What To Do When Your Computer is Slow

SithNinjaTyler

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May 6, 2014
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If you're anything like me, you like computers. After all, they're great! Very useful machines that do lots of daily tasks quickly, conveniently, and easily (usually). Your phone, desktop/laptop, tablet, or many other things like calculators are all computers. But what do you do when that once shiny new computer suddenly becomes a crawling little ant that can barely accomplish basic tasks, and slowly at that. Here's what I've learned over my many years of technological know-how.

BASICS



First off this will only be covering conventional computers, i.e. laptops and desktops. PC's Macs, and the occasional Linux user out there.
Secondly, you need to know what some basic terms mean. CPU is your main processor, kind of like the "brain" of the computer. RAM, or Memory, (not to be confused with storage space) is fast, but volatile memory that can be accessed quickly for the computer to perform tasks by putting them there to be used at a moments notice. GPU, or graphics card, is what the computer uses to control all displayed items, including 2D and 3D rendering.
Finally, some of the terms I use might not be as easy to understand to some people versus others, so if you don't know what a word means, and I don't explain it, Google is your friend! (or Bing/Yahoo...) So without further ado, lets see what's going on with that computer, shall we?

YOUR OS



An OS, or Operating System, is the thing you use to interact with documents, play games, surf the web, etc. The most common ones are Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (Could be Solaris, Ubuntu, or many others.) First step is to evaluate your OS. Most older computers can run many newer versions of these, but should they? To figure out if your computer is fast enough to run your OS comfortably, find out your model of the computer your using.

On a Mac, go to the top right corner and click on the apple logo. Then click "About This Mac." This will tell you the OS under "OS X" or after "Software." Then, click on "More Info," or "System Report." On the "Hardware" tab on the left, it will be blue. On the right, it will tell you how much RAM you have (memory), and your processor series and speed as well as your "Model Identifier". Under "Graphics/Displays" you can see your Graphics card name. Keep these in mind.



On an Windows Computer, you need to see what hardware you have in your machine. It will tell you if you are in the start menu and right click on "This PC" or "My Computer" and select "Properties" Then, keep this page open and go to "Control Panel" in a separate window and select "Device Manager" If all you see are icons. If not, then you will see categories. Select "Hardware and Sound." Then, under "Devices and Printers," select "Device Manager." Once In Device Manager, click the arrow beside "Display Adapters." These two pages will tell you how much RAM you have, what OS version you have, your processor, and your Graphics card. These are important.



On Linux, your mileage may vary. You will be better off doing an internet search on how to find out the hardware specs with your specific OS. Sorry. :/

Now that you have your specs, let's get on with the checking. Shall we? First look up your OS's hardware minimum requirements. After you found them, check them against your hardware. If it surpasses it, then judge by how much.
If Windows 8 needs a 1GHz CPU, and I have a 1.1GHz processor, then I can install it, but it might not be the best idea. If you really need/want Windows 7/8, (The system requirements are relatively the same.) then you can. go ahead. If you can handle XP, then use that. (DON'T USE VISTA. ANYONE WILL TELL YOU NO. IT IS VERY SLOW.)
Just look up the Model Identifier on a mac online and ask to see if your hardware is right for it. For instance, 2GB of RAM is not a good idea for Mavericks or Yosemite, but for Mountain Lion or Lion it's better.
Unless you have a computer made before 2000, ANY Linux version should run just fine.

Final Verdict: If you have judged that your OS is good to go for your hardware, or if you need the OS anyways, then continue on. If you are just barely scraping by the requirements, then that's why your computer is running slowly. (There might be other causes, but downgrading your OS should give a huge boost!)

VIRUSES AND UNWANTED/UNNEEDED PROGRAMS



Making sure you have good virus protection is key in a Windows enviroment, but not in a Mac or Linux one. However, bloatware, adware, and just generally unwanted programs can affect them all. I'll start with virus protection.
Many people say that Microsoft Security Essentials is good enough, and that's it. (built into windows 8, install-able in windows 7 and XP) However, in my experience, it is NOT. Your best bet is a third party security program. DO NOT GET NORTON. Norton lets all kinds of adware and viruses through. If you have it, uninstall it, and get something else.
Now, there is anti-virus and anti-malware. They are different. Anti-malware block all of the new stuff that just came out, while not necessarily all of the older stuff. MalwareBytes is the best for this, hands down. For anti-virus, it's slower to get the update, but it keeps blocking out the old stuff, even after years. For this, I recommend McAfee, but there are others... just not Norton.

Bloatware, adware, and tons of others might not be VIRUSES, or steal information, but they slow down your computer, and are useless. These are installed by the user, either accidentally, or by ads on the internet making you think you want/need it. To avoid it, read installers carefully, and know exactly what it's doing. I also recommend you install Google Chrome and use adblock to get rid of ads, making it much easier. Chrome is also the fastest when it comes to javascript, but if you don't know what that it, it's not important, but it 's used for almost all websites. To get rid of these pointless programs, go to your applications or programs lists, and weed through what they all are. Doing this should give you a speedup if they are there.

Final Verdict: Get good anti-virus and anti-malware if you are on a Windows PC, and make sure you don't have adware or bloatware. Once this is done, read on.

STARTUP PROGRAMS

These are programs that open up as soon as you login to your desktop. They can slow down your bootup and login and stay open until you close them.
On Windows 8, push ctrl + shift + esc. Then click on startup. You can enable or disable them here. On Windows 7, push the windows key and type "msconfig" and press enter. in the startup tab, you can change these. In Windows XP, push start, then run. type "msconfig" and do the same.



In Mac and Linux, you can change these setting in the application. The best way to do this is to logout, then login, and check each open app for startup settings.

Final Verdict: Make sure you don't have tons of startup programs to speed up performance.

BAD HARDWARE
Most commonly, the problem with bad hardware is RAM. If you get BSOD's (Blue Screens of Death) on Windows, or Kernel Panics on Mac, then bad RAM could be to blame. If you have a slow or dying hard drive, one abnormally so, then check for clicking sounds, and loud hard drives. If so, make sure to have a backup of important information, and be ready to replace it if need be.

Final Verdict: Most commonly, Dying hard drives or RAM will lead to slowdowns, where as bad CPU's will not let you turn on the computer.

BOTTLENECKING



Bottle-what? That's right. Bottlenecking. This refers to the shape of a bottle, as it gets thinner near the end, and thus allows less substance to come out of the end. In computers, this refers to one or more components being slower than the rest. For instance: If I have a custom built computer, and I have a top-of-the-line GPU (such as the GeForce GTX 980), with 16GB or RAM, and a 1.2GHz Processor, then the whole computer will be slow, because the Processor is so much slower than the rest of it. This can be overcome in some cases, such as a Intel Core-i7 Quad-core Processor with 16GB of ram, with a mediocre GPU such as the GeForce GT 610. Then, this computer can be a great work computer, since it doesn't need raw graphics processing power to run the latest games on ultra settings.

A great way to measure bottlenecks is to run a PC game with highest settings and get GPU-Z and windows resource monitor or (in windows 8) the task manager performance tab. keep this to the side while playing a game and alt + tab to get back to it. you can check to see if your GPU was running at full load, but your CPU and Ram were still at 50-70%. Therefore, your GPU is bottlenecking you system when you play games.
If you are just experiencing general slowdowns, then on windows, keep resource monitor open and see how much RAM/CPU usage is used. you can use task manager to see which ones are taking the most performance and manually end them. WARNING: Only do this if you know what the process is.

On Mac, you can use Activity Monitor to get the same results.

On Linux, a quick internet search will get you a good program to do this.

Final Verdict: If you have a bottleneck, try upgrading that piece of hardware to match the rest of your computer.

OTHER CAUSES

Other things to slow down you system could be a filled up hard drive, slow internet (when browsing), or just all around outdated hardware. These things are can all accumulate to a slower machine, and a bad experience. Anything I might have missed, please feel free to comment and tell me those.

Final Final Verdict: Wether it be an old OS, Bloatware, Bottlenecking or just outdated hardware in general, I hope these tips can help you fix your slow computer and get you back on track with your PC, Mac, or Linux machine.

P.S. Any Linux Program recommendations will be a great help and I can then add them to my list.
 

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