What’s slowing your computer down?

What’s slowing your computer down?

Slow computers test the boundaries of anyone’s patience. They make it extremely difficult for you and your staff to get any substantial work done, which is demotivating and can lead to reduced profits.

If you’ve been wondering why your computer is so slow, here are some of the possible reasons and steps you can take to get them running faster.

#1. Your computer is infected with malware

Whenever any type of installed software runs on your computer, it uses that machine’s processing power. This includes malware. While some malware may do a good job at staying hidden, a sudden slowdown in your computer’s performance could indicate an overt infection. For example, ransomware usually takes time to encrypt the contents of hard drives. Viruses, on the other hand, commonly install malicious programs that run ads randomly to generate income for their creators.

How to fix it

If you think your computer is infected with malware, disconnect from the internet immediately to prevent it from spreading to your network, then run an anti-malware scan to detect and stop it. For more complex malware, it’s best to turn to IT experts like Leverage IT to remove the infection.

As a preventive measure, make sure that your software programs are regularly updated since hackers take advantage of system vulnerabilities of outdated software. Aside from critical security patches, software updates usually also add performance enhancements.

#2. You have too many startup programs

“The most common cause of a slow computer is too many startup programs,” says LaptopMD’s computer repair doctor Aaron Schoeffler. “90% of programs want that permission to start when your computer starts so that you’ll use them, and that can result in a boot time of 5–10 minutes. When it finally does start, a ton of programs are already running in the background, and if you’re not using a newer computer, that can slow it down.”

While you should allow some programs such as anti-malware and firewall software to run from startup, keep your other apps closed until you actually need to use them.

How to fix it

Review and pick the applications that launch on startup. Here’s a step-by-step guide to doing this.

  • Windows 8 and 10 – Press Windows key + X. Select Task Manager > More details > Startup, then right-click on the programs you want to remove and select Disable.
  • Windows 7 and older – Click the Start button, then search for System Configuration. Go to the Startup tab, then uncheck the programs you don't want to load when the system boots up.
  • Mac – Click Applications > Systems Preferences > User Groups > Login Items, then uncheck the programs you don’t need to run during startup.

If you’re installing a new program, pay attention during the installation process and disable the default setting of most programs to load automatically upon startup.

#3. Your computer doesn’t have enough random access memory (RAM)

Modern software programs are exponentially taking up more of your computer’s memory to run. This is especially the case for programs that work with a lot of huge files, such as photo and video editing software. Running these programs can be problematic for computers that have limited RAM. “A lot of people try to run Photoshop or some graphics-heavy program on an entry- or mid-level computer that can't handle it,” says Joe Silverman, CEO of repair shop New York Computer Help.

Your RAM should also allow you to seamlessly switch from processing one program to another. But if you’re running too many programs at the same time, you’ll likely notice a slowdown.

How to fix it

If your existing RAM can’t handle your computing needs, consider upgrading PC’s RAM. It’s an inexpensive solution that most people can handle themselves. For most office applications, 8 GB will suffice, but you’ll want 16 or even 32 GB to run more demanding applications.

It’s also best to limit the number of programs running at once. Shut down those you don’t need. Here’s how to do it.

  • Windows – Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to access the Task Manager. Click the programs you want to close and then hit the End task button.
  • Mac – On your dock, click Finder > Applications and double-click the Utilities folder. Double-click the Activity Monitor to see and edit the programs that are open and sucking up processing power.

#4. Your computer is running out of storage space

As you add more applications, updates to programs, downloads, and temporary files and associated files of deleted programs on your PC, your storage space gets filled up. IT experts estimate that once your hard drive reaches 85% capacity, your computer’s performance will start to drop. At 95% capacity, Schoeffer estimates that computers can slow down by 50%. “At this point, there is no space to save the temporary files required for operating programs, so it’s as if the OS doesn’t know how to run properly anymore,” he adds.

How to fix it

Clean your storage once in a while to make space. Remove old, unused applications and unnecessary files from unused programs, defunct downloads, and temporary files. Although Windows’ Disk Cleanup or CleanMyMac 3 can help clean up junk, you should still regularly review and edit your list of installed applications in Windows’ Control Panel or Mac’s Applications folder.

How to run Windows’ Disk Cleanup and CleanMyMac 3

  • Windows 10 – Type “Disk Cleanup” in the search bar and press Enter. On the Drives list, select which drive you want to clean, choose the files you want to delete, and then click OK > Delete files.
  • Windows 8 – Click Settings > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Disk Cleanup. On the Drives list, select which drive you want to clean, choose the files you want to delete, and then click OK > Delete files.
  • Windows 7 – Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup. Choose what type of files and folders to delete on the Files to delete section then click OK.
  • Mac – Download CleanMyMac 3, then double-click the downloaded CleanMyMac.dmg file. Drag the CleanMyMac X icon to your Applications folder. Open CleanMyMac and click Scan on its welcome screen.

How to access Windows’ Control Panel and Mac’s Applications folder:

  • Windows 10 – Click inside the search box on the taskbar, then type “control panel” and click the Control Panel search result.
  • Windows 8 – Switch to the Start screen and type “control panel.” Click on the Control Panel search result.
  • Windows 7 – Open the Start Menu and type “control panel” in the search box. Then click on the Control Panel shortcut in the Programs list of results.
  • Mac – From the OS X Finder, hit Command+Shift+A to jump to the Applications folder.

System backups also take up a lot of space, so don’t keep more backup versions than you really need.

You need expert help to ensure your computer’s optimal performance

Although these tips are good starting points, there are still plenty of other causes of slow computers that require different solutions. It’s best to seek the IT expertise of Leverage IT. We provide regular IT health checks to make sure that your computers are fast and healthy. Drop us a line today to get started.