Computers are frustrating. As much as we all love the ease that they can add to our lives, there’s no getting around the fact that they can be a huge pain as well. But they don’t have to be.
Three of the biggest frustrating PC problems are actually easy to fix, once you know a little more about them. It seems like a shame that these aren’t covered in some sort of manual when you receive your computer. Slow PC startup times, slow running computer problems, and slow Internet problems are all easily solvable once you take a few minutes to read about them.
1. Slow PC Startup Times
Does it ever seem to you like your computer gets slower every time you start it up? If it does, you’re not alone. And you’re right, too!
Literally speaking, your computer may not get slower every time you turn it on. But without the right kind of maintenance (the kind Microsoft really doesn’t tell you much about), all Windows® computers slow down with time, and that includes startup times.
Much of this is due to the programs that start up when Windows start up. The number of programs that turn on just enough to be “on deck” is surprising. After all, these programs rarely, if ever, tell you they’re going to start up each time you turn on your computer. And there is usually no way to tell just from looking at your screen that these programs are running.
Why do so many software applications start running at startup, yet somehow don’t show up? Many programs run a single process when Windows boots up, so that they can easily be “on call” and start up quickly when you decide you need to run a particular program. It’s actually designed to be a convenience!
But that theoretical convenience is inconvenient in practice. When you have several programs that each run a process when you start up your computer, it affects your overall startup time. It also causes you to have a slow running computer the rest of the time, too! And for the few seconds that it might save you to open up any given program, this overall effect just isn’t worth it.
To find out which processes are running in the background on your computer, use the Windows Task Manager.
2. How to Solve a Slow Startup Problem
Many people try to get around the slow startup problem by simply never putting their computers to sleep. But that only makes the problem worse!
When you run a computer this way, more and more processes start up and run in the background. Even when you completely shut a program down, it may still be on the “list” that your Windows system uses to keep track of what’s going on in the system at any given moment.
Your computer will run better for several reasons if you shut it completely off after you’re done with it for the day. Not to mention, it will also use less electricity. (Think of how much less electricity the world would use if everybody did this!).
3. Slow Computer Problems/Your Computer Runs More Slowly With Time
But multiple “on deck” problems aren’t the only reason that computers run slowly. Issues with the Windows registry make the system run more slowly over time. This is such a big problem, in fact, that Microsoft used to recommend computer owners re-install Windows at least once a year (and many people do it more than that).
The Windows registry acts like the switchboard of the Windows OS. Every program that is on your computer has at least one entry in the registry.
These files often change when your programs and/or Windows go through upgrades, security patches, etc. The old files generally are not removed. And even programs that are no longer in your computer sometimes leave files as well. Leftover fragments of viruses and spyware often reside here as well!
These files pile up over time. When an old .dll or other registry file conflicts with another, your computer can slow down majorly, go through screen freeze, get a Blue Screen error, or occasionally even seize up entirely.
Even when these files don’t conflict, Windows has to sort through more and more of them to authorize or activate programs. And that contributes to your slow computer more than anybody would like.
The Windows registry isn’t the only reason that computers slow down, though. File fragmentation affects every computer at some point. This isn’t quite as dangerous as it sounds. It just means that data from each file, with time, spreads out over different portions of the computer’s hard drive.
How does this slow your computer down? Let’s say you want to open up a scanned image of a family portrait—a large image file. When that image file’s data is spread out all over your disk, your computer will take a longer time to display the image than it would if the data were all in one spot (as it should be).
Multiple fragmented files slow down your computer—especially at startup. Fragmentation may also make your data and files less stable.
Fortunately, there are tools you can use for each of these problems. Windows XP, Vista, and 7 each have a Disk Defragmenter. Click on your programs, then on Accessories, then System Tools. Then you will see the Disk Defragmenter. (You can also search for it with Windows 7.)
Windows 8 theoretically defragments your hard drive on a regular basis as part of its Optimize Drives task. If you feel like it’s not doing its job, or if you just want to check the fragmentation of your hard drive, press the Windows key and the “Q” key to open up the search bar. Then, search for “defragment,” to find the “defragment and optimize your drives” option.
When it comes to the registry, Windows does provide a registry tool known as Registry Editor. As Microsoft says on its page about the registry editor, “Registry Editor is a tool intended for advanced users…an incorrect change to your computer’s registry could render your computer inoperable.”
There are various registry cleaning programs that will adjust your registry for you, without putting your system at risk. Here at PC HealthBoost™, we’ve even gotten mail from computer owners who realized after using a registry cleaner that they didn’t have to throw their computer away and get a new one!
It’s a good idea to run a registry cleaner after your software or Windows system undergoes major updates. Running a cleaner after you uninstall software or remove unwanted software (viruses, adware, spyware, etc.) is also a good idea. Otherwise, clean your registry every week or so.
Finally, make sure your computer is running with the latest Windows updates. If it’s not, it may be running more slowly than necessary. If you’re not sure whether your system is up to date, just visit http://updates.windows.com.
Your Computer Works Slowly on the Internet
So, what if you do all of the above and your computer still takes too long to get around on the Internet? Assuming you aren’t on a dial-up connection, you could have one of several problems.
First, check and see if you need to update your browser. Windows updates will typically update Internet Explorer, but won’t necessarily supply you with the most recent version of explorer. If you’re using a different browser, you can search “update [insert browser name here]” to find the latest updates.
If your computer still navigates slowly after a browser update, it’s time to check your browser add-ons. Are you using a toolbar on your browsers, such as one that you can install from Yahoo or another company? Yahoo toolbars shouldn’t typically slow you down too much…but others can.
Some toolbars constantly monitor the sites you visit and report that information back to a server. They typically do this in order to show you targeted ads, or help ranking services determine the most popular sites on the Web. While these toolbars may not be malicious, the constant transmission of information can eat up your bandwidth, slowing down your connection. Not to mention their practices are questionable when it comes to your privacy.
You could also have a malicious “BHO”, short for “Browser Helper Object.” It could be a “neutral” object that monitors your activity for he purpose of displaying ads. But it could also be part of a spyware program with more malicious and monetary goals in mind. In either case, you should run one or more antivirus and antispyware programs.
Then again, the problem might not be with your computer at all. Are you running a wireless router without a password? Someone could be using your network for convenience’s sake. They could also be using it to download large files and engage in illegal activity!
Add a password. If you already have a password, change it every couple of months, or any time your Internet connection seems abnormal. If that doesn’t work, call your Internet service provider. They may be able to find what the problem is. It’s also possible you are simply on a low-bandwidth plan.
Finally, it’s possible that your computer simply needs more RAM. If you’ve had your computer for longer than 2-3 years and haven’t updated your ram, talk to your local computer hardware store and see about an upgrade.