Why Your Computer Runs Slow

RAM Random Access Memory

Applies to All Operating Systems.

1. When upgrading RAM, do not mix and match RAM speeds. Check your Motherboard specs and install the maximum speed recommended.

2. RAM has minor flaws that appear only on detailed testing. When upgrading RAM, do not purchase the cheap, least expensive chips. These chips may work but they could cause your system to slow down or fail intermittently.

3. RAM overheating. Check your RAM chips with the power off. You may have to add extra fans to the case. Or clean all of the dust out of the case.

4. Insufficient RAM. Windows XP will run best with 1GB of RAM.  Vista and Windows 7 require a minimum of 2 GB of RAM. 64Bit Windows 7, 4 GB of RAM. Resource hungry applications will require the maximum amount of RAM you can install.  32 Bit Operating system will only take 4GB.  64 Bit Operating System - 32 GB (check your mother board specs).

Upgrading your RAM is easy as long as you get the correct type for your motherboard. Another RAM issue is those who perform a RAM upgrade and are using customized Virtual Settings. Let the system manage your virtual settings. More on Virtual Memory in a following item.



System Start-Up loaded down with too many applications.

Many applications that you install on your computer automatically add themselves to the Windows Start-Up-Folder. How many icons are in the System Tray (right side of Task Bar)?  For example, Instant Messenger, or Quick Time might launch on their own.  If you don't use these programs frequently, there's no reason to have them launch automatically. Limiting the number of applications loading themselves at start-up can speed boot time considerably and increase overall system performance.


Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 - The Start Up Tab is located in the Task Manager. Right click the Task Bar and select Task Manager in the pop up menu.

Start Up Tab

Seclet the program you want to stop and click DISABLE


Windows 7: On your keyboard press the Win key plus the  R key to open the RUN dialog box. In the text box, type MSCONFIG and press OK. When the System Configuration Utility screen appears, click the Start-up tab. Every program listed with a check next to it runs on start-up. Actually the only programs you need to have run are your Security Programs. UN-Tick everything else and re-boot your computer.


Example of the System Configuration Utility (MSCONFIG)

Another related problem is a Runaway Process. Runaway processes take up all of the processors cycles. The usual suspects are badly written device drivers and legacy software installed on a newer operating system. You can identify a runaway process by looking at the process list in Windows Task Manager or Process Explorer. Any process, except "System Idle Process", that takes almost 100 percent of the CPU time is likely a runaway process.


Unnecessary Services running.

A service is an application that runs in the background, independent of any user session. Because services run unattended at start-up, they are well suited for server-type applications such as a Web server. But this also has its drawbacks, because a user may not be aware that a service is running. Without any user interaction, one could be running a number of default services and never be aware of the potential security risks. This was made all too clear a while back as worms with name like Code Red and Nimda spread across the Internet, often exploiting users who were unknowingly running Web services on their workstations. In turn, these infected workstations spread the worm to thousands of other systems across the Internet.

While you are in MSCONFIG taking a look at the Services Tab.  This will show you all the Services that are currently running. Now TIC Hide Microsoft Services, this will show you the NON-Microsoft services that are running.  UN-Tick the ones you do not want to run. Keep your Anti-Virus program ticked if it is listed.



Swap File - Page File - Virtual Memory

The paging file is very closely related to the physical RAM installed in the computer.
Its purpose is to extend the amount of physical RAM and make it available to the system.
Both services and installed applications can benefit from this 'extra' RAM, even though it is substantially different from the sticks that plug into the motherboard.

We now have two types of memory; random access memory (RAM) and virtual memory, or the page file. The page file is created during the Windows XP installation and resides on the hard drive. Page files are measured in megabytes. The size of the page file is based on how much RAM is installed in the computer. By default, XP creates a page file which is 1.5 times the amount of installed RAM and places it on the hard
drive where XP is installed. Other than plugging the RAM into the motherboard, there is little than can be done to alter its performance characteristics. The page file is a different story. Because it's located on a hard drive, it's subject to a number of factors that can hinder its performance.

Open up Task Manager (Ctrl-Alt-Del or right click the Task Bar).

Windows 7 Task Manager will show you Applications & Processes that are running as well as Performance Graphs. Click on the Performance tab. The first graph is of CPU usage and CPU Usage History. If this graph is indicating 100% CPU Usage there is a program running that is taking up all of your processors time. The computer will run slow. Your graph may look different, depending on how many cores the CPU has.  This example is from a high end Intel i7 processor with 8 cores.



 The Second Graph is Memory and Physical Memory Usage History. This is the amount of RAM that is currently being used by the system. Compare this number with the Total Physical Memory shown just below the graph. Memory usage is expressed in Gigabytes (GB) while Total Physical Memory is Expressed in Megabytes (MB). To convert MB to GB, just move decimal point three places to the left.

If Memory Usage is larger than Total Physical Memory - the Swap File is working overtime and you need to add more RAM.  The Swap File uses Virtual Memory and places a process it is working on temporarily on the Hard Drive.  You also need to leave room on the Hard Drive for the Page File to work correctly.

You can set the amount of Memory the Swap File uses, but it is best to let the Operating System manage the Swap File. Place a Tic in Automatically manage paging file size for all drives. This is the Default setting:





 Malicious programs that stealthily embed themselves into your Registry and core file system is one of the most common causes of a slow PC. These applications are often installed without your knowledge or consent during the installation of a "Free" application you're trying out.  Free Music is a very good example of one type of download that has Spyware attached. These Spyware programs and Viruses  must be removed as soon as possible to return you PC to it's top performance. Most Viruses are downloaded through Email Attachments. There are dozens of Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware programs and some are free. I recommend Microsoft Security Essentials.

Corrupted/Bloated Windows Registry

The Windows Registry is the master control centre for your operating system and applications it runs. Cleaning, compacting and optimizing your Windows Registry can go a long way to dramatically speeding up your computers performance, start up and shutdown speed. There are several programs that will clean and optimize the registry. I recommend CCleaner.

Badly Fragmented Hard Drive

Fragmentation occurs when a file is written to a drive and there isn't sufficient contiguous space on the drive to hold each part of the file in order.
When a drive is relatively empty, fragmented files are less likely to occur
since there are numerous large blocks of space available. As the drive fills
up and files are also deleted, different sized pockets of empty space occur
making it more difficult to find larger areas of contiguous space. Defragmenting the drive gathers the pieces of files that weren't able to be written contiguously and reorders them on the drive. The performance gain is achieved by the hard drive heads not having to move to many different locations on the hard drive platters to gather the pieces of a file when it's accessed.


File System issues and Display Options

Some file systems work better than others for large disk partitions. Window 7 should always use the NTFS file system for best performance.

Cleaning up the file system will help speed performance. You can use the built in Disk Clean Up Tool or a Free program called CCLEANER.

Perform Disk Clean ups regularly.

Another way to increase performance is by turning off some of the visual effects that make Windows 7 look cool but use valuable system resources.


Poor Security Software that is stealing system resources

Make your own decision on how your security software is performing. Take note of the amount of memory being used then disable your security suite and check the memory usage again. Uninstall the big security suites and install a Free Anti Virus program like AVAST and Malwarebytes.

Hardware problems

Dirt has accumulated in the processors heat sink and is causing it to over heat. Don't set you PC on the floor, it acts like a vacuum cleaner.

Faulty Hard Drive. Run ChkDsk to check the drives.  Open My Computer and right click on the disk drive and click on Properties.

Connect your optical drives to the secondary IDE controller. 

Hard Drives Overheating. Improve ventilation.

System Performance Settings

(a) Cut down special effects. Unless you have RAM to burn and a super fast graphics card, toning down Windows graphical special effects will make your system much more responsive. All those fade-in menus, shadows, font smoothing and other visual touches look good, but they take there toll.   Open up Display Properties in Control Panel (right click in a empty spot on the desktop and select Properties from the pop up menu). Click on the Appearance tab, then Effects.  Remove the ticks beside "Use the following transition effect for menus and tool tips".  You may want to experiment with the font smoothing, you may wish to stick with Standard smoothing, Clear Type may be easier to read. Un-tic "Use Large Icons" if you don't need them.

(b) Performance Options: In Control Panel, open System. Select the Advanced Tab and in the Performance Section click on Settings.

Click the "Adjust for best Performance" option and you'll notice all the options are deselected.  This will give you the very best performance, but it certainly makes for a pretty dreary screen.  Go down the list and tic "Show Windows Contents while Dragging" and the last three. Click on Apply then on OK.

(c) While you have the Performance Options open, click the Advanced Tab. Under Processor scheduling and Memory Usage, make sure "Programs" are selected for both. And as mentioned before Virtual Memory should be set to "System Managed Size".

(d) Power Management.  Switch it off when running on Mains power. Intel's Speed Step technology throttles back the clock speed of the processor when running on battery power (laptops). Even on AC power, the default power settings may not ensure that you get maximum performance. In Control Panel, click on Power Options. Select your power scheme (I use Always On, on my desktop and NEVER for all the options).  Laptops will have two options; one when running on AC power (Mains) and another when running of internal battery.  Under AC Power, select NEVER for all the options.

(e) BIOS settings: Often, you can improve performance by researching your motherboard's optimal BIOS settings, which may not be the same as the factory defaults.


Processor Issues: (CPU)

1. Processor is Overheating. Modern Processors are designed to generate less heat then the older processors, however they still generate a lot of heat, more than any other component inside your PC. When the processor temperature goes over spec, the system can slow down or run erratically (lock up) or may simply reboot. There are several reasons why a processor will overheat:

    A. Dust is preventing the fan from spinning smoothly. (All computers have a Fan and Heat Sink fitted over the processor)

    B. A build up of Dust in the Heat Sink.

    C. The Fan Bearings are loose and jiggling or the fan has failed completely.

    D. Improperly fitted Heat Sink. Thermal Paste is required between the processor and the heat sink to facilitate the transfer of heat from the processor to the heat sink and the heat sink has to fit properly and be in contact with the processor.

    E. Case design. Cases with extra fans, better vents, and adequate room inside for good airflow may coast more but can provide better cooling performance.  Laptops with powerful processors are prone to overheating.

    F. Over Clocking. Processor can be over clocked or tweaked to increase their speed. This will cause the processor to overheat. Overclockers, Gamers, use expensive water cooling systems.

    G. External Temperature. The temperature in the room is to high.

CPU speed is measured in megahertz. A 1MHz CPU can accomplish one million CPU cycles in one second. The 1MHz CPU might very well be faster, in practice, than a 2Mhz CPU - if it is more efficient or can process more tasks in each CPU cycle. CPU cache is a cache used by the central processing unit of a computer to reduce the average time to access Computer storage memory. The cache is a smaller, faster memory which stores copies of the data from the most frequently used main memory locations. As long as most memory accesses are cached memory locations, the average latency of memory accesses will be closer to the cache latency than to the latency of main memory. Celeron CPU's do not have Cache or a very small Cache, compared to full CPU's.  Check your CPU model and speed in Control Panel > System. You may be able to upgrade the CPU without changing the mother board. There are two many variables to explain here. If you have to change the mother board it would be best to purchase a new PC.



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