How long does it take to start your desktop or laptop? The answer depends on many factors but hopefully, it’s not taking you 10 minutes just to see your wallpaper. I’m a fanatic when it comes to a computer’s performance. I love to get the most out of a machine using already existing hardware and free software to optimize performance and stability.
This is a quick guide to help you understand how today’s latest technology can get so bogged down.
Here are some common causes:
– Hard drive fragmentation
– Physical hard drive failure
– No free space available
– More than one anti-virus
Also, read: The Right Computer For You?
Hard drive fragmentation
Think of your hard drive as your office. It would take a long time to find the right files you need to work with. If your hard drive is fragmented, the same truth applies. When in this condition, Windows is frantically searching your drive for the files it needs to run. If out of order and misplaced, this can cause slowness. There are a few utilities out there that will clean up this state of your drive and be the maid when it comes to putting your files where they need to be. My personal favorite is Defraggler. Head on over there and grab a free copy. Once you have Defraggler installed, let it analyze your drive. This is to give you an idea of how fragmented your hard drive is. Do this at least once every few months. It depends on how often you use your computer, but do not overdo it. Running a defragmenter is heavy wear and tear on your hard drive so do not run it every day.
Physical hard drive failure
Speaking of wear and tear, think of your hard drive as a tire on your car. The more you drive on it, the faster it’s going to wear down and need replacement. Hard drives have a CD like platters stacked on top one another that spin at a very fast rate. So it’s a moving part, and all electrical and mechanical devices with moving parts are sooner to failing event. Even before failing, the platters in the drives can become unreadable much like audio CDs with smudges on the bottom of the disks. When you play a CD in this condition, your music skips right? Much like your computer will when asked to do certain tasks. This can cause your OS to freeze up with a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) error, or extreme slowness. To test this theory, you need software that can detect reading or writing errors. Most of the professional grade applications are a little pricey but worth their cost.
No free space available
Again, using the office analogy, how effective would your work be on the same desk cluttered with papers and supplies? You need elbow room. Room to write on paper and room for your keyboard. A computer needs elbow room. At least 10% of your hard drive should be free for your operating system (ig Windows) and software to shuffle files around. You can start cleaning up unneeded files right now. For Windows users, run its built-in program called Disk Cleanup. Typically this is found under the Start menu; All Programs; Accessories; System Tools; Disk Cleanup. Or on Vista / Windows 7 just click Start and search for Disk Cleanup. Also, run CCleaner which is from the same folks that brought you Defraggler. It is an excellent cleanup utility that can clean up some of the clutter that Windows generates its self. Including logs, browser history and other miscellaneous items that I promise you will not miss.
The only item I suggest you consider is your browser form and saved passwords history. Many will want to keep this.
More than one anti-virus
Two is better than one, right? Not always. Not when it comes to two anti-virus applications dedicated to protecting your computer from viruses, from … the same viruses. Most anti-virus products provide some sort of “on access scanning”. Meaning, once you open a file, plug in a USB thumb drive, or download something from the internet the anti-virus will automatically scan it in the background. This is a needed and important service, but if you have two products installed scanning the same files, it will slow your computer down quickly.
This cause of slowness definitely describes it’s own guide. But for now, let’s talk about how a little basic malware can slow down your day to day tasks on your computer. Malware is short for malicious software and is the umbrella term for when talking about viruses, worms, spyware, and other malicious and unwanted software. Malware can be downloaded and installed on your computer with a single click of a button. In some cases, it is hidden deep under the innocent appearance of a game’s interface and it can be installed right in front of you. At other times malware can dress up as a friendly anti-virus asking you to purchase it’s full version so you can get ripped off even more. As I said, this topic requires a separate guide of its own as this can get very detailed and complex. Your machine could possibly be infected with a popular malware object that is easily picked up simply by clicking on a banner ad on a website. To make sure you are clean, run one or both of these two scanners:
Spybot – Search and Destroy
Malwarebytes – Anti-Malware
Both are great scanners and they will find the sneakiest of viruses and spyware. And they are free!