“My Slow Computer is Quickly Ruining My Day”

Our expectations these days are for technology to help us deliver information fast enough to satisfy the demands of our customers and internal management. A typical employee deals with assignments and projects with short timelines. If they don't possess the tools necessary to perform these functions, everybody suffers. Enter a slowly processing computer, bogged down with untold numbers of unnecessary plugins and memory demands - the effects for employees in this situation can be extremely frustrating and unnecessarily stressful.

Particularly in the today's fast-paced business ecosystem, taking a break from your current project to diagnose, and then remedy a slow computer can be even more frustrating - and depending on the technical ability of the user, perhaps impossible to fix.

How, then, can you solve the problem of a slow computer?

It’s a common plight: the spinning wheel of death waiting to load a page, or a stagnant, half-full progress bar. Waiting for a slow computer to load or operate is difficult, especially if you are approaching a deadline or inundated with assignments. What makes a slow computer more frustrating, though, is our expectations for immediate gratification delivered by most modern computers or tablets.

It is similar to being stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle on an otherwise traffic-free road; we can see where we need to go, and the progress we could have already made, if we weren’t hindered by the inexplicably slow obstacle in front of us.

What makes a computer go slow?

There are several causes for reduced computer performance, ranging from hardware components, to your software capabilities, and even to your physical environment. The following are common areas to investigate as potential causes of that painfully slow progress bar.

Hard Drive Clutter

There are a few hard drive issues that could potentially be affecting your performance speeds. Firstly, not having enough free space on your hard drive; this includes an abundance of unnecessary temporary files, unimportant data, space-hungry applications, or duplicate file build up over time. Each of these factors can be a reason for experiencing performance lags. Performing a disk clean up will often free up some space, as that will target temporary files and unimportant data stored on the hard drive.

These common data-hogs can also be searched for and deleted manually, for a more thorough cleanse. As far as applications go, it is a good idea to take a look at the programs installed on your computer and analyze how much space each is using. There may be some applications installed on your computer at the time of purchase which you never use. If you don’t need them, get rid of ‘em!

An overly-fragmented hard drive may also be plaguing your performance speeds. While most newer operating systems automatically defragment your hard drives on a schedule, its a good idea to check the status if you notice slower speeds. Regardless of automatic defragments, you may want to defragment your computer yourself to make sure all files are cleaned up as a first-tier solution.

Automatic Applications

Do you know what applications are running on your computer right now? Often times your computer will automatically launch applications as it boots up, and leave some running in the background while you are working. The more applications that are running at the same time, the higher the memory demands on the machine, and the slower your overall computer performance may be. If you notice excessively long re-boot times, this might be an indicator that you're running too many applications.

To investigate what programs are running, open your Task Manager. From here you can view each of the running applications, and how much memory and CPU they are using. Go ahead and disable any that are unnecessary. Be cautious with any programs or applications that you are unfamiliar with. However, entertainment applications, like Spotify, program updates (like Adobe Updater), can be disabled for increased memory.

While looking at your Task Manager, pay attention to any antivirus or malware software. While you don’t want to disable these software, be aware if these are currently performing a scan on your computer. Antivirus scans may be running in the background, decreasing overall speed of your computer, but these are necessary for computer health. If your antivirus software scan is affecting your computer speed, it may be in your best interest to wait and allow the scan to complete before continuing with your work or taking the next course of action to improve your computer performance. You can also change the automatic scan schedule to make for a less invasive situation. Try scheduling scans for 5 AM or after 7 PM.

Old Operating Systems

Update your operating system regularly. This ensures you are working with the latest program and security solutions. This may seem like a bit of a contradiction, after we just discussed application updates running behind the scenes being the cause of computer slowness. While it is true that automatic updates may decrease available memory for other functions, in the case of operating systems, most of the time updates are essential for optimizing performance issues.

For this reason, you should consider disabling automatic updates, instead opting to run them manually. As always, knowing what is running on your computer will better prepare you to remedy any performance issues you experience.

In addition to updating your operating system, regularly check and update your internet browser plugins and hardware drivers.

Computer Overheating

Just like a human body, a computer processor will become lethargic when it overheats. Most computers will automatically reduce the speed of the processor to compensate for heat related issues, which can cause a significant decrease in performance. Apart from the climate where the computer is located, a lack of proper airflow will have a big impact on the temperature of your computer. The takeaway here is to clean your workspace regularly! Dust is the greatest air-flow restricting culprit when it comes to office environments, but dirt and hair can also accumulate around a computer, leading to overheating.

Still Running Slow?

While hard drive space, applications, operating systems and computer temperature are common areas of concern for a slowly performing computer, there are always other causes to consider.

Maybe it’s not the computer, after all.

If your greatest performance issues are occurring while connected to the internet (waiting for videos to buffer or webpages to load) it could be a problem with your broadband speed or internet service provider. Viruses and malware are known to silently wreak havoc on your system, and it could be a security vulnerability pulling speed from your computer. Unfortunately, you may also be limited by the age of your computer. New and advanced software programs are created to run most efficiently on newer computers, and a computer more than five years old may simply not be equipped to run newer software.

We've outlined some general steps you can take yourself to increase your computer’s operating speed, however we're aware that trouble may still exist that is outside your comfort zone. Often times those who are working in an office may be uncomfortable performing more advanced clean-up solutions mentioned here, they may not know which applications or files are essential to the business, or which temporary data they can safely delete.

Perhaps you might be overwhelmed by the time and research you need to try and solve your slow performance issues. For some, the time value of money makes it more effective to have someone on call to perform these issues so you can get back to work immediately.

For situations like this having trusted IT support is an immense relief. At Continuous Networks, our IT staff are working behind-the-scenes 24/7 with expert knowledge delivered personally. Whether you just need help with understanding what “defragging” is and how it will help, or if your problems are persistent and you need face to face support, the staff at Continuous can be a valuable IT asset.