Most computer users have had the experience: right out of the box, your PC is a fast and mean machine. But after a few months or maybe a couple of years, you notice it gets slower and slower. It's not old enough to be obsolete, but it constantly crashes, freezes or hangs, making a task as simple as checking your email a frustrating chore. Luckily, computer experts have identified a few common and easily fixed causes of a sluggish PC:
As you surf the web, open emails and download software, your computer can get exposed to viruses, worms or other programs designed to damage it or even steal personal information. These malicious programs muck up performance and compete for memory with web browsers, games, word processors and other software you're using. So scan your system with a reliable anti-malware program like Ad-Aware and purge it of unwanted intruders. This will improve your performance, and protect your identity.
If you're like me, you might find it convenient to save a lot of stuff to the desktop. But this convenience has a price: each item on the desktop is another thing your computer has to keep track of. After a few months of saving stuff to the desktop, you're looking at significant slowdown. So a little spring cleaning – organizing the desktop and placing items in their proper files – can actually speed up your machine.
Dying hard drive
Nothing can bring your system to a halt faster than a dying hard drive. End-stage hard disks don't map memory sectors correctly, which can cause slowdown, crashes and other annoyances. Hard drives can last up to three years, but as with humans, stress can shorten their lifespan. According to a massive study undertaken by Google in 2007, overworked hard drives can fail within the first year of use. So if you're maxing out your disk's memory, you might want to consider getting a hardware upgrade.
Over time as you save stuff to your computer, files can become fragmented – that is, the computer saves bits of the files to different places on your hard drive. Your computer then has to search in different places for parts of the same program, causing slowdown. As this is a problem Microsoft has known about for years, they've included a free Disk Defragmenter with Vista and most versions of Windows. To use it, simply go to your Computer file and right click on your hard drive. Select Properties, and then look under the Tool tab for the program, and start de-fragging.
Windows operating systems keep track of many changes in a central database called the registry. Over time, the registry begins to fill up with redundant information, configurations from programs you no longer use, and errors deliberately put their by viruses trying to hijack your machine. Cleaning your registry with a reliable program – or if you're advanced enough, going in there and removing unwanted stuff yourself – can do wonders for your slow PC's performance. While some computers will need professional maintenance, following this advice might be all you need to get your computer back to its original, out-of-the-box speed.