degrade in performance of customer laptops

I just wondered if you have a job role in pc repairs or desktop support, if you have users bring in machines complaining about a recent onset of sluggish performance, what are the common causes for a degrade in system performance ''its really slow'' type complaints? What are perhaps the top 5 common causes? And what sort of checklist do you follow to get to the root cause?
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rojoshoConnect With a Mentor RTCC-III Level-2 SupportCommented:
Hello pma111 y et al,

I do a lot of 'my system is really slow, lately' issues for my friends and customers and over the past few years I have come to find that the main causes are (These are in order, BTW):
1. Malware (Mostly Spy and Adware)
2. Malware (Viruses, Hijack and 'Ransom ware')
3. Over heating issues ==> Fan Subsystem (Clogged air vent, Fan Blades or Fan not working)
4. Over heating issues ==> CPU thermo compound
5. Scheduled 'unknown' activity (GUpgrade, Defrags and Adobe Updates)

Most every day 'common users' are not techy enough to tell you exactly what is going on, so you have to read between the lines and ask some generalized question...
...."Does it happen after the unit has been off for a while?"
….”Does it happen in the AM or PM”
...."When do you notice this happening?"
….”What are you doing when this happens?”
I think you get the picture.  I find if a client can explain the technical details of a problem, they can generally fix it themselves, the ones that cant, are the ones who need us  :)

As a rule I do the following (Pretty much in this order):
1. Make a copy of the customer's system with Clonezilla and NTBackup (My Ruby Red Slippers) to an External USB HDD

2. Download, install, update and run the following AVs (These can be ran at the same time)
   a. Avast (Even if they have Norton and MaAfee)
   b. Malwarebytes
   c. SpyBot
   d. Superantispyware
I run these in normal mode to reduce the malware count and then run them again in Safe Mode - Believe me, you can do this and it works.  Once the system is cleaned, I remove Spybot and Superantispyware.

3. I run CCleaner

4. I run Smart Defrag 2

5. And while all of this is going on, I download, install and run SpeedFan to watch the temps (Which should be between 35C and 55C).  Some Laptops run a bit hotter, but keep in mind that most electronics are designed to run in the 125F range (Please note 'F' and not 'C'), anything higher for extended periods of time is like a cancer, which slowly kills your system.

6. In the [Windows Control Panel ==> Add/Remove Software], I remove any Blackberry software (RIM), any ToolBars, Additional Search Engines, any unnecessary (Have not used in a long time) or unknown software (‘I don’t know why that is there”); especially anything having to do with Google, ASK, Babylon, coupons or free shopping offers, any PC Fixup software.

7. Run Msconfig and remove any programs that are not immediately needed at boot up (i.e. Logmein, AVs)

8. If I see a heat related issue, I crack open the unit and inspect the air flow and fan (Generally I can find a YouTube video on some teenager tearing apart the same model – can be educational and entertaining).

9. If the air flow is good, then it is on the CPU Compound - this is not for the 'faint of heart' and if you are not a 'pro from Dover (movie 'MASH'), then it is time to step away from the keyboard.

A. Increase RAM to as much as possible (Limit can be either software or hardware related so you need to do your homework).
B. Increase the Page File to 4089
C. Suggest moving a SSD HDD or a faster HDD

I think this is what you were asking - Yes?
I can tell you that the above process has worked for me in 90% of the customers that I have been involved with – so for me, it works.

Now, a comment on Senior Nobus' comment (Who BTW is my EE hero)... In most of the situations that I have been involved with, going with (Now up to 145 units) a fresh install is an OUTSTANDING idea, especially if the system was riddled with viruses and you are never sure that the system is REALLY clean... the only issue is --> Does the customer have the installation CDs for any of the applications and software that they need ==> MS Office is the most common, 'I cant find' applications.  If they do not have these installation CD, then there will be an additional cost and effort to obtain them….  

Hope this helps,

McKnifeConnect With a Mentor Commented:

You need to tell the clients to demonstrate their issues. Why start checking for common issues? There are not really many common issues.
Sure, there are always some more on the conservative side that start their old, floppy records:
-temp files cleaned up?
-latest drivers installed?
-enough RAM?
-fans not dusted shut?
and all that crap that in most cases leads to nothing.

Don't get me wrong, there are customers that really hose their computer, manage to install viruses, fill up the hard drive up to 99,9%, and do the above mentioned things, that will result in a severe degrade of performance.

But in general, they need to show you their exact issue, it needs to be reproducible.
dbruntonConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Well if the complaint is vague then you'd do as McKnife suggested.

-temp files cleaned up?
-latest drivers installed?  (I wouldn't do this myself)
-enough RAM?
-fans not dusted shut?  (I think McKnife means dust buildup in machine here)

I'd also add

Check anti-virus isn't doing a full disk scan
If it is an IDE drive check it hasn't switched to PIO mode
Check Event logs
Check what is getting loaded on startup (try Soluto for that or Event Viewer and msconfig)
Check if Windows Update is doing something
nobusConnect With a Mentor Commented:
normally, slow pc 's can be caused by the years of use, during which a lot of software is installed, + updates for the programs...
added to this a couple of hard or soft problems, and the system is ready for a fresh install
i suggest to do this every year, or if not possible, asap after each year
when the system is completely setup - make an image of it, and you can restart afresh in 1 hour
ded9Connect With a Mentor Commented:
1. Software corruption
2. Software loading at startup, antivirus etc.
3. Profile Corruption
4. Viurs
5. Hardware

Checklist. to fix

1. Hardware test.
2. Virus scan
3. KB articles
4. Temp files , fixit, safe mode, New user account..etc.
5. Repair and the end clean install

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