Whether you’re in Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan, the Redlands or anywhere else, one of the most common complaints I hear from people about their computers is that they are ‘so slow’. Just yesterday I was assisting a client in Forest Lake with a specific issue with his computer. After resolving the issue, I noticed how slowly the computer was running. I recommended a full reinstall of Windows 10 and, just a short while later, the computer was performing a great deal better as a result.
We live in a world where, more and more, we expect things to be instantaneous. Speeds which were acceptable just a short time ago are no longer acceptable today. Nevertheless, when your computer is running too slowly, there is always a reason for the poor performance. The good news is that there is also always a way to make things better.
Why is My Computer so Slow?
When a client asks me this question, I can usually begin to ascertain the cause as soon as I start to look at the computer. I’ll begin by asking how old it is, checking the health of its hard drive, and taking a look at what software has been installed. In the case of my client in Forest Lake, the computer was approaching 30,000 hours of use and had never in its lifetime had a clean-up of its installed software.
Let’s take a look at four potential causes for a computer running slowly, together with solutions.
An Ageing Hard Drive
It’s a fact that traditional SATA hard drives operate more and more slowly as they get older. For this reason, one of the first things I do is to check the S.M.A.R.T. status of the drive. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology and it’s a tool which is built in to hard drives which provides information about the health of the drive.
The S.M.A.R.T. status of a hard disk can be checked from the command line, both to determine the status of the disk, and to predict whether it is likely to fail imminently. However, I prefer to run a utility which will give me a little more information, including for how many hours the drive has been powered on. This figure alone gives me a good idea about how I would expect the drive to be performing. A disk with tens of thousands of hours of use is obviously more likely to be approaching the end of its life than a disk with just a few hundred hours.
S.M.A.R.T. statistics are only relevant if the drive in the computer is a traditional SATA hard drive. If the computer has a Solid State Drive (SSD), then it’s a different matter and the age of the drive shouldn’t be affecting its performance. In the case of my client in Forest Lake, his computer had an SSD which meant that the high number of hours for which it had been used wasn’t actually a factor in the poor performance of the computer.
What to Do About an Ageing Hard Drive
The answer to this question is straightforward: replace the hard disk with a new one. You can either replace it with another traditional SATA drive or an SSD. I would almost always install an SSD due to the vastly superior speed, and these days the prices of SSD’s have dropped dramatically compared to what they were just a few short years ago. You can actually purchase an SSD from as little as $30 or so.
By replacing an ageing hard drive with an SSD you not only solve the performance issue. You’re also implementing a solution which means that the computer will run much faster than ever before due to the much greater performance and speed of SSD’s.
After replacing the hard disk, you can either clone the contents of the old drive to the new one, so that your whole Windows or macOS setup is identical to the way it was before, or you can reinstall the operating system from scratch. Following this you would reinstall your applications and copy any required files from the old drive. I would usually choose the latter option. By cloning the drive you bring across any other pre-existing performance issues from the old hard drive.
Too Much Clutter
The older a computer is, the more clutter it is likely to have accumulated. This was certainly the case with my client in Forest Lake, and also with many other slow computers I’ve encountered. People tend to install various items of software over the years, download files, and generally fill up their hard drive with all sorts of bits and pieces. Many of the applications installed may become superfluous, but continue to occupy space on the computer’s hard drive, as well as potentially consuming precious resources, such as processing power and memory.
I have a couple of solutions for computers with too much clutter.
Solutions for Too Much Clutter
The first solution is to carry out a routine health check and tune-up of your computer. This involves such actions as cleaning up the hard disk, checking for malware and viruses, uninstalling unnecessary software, optimising the computer’s startup, and clearing the caches of the internet browsers you use.
A better solution is to reinstall the computer’s operating system. By doing so you eliminate all the causes of the clutter and start again from a clean slate. This solution is much more likely to result in a marked improvement to the computer’s performance than just carrying out maintenance operations. It is, however, a more time-consuming process. You’ll need to reinstall your applications and copy back across any required files from the old installation. This is the solution I implemented for my client in Forest Lake.
Malware or Virus Issues
I’ve come across quite a few computers which were literally crippled with malware. Just last week I encountered such a computer in Carindale. There were numerous pop-ups and error messages and it wasn’t even possible to use the scanner.
The presence of a virus or other form of malware is a common cause of a computer running too slowly. Often there will be other symptoms, but a radical reduction in a computer’s performance is often a tell-tale sign of an intrusion. Malware and viruses are most often introduced through attachments in emails, or by installing software containing malware (often inadvertently) whilst installing other software. There are a couple of solutions to this problem.
Solutions for Malware and Virus Issues
Th first approach would be to scan the computer thoroughly with a reputable antivirus product. For a more rigorous scan I would sometimes run a number of scans in parallel using different anti-malware products.
Before carrying out a malware scan it’s always a good idea to first carry out a disk clean-up. This will reduce the time taken for the scan, since there will be less files to scan. I would also recommend carrying out the scan in safe mode as this means that there are less services and processes running which could interfere with the scan. If you choose not to run the scan in safe mode then just make sure that any other antivirus products are disabled for the duration of the scan, otherwise they may prevent the scanner you're using from actually removing the malware.
A more rigorous method for dealing with malware and viruses is to reinstall the computer’s operating system. By doing this you automatically eliminate most malware, except for potentially infected files in your file system. Of course if you erase the hard drive prior to the reinstall there is no more effective way of eliminating any malware present. However, you may not want to do this as you may have files which are important to you. If this is the case you can either back up these files to external media, and then erase the hard drive, or you can just reinstall Windows without erasing the hard drive. Either way you should run a malware scan after you’ve copied your files back across to your new installation.
A Corrupt Operating System
It’s quite common for some elements of the Windows operating system to become corrupted. This is much less likely to be the case with a Mac. If the operating system is corrupted, it’s likely that you’ll notice some features which aren’t functioning correctly. It’s not that common though, for a corrupted operating system to cause a reduction in operating speed without other symptoms being present too. However, if your slowness isn’t being caused by an ageing hard drive, by too much clutter, or by malware or viruses, then there may indeed be an issue with the operating system.
The only possible solution for a corrupt operating system is to reinstall it. Once again you can either erase the hard drive before doing so, or reinstall to the boot drive without erasing it first.
So there you have four potential reasons why your computer may be running too slowly. I frequently work with slow computers and it’s always a pleasure to implement a solution which results in a radical performance improvement. If you have a slow computer in Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan or the Redlands, and you’d like to see it given a new lease of life, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I cover a wide range of suburbs and I’m here to help with slow computers and any number of other computer repair issues you might have.
If you'd like to learn even more, check out the following excellent article -
5 Hardware upgrades to speed up your slow computer by Sydney's Safemode Computer Service