How do you troubleshoot / optimize a slow PC?

Trying to figure specifically what's slowed down a laptop, but I guess it's a general question

windows 10 pro laptop, joined to a domain, but off the network for months now.

it's an i5 and 8GB ram, 320 GB 720RPM hard drive with about 100GB of data (so there's space on the hard drive).

I ran crystal disk info and it says the drive is physically OK.

Ran disk cleanup, removed old system files
Ran ccleaner for disk cleanup and registry clean up

But overall, the computer is sluggish  and will take upwards of 7 minutes to restart (keeps saying restarting'.  Although repeated restarts, the time does drop to 3 minutes or so.

It did have bitlocker turned on and it was running OK.  Then I wanted to put in an SSD and read you should turn off bitlocker.  started that and also ran the windows native disk cleanup... it was deleting files while also decrypting.  then it froze / I let it sit for hours.... black screen / woudln't wake up.

Turned off by pressing power button, then turned back on.  I think this is when it got sluggish.

I turned on bitlocker, it encrypted, then I turned off bitlocker / it decrypted...  still sluggish, especially at restart.

I cloned the drive to an SSD and it runs nice and fast.  So the software isn't corrupted - it cloned a fast experience.  

What about cloning back to the regular hard drive.  Might speed up the experience on the old drive?

I also ran wise registry cleanup.  the rotating hard drive was still slow opening apps, restarting,etc.

But in general, what are some things you do to keep a windows pc working good?  i5 and 8gb of ram is a nice config, right?  Only 1 1/2 year old machine.
BeGentleWithMe-INeedHelpAsked:
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
For a machine with a hard drive, to fully start means about 5 minutes in total. So you are not too far off that.

Do Disk Cleanup regularly, including System Files at least monthly. Run Disk Defrag. This may take a while if you have not run it.

For an SSD, just run Disk Cleanup regularly
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arnoldCommented:
As noted earlier sluggishness is often detected when one uses a. Faster system to which this one is compared.

On battery/ac power the power plan may impact performance when over time the battery capacity declines.
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BeGentleWithMe-INeedHelpAuthor Commented:
sorry, the 7 minutes of the restart - that was the time that 'restarting' was on the screen.  the booting back up to windows took much less than that. 5 minutes is normal? None of my other machines take that long.

And yes, the SSD is faster partly because it's ssd. But the other drive was faster previously.
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arnoldCommented:
often restarting on shut down/restart deals with possible updates/or cleanup when the system has been up for a while.
The black screen at times represents the application of updates...

check the windows update history to confirm whether updates were applied in that timeframe.
I would not characterize a system as slugish based on the amount of time it takes to restart.
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web_trackerComputer Service TechnicianCommented:
Just because the hard drive tested fine it still can have delayed sectors, which can slow down the computer significantly . Paid application like the harddrive regenerator can easily detect delayed sectors as it tries to regenerate the hard drive. But unless you will be using the application on a regular basis you are better off just buying a new drive. Even some ssd drives are cheaper than paying for the application. It does do a good job of repairing a bad drive though. http://www.dposoft.net/hdd.html
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Jackie ManIT ManagerCommented:
windows 10 pro laptop, joined to a domain, but off the network for months now.

Have you disjoint the laptop from the domain network?
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Andrew LeniartEE Senior Editor & Independent IT ConsultantCommented:
I wrote an article relating to this topic about a year ago here;

https://www.experts-exchange.com/articles/29546/Several-Do-it-Yourself-Ways-of-speeding-up-a-Slow-Windows-Computer.html

Most of it still applies to Windows 10 - feel free to ask for clarification if needed.

I hope that's helpful.

Regards, Andrew
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nobusCommented:
check what model of  disk you have in device manager - disks
then run the manufacturer's diagnostic tool, like seagate, or Wdlifeguard - long test

note that i have seen ALL windows systems getting slower each year - THEY presume it is from installed updates
if the slowness happens all of a sudden  - there is  something wrong, otherwise blame MS
for troubleshooting :
-you can check if safe mode runs faster
-you can disable all services with msconfig
-update all drivers+ bios
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Martyn SpencerSoftware Developer / Linux System Administrator / Managing DirectorCommented:
Perhaps I have missed it but I have not seen anyone suggest that you take a look at the event viewer in the PC for critical events, error events and warning events. They may give some clues as to what is happening. You could also check specifically for disk events to see if anything is being reported.

Start by looking under "Windows logs" and review the "System" section. Using the controls on the right hand side you can focus on Critical, Warning and Error events.
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McKnifeCommented:
You have a fast system now, on SSD. Why even care about the old drive? Format it, all is well.
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
the booting back up to windows took much less than that. 5 minutes is normal?

To be fully started and smoothly running, that is normal on any hard drive system I see with software and Anti Virus installed.
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BeGentleWithMe-INeedHelpAuthor Commented:
McKnife - good point!  But just asking for general info also... right? Windows computers slow down over time from patches / updates / temp files / etc?  

How do you combat that?
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
So long as you run Disk Cleanup regularly (weekly), and keep AntiVirus and Windows updates current, you should not have any issues
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Martyn SpencerSoftware Developer / Linux System Administrator / Managing DirectorCommented:
If you feel that temporary files are causing a slow-down (this is not likely to be a concern unless you have applications that are constantly having to scan temporary folders), you can simply remove them. With regard to patches and updates, there is little you can do and in my experience patches and updates alone do not slow down computers by a significant degree. My experience is that it is installing and uninstalling programs, or leaving programs that have components that auto-start tend to slow things down. With that in mind, having the fewest applications and services starting with the PC is likely to have more effect than, for example, temporary files.

Having more applications and services without enough RAM can also be an issue due to it potentially causing excessive paging. In this situation, more RAM can help alleviate it.

You will also find that AV software will generally slow things down significantly. I have read of figures like a 30-40% slow-down, but that would depend on the nature of file access. You can exclude folders from a lot of AV scans, so looking at what the software is scanning and removing safe folders from a scan, particularly if they are heavily used and would be unlikely to contain a file that could be infected could give positive results. I have also read of arguments that AV software could be relied upon less if you always used non-privileged users (many Windows users do their daily work using an admin account). That is something that would be open for debate and probably is out of scope of this question.
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Michael RojekGalactic ViceroyCommented:
Considering everything we have both personally as well as business wise is backed up or held entirely in the cloud, i'm a fan of clean installs. Windows 10 has a great wizard for doing a clean install, and you can even choose ones that save your content. Start with a clean install, get your updates, and you're good to go. Antivirus software isn't really necessary for personal computers any more, nor for non-critical business ones.
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nobusCommented:
how about my post?  any comment?
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Andrew LeniartEE Senior Editor & Independent IT ConsultantCommented:
Windows computers slow down over time from patches / updates / temp files / etc?  
How do you combat that?

I find that Ccleaner made by Piriform to be an excellent tool for this type of maintenance and does a stellar job of cleaning junk files from a system. I purchased the Professional version some time back, but the Free version is fine and works just as well for this type of maintenance. Avoid using the Registry Cleaner in it unless you have a need to though. Many people "over maintain" their registry and this can cause problems as a result. In your case, I'd probably run it once or twice to see if it makes a difference, but be sure to answer Yes when asked to backup before the registry repair actually happens though.

If you've not used Ccleaner before, give it a shot. I've been using it for years and can highly recommend it.

I hope that's helpful.

Regards, Andrew
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Andrew LeniartEE Senior Editor & Independent IT ConsultantCommented:
Antivirus software isn't really necessary for personal computers any more, nor for non-critical business ones.
This is *very* bad advice in my opinion.
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McKnifeCommented:
"Windows computers slow down over time from patches / updates / temp files / etc?  
How do you combat that?"

Let's look at what performance is made of:
CPU power - that does not decrease over the lifetime of a machine.
Amount of memory and memory speed - does not decrease, either.
Storage speed - it does not decrease.

So how come, people think, my machine is getting slower? It's because people are unable to even define "quick" vs. "slow". They look at a cleanly installed machine and call it fast. They look at the same machines 3 years after, dozens of applications installed that have dozens of background services running and will cause lots of "noise" on the storage, and they feel, things respond slower than they remember, so they call the machine "slower than it once was". That is how it goes. Then people ask themselves "what has changed?" and of course, it's the mean updates, the mean temp files, the mean file fragmentation and all that. No, it's not.

Install a machine clean and launch procmon. Just let it run for 1 minute and see how many events it records with default settings. Now install all your software, don't launch it and use procmon the same way - you will see a lot more things going on in the logs although your applications are not running, although there are no temp files, no fragmentation, nothing.

You need to do that to understand how it works.
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nobusCommented:
up to now, all my pc"s are running with only Windows Defender, since windows 10
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
@BeGentleWithMe-INeedHelp  - Your question was general up above. I have found that if I run general maintenance procedures (described above) that my computers do not slow down over time. So fairly easy to keep them running well.
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nobusCommented:
and i noticed that on my computers, without installing softwares, the response degrades over time
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
I think that is because of temp files and updates, so cleaning that up prevents this issue for me.
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BeGentleWithMe-INeedHelpAuthor Commented:
Thanks guys!  I DO appreciate the comments and advice.

I was hoping for an AH HA moment - an app / technique I hadn't heard of before.  The one thing that caught my eye was Web_Tracker's comment about 'delayed sectors'.  Haven't heard of that before, But something to  look into, I think.  I do want to clone the SSD back to the rotating hard drive and seeing if the rotating hard drive is faster than before.

I know I just ordered a bunch of 120GB SSD drives for $30 each to put into my different machines. Started putting them in some machines and noticing a big difference. Yeah, it's SSD so of course it's going to be faster.

I do use ccleaner and  just started using

https://www.wisecleaner.com/wise-registry-cleaner.html

But even after running both of those, I can go into the registry and I know i will find entries about apps I have uninstalled, etc.  And same for the c:\user\appdata folders.  

Yes, a clean install is the way to do things.  I do that on some lab machines - clean install, delete things, image them and then use it for a while.  Then reinstall the image after a while.

But am I wrong - doing a clean install - that takes a while, right? Between backup the data, do the OS install, then updates, then install office / other apps, then configure the apps, then copy files

How often would you do a clean install?  My experience (am I doing things wrong) is that it takes hours and invariably, you lose some settings you need (and yes, some you don't want)...

John - still thin 5 minnutes is too long.
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McKnifeCommented:
Registry garbage has an effect under certain circumstances, but not most of the time. It's not to be feared. As I said, do yourself a favor and download procmon (Microsoft freeware), start it, gaze at the millions of actions that happen each minute on a system and compare those to a clean installation (look at the number of events). The conclusion should not be "I need to install clean", but rather "Systems full of software will simply be a little slower since this software needs resources, even when not running!". ->Keep the number of software to a minimum, prefer to install slim software and portable software.
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nobusCommented:
i never use  a registry cleaner - there's no need, as said, and you may end wrecking other things , if you are not careful , eg running it on "auto" setting.
that said, i fear there's no "AH HA moment - an app / technique"  to solve all your problems (i wish it existed)
i do every 1 or 2 years a clean install, i don't even bother imaging anymore - but that is for my personal PC"s, where only some data is important to me - so i keep a backup of that …
and yes, it takes some hours, and things change; but you KNOW then that you have a good, healthy system, and no othe technique can give you that
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Andrew LeniartEE Senior Editor & Independent IT ConsultantCommented:
I do use ccleaner and  just started using
https://www.wisecleaner.com/wise-registry-cleaner.html

I've not installed Wise Registry Cleaner so can't comment on how good it is, but looking at the website you linked, I see it as the same type of utility as Ccleaner by Piriform, I note it also touts "Scheduled Automatic Registry Cleaning" and a "Clean with 1-click' icon from the desktop" as a desirable feature. I would strongly recommend "not" using any type of Automatic registry cleaning, not even Piriforms in its safest mode because it's not necessary and will, in fact, cause problems eventually.

Again, any registry cleaner should only be used when there is an identified purpose or reason to use it. The windows registry is self-maintaining and doesn't require regular maintenance. As McKnife pointed out earlier, speed issues or booting times are rarely a cause of the Windows registry and you should look elsewhere for slowdown causes.

I would also strongly discourage you from using any type of "one-click optimization" feature that utilities such as Wise Registry Cleaner are promoting. There is no such thing as a One-Click - Fix-all solution and any utility claiming it can do that on the countless different system configurations around the world are just fooling themselves and trying to money grab from unsuspecting users who don't know any better. This is exactly the type of function that if regularly run, will almost certainly make things worse, not better.

I was hoping for an AH HA moment - an app / technique I hadn't heard of before.
That type of App doesn't exist in my experience BeGentle. Over the last 20+ years or so, I've tried and tested dozens of these so-called apps that claim to improve the speed of your computer or speed up your Internet access by a factor of 2 or 300%.

I've always found that they're total garbage, unreliable, and aimed at (mum and dad) type users who don't know how to do basic maintenance on their own PCs, so willing to part with $20 or $30 bucks. Every single one I tried, without exception, failed to do what it claimed to do and in fact, caused even more problems on the computer than started with. Stay away from this type of app.

The basics of keeping a system working and booting as fast as possible are, in a nutshell;

  • Examing which services are set to auto start when Windows loads
  • Check all of your software installs and how they are configured (ie: AV's and other backgrounds type software) HP (just as an example), are notorious for running all types of un-needed junk in the background whenever you install one of their printers using their install wizards and are a confirmed cause of performance issues
  • Keeping temp and other junk files down to acceptable levels, including Windows updates
  • Keeping the level of file fragmentation down to acceptable levels on non SSD hard drives
  • Correcting registry errors when necessary. I stress the "when necessary" part here - there needs to be an identified reason to start digging around in the registry

Hundreds of apps on the net for sale claim to do all the above automatically. I've yet to see or try one that was any good or didn't cause additional problems from its use.

I hope that's helpful.

Regards, Andrew
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nobusCommented:
i thought that defrag was done automatically since windows 7 and later?....
anyway, i have not defragged one PC since windows 7
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Andrew LeniartEE Senior Editor & Independent IT ConsultantCommented:
i thought that defrag was done automatically since windows 7 and later?....
anyway, i have not defragged one PC since windows 7
You thought right nobus, it was set to automatic by default since back to Windows XP days if memory serves, however since the release of Windows 10 and the increased use of SSD drives, that's no longer the case. If Windows 10 detects an SSD drive, it "should" disable automatic defragmentation. It's really not needed on SSD hardware and only serves to shorten the lifespan of the drive.
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nobusCommented:
ah - it took so many yoears to think something right.... lol tx for confirming it
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