires defragmentation afterwards, which takes another very long
time. Decompressing a system after checking "Compress old
files" is more challenging but can be done by a knowledgeable person.
can sometimes be improved if the hard
drive desperately needs to be defragmented. Defragging the hard drive
once or twice a year is usually sufficient for most users. However,
sometimes heavy, continuous system usage requires defragmenting more
often. Defragmentation should always be performed after hard drive
don't hesitate to call or email me for a free consultation regarding
system performance improvements (or any other PC issue for that
matter). I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at just how fast and
annoyance-free I can make your system.
My fee is $40.00/hr for home users and $45.00/hr for businesses. Most
tuneups/cleanups take about 3 hours, though if you have a system that is heavily
infected with malicious software or other very difficult issues, it may
take additional time to clean the system. I have 12 years experience
with PCs and 40 years total computer experience, including bachelor's and
master's degrees in computer science.
be extremely wary of the big box stores "PC repair" departments. Since
they have minimal knowledge, they are unable to remove most modern
viruses, and thus claim that the system must have the OS freshly
reinstalled, though this is completely untrue. They'll often charge an
outrageous price for a retail copy of the OS for reinstallation, even
though free OEM install disks are available from companies like Dell.
They'll also wipe out your data by not copying it before wiping the
hard drive, and they won't tell you that before hand. And finally, they
won't reinstall the factory drivers after reinstalling the OS, leaving
you with a crippled computer. And, believe me, this is a best-case
scenario. The worst case I heard was a client who had a big box store permanently
lose her laptop! They talked her into accepting a used computer in lieu of the one they lost.
Also, note that there are a lot of wannabe PC "geeks" posting right now on
Craigslist who are advertising inexpensive rates; people who think that
they know how to repair PCs because they use one and have tinkered a
bit. Look for someone who at least has enough professional commitment
to have their own web site and their own business email address, as
opposed to someone using a free email address and has no web site. Look
for someone with long-standing business clients and business references.
Cheap rates and/or corporate big box store, but remember that you
usually get what you pay for! I'm the guy who people bring their
computers to after someone else has messed them up, so why not skip
that step and bring them to me first! You'll save money in the long run
and save a lot of headaches as well. My work is guaranteed and I
provide remote access to your computer after I work on it should any
questions or issues arise afterwards.