Why is my Computer So Slow?

Are you having a bad time trying to get your cranky old computer to process a simple request? Do you feel like your PC’s performance is like the old days of dial up internet? A slow PC is the bane of every computer user’s existence, especially when you need high levels of performance to stay on top of work and school. There are many reasons behind the question ‘Why is my computer so slow?’, whether it is a Windows or Mac machine, can be running at below average performance. Some of these might shock you, so be prepared. The good thing is that you can always fix slow computer, no matter how bad it gets.

Top Reasons Why Computers Get Slow

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While there are many causes of slow computers, the most common can be classified and identified. If you feel like your machine is guilty of any one of these, you can rest assured that an easy fix is incoming.

Too Many Browser Add-Ons

We live in a very digital, online world. Your web browser is the most used app on your computer, whether it is a laptop, MacBook or a desktop PC. Browsers are used for a variety of purposes on the internet, including work and gaming. To make things easier, most browsers now have the capacity to integrate “add-ons” into their design. These are little applications that do things like check emails, send phone notifications to your computer and more. While some of these are truly useful, some are just pure adware that will slow your computer down because of the sheer number of them there are on a single browser.

Hard Drive Death

Your hard drive is the heart of your system, storing all your information and applications so that you can access them when you need to. If you are wondering, “why do I have a slow computer?”, the hard drive might be the cause of it. Is it an older PC where you have been using the same drive for many years? Since a hard drive has many delicate moving parts, wear and tear could cause it to be reaching the end of its lifetime. Most mechanical hard drives fail over time, so make sure yours isn’t too old! If you use a laptop, think back to make sure you haven’t dropped it at any point in its lifetime, possibly jarring your hard drive a little too hard.

Program Overload

A computer is a machine made to multitask. “If this is the case, why is my computer slow?”, you might be asking. Well, just because something can perform a function doesn’t mean you should make it perform 500 functions at the same time. You can’t do that and then say your computer is very slow for no reason. Each computer, based on its CPU and RAM power, is only able to handle a certain number of tasks at any time. If you have a PC that doesn’t have enough memory and processor power to handle all the 50 different applications you have open on the desktop at the same time, it is going to start lagging, freezing and even restarting to manage its resources better. This can lead to you getting mad at it, even though you shouldn’t have asked too much of it in the first place.

Passionate Antivirus Software

An antivirus program is one of the most essential parts of your computer experience, but can also be why your PC is slow. On a Windows PC, not having an antivirus program is a pretty silly choice to make. However, you do need to make sure that you haven’t scheduled your scans for the worst possible times. Many of these programs resort to their default scan schedules, which might just lead to them scanning your computer at the worst possible times in the background. A scan of your files eats up a ton of RAM and processing power, and can go on for over an hour. During this time, your CPU generally dedicates most of its resources to the antivirus because of its priority on the list. What this means for you is a far slower computer, at least for a short while.

Virus Alert!

If you don’t have an antivirus, or if it hasn’t been doing its job properly, the other cause of a slow PC system can be an actual computer virus. This doesn’t have to be a completely malicious program either. Any spyware, adware, malware or other virus types could turn your speedy computer into a sluggish, lazy, wheezy machine that gets nowhere fast. Some of the more malicious programs can actual force your computer to go into shutdown, leading to you experiencing frequent “crashes” and losing a lot of unsaved work in the process.

Startup Programs

Imagine waking up one morning to find all your work, homework assignments and other responsibilities requiring to be done in one hour. You’d freak out, dive back under the covers and possibly collapse due to the sheer stress of it all. The same thing applies to any computer – if you have too many programs asking for processing power as soon as the computer starts up, the startup gets a lot slower, as does the overall running of your pc. This could be due to a lot of programs running at startup by default, and due to some adware running at startup as well.

Full Hard Drive

If your hard drive keeps filling up, it is going to be hard for it to find the applications and files that you want to access. As the free space in the hard drive reduces, your computer will slow down. When it hits 90%, there is a very real possibility that the computer simply won’t even start up. Make sure that you have free space, because you do not want the horror story that is a slow running computer. Deleted programs, unused files and downloads are all a part of filling up your hard drive’s free space and turning into a clumsy monstrosity.

Gorgeous OS, Bad Performance

If you have an OS that you are proud of, the chances are that you want to show it off to the world. This means that you place emphasis on visual appearance rather than the actual performance of the system. You know what these are: the slick transitions when you open and close windows, the gorgeous animations and the great sound effects. These impact the speed of your computer in little increments, and can add up to cause quite a big detriment to your performance. While this shouldn’t be a problem with Mac computers, it is a large causal factor for a slow Windows computer.

Dust Bunnies Everywhere

It isn’t always an internal problem that affects your PC’s performance. Sometimes the reason is a lot more practical – a good example for desktop computers is that there is too much dust in your room. Good ventilation is important to keep your CPU cool while it works on running all your annoyingly high-demand apps at the same time. If dust covers the ventilation slots, you could wind up with a PC that is way too hot, leading to crashes, reboots and other problems as your computer tries its hardest to cool down.

Memory Issues

Sometimes, the problem is far more simple – you could simply be suffering from a serious lack of memory. In the world today, computers are developing at an exponential rate. From floppy disks storing data in kilobytes to flash drives storing it in terabytes, we are going through a pretty scary period. If you don’t have the right amount of memory to handle the demands that different software and applications place on your hardware, you aren’t going to have a smooth or fast computer.

Lack of Updates

One of the main reasons why a windows computer is slow is that the updates needed to keep it running smoothly aren’t being applied to the system. Many people disable updates for their drivers and for the main system, then have problems when the bugs in their version of the same system become apparent for the first time. A lack of updated drivers means that some of your devices could soon become incompatible with your version of the operating system. This leads to slower running times and peripheral failures as well.

How to Fix a Slow Computer

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If you have been wondering why your computer is slow, you probably know now what the problem is. If you don’t, go back to the list of common causes of this issue and recheck your system against all of them. You probably have at least one problem from the lot. If you don’t think so, fret not. There are other reasons to answer the question of why a mac computer or windows computer is slow. For now, here are some of the most common fixes to the problems plaguing your PC.

  1. Uninstall unused programs

One of the single best ways to stop your PC from being clunky is to make sure only the applications you use frequently run on it. Whether you have a new computer or an old one that has been through a lot, the steps are the same. Open the Control Panel on your Windows PC by going to the Start Menu and searching for Control Panel. Then, click on “Add/Remove Programs” on the window that pops up. Here you can see the programs you have installed on the computer in a list. Scroll through it and uninstall any that you haven’t used in the last 3 months. If you don’t know what to uninstall, there is software that can help you figure it out!

Mac Tip – Go to your System Preferences and right click on programs in the bottom row (Preference Pane). Remove them if you don’t use them at all. Remove all unused programs from your Dashboard, and drag and drop apps you don’t need into you trash folder. Empty your Trash after!

  1. Delete your temp files

If you use a web browser, you probably know what the history tab is. It shows every action you have performed on that browser over all time. Your PC also stores information about your activity in the same way. Think of the packaging that all applications come wrapped in, and imagine that your PC stores this wrapping paper instead of throwing it out. This is exactly what the temp cache is. You can free up a ton of hard disk space by going to “My Computer”, clicking on your C:/ drive, and then opening the “Windows” folder. Click on “Temp”. Select all the files in this folder that are older than a month, and delete them all.

Tip: Simply clicking Shift+Delete at the same time permanently deletes files. Just clicking Delete sends them to the Recycle Bin, so you must go to it and empty it out when you are done!

Mac Tip – Right click on your Trash and empty it. Go to your User folder as well as your Downloads folder to delete anything that’s taking up too much space.

  1. Get an SSD

If you have a PC that takes way too long to load applications and even to turn on, the age of your hard drive as well as the technology it uses may be the biggest problem. A mechanical hard drive is older and makes use of moving parts that are prone to failure and slowness over time. This can slow a computer down. Installing an SSD or a Solid-State Drive is a way for you to read the data on your computer a lot faster, leading to all applications and processes on your computer running a lot smoother with time. Remember to enlist the help of someone who knows what they are doing before you go ahead with this and wind up losing all your files.

  1. Upgrade your storage space

A full hard drive is one way in which a computer can get slow. Having a cluttered HDD can lead to a ton of problems including crashing, reboots and lag while playing games and using processor intensive applications like modeling and design apps. If you have had your PC for a while, it is recommended that you get yourself a hard disk with about 1TB or more of space, which should be more than enough for regular use unless you are someone who has a lot of movies, TV shows and other 4K or HD quality files on your laptop or desktop computer.

  1. Stop startup programs

If you have programs such as Skype or Spotify on your PC, they probably launch alongside your PC’s Operating System on startup. The more programs that start on boot, the slower your computer is going to be. You can fix this by clicking on the Start menu and typing “Run” into the search bar. Then type “msconfig” into the command bar. Press enter and then click on the “Startup” tab on the window that appears. You can then see a list of the programs that run at startup. Uncheck all those that you think aren’t necessary, but make sure you leave programs like your antivirus up and running!

Mac Tip – Open System Preferences and go to ‘Users and Groups’. Select ‘Login Items’ and disable all of the unwanted services on the list by pressing the minus (-) button.

  1. Disk cleanup and defragment

Windows has a feature that will help you fix slow PC problems. Called a disk defragment and cleanup, it is a service offered by the system itself that can be performed on any hard disk partition. Click on Start and then type “disk cleanup” into the search bar that appears. You can then clean up any unused files on that disk including your old recycle bin files, system files that are no longer required by your system and more. Alternatively, you can go to “My Computer”, right click on the partition you want to clean, click on “Properties” and then on the “Tools” tab. You can defragment your disk in this way, which smoothens its processing out and makes your computer run a little faster.

  1. Clean up your computer

Not another cleanup process. In this method, you find a machine called a vacuum cleaner (not an industrial cleaner – there are cleaners made specifically for computers) and use it to take away the dust that is prone to building up in your PC’s air vents and casing. Doing this will prevent your computer from overheating and crashing all the time to cool the CPU and motherboard down. Try not to touch anything with your bare skin, as the static shock from your skin to the circuits could damage some of the more delicate components. You’ll have a far bigger issue on your hands than a slow running computer after that!

  1. Enable automatic updates

Go to “My Computer” and then to the Control Panel. Click on “System and Security” (on Windows 7) and then “Windows Update”. Turn Automatic Updates on. For Windows 10, simply open the start menu and search for “Windows Update Settings” to turn automatic updates on and off.

Mac Tip – click on the Apple icon in the menu bar and select Software Updates, then check the “Automatically check for updates” section.

  1. Check for Viruses

Install an antivirus program. This doesn’t have to be a paid program – there are many great free antivirus software out there including AVG, Avast and others. Of course, paid versions have more options, but even basic protection is great. Check for malware and adware on a regular basis. Go to your antivirus settings and find the scheduled scans option. Change the scan time to one that is beyond your typical usage hours for your laptop or desktop, just to make sure your scans don’t slow your PC down to the same level the viruses would.

  1. Restart your computer and stop asking so much of it

Many people don’t restart their computers regularly. It is so easy to put a laptop to sleep, or simply flip the lid closed, that restarting seems unnecessary. Just like you need sleep to recover from the stresses of the day, your laptop or computer needs to shut down to rest and be ready to perform well. Make sure you shut your laptop down every night if you can. When you are using it, stop taxing it by running 500 different programs at the same time!

For Mac users – simply shut down your unwanted apps by quitting them (right click on the program in the Dock and click Quit!).

No More Asking “Why is my Computer so Slow?”

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If you can figure out some of the common issues plaguing your computer at home and can then use the solutions we have provided to fix these issues, you should find it a lot smoother to use your computer. Sometimes, even these methods detailed above won’t be enough to sort it out. You then have two options – you can start over by formatting your PC and installing the same, or a better, operating system, or you can buy a new PC to replace your old one, which is probably outdated anyway. Either way is a nuclear option, so try everything you can before doing this.

Have you had similar experiences with a slow running PC that crashes all the time? Did you manage to fix the issue on your own, or with the help of this guide? Let us know in the comments below so that other poor souls like you used to be can take advantage of some sound advice. Give us your information so we can help other users realize the full potential of their computers and bring them up to current performance standards as well!

About the author

Luke

is a Software Developer and the main writer behind Computer Realm.

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