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10 Reasons for a Slow PC

by Liz King


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What causes a slow PC and, more importantly, what can you do to fix a slow PC? Run a defrag? Do a virus scan? Registry repair? Here are some of the most common sources of a slow PC, and how you can address them.

1. Viruses

Viruses eat up system memory, hog resources, and can bring a once-fast machine to a sudden, grinding halt. Some viruses can even cause permanent damage to the hard drive and other system hardware. A good anti-virus scanner can keep a machine running smoothly.

2. Spyware/Adware

The not-so-destructive but equally inconvenient cousin of viruses, spyware and adware load down your machine with unwanted software, taking up system resources that could be put to better use. Pop-ups and nag screens not only take up more processor time, but the user's time as well.

3. Insufficient Memory

Too many running programs at once can slow down the fastest computer. RAM-intensive activities like gaming or video editing can take up huge amounts of system memory, and any multi-tasker will tell you that their system runs slow when they have twenty application windows and thirty browser tabs open. Even if you have no unwanted software on your system, the stuff you're running deliberately could be causing slowdowns.

4. Hardware Issues

Though most slowdowns are caused by software issues and not hardware problems, slowdowns due to hardware do happen. RAM fails, processors slow down, and fans clog up and create issues. Most often, however, hardware problems tend to cause lockups and freezes, rather than a simple decline in system performance.

5. Too Many Startup Programs

Is your machine running slowly from the moment you boot it? Check your startup programs. Many computers come pre-loaded with software from third-party vendors that you likely neither want nor need. Cleaning out your list of startup items can free up memory and relieve slowdowns.

6. Clutter in the Registry

Over time, installing and uninstalling programs can create junk entries in a computer's system registry, leading to a decline in performance. There are registry cleaner tools available to automatically perform registry repair and clear out the junk.

7. Disk Fragmentation

Even a computer's daily operations can slow down its performance over time. As data on the hard disk gets written and overwritten, the drive "fragments," taking longer to read data and slowing down the machine. Run a regularly scheduled defrag on your machine to keep disk fragmentation from slowing down your machine.

8. Junk on the Hard Drive

Registry clutter and disk fragmentation aren't the only things on your hard drive that can impede performance, and no amount of defragging or registry repair will fix them. Leftover install files, caches, Internet browsing history, and remnants of uninstalled programs all take up space and can even take up system resources. Cleaning them out will keep your computer tidy and may help avoid a slow computer.

9. Bad Drivers

The software world changes fast, and today's stable drivers might be tomorrow's security risk. An outdated or improper device driver can make a computer operate in erratic ways, up to and including slowdowns, lockups, BSODs, and random reboots. Make sure all your drivers are up-to-date and properly installed.

10. Damaged OS

Operating systems are sophisticated pieces of software, and any number of things can go wrong. System files can get corrupted. Settings can get misconfigured. Vital data can get lost. Many Windows users probably know the pain of reinstalling Windows to resolve some obscure or mysterious bug they just can't seem to fix any other way.


Liz King is an independent marketing consultant with AOL who is interested in how technology affects our daily lives. She tries (and often fails) to disconnect on weekends.

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