Advice about Technology

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How to Fix and Prevent Slow Computers

How to Fix and Prevent Slow Computers

Since I am a bit of a tech head, my friends and family often call upon me for help with their personal computers.  For my friends, I have set up countless wireless networks, downloaded printer drivers and pulled data off of crashed hard drives (let that be a lesson to you to always back up your hard drives).   But by far, the most common problems I hear about are slow computers.  There are numerous reasons why a computer may run slow.  But here are the most common reasons computers run slowly and potential solutions.

Slow and Outdated Processors

Simply put, if your computer is five years old or you just bought it for $199, it is going to be much slower than computers with the latest chip technology.  Today’s processors and memory capacities are many times greater what they were just a few years ago.  Older computers or computers with old chip technology can still be optimized to run as quickly as possible, but there is nothing you can do to make them operate like a computer with the latest chip technology.  So the only option in this case is to buy a new computer with newer technology, or simply learn to live with the speed.

Internet Connectivity Issues

Many times I find that it is not the computer that is running slow, but the internet connection.  A slow or interrupted connection can cause web pages to load slowly and web applications to lock up or not operate as intended.  Obviously this only applies while using the internet.  If you are simply using software programs installed on your computer, internet connectivity will not be an issue.  But more than once I have discovered a slow internet connection as the problem.

To determine if you getting the internet connection speed promised by your Internet Service Provider, simply visit one of several Internet Speed Test websites.  There are several available.  But be careful, some sites require your email address or some other form of registration to use the Speed Test.  Many times the speed test is simply the carrot to obtain your email address so it can be sold to internet marketing companies.  There are however several sites that provide free speed tests without requiring an email or registration.  My favorite site is InternetFrog.com.  I like this site because it has easy to read and understand result graphics.  Also, the speed test runs automatically when you visit the page so you do not have to do anything to start the test or to view the results.  It also shows the average speeds for others in your area for you to compare.

Other Reasons

If your computer is new and has the latest technology, and your internet connection is not the culprit, then you have other issues.  Generally, slow computers are not caused by hardware issues but by software issues. Over time, computers’ processing speeds may slow due to a variety of factors such as cluttered registries, spyware, viruses and unused software programs. 

We all download a variety of software programs to our computers.  When we erase those programs, the instructions on how they run stay on the computer.  Every time you use your computer, the computer tries to execute those instructions.  But because the computer cannot execute the program, it causes delays in your computer’s processing capabilities.

Spyware and viruses may also slow down your computer.  By their nature, spyware and viruses are executing actions behind the scenes without your approval or knowledge.  Whether these actions are stealing of personal information or simply actions with a malicious intent to harm your computer, they take up computing resources and memory. 

Solutions

Spyware and Virus removal products can help detect and remove malicious software that may be hampering the performance of your computer.  And if you are a technical person and have the knowledge, you can go into your computer’s registry and search for software and programs that cause registry errors which slow down your computer and attempt to remove or repair them once found.  However, for most people, that is not an option.  Alternatively, there are several software programs available that will do this for you.  Some are free but the old adage of, “You get what you pay for” holds true many times.  I would recommend purchasing a software program from a trusted source.  
As with Speed Tests, there are plenty of products on the market today.  My favorite is a product made by Uniblue called SpeedUpMyPC.  The name kind of says it all.  This product is Microsoft Certified and has won several awards for its effectiveness and reliability.  One of the nice features of this product is that it will scan your computer for free and let you know what the problems are before you have to purchase it.  So you can see what you are paying for before you but it. 

If you are interested in the free scan, simply visit SpeedUpMyPC.  
The best piece of advice I can give though is to only download software from trusted sources.  There is a lot of great free software available today and I use much of it myself.  But I always ensure I trust the source before downloading any software, free or paid.  And also, be careful who you let use your computer.  Once you put your computer in someone else’s hands, you have no idea what they are doing with it or what they are downloading.