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Speed up a Slow Running Computer

Last week I was contacted by a client who had 3 computers (2Pcs, one laptop) that were all running slowly. Each had its own problems and between them they covered most of the reasons why a computer could be running slowly.

If someone contacts me and tells me their computer is running slowly – this is what I do, in this order:

1) Check to see how much space is left on the hard drive. Although, theoretically, a hard drive should work until it is all but full – in my experience a hard drive that is 3/4 full or more will reduce your computer’s performance.

2) Check to see how much RAM they have.  512Mb or less will be slow because your antivirus software takes up increasing amounts of RAM each time it updates itself.

3) Scan the computer for malware.  No antivirus is 100% foolproof, and a lot of malware sneaks on because you have inadvertently agreed to install it.  I use Malwarebytes and Superantispy.

4)  Check to see if the hard drive needs defragging.  Windows Vista and 7 do this automatically.  Earlier versions don’t.  If your hard drive gets very fragmented, it’s performance will decrease.

Full instructions, with screenshots, for all these steps are shown below:{+}

Checking how full your hard drive is

1)  Click on Start/Computer or double click on the “My Computer” or “Computer” icon on your desktop.  You should see the “C” drive listed.

How to speed up a slow running computer

2) At the bottom of the screen you should see how much space is used and how much is available.  (Note:  For the screenshot above I RIGHT clicked on the C drive icon, so I could show you step 3 below)

3) If you can’t see the information you want at the bottom of  your screen (for example, if you are using an older version of Windows), RIGHT click on the C drive icon and then click on “properties”.

4) you will see a graphical representation of the space on your drive.

5) If your drive is 3/4 full or more then it is time to either

a) upgrade to a larger capacity hard drive, or

b) backup the files you no longer use and remove them from the drive. (For example, unused music/videos/photos often take up large amounts of hard drive space)

Checking how much RAM you have

The RAM is your computer’s “working memory” – I think of it as your computer’s “brain capacity”.

These days just running your anti-virus software takes up more and more memory.  Each time your anti-virus software updates its database, it uses a bit more RAM just to allow it to keep scanning your computer.  If  your computer has 512Mb or less of RAM, then it is time to get your memory upgraded.

(Just a few weeks ago I went to a client who assured me their computer wasn’t very old – just 5 or 6 years they said.  I checked the RAM and it only had 256Mb.  I told them to see if it was possible to upgrade the RAM, but also suggested they might consider buying a new computer.  A few hours later my phone rang.  The client had contacted their original supplier and said to me “they laughed at me when I told them how old it was”.)

To check your RAM, open up “My Computer” or “Computer” – as above.  Now you need to go “up one level”.  In older versions of Windows you will find an icon that looks like a yellow box with an upward pointing arrow.  Click on this. (I’ll post screenshots when I turn on my PC which has Windows XP)

In newer versions of Windows, click on “System Properties”This will open a dialog box that will tell you how much memory you have.

My guess, though, is that if the computer you are using came with Windows Vista or 7 installed, you will find that lack of memory isn’t your main problem.

Scanning for Malware

Almost every computer I see is infected with one or more pieces of malware.  The client I told you about at the start of this article had 3 computers – all 3 had infections.  Two just had minor infections and one was so heavily infected it was amazing that it was running at all.

If you think your computer might be heavily infested with malware – make sure you BACKUP important documents BEFORE you start scanning.  I have known computers with heavy infestations become malware free, but almost unusable.

Sadly – a heavy infestation of malware is often best cured by reformatting the hard drive and reinstalling your operating system.  If this happens, you will need the original discs that came with your computer so your technician can reinstall all the drivers.  You will then need to reinstall all your software and documents.  (But  you do regular backups, don’t you?????  So this shouldn’t be a problem)

If you read much of this site, you will soon get to know that I am paranoid about backups. So many of my clients have learned the hard way.  Don’t be one of them.

I always start by downloading and running Malwarebytes.  There are two versions of this – a free version and a paid version.  I start with the free version.  Download this and tell it to do a full scan.