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How To Fix A Slow Computer

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Kyle Santos
Customer Relations for Experts Exchange, LLC. Please see my Full Biography for more information.
How can this article save you time AND money?  In just a few minutes you may discover something you didn't know existed that is easy enough for you to fix yourself!

If you're reading this you're probably hoping for a quick and easy solution.


I may have one for you.  Whether you have a new computer, or are trying to keep the old one alive, it becomes an overwhelming frustration to spend so much time to improve computer performance.  I believe the frustration of a slow starting and / or performing computer can be resolved by opening up your wallet to get the problem fixed.  But another thing you're probably considering is not spending money to boost the performance of your computer.  
 

How can this article save you time AND money?


Forking out money and spending additional time to fix a computer's degraded performance should not be time consuming.  This is especially true if you know where to look and address common issues.  Do me a favor.  Open your Task Manager as you're reading this article.  Press and hold the keys CTRL+ALT+DELETE or right click your Task Bar > Start Task Manager.  (For Mac users go to Spotlight at the top right corner of your desktop and search for "Activity Monitor")

Screenshot-1.png
When you have opened the window, take a look at the tabs that are available.  Browse through your "Performance" and  "Processes" tabs.  What stands out to you?  Is your CPU or Memory bar showing you using a lot of usage?  Do you see a lot of processes that are running that look foreign or are unrecognizable? Let me show you an example.

Screenshot-2.pngScreenshot-3.pngIn the first photo you will see a snapshot of your CPU and Memory usage.  In the second photo I sorted the processes consuming the most memory.  For the most part, we can easily identify items that are trusted like chrome.exe, thunderbird.exe, explorer.exe and most other common programs you use day to day.  But what about items that don't really say much like "csrss.exe".  It has no description.  A quick search of that name in our search engine (or a 3rd party like Google) will usually describe the item and its importance.  Research some of the items you see running currently on your computer and take note of what they do.  (You may have also noticed the 'End Process' button there too.  DO NOT end ANY process without performing research on the item(s).  It could be integral to your system.  In fact, refrain from doing it at all.)
 

What are system specifications?


This is your system's hardware.  Now let's take a look at what your computer running for hardware.  Click Start > Control Panel > System and Security > System (or right click your Computer icon and click Properties).  In a Mac click the Apple icon at the top left > About This Mac.

Screenshot-4.pngThere is your Processor (CPU) type and how much memory is installed.  Now you can gauage if the items in Task Manager are in respect to the capabilities of your computer.  
 

What should I consider?


Did I buy a computer with pre-installed software?
If the answer is yes there is probably a handful of items that are identified in Task Manager that don't need to be running!

or

Have I installed numerous software programs on this computer that I needed in the past, but have no use for now?
If the answer is yes there are probably instances of processes still running in the background!

Even if you answered 'No' to those two questions you're not exactly in the clear.  Depending on your viewpoint, programs like iTunes appear to be harmless.  But if you have updated iTunes as often as I have you will also be committing to other programs like Quicktime, and recently, iCloud for Windows.  Believe it or not, there are strings attached!  Its not bad that Apple has obligated you to install additional items, but are they necessary for you?  As we need to install other software programs, browser extensions, computer games, orWHATEVER else to run our day to day lives, we neglect general maintence of our computers!


How can I make an immediate impact to enhancing my system's performance?

 

  1. Disable unwanted items.  Go to Start.  In the search bar type "msconfig" and press Enter.  Click the Startup tab.  See all those checked items?  Disable unknown Startup items.  Don't worry.  You can re-enable them later if they are important.  Click Apply > Ok.  On the next system Restart re-visit your Task Manager.  Was there less consumption of Memory and CPU?  Did your computer start faster?  (Mac users go to System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items)
  2. Click Start > Control Panel > Programs.  Click Uninstall a Program.  Peruse the list and look for items that rarely used or were installed a while ago that you have not used.  Do you need that program anymore that you installed and needed in the past?  (Mac users go to the Finder, click Applications.  If the app is in a folder it might have an uninstaller.  Otherwise drag the app to the Trash > Empty Trash.)
  3. Research CCleaner and install the program.  http://download.cnet.com/CCleaner/ . Its proven time and time again as a useful application that cleans your system and browser applications for, you guessed it, CRAP!  It cleans items that just hang around and take up space and hinder computer performance.  (Mac users http://download.cnet.com/CCleaner/3000-2144_4-75453127.html)
 

Is that it?


Short answer: Yes.  You will see less CPU and memory consumption.

Long answer: For the time being you may notice a considerable improvement on your machine.  Opinions will vary, and I encourage comments to flow below providing feedback, but the intention of this article was to deliver items that you may not have known existed at all! As we all aim to accomodate a common gripe most people have, the technology will not slow down for us to keep up.  However, as long as we still have influence, and beneficial shortcuts, we will always strive to optimize the performance of our computers and deter obstructions in our paths.
7
Comment
Author:Kyle Santos
3 Comments
 

Expert Comment

by:shirkaan
In my experience THIS is rarely the reason for slow computers. There are things that are much more important as:
* Disable remore differential compression (windows functions) - recommended by MS
* Disable ipV6 (also recommended by MS if ipV6 is not used and configured correctly)
* Never let Windows handle the size of the paging file. Set the paging file size to 0, restart, defrag the disk (if the computer has already been in use - need not do it if the pc is new), set the paging file size to the size which is recommended by windows so that it has its full size from the beginning
* Set energy settings to full power because the default setting of "balanced" does not mean the PC would use energy dynamical. It only means "don't use TOO much energy".
* Look for MS security essentials and uninstall them. This software slows down PCs dramaticaly. Rather use a good anti virus program (beware: Most (not all) of the free anti virus progs are worth as much as they cost - nothing)

With these few steps you will see a massive improvement of performance.
0
 

Expert Comment

by:Douglas Oerly
There are other things that, I feel, should be mentioned here.

When removing unwanted or unused programs from your computer, the standard windows uninstaller frequently leaves files and registry entries that should have been removed.  This is also true for some 3rd party uninstallers.  One program that consistently removes everything, and gives you an option for uninstalling in safe, medium and advanced modes is the Revo uninstaller.  It will present a list(s) of left-over items and allow you to select the ones you want to remove.  Even Microsoft Help Desk personnel use this program when remotely working on someones pc.  It begins by using the standard uninstaller (either the software's own or windows) then collects left-over information and presents it to you.  Very user-friendly.  Left-over registry entries are included in items presented to remove.

You can go to the start menu and click or type run and a window will open.  Type in %temp% and click <ok>.  A window will be opened that presents a list of files.  Select all of them and delete them.  Some may be open and so just skip their deletion.

Go to your C:\ drive icon in My Computer or the file explorer and right click on it and run Disk Clean up.  Here, you can clean up system files as well, such as, windows log files, left-over windows update files, and others.

Additionally, just running the defragmentation program does not ensure that all files have been defragmented.  Go to the start menu or search programs and enter cmd and select the program.  A Command prompt window will appear that you may be familiar with if you have ever used the old DOS prompt, which is basically what this is.  Type in defrag ? and <ENTER>.  A list of defrag options will be presented that you can specify when you run the defrag command from this window.  Specify the ones you want and run the program.  NOTE: you may need to run this with administrator privileges.  Do this by right clicking the cmd prompt program and then click run as administrator.

Always remember, your computer may never become faster than it was when you first purchased it and opened the box.  If it was slow to start with, barring pre-installed software, it will usually be this slow to end with and you may need to just go ahead and purchase one with a faster processor etc.  One item that may make a difference here is more RAM.
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Expert Comment

by:Les Finch
The following comes from Wikipedia.
 "A myth has arisen that RDC significantly slows local file transfers and should be switched off; a Microsoft TechNet Web page by a Microsoft Directory Services Team member comprehensibly debunks this with detailed timings, additional to the fact that a service which is not invoked by software cannot have any effect, detrimental or otherwise"
 I did not find the TechNet page but would like to see Microsoft's comments on RDC.

I have found the most common causes of slow computers are
1- malware
2 - slow hard disks especially 2.5" drives. They do not report as faulty but the tests take an exceptionally long time to complete. We use Spinrite to test them
3 - as mentioned earlier, all the crap software the manufacturer has auto starting on boot. Ccleaner is great for disabling them.
4 - also mentioned earlier - not enough RAM
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