Archive for October, 2010
A Good Spring Cleaning Will Go A Long Way
For these gradual slowdowns, good regular maintenance can help restore your computer’s performance. Get rid of your temp and cache files; throw away old, unnecessary files or move them off to storage; defragment your hard disk; get rid of any files you’re storing on the desktop or move them to a folder inside the file structure; and clean your registry with a good registry cleaner like RegCure. While you’re tidying up, remove any unnecessary “auto-run” programs, and remove or disable toolbars you don’t use. Your performance should perk up.
If your performance problem appeared suddenly, you should be more concerned. Something in your environment changed recently, and the sooner you start your detective work, the more likely you are to solve the mystery.
Suddenly slow computers may be the victims of a spyware, adware, Trojan or virus attack. Getting rid of these performance thieves can make a huge difference. This malware can be loaded onto your computer surreptitiously, but more likely, you downloaded one or more of these vandals when you accepted a toolbar, downloaded a “fun utility” or opened an attachment from a friend. Make sure your virus/anti-malware software is up-to-date and remove any of these wet blankets you find.
Suddenly slow computers can be the victim of a hardware failure of some sort. If your computer is attached to a network, your suddenly slow computer could have a network connection that’s lost its mind. Sometimes simply powering off and powering back on will help, but more likely than not, you’ll need to replace the network connection.
Another common hardware failure is the loss of a CPU fan or cooling device. CPUs run very hot these days and require active ventilation to keep the processor from freezing up. If your fan goes bad, your processor can quickly overheat and cause all sorts of performance problems. You will probably need to open up your computer to make sure the CPU is being cooled properly.
Don’t be fooled by the power supply fan. This fan, which runs virtually all the time, is designed to keep the power supply cool. It will run quite joyfully while your CPU overheats and melts away. To be sure the fan is operating, you really need to see it, unless your computer has a bios setting or application that monitors the CPU temperature.
You might get some help from Performance Monitor on this one. PerfMon won’t tell you whether your CPU is melting, but it does give you some indication of what it’s doing. If the CPU doesn’t look well, open up your case and inspect the cooling fan visually. If it’s not running, replace it, but do so knowing that you may also have a damaged CPU.
Photo Credit: hammershaug, via Flickr
Troubleshooting Slow Computer Performance
It always helps to know what “good” performance looks like, especially when troubleshooting a slow computer. Unfortunately, many performance complaints arise gradually. This frustrates quick diagnosis because so many processes “seem” to be working just fine. When you get a new computer, you can take a baseline measurement using something like performance monitor, which is built into most modern Windows operating systems.
The performance monitor will give you an instantaneous picture of your CPU usage, memory usage, disk usage and network connection performance. All of these performance characteristics can be used to help locate and eliminate slow computer performance. When you make your initial measurements, be sure to save the performance monitor data for future reference.
Assuming you didn’t have the foresight to take baseline readings on your computer when it was new – don’t worry, no one does – how can you tell whether your computer performance is slow?
The best way to tell is to look at what your computer is doing using Performance Monitor. When you’re not running applications and the computer is otherwise unoccupied, Performance Monitor should show minimal activity. If you see spikes of activity when the computer is idle, that’s one clue that something may be amiss.
If you’re seeing slow load times or response times for applications, your problem may be less performance related than memory related. Using Performance Monitor, you should be able to look at the memory allocation for the current processes. One process that is taking up a lot of memory could explain your slow performance. Shut down the misbehaving application and see if your performance improves.
If not, it’s time to look at all applications that are running on the computer. Sometimes, utilities and other “helpful” applications like toolbars, take up a lot of memory without returning much in the way of value. Using the Task Manager, determine which applications are running, and shut down those that are unnecessary.
Check your memory allocation and system performance again using Performance Monitor. If your performance has improved, uninstall the offending utility program(s). If that still doesn’t help, one of your major applications may have gotten corrupted. Shut down each one individually to see if your performance improves.
Don’t overlook things like over-generous disk allocations to virtual memory. Having to page out to disk a lot can slow computer performance down. Also, don’t forget that more physical memory in a computer can make a world of difference. Check your owner’s manual to see what the maximum memory complement is. If your installed memory is insufficient, consider adding more RAM.
Consider using a registry cleaner like RegCure to clear out the junk and abandoned code that may have gotten lodged in your registry files. Paring down the registry to only the lines that are needed can supply a significant performance boost.
Photo Credit: Fauxto_Digit, via Flickr
Take Care Of The Routine Stuff First
Having a relatively responsive computer can save you a little money, if only because you can delay thinking about replacing your computer. The average shelf life of a home computer is about five years. Employers might replace computers a little more often, but if recent news is to be believed, major slowdowns in computer purchasing are being blamed on the slow economy. Businesses are trying to get more out of their computers, which means keeping them in service longer.
If you want to breathe a little extra life into your computer without breaking the bank, here are a few tips that might help save the day, and save the expense of replacing your old computer and disposing of the body.
Always make sure your slow computer performance isn’t related to virus activity, malware, adware, spyware or whatever-ware. Get rid of tool bars, popup ad generators, etc. If you installed them (even by accident), try uninstalling them using the Add/Remove Programs tool. Be especially alert to infections that install root kits, or co-opt your PC into a “bot” network. If this happens to your computer, your computer will spend valuable processing time moonlighting for some shady organization halfway around the world.
Make sure your network connection is behaving properly. Do some speed tests for downloading and uploading data. A slow network connection can really sap the performance of your computer. In reality, nothing’s wrong with the computer, but the excess network traffic will make your life miserable.
Defragment your hard disk regularly. If you transfer a lot of files to and from your computer, defrag monthly. If you’re not quite so active, defrag once per quarter. This will help improve the efficiency of your hard disk and will speed up your computer performance overall. Defragmenting is very important, especially for the older (slower) hard disks.
If your hard disk has been in service for awhile, it may be running out of usable space. Try clearing out some unneeded files, or moving them off to CDs or DVDs. After you’ve freed up space, defragment your hard disk and see if performance improves.
Use a registry cleaner to back up your registry, remove abandoned lines of code and eliminate code fragments that can cause your computer to slow down. A clean registry can make your computer perform faster and add a bit of time to its useful life.
Photo Credit: KarinDalziel, via Flickr
Why Is My Computer Slow? Nothing’s Changed!
Trust me: things change. When you upgrade your browser or other applications, something has changed. When you apply operating system and security patches, something has changed. When you update your anti-virus software, something has changed. When your computer is infected with malware, spyware, adware and other nasty stuff, something has changed. Your computer environment changes all the time, so it’s not fair to say that nothing has changed. Even when you don’t change a thing on your computer, the rest of the world changes around you. Change means that your favorite Web sites operate differently, need different plug-ins or are optimized for a different version of your browser.
The update to your application, or the latest version of your browser may require more memory than the previous version did. Using more physical memory for your applications means that you’re taking away memory from your operating system. Updates to your operating system may “break” one or more of your applications, causing the computer to waste processor time. Worse, these might introduce crashes or make your operating system less stable.
Programs may not completely uninstall themselves. When this happens, your computer’s registry is left in an “untidy” state. Leftover bits of code can cause your computer to waste processor time waiting for a response from applications that are no longer on the computer, or that were improperly removed or updated.
Since the time it was introduced, the registry on a Windows computer has exploded in size and importance. The registry on your “simple” computer may consist of hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of lines of programming. Your computer needs to consider that each time it boots and for most operating system functions. If the registry has ballooned to a size that’s one-third greater than it was when you first installed your OS, what do you think that will do to your system performance?
You can correct this – or at least limit the impact of a clogged registry by using a registry cleaner like RegCure. RegCure won’t solve every “slow computer” problem, but you’ll be surprised by how much better (read: faster) your computer operates when you’ve cleared out the cobwebs in your registry.
Photo Credit: David Reece, via Flickr
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