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Suddenly Slow Computer Can Signal Problems

Paul Watson, PC Technician

Thursday, December 3rd 2009

Suddenly Slow Computer Can Signal Problems

Suddenly Slow Computer Can Signal Problems

Your “suddenly” slow computer can be giving off signals of an impending hardware problem. If this happens to your computer, you shouldn’t ignore this symptom. It’s unlikely to go away on its own, and computer problems rarely resolve themselves.

Diagnose Your Slow Computer

Computers seem to slow down over time, but that’s not the kind of slow I’m talking about today. Your computer, which had been working perfectly, suddenly slows to a crawl and nothing seems to be making it happy. The first checks you should perform will eliminate spyware, malware and viruses as the causes of your slowness. If your computer checks out fine in this regard, the next likely suspect I’d consider would be the network connection.

If your computer is connected to the network, or connects to the Internet, disconnect the computer from the network to see if that resolves your issue. If it does, you may want to screen your computer for the presence of a root kit, software that allows another user to control your computer remotely. Your anti-virus software should be able to detect root kits. If one is found, remove it immediately and don’t reconnect your computer to the network until you’re sure it’s clean.

If your computer isn’t connected to the network, or disconnecting from the network has no discernable effect on your slow computer’s performance, it may be time to consider checking the hard disk for signs of imminent failure.

Your hard disk manufacturer normally makes test programs available for the devices it makes. The test programs can either be “short” or “long.” “Short” test programs can run within 1-2 minutes and can provide a quick snapshot of the relative health of your hard disk. “Long” test programs can take an hour or two. Generally, if your computer’s hard disk fails the short test, you should seriously consider replacing your hard drive. At the very least, back up all of your data immediately!

Getting a pass from the short test shouldn’t fill you with a lot of confidence. Dodgy hard disks can still pass a short test while they’re well on their way to utter failure. If your hard disk clears the short test, set aside an hour or two to perform the long test. A hard disk that won’t pass the long test isn’t long for this world, so make plans to replace your hard disk.

If you do end up having to replace your hard disk, consider it as an opportunity to get a “fresh” start. Clear out old files and programs you don’t need rather than burdening your new disk with old junk.

Photo Credit: Kevin Jarrett, via Flickr

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