Archive for October, 2009
Admitting You Have A “Slow” Problem
What should you do when you can no longer deny that your computer is having a problem? If you’re not a PC technician, or at least good friends with one, and you don’t have a lot of cash to spare, join the club! There are a few things you can do to troubleshoot the immediate problem, and even attempt to cure it before things go from bad to worse for your trusted binary-loving friend.
If you’re dealing with a slow computer that’s still operational and able to boot relatively normally, your computer is in a condition you can work with. Check your computer to see what’s running on it. If you’re the kind of person who loads everything into memory when you start the computer, your poor performance may be related to the fact that your computer may not have enough memory to load the operating system properly.
Use the Task Manager to see what’s running on your computer. Better still, restart the computer and without manually opening any applications, open the Task Manager to see what’s loaded. If you find that you have many applications and utilities loading at startup, you’ll want to pare these back to see if you can get a performance upgrade.
Speaking of performance, Windows comes with a built-in performance monitor. You can see graphically what your computer is doing and get other real-time performance statistics on your setup. Performance Monitor (perfmon) is part of the system tools in Windows Vista. Simply fire it up and Performance Monitor will begin tracking your computer. You should see CPU activity rise and fall with everything you do on the computer. You may discover that one particular application is misbehaving, or is at least hogging computer resources. Uninstalling and reinstalling a fresh copy of the cranky app may solve your problem.
Apart from what the Performance Monitor can tell you, the computer registry may require a bit of maintenance. If you aren’t a computer professional, mucking around in the registry probably isn’t recommended, but you can use a registry cleaner like RegCure to remove abandoned and unneeded bits of code that are clogging up your registry and degrading your computer performance. RegCure is one of the most trusted names in registry cleaners and has been installed millions of times worldwide.
Photo Credit: Jim Champion, via Flickr
Help! My Computer Is Slow!
If your computer is connected to a network, the first step I’d recommend is disconnecting it. Sometimes, network services can cause a computer to slow down or monopolize its processor. By disconnecting the computer, you isolate it from the network, and in doing so, you “divide your problem in half.”
If, after disconnecting your computer from the network, the computer immediately perks up, you know that the problem is related to the network. The computer is sharing information over the network or is waiting for an event to “time out” before moving on. A computer (yours or someone else’s) or network device whose network interface has gone bad may be tying up the network by generating a lot of useless network traffic. Your network administrator may be able to help you determine the location of the bad device. If you’re working on a home network, you may need to disconnect or restart individual network devices until the culprit is found.
If your computer remains slow after disconnecting from the network, you’ve at least isolated the problem to your computer. With system tools like the Task Manager and Performance Monitor, you can determine what percentage of your CPU’s time is being devoted to each process.
If there’s a process that’s consuming 100% (or close to 100%) of your CPU cycles, shut down the task and restart it. If a restart fixes the problem, you may have saved yourself time and money. If restarting the task doesn’t solve the problem, try restarting the computer. (The task may have gone “bad” because some part of the OS is no longer functioning properly. By restarting the computer, you ensure that the OS has gotten a fresh start.)
If the problem persists, use the Task Manager to examine the programs that are running each time your computer starts up. Shut down all non-essential applications and add them back in one at a time to see if you can spot the application that slows down the works.
If a particular application causes problems, make sure your system is “well-endowed” enough to run the application, and consult with the manufacturer’s technical support group to see if there are updates or patches available to fix the issue.
If nothing seems to solve the issue, try a registry cleaner like RegCure. Periodic maintenance of the registry will help keep your computer running smoothly.
Photo Credit: Duncan Harris, via Flickr
Windows 7 System Requirements
If you hadn’t initially planned to run Windows 7, the system requirements may have slipped past you. The OS does have some specific operating requirements so you’ll want to make sure your computer is up to snuff.
Start with a processor that’s 1 GHz or better and you’ll be in good shape. Windows 7 will run in either 32-bit mode or 64-bit mode. If you plan to run XP in virtual mode, you’ll need a processor that can do virtualization. This is absolutely critical. To determine whether your processor can virtualize XP, use the Microsoft Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. This can be downloaded at Microsoft’s Web site. Generally, processors that can provide virtualization services include Intel VT processors and AMD-V processors.
If your processor is a 32 bit processor, you’ll need to have at least 1 Gb of RAM installed. If you’re running in 64-bit mode, double that to 2 Gb. Add another 1 Gb of RAM if you plan to run XP in virtual mode.
Windows 7 takes up 16Gb-20Gb of hard disk space. The larger hard disk space requirement applies to 64-bit setups. Add an extra 15 Gb if you plan to run Windows XP in virtual mode. You’ll also need a DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver. Windows installation also requires a DVD/CD drive to accommodate the installation media.
For users who are running Windows Vista Home Premium edition or a Windows Vista Professional edition, an upgrade path is available and you merely need to do an “upgrade installation.” If your computer currently runs Windows Vista Home Basic or an earlier version of the Windows OS, you’ll be required to do a clean installation, which will require you to back up all of your data before installing the new OS.
After you upgrade, you’ll find that Windows 7 boots faster, runs faster and is generally pleasant to use. You should also find that there will be a host of available drivers from third-parties, due in large measure to the efforts of Microsoft to press manufacturers to have drivers available on release date.
Photo Credit: AussieGall, via Flickr
Speeding Up A Slow Computer
If you’re not into the “hit-or-miss” approach to computer troubleshooting, you’ll need to gather a bit of information about your computer before you can determine the most likely cause for your computer’s slow performance. First, find out how much memory you have installed on your computer and how much available hard disk space you have. You can find out about your installed memory in the Control Panel under the General tab.
If you’re running with the bare minimum recommended memory for your version of Windows, you’ve taken a big step toward diagnosing your problem. The minimum memory recommendations do a major disservice to most computer users. The minimum memory recommendations indicate how much memory you need to run the operating system. They don’t take into account the additional memory you’ll need to run your applications. Without having the right amount of memory for both your applications and your operating system, your computer will struggle. The more complicated your applications are, the more your computer will wrestle with the lack of memory. If you do have the minimum recommended amount of memory installed, consider upgrading your installed memory. You may not need to max out your memory, but in this case “more” is definitely better.
If your memory is in good shape, consider doing some basic housekeeping. This includes defragmenting the hard disk, removing old files and uninstalling programs you don’t use or want. It also includes taking a good look at the programs that install automatically and disabling this. As a rule, you’re better off opening only the applications you intend to use each time you run your computer. Don’t let a lot of open programs accumulate. Close applications after you’ve finished using them, and if you’re in the habit of leaving your computer on, periodically restart your computer to clear out the memory.
Finally, consider using a registry cleaner to remove bits of abandoned code that has been written into your memory and has no way to get out. These code fragments are “orphans” from programs that have been removed or uninstalled improperly. You’ll be surprised at the difference a clean registry can make!
Photo Credit: FotoDawg, via Flickr
Windows Has Some Helpful Tools
Even if you know nothing about a computer aside from the location of the power switch, you can still do some basic troubleshooting to fix your slow computer. If you want to tackle the task of finding out what’s slowing down your PC, you’ll need to make some observations.
Shut your computer down and restart it. Restarting isn’t really a magic bullet, but if something’s gotten corrupted in temporary memory, or a part of the OS isn’t working properly, a hard reset might just do the trick. (Besides, restarting the computer is cheap and easy to do.)
Watch the computer as it starts up to see if you notice anything different about your computer. The computer will do a number of self-tests before it gets to the meat-and-potatoes of the OS. When the OS starts to load, see how long it takes to go from start screen to working computer. If this task seems to take longer than it did in the past, you may have many startup items configured to load into memory each time the computer starts. If this is the case, check the Task Manager (Ctrl+Ald+Delete) to get a handle on what’s running. If you see programs that are not necessary, reconfigure your startup items to exclude the unnecessary items.
Caveat: Don’t disable your anti-virus and anti-malware software.
Run disk cleanup, a free utility that comes with Windows. Disk cleanup will get rid of old bits of code on your hard disk and in your file structure that you no longer need. If you need heavy-duty help with this task, consider using a registry cleaner like RegCure. The registry cleaner isn’t the same thing as disk cleanup, so you can use both products as they’re needed.
Once your hardware is clean, reboot to see if this improves your computer performance.
Photo Credit: Alex Pearson, via Flickr
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