Tips to Diagnose and Fix a Slow Running Computer
It happens to the best of us. One day your Windows-based PC just seems to be taking far longer than usual to open applications and save files on your hard drive. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why your computer could be running slowly, but here are some easy steps you can take to try and figure out what is causing the slow down and how to fix it before calling your techie friends for assistance.
The first thing you should do is to save any open files and quit any applications that are running. Try rebooting your computer to see if that is a quick fix — there really are a lot of users out there who leave their systems running as close to 24/7 as they can, and this could lead to your system slowing down.
Make sure your Windows operating system and virus scanner are both up-to-date. To check this from Internet Explorer, click Tools along the top menu, then select Windows Update. Most anti-virus programs will also have an auto-updater or an update-on-demand function that will enable you to download and install the most recent updates for the software.
You should also consider any recent changes that have been made to your system immediately before you noticed the slow down issues starting. This includes things such as new hardware or software being installed. For software, double check that your computer system, including hard drive space, memory, video requirements, operating system and so on, meet the software manufacturer's minimum system requirements. Minimum System requirements can be found on the side or back of the box the software came in (or a sticker on the CD/DVD jewel case). If you find a problem here, uninstall the culprit software, reboot the computer and see if this solves the slowness problem.
For newly added hardware (such as a printer, scanner or other device), the easiest way to check and see if it is the cause is to simply remove the device. Reboot the system and check your system performance without the device installed. You should also check on the manufacturer's Web site to see if they have released newer drivers than what you are using.
If you haven't made any recent system changes and a reboot doesn't do the trick, you can also verify that your system simply isn't running out of resources. Make sure that your hard disk hasn't filled up without you noticing, and that your system has adequate video and system memory (RAM) resources for the tasks you are trying to do. This is probably a good time to do some basic Windows maintenance tasks, such as cleaning out temporary files, defragging your hard drive, and also uninstalling unused programs.
TIP: Windows Live OneCare offers a free tune up scan that can help you optimize your PC's performance. This scan will help you determine what basic system maintenance tasks need to be run on your computer
It's also a good idea to check what you have running in your startup programs. Many programs may launch on startup through default settings when you install an application. Over time these applications add up and they may be draining your system resources. To see what programs are currently running on start-up, in Windows XP or Vista click on Start, select Run, then type MSCONFIG (read more on MSCONFIG here) and hit the Enter key. Select the Startup tab from the dialog box. Here you can deselect any items that are running that you don't actually need when you first start your computer up. Select Apply after deselecting the startup applications and reboot the system to check for noticeable speed gain when it restarts again.
TIP: If you don't know what something listed in your Startup program is or what program installed it you probably don't need it. Try removing those first and rebooting.
If you've made it this far and you haven't found the problem, it's time to ensure your system is free of viruses and pop-ups. This type of malicious code is almost always installed unknowingly by the user and they can definitely be a resource hog if on your system. With an up-to-date virus scanner and/or pop-up scanner you can verify if this is the cause of your slowing system.