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Computer Running Slow - Why? - Ignoring Common Computer Myths

Updated on June 19, 2013

"Computer Running Slow" is something I think we've all complained about at times. So what can you do to speed up your computer again.

Firstly is it really your computer that is running slowly or is it the internet or your connection that is the problem?

If you are only getting problems when connected to the internet, surfing websites, downloading data or streaming video for example it is worth checking your connection speed first.

There are a number of speed checkers out there, just type "speed test" or "broadband speed checker" into Google, try a couple and see if you are getting a speed near what you are paying for, the results will vary between test sites for various rerasons, but you'll get an idea, is usually fairly accurate. Speak to your Internet Service Provider if you're not happy.

Individual websites, and connections can get very busy at certain times of the day and this can slow things down significantly, so it can be worth trying at different times of day to see if that makes a difference too.

OK So It's The Computer That's Slow

The following assumes you are running a version of Microsoft Windows.

Having eliminated the above and decided it is your computer that is slow, what can you do next?

Myths About Why Computers Run Slowly

There are a number of reasons your computer becomes slower over time, but there are 3 myths commonly blamed for slowing down your computer:-

1. You have a virus

2. You don't have enough memory

3. Hardware is worn out

Yes, these things can sometimes happen, but very rarely.

Is it a Virus or Anti-Virus Problem?

It might possibly be a virus related problem you have, but is more likely to be an anti-virus program slowing down your computer than a virus itself.

People are often advised to go and buy an anti-virus program such as Norton or McAfee, AVG etc. to protect their computer, or fix a slow running one, but these programs themselves are often the cause of slow running computers rather than the cure!

Yes, you certainly need to be protected against viruses, but in my opinion informed largely by personal experience some of these anti-virus programs are very resource hungry i.e. they can use all or nearly all of your CPU's processing power at times (CPU - Central Processing Unit - the brain of the computer), leaving little capacity for anything else.

Check What's Eating Up Your CPU Resources

Use your Windows "task manager" to see what is using it when things are going slowly, this will show you in percentage terms what is using the CPU.

Accessing the "Windows task manager" is easy, but varies depending on version. For example with Windows XP press "Ctrl" "Alt" "Del" at the same time.

"Google it" (other search engine are available), if you don't know how to get to the task manager for your version of Windows.

Look at the Processes tab to see a high percentage user that could be causing your problem. It will not give you the name of the Anti-virus program for example, if that's the problem, but you will see something like "ekrn.exe" under "Image Name".

Then type "what is ekrn.exe" into Google search to find out what this process and program is linked to, you will also usually see advice on whether it is safe and whether you can or should do anything about it.

CPU Hungry Anti-Virus Programs

If it turns out to be your anti-virus program, you are probably going to have to live with it, or if you are like me the slow speed frustrated me so much it drove me to uninstall it and replace it with a less CPU hungry one.

I've had problems with AVG and Norton in this respect, Norton may be very good, but I found particularly intrusive and would never use again. I either now use or recommend "Microsoft Security Essentials" which is free to download and stay updated or if you feel happier and feel more protected with a paid version I'd recommend ESET NOD 32, both of which I've used without problems on several computers and for several years after a professional computer service engineer's recommendation.

I'm sure there will those out there that will disagree on this matter, but whatever you do that will be the case. After giving and using this advice with numerous family members and friends all I can say is that we've had no problems with any virus and computers have been faster. No anti-virus can be 100% guaranteed, paid for or free.

Make sure your protection includes a Firewall, Microsoft includes one with windows which is fine.

Also only have one Firewall and one Anti-virus program running, otherwise these can conflict with each other and cause you more problems.

Memory Too Small

Lack of memory in the form of RAM or "virtual memory" on the hard drive, when there is little free space left can cause computers to run slowly. There is however a myth about the more RAM the better, this is not true, if your Windows operating system is "32 bit" it can't address (use) any more than 4GB of RAM, more than this is a waste of money.

To see if you have a 32 or 64 bit system and how much memory you have already installed go to "My Computer" from the "Start Menu", right click on it, then go to "properties", there you should see under "System Type" if it is 32 bit or 64 bit, if you don't see 64 bit mentioned (maybe x64 will be shown) it will be 32 bit.

Then on the same page under "Computer" you will see how much memory is installed, remember max of 4GB can be installed for 32 bit system, for reasons not important here it will show at a little under 4GB.

You really need a minimum of 2GB RAM to get the best out of your system.

Too Much on Hard Drive Slowing Computer Down

This is another myth, unless your hard drive is getting to the point it has only about 10% of free space left it will not affect speed, you should get warnings before this happens. If that does happen, you will have to remove some programs or data. Moving photographs to an external storage device can often help this cause, photos can take up a lot of space on your hard drive.

Hardware Old and Worn Out

Another myth really, hard drives do ware out and could theoretically or possibly slow things down in vary rare circumstances, but mostly they either work normally or they fail completely, it would be very rare indeed for this to be your cause of slowness.

So what can you do to make your computer run faster?

Apart from the checks detailed above and perhaps changing your anti-virus protection (to keep hub size manageable) I will be covering more tips to make your computer faster on a separate hub now published here > Speed Up Your Computer - Some Simple Tips .


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    • Anonymous00 profile image

      Anonymous00 4 years ago

      Nice guide.