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Why Is My Machine Slowing Down?

Slow machines represent one of the largest sources of questions to Ask Leo!

Perhaps when you purchased it, your computer ran like a champ and quickly did everything you needed. Now … well, not so much. Perhaps it takes forever to boot. Or starting applications is slower than molasses. Or maybe the machine just acts sluggish when you try to use it for just about anything.

Regardless of the specifics, the underlying theme is simple: it’s slow.

There are many, many reasons that a machine could slow down.

I’ll list a few of the most common reasons here, along with some advice on what steps to take.

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It’s a slow machine

An assumption I’m making here is that it’s your entire machine that is slow, not just one or two applications.

For example, if Internet Explorer has slowed down while the rest of your software runs just fine, you need a different approach than what I’ll outline here, focusing on the specific applications that are behaving slowly. Perhaps some of the solutions may be the same, but arriving at those solutions and choosing one will depend on investigating the issue with that specific application.

Nope. Here, we’re talking about a slow computer.

Sudden slowdowns: Malware comes to mind

If the slowdown is sudden and severe, the first thing that comes to mind these days is malware.

Different types of malware do different things, but they also behave differently on different machines. One of the symptoms of malware can be a suddenly slow or sluggish system.

Your anti-malware tools are your first line of defense. Make sure they’re up to date, and run scans using both your anti-virus tool and anti-spyware tool (assuming you’re using separate tools).

Naturally, I have recommendations for anti-malware tools.

Sudden slowdowns: A program run amok

Another step I take when my machine seems to be slowing down, particularly if it’s sudden and unexpected, is to fire up Process Explorer. Very often, the source of a system slowdown can be attributed to a single program running on your machine that is attempting to use all available processing resources. When that happens, other programs (often including Windows itself) aren’t able to respond to your actions as quickly.

How Do I Find Out What Program Is Using all My CPU? walks you through the steps of using Process Explorer to identify any processes in this state.

Similarly, a program that’s using the disk heavily (i.e. the activity light isn’t even flickering, it’s just on), or even using the network heavily can manifest as a slow system.  I Have Constant Disk Activity, and I Don’t Know Why. How Can I Tell What Program Is Doing It? and How Do I Monitor Internet Activity and See Who’s Using It? will help you identify those culprits, if present.

Sudden or gradual slowdowns: Impending hardware failure

Slow as a snailThis isn’t as common, but it definitely does happen.

We normally think of most hardware failures as sudden and catastrophic. Sometimes, they’re a little less catastrophic than we think.

For example, if a sector on a hard disk is going bad, that may first manifest as a slowdown whenever that sector is accessed. The disk drive will try multiple times to read a marginally bad sector before giving up, and that takes time. If multiple sectors are affected (which is common if it’s an area on the disk media that’s been damaged, for example), then this might be happening for more than one sector, and that time adds up. The system keeps working because the sectors aren’t so bad that they actually fail, but they take additional time to be read because they’re going bad.

Back up, of course. Impending failure can quickly become actual failure and data loss.

In situations like this, I typically start by running CHKDSK /R, and/or  SpinRite to diagnose and possibly repair the hard disk in question.

Gradual slowdowns: Too much stuff

In my experience, the #1 cause of a system gradually slowing down over time is that it’s being asked to do more and more and it’s trying to run too much software simultaneously.

Generally, folks find themselves in this situation after installing software on their machine that includes a component that always runs. Over time, there’s so much running on the machine even when it’s not in use that when it is in use, there’s not enough computing power left over to run the programs quickly and efficiently.

Examples of software that might get installed over time? Webcam software after getting a webcam, instant messaging programs, Skype, Dropbox, Evernote, screen capture utilities, VeraCrypt, and so on. There are many possibilities, and that doesn’t even take into account the ubiquitous software update checkers and quick loaders that so many software manufacturers are fond of building to run all the time.

There are two approaches to resolving the “too much stuff” scenario:

  • Run less stuff. Review the list of software running on your machine when you’re not doing anything (Process Explorer will help) and question everything you’ve installed. Uninstall everything you don’t really need.
  • Beef up your computer. It’s a common adage that adding RAM to your computer is one of the quickest ways to speed it up, and this is why. If RAM is a constraint for the software you’re running, your computer will absolutely slow down. Adding RAM to your system, if it’s possible, fixes that.

Gradual slowdowns: Fragmentation

It’s not the common problem that it once was (particularly with SSDs, where this doesn’t apply, and Windows 7 and later, which defrag automatically), but it’s possible your hard disk has become fragmented. All recent versions of Windows have built-in defragmenting tools.

In Windows File Explorer, right-click on your hard disk drive (normally C:), select Properties, and click on the Tools tab — there you’ll find the disk defragmenter. It’s a good tool to run periodically, although how often will vary depending on your computer usage.

Gradual slowdowns: Updates

In a sense, this falls into the “too much stuff” category, but applies even if you haven’t made a single change.

It’s commonly understood that systems tend to get bigger over time. That’s more or less the nature of software evolution and our expectations of ever-increasing functionality and support.

While we normally associate that with major version updates (i.e. Windows 7 was larger than Windows Vista), it can actually happen — slowly — at the system or application update level as well.

Years of updates slowly increase the resource requirements of your operating system and applications. Particularly if your system is already somewhat marginal, that increase can be enough to impact your overall performance.

Note that I’m not talking about files left behind after an update (unless, of course, your hard disk is filled to capacity), but simply the scenario where the patched version of application “A” might need ever so slightly more RAM than before. Repeat that for all the applications that you have installed and the updates your system receives, and over time it adds up.

Once again, adding RAM can help if this is the case.

116 comments on “Why Is My Machine Slowing Down?”

  1. Leo,

    Yes, but I’ve always had a problem knowing what exactly in the task manager should and what should not be running. I’m always afraid I’m going to hard shut down something that should be running. Is there a list of bare minimum tasks that should be running on XP?

  2. Unfortunately, not to my knowledge. The biggest problem, of course, is that “minimum set” will vary based on your configuration. The best advice I can give is to use the info in task manager, process explorer and from this article: http://ask-leo.com/archives/000029.html to attempt to identify what each particular executing task is, and decide based on that whether or not it’s “safe” to turn off. Oh, and I have yet to reference it in an article here, but http://ask-leo.com/r-xpservices is a good reference to what many of the Windows XP services are and whether or not you might need ’em.

    Leo

    • Processor: Intel(R)core(TM)i5-3450 CPU @ 3.10GHz 3.10 GHz
      RAM: 8.00 GB
      Windows 7 64-bit
      ROM: 1tb
      graphic card: nvidia geforce sparkle
      But its not even running like an i3 processor.Too slow and the funny thing is i cant even run GTA 4 although i kept the least graphic my system suddenly restarts when i am playing GTA.

  3. Yikes. Does it auto-restart (it should), and if so is it back to taking 99%? If you’re running XP, I’d run the system file checker to see if something got damaged somehow. I’d also run a spyware detector … a quick look suggests that certain types of spyware can cause this. Recommendations for spyware scanners are here: http://pugetsoundsoftware.com/recommend.html
    under security.

    Good luck!

    Leo

  4. Actually the problem when explorer is eating ram and taking 99% of cpu is a windows bug, and occours when you right click files, microsoft has no solution and recommends that you left click all files in explorer before rightclicking them.

  5. Computer keeps slowing down but not due to processor or memory being used up. Ran spyware and virus checker, defragged. Just seems to get stuck for about 5mins and then is alright again. Any help appreciated.

  6. I had a similar problem, in that every program I tried to execute ended up with the infamous hour-glass icon.Even the task manager went nuts. In the meantime the disc was crunching away –a lot of disc activity. I finally concluded that Norton Anti-Virus 2003 was the most likely culprit–so
    I uninstalled Norton and things settled down a bit. Something is still not quite right, though.

    Any one else care to comment??

  7. Hello Leo,

    Thanks for your comments. My system slowdown problem was solved a bit by the defrag idea. However it did not last long. Whenever I try opening vlc or windows media player, it shows up occupying 99% of CPU cycles, which fluctuate between 70 and 90 and video is jittery. When not using them the system is still slow. All the memory and CPU usage shown on the process tab are within bounds, still the system is slow.
    Initialli I tried to uninstall SP2 which I thought resulted in this problem. I however formatted and re-installed windows XP, the problem exists.
    Is it due to some motherboard problem. Any help will be highy appreciated.

  8. After reading the whole thread, I can’t find any answers.

    My Windows 2000 Professional, 80 Gb Hardisk (with about 70 Gb free!) is fine until I connect to the Internet through my external ADSL modem.

    Actually, when I connect, the computer is still fine. But as soon as I do something through the Internet (e.g. start Outlook or Internet Explorer) the CPU usage shoots up to 100%, of which typically 98%-ish is being used by ‘System’.

    I then find that the computer doesn’t want to get off the web. Even when I physically take the modem out of the USB port it thinks that it is still in there.

    Finally, when I attempt to shut off or restart the computer, it typically freezes at the ‘Saving your personal settings’ message or at the stage just past that, when I have a blank, blue screen.

    If I don’t do any Internet related stuff, the computer works and shuts down fine.

    – The modem works fine on another computer in the house.
    – I bought a new PCI USB card but it didn’t help.
    – I have started the computer in safe mode and used Symantec’s virus scan but it finds nothing. Likewise when I run their virus scan through the Internet (though this takes FOREVER).
    – Bugger, bugger, bugger! I have been wrestling with this for two weeks.

    Any help would be really, really welcome.

  9. I have a problem in explorer. The computer works fine, but when I double-click a text file, for eaxample, it takes up to 20 seconds to display the file. If I launch notepad, and then ai drand-and-drop the text file, is loaded instantly. Same, when I right click on the file, to copy, or something, it takes a lot of time until I get the context menu

  10. Ok, I just got a new computer and I’m loving it! One gig of RAM and it runs beautifully, except ONE problem. Whenever I try to play an audio file, it wants to freeze up EVERYTHING, I’ve tried using WMP and WinAMP, but the same thing happens with both, it will play for a bit, then the computer will lock up for around 2-3 mins with the song still playing but not being able to do ANYTHING at all. Is this a common problem? Do you have any suggestions? Video works fine I’d like to add.

  11. windows media player
    when i open task manager to see what’s bogging my computer down so much, i see that windows media player is using 100% of my cpu. Just a solid green line running across the top of the graph.
    Any ideas?
    thanks,
    Sean

  12. why i my internet speed so slow yet the isp keep teling me i have the maximum link bandwith, i operate about 10 system in a cafe

  13. It depends on what all those systems are doing, and how your network is configured. If one of those systems is hogging all the bandwidth, it’s quite possible for the network to appear slower to everyone else.

  14. I would like to know why my Windows Media Player Uses 99 of CPU, and it takes a long time to play a song, any ideas of why this is happening

  15. Hey Leo, I just have a question for you.
    Recently I’ve played a game called ‘Tron 2.0’ and found that as soon as I hit certain parts of the game, the sound quality dropped instantly to about a 65kbps (crackles in the background) and the sound itself sounded like it was being played slowly on a recordplayer…long and drawn out. I eventually ignored it, despite multiple restarts by my computer and as I beat the game, I never thought much else of it until now.
    I was listening to a .flac file within winamp when the sound slowed down again, accompanied by the system restart. I have had absolutely no results in obtaining help from anyone thus far.
    I do have a problem with installing directx though…I have version 9.0b, but any time I try to install any version now to update it (or even downgrade to upgrade again), it always skips the install and automatically tells me that the intstallation is complete. I have a feeling the two issues are related, but I am not entirely certain. The thought is there that I may have a cooling issue, but I seriously doubt that as well. As for the game, i’ve run it at the lowest visual settings all the way up to the highest and it’s not had any effect either. I’m almost at my wits end about this. Is there anything you maybe be able to throw my way in terms of advice?

  16. Hi Leo
    I have the exact same problem as many of the other ppl have posted on your pages. Windows Media player 10 has started for some unknown reasonover the last few days using near on 100% of my CPU. It goes back to normall soon after I shut the program. I cant remove this program as it is now part of Win XP, Fed up now, I see from surfing the net for a soultion that many other peps have this problem too. Any ideas how to clear this up once and for all?
    Cheers CS

  17. hello
    The other day my computer froze i had to shut it down with my main power switch at the back of my computer shuting windows xp down cold. when i went to start it up a couple of hours later it asked me what mode i wanted to start windows in i chose last stored settings. And now it takes windows forever to load and same with all other programs. Can you help me

  18. Hi Leo:

    I am very impressed by your answer and the time taken to answer it. It is very appreciated.
    You must have a lot of patience to do it every week. I am a retired accountant, and especially during tax time, I was very hard to live with.

    As a matter of curiosity, how do you make your living? I know that it is none of my business,
    but it would be interesting to know.

    Take care, and thanks again.

    Regards – Ray Hall

  19. I just built a new computer and it is running great, most of the time. When I try running those larger programs or installinng certain things, it slows almost to the point of freezing. For example, media player will play music but wont slows/freezes when i try a movie. I have all the drivers for the computer installed. I know its not a memory problem because I have 1G DDR. When I use to do the same with 256k, and I have just reformatted the hard drive to it is barebones. I am stuck! Please help.

  20. For those of you who are looking to fix the problem where your CPU rages at 100% when you use any element of Windows Media Player or any other music/video program, here you go.

    Try to update your BIOS.

    I have a Dell (do not throw things at me) Inspiron 1100, and when I would run Rhapsody or WMP, the other programs would come to a grind. I never thought to update the BIOS, but when someone told me, I tried it, and Blammo! no more stuttering or frozen programs.

    Wheee.

  21. i dont know if this is helpful or not…but i just thought..for those ppl whose windows media player runs at about 100% try and check if ur running any additional plugins in the background and check ur sound adaptors e.g if u got more graphic equalizerzz they sorta hog ur CPU, and if u like get rid of visuliazations for plugins go to View>plugins>options and tick dem off..hope it helpz

    J

  22. Problem with windows media player: using 183.000k

    or more. it takes 5 minutes for me to minimize a program!!! I have 500 ram!!

    windows media player has always been slow but never past 60 for me.

    Here are my questions:

    -how do I update Bios?

    -Should lime wire be taking up 50 to 58.000 k?

    Thanks you for your time
    Andrew

  23. Found the solution that solved the problem immediately:(you may have to restart the computer and then do this)

    Use Classic Windows Folders
    1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
    2. Click Appearance and Themes, and then click Folder Options (or double-click the Folder Options icon).
    3. On the General tab, click Use Windows classic folders.
    4. Click OK.

    It starts working normally as soon as you do it.

  24. Hi Leo, Can you help me with this? I have windoes xp sp2 up untill 13/06/06 i had 2.09 GHz CPU & 512 mb of Ram . Now i have 1.25GHz CPU & 512MB of Ram. Why can this be ? Can this be reset if so how ?
    Thanks,
    Graham.

  25. That sounds like a hardware issue. You sure you’re using the same computer? 🙂 I’d be looking at the motherboard… losing ram happens from time to time, but having the CPU drop speed like that is odd. You might also check BIOS settings for both, but ultimately it could be many different things. Might be worth having a tech look at the box.

  26. Hi,

    I have a 3.4GHZ CPU and 2GB DDR Memory. Yet sometimes the machine appears jumpy and definately slows down. Surely with the CPU & RAM that I have this shouldn’t happen. I don’t run any excessive programs.

    Any help appreciated. Thanks.

    Peter.

  27. There’s one more thing that Leo didn’t mention but I see a lot of… check your available hard drive space. A new computer will have plenty, but if it’s more than 4 years old you may be running low. A computer running Windows XP or 2000 should have, at the minimum, 750MB to 1GB free for optimal performance. To see what you have, open My Computer, right click on the hard drive labeled C:, and click Properties.

  28. Hi! i have a pretty knew hp pavillion dv8000 media center laptop, with 512 ddr and 180 hd,I know my ram is not that bad, but when i try to open MSN Messenger, the program freezes or takes a few minutes before it opens, i really need to fix this! please help!

  29. Hi Leo, I have a notebook 1.5gh and 256Ram – The machine was slowing down so I cleaned the register and runned all kind of antispyware on it…yet the trouble seems to be that the RAM lowered to 192MB Could you please give me any tip for it ? thanks

  30. My machine has 1.25g of ram and two harddrives. one has 80gb and the other has 240gb of storage. My machine randomly runs the harddrive for restore points when there is no activity, but mine will not stop when activity returns to the computer, which cause the responce to be extremely slow. I tried stopping the monitoring of the harddrives but that fail miserably. Need advise

  31. Hi Leo,
    Got a problem with Media Player. It runs fine until it suddenly starts using 90%+ of my cpu…
    I’m running an AMD Athlon 3500+ with 1gb ram and a 250 GB HDD…
    Any Sugestions?

  32. —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
    Hash: SHA1

    The BIOS settings are available when you first boot your machine. Typically you
    have to press a key (F8, Del, F2 … it varies from machine to machine) in
    order to enter the BIOS configuration before Windows boots. On many machines
    the memory configuration is listed – and sometimes controlable – there.

    More commonly one of the memory cards on your system might fail such that it
    looks like it’s not there.

    A couple of memory testing programs:
    http://ask-leo.com/d-memtest
    http://ask-leo.com/d-msmemtest

    Good luck!

    Leo
    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–
    Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)

    iD8DBQFGBrcnCMEe9B/8oqERAv7+AJ9j11VW4e8yoAyY+srf5WgVwnCMewCfY2NI
    LpGmFZBI9tK10bH1u0t21/k=
    =9mjt
    —–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

  33. I had a 256 MB DDR RAM when I first got this computer. Since then, I have installed a 512 MB DDR RAM to give a total of over 700 MB. So now, my computer

  34. Hi Leo
    Me again. I would like to know that on my current CPU of 2.40GHz, would going to the bios and changing the CPU speed from 2400MHz to 3200MHz (whatever that means) have any effect on the speed of the computer and if so, by how much?
    In my previous comment, I realised I stated having 736MB of RAM. But I’ve installed one 512MB with the 256MB of RAM already in the computer, which adds up to 768MB. So how can I regain this ‘lost’ megabtyes since I bought the extra 512MB of RAM when I only could use 224MB from the 256MB of RAM.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  35. I recently bought another MB for my P4 2.2 (100 Mhz x 22)I have 512mb of RAM and a nvidia 6800 vid card. My computer take forever to open programs and even studders a bit when going through the start menu. I’ve run stress tests and received a low score on my HD in the RAMDOM SEEK and REWRITE functions. The HD is old, but runs at 7200RPM. My gut tells me it’s the HD. However, I haven’t seen too many complaints out there for slow HDs. Also, it does make the occasional loud “clank” sound. I guess I’m looking for more a concrete reason to replace my HD. I’m a very experienced user and know how to get a computer running fast, but right now I’m stumped. PS – I have considered my processor, but the MB I had in there was no where near as slow (presently my 1.13 AMD processor on my other computer is much faster), plus the new MB I bought had a faster FSB. Any suggestions?

  36. Hi i have become to addicted to bench marking and recently used pcmark 05 and to my dismay found i had one of the slowest scores and yet with 3dmark i was near the top. The problem seems to be with my HDD and when it does the hdd virus scan test i score virtually zero. I am worried that something is not set right and that i am losing an awful lot of performance becuase of this.

    I am running 2 seagate 160gb drives in a raid 0 configuration with a 4600+ cpu 2gig 800mhz ram and two 7600gt in sli.

    Thanks

    Gary

  37. my laptop was running generally ok, but one day it was booted up with a separate caddied hard drive still attached. since then it has booted up very slowly and the hard drive is reading slower then before. is there possibly a overwritten driver on the hardware/cmos/bios? ive tried most of the general methods defrag, driver updates and rollbacks. doesnt seem to be a windows problem. i cant figure the direct cause or conclusion, any ideas?

  38. I Just Formatted My PC Just Cuz I Was Cleanin It Up And That I Was Gettin A Slow Loadup When I First Start My PC.. From The Point The Main Screen Loads And Icons And Whatnot There Is 0% CPU Useage And Very Very Little Memmory Used.. I Can Click On Things And Open The Start Menu With No Problem But Once I Start Using Somthin It Freezes For About A Min And Then A Few More Things Load And Use Maby 5% CPU.. I Have Just Formatted My PC And Have 0 Virus’s And No Programs Installed..

    AMD Athlon X2 4200+ Dual Core CPU
    GigaByte GA-K8NF-9 Motherboard
    2 GB DDR PC3200 Kingston Ram

    More Than Enough To Not Lag Like That..

  39. hi my pc is equitmted with 4gb of ram igb per each slot!!( 4 in totoal) but in the porpeties of my computer it says it has only 2gb so cna you tell me whtas oging on???

  40. my cpu of my computers cpu 2.6ghz and with 256mb of ram and it way slow..i might be thinking of upgrading my pc to dul core will this increase my cpu????and will it speed up my pcs overall performance!! im gonna get a dauk core 2 extrem processor! should buy one if it will hep my pcs performance if this wont help then i will foget buying it!

  41. I run IE7 and Mozilla. Mozilla takes no time to load while IE grinds away and finally loads.

    Why would one be so much faster than the other?

  42. VIrus.some of the problem cause slowing down the machine is virus so try to find ant virus which is very strong and clean the virus

  43. Hi LEO,

    you recently wrote that :”On some systems it’s possible that network traffic or “noise” is causing your network adapter to impact your system to weed the actual information you care about. This is particularly true if the machine you are concerned about has internet connection sharing turned on. A quick test is to unplug the machine from the network and see if anything resolves.”

    it is the problem with my station, i have a quad core Xeon with 4gb of ram and for all application whatsoever it is great however, it is so slow to access “my computer” and all drives on my network. This station is part of a domain and one of the way to fix the problem was to do a system restore but now it doesn’t work and i am struggling to find a solution.You are right when you say it is due to the noice on my network etc…

    Any solution in order to solve this hellish problem???
    the network card is on the motherboard and i wonder if buying another one on PCI could solve the problem, i forgot to mention that it is a gibabit card that i have on the motherboard…

  44. ok people… something that he forget to mention is that the capacitors on your motherboard will degrade after time, the only fix for this is to get a new mobo, and might as well just buy a new processor while ur at it, vista usually runs good at about 4 gig of ram, xp pro/xp pro x64 will usualy run very nice at 2 gig of ram… i have had to replace alot of computers due to bulging capacitors and damaged resistors, the only thing you can do to prevent this from happening and ruining the life of your computer is to shutdown the computer when not in use, dont use heavy cpu/gpu/hard drive intensive applications, games are the number one culprit, as well as storms, they will damage your computer with lightening strikes, you may not notice at first but it will get worse

  45. My laptop, 1.7GHz, 1.5Gb RAM, 73Gb (8Gb free) slows down, when i play music, it is very evident as playback sort of goes into slow motion. My CPU fluctuates up to 100%, and this never happened even if Im playing music, surfing and dloading at once,, as in NEVER. Last thing I do was defragged, updated automatically by MS, and thats it. U gotta helpm me …

  46. Yet again, you helped me tremendously. My INternet explorer was running terribly. I had installed the new AVG 2012. I didnt know it scanned my links and email as restrictively as it did. I took your advice, changed my settings and it was an instant fix. THANK YOU AGAIN!!! Please keep up the great work!

  47. You mentioned that Vista is bigger than XP, and of course Windows 7 is even bigger. But bigger doesn’t necessarily mean slower. I was playing around and decided to try Windows 7 on my 3 year old ASUS EEE netbook. I thought I keep it on a while just to see how it worked before reinstalling XP. Surprisingly, it performed as fast and probably a little faster than XP. And in my case as I use it daily with a projector for teaching, I love the way it handles the external video automatically and seamlessly. So an update to Windows 7 and doubling my RAM to 2GB, at least in my case, sped up my sluggish old computer.

  48. *pepeduki

    You are running out of hard drive space. By using simple maths, you only have 10% free space. You can start backing up the stuff you have on there to free up the space on your hard drive.

    Anyhow, by looking at the specs on your machine, it’s not powerful. Maybe, if you go to the manufacturer website and find the support for your make and model, you can find documentation for what you can do to upgrade your hardware like putting more RAM or see if you can upgrade your HD for SSD (solid state disk). You can pick up a 256GB SSD and often seen today as the most effective hardware upgrade along with RAM

  49. hi leo..have read the reply from merle in regards slow running pc in ie
    could u please let me know how to change the setting..as i use AVG 1012 ALSO
    CHEERS…
    merle
    September 8, 2011 11:19 AM
    Yet again, you helped me tremendously. My INternet explorer was running terribly. I had installed the new AVG 2012. I didnt know it scanned my links and email as restrictively as it did. I took your advice, changed my settings and it was an instant fix. THANK YOU AGAIN!!! Please keep up the great work!

  50. I have found one of the biggest slow downs with older hardware is that the current releases of much of the software are redesigned to take advantage of the latest advances in hardware and operating system. This causes the computer to do additional work to support the latest “goodies” that earlier versions did not support. For example with 16gb of memory, program updates will tend to load more into memory for faster execution. With an older machine with 1 or 2 GBs, the disk swapping increases exponentially causing severe slow downs. The older XP versions were designed with limited memory storage and hence more efficient on the older machines.

  51. Windows 7 is a much better operating system than its predecessors, but still has a tendency to slow down over time. Aside from hardware changes like more RAM, a faster drive, etc., keeping your system clean of junk helps a lot.

    CCleaner is an excellent tool for that, and it’s free from Piriform.com as well. As for using a registry cleaner, be careful – they are not a proven method to repair damaged registries, and overaggressive “cleaning” can lead to a useless operating system.

    If the operating system has been on your computer for over a year with heavy use, consider backing up your data, reformatting your drive,and reinstalling a fresh copy of Windows on your system. That way you avoid the possibility of damaging your registry, plus you can avoid putting back on all the garbage you installed the previous time.

    Make sure that you have all your original software installation executables or disks before you begin, and that you note all necessary settings (network, etc.) too.

  52. My XP (SP3) machine slows to a crawl when I switch to a folder in explorer. A process manager show me that it is msmpeng using almost all the cpu resource – which I belive is Microsoft Security Essentials. I assume it scans all items in a folder – even when it has looked at only a few minutes earlier. There don’t appear to be any settings to control this. And yet this is one program that you can’t switch off. So I’ll just have to live with it I suppose.

  53. 1. Open msconfig .Type in run box for XP or search box for Vista & Win 7.

    Click start up and disable all start up items. This process can be reversed at any time later. Reboot.

    2. Run ccleaner ..,get from snapfiles.com & is free.

    3. Ensure at least 15% free space on hard drive. Remove all unnecessary programs. Revo unistaller is excellent for this ..free from snapfiles.com Use advance setting and maker sure everything is selected for removal.

    3. defrag hard drive.

    4. Remove all browser add on’s & ‘helpers’ & tool bars . These can slow down browsing considerably. Google how to do this if not sure.
    Consider a fresh install of a different browser like Firefox or Opera or Chrome to compare speed differences.

    5. Consider reinstall of operating system if speed does not return. Most newer computers have a back up copy of Windows in a hidden partition on hard drive.
    Google how to access this partition. Back up but only reinstall what you absolutely have to from a back up . Fresh install is always preferable to putting old stuff back on a fresh reinstall of Windows.

    Jp

  54. I did not see any info on what to do about a CPU that takes a long time to start up. My Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop takes about 11 minutes to startup. I did find malware with malwarebytes several months ago. But removing it did not help. I’m afraid something is still corrupted in the registry??

    Someone suggested backing up the hard drive and then reformat the drive. Then reinstalling the backup… But, won’t this just reinstall the “problem”???

    Your help is really appreciated!!!

  55. @Ty
    You’re right. If you simply restore from the backed up image, you will be exactly where you are now. You would have to back up your hard drive, install Windows and all of your programs from scratch, and then restore your data files from the backup. This may be extreme solution as an 11 minute startup is longer than normal, but if your computer is otherwise operating at a reasonable speed, you might find some programs which start up unnecessarily when you start windows.

  56. As Leo says, the problem is often due to “too much software … that always runs”, so preventing installed programs from starting with Windows can make a big difference. These programs should, as johnpro2 says, be shown on the startup tab of msconfig and can be prevented from starting with Windows there. Many utilities suites offer convenient startup managers, sometimes with advice regarding the desirability of disabling startup (you might want your antivirus to start with Windows, for example): the one I use, TuneUp, also allows rarely used programs to be deactivated as an alternative to uninstalling.
    As C Putman says, services can also be a problem, but need to be approached with care. I have used a program called “TUT: the Ultimate Troubleshooter” to manage services, as it has a clear interface and includes useful advice on which are needed and which can cause trouble.

  57. Hi Leo
    Really enjoyed this article as in my part of the world “Install Discs” (Genuine !) just do not exist. So all has to played with what you first get.
    So will try to add my twopence worth !
    1 As regard malware I believe that more than one app. must be run as none catch everything !. My own preferences would be Malwarebytes and Hitman Pro. With perhaps Superantispyware being thrown in for good measure.
    2 As regards Startup items I find that CCleaner is a lot easier to use than Msconfig. Would advise disabling everything one is certain of first and then taking on some of the rest one at a time.
    3 Also think that in any extreme case all caches including MFT should be flushed. A reboot is advisable.
    4 Junk files should also be removed. Again CCleaner does a pretty good job of this. But of course there are plenty more.
    5 Run sfc /scannow. Anyone who is not familiar should look up proper procedure re. their OS.
    6 As to RAM which is very important I would advise using Crucial (Memory). Although a commercial App this will tell you better than Windows about your RAM (Slots etc.). Also give some indication as to cost.
    7 As to defragging I use defraggler which I find excellent and very easy to use with one minor exception. This because I found out over time that defragging “Free Space” has more effect on speeding up a comp. than the default procedure. In Defraggler this is found under Advanced Options. Would advise using this first and then the normal defragging.
    8 As Leo never tires of saying the real long term to all these probs is of course Image Backups. Just in case anyone is even more unlearned than myself remember that all Photo’s, Doc’s, Vid’s and Music etc have to be backed up separately. I have met people that believed they were the same as System Restore !.
    As all else is clear in the article I am going to risk putting in 9 !!
    9 Registry Cleaning. As this is a very controversial topic, mostly because of the very real danger involved, I include with some trepidation, yet feel I must. Background is that as there are literally hundreds of thousands of Registry items (Or maybe many more than that ?) how can removing a few hundred here and there speed up your comp.
    My answer is that over the life of a comp removing a certain amount per week does add up over say a period of 5 years to be a significant amount. Further to this it is in my opinion not just the numbers that necessarily count but also the type of entry. As an example let me mention the incomplete removal of a pre-installed AV app., or something akin. These I have found to be extremely hard to remove without some Registry knowledge.
    I have used Registry Cleaners now for 7 years and for the last 4 have had no trouble whatsoever. Do admit that at first I did, but was always saved by Image Backups. But must also admit that despite doing this at least 2,000 time I have only noticed a define speedup on 2 occasions.
    But if anyone else does this be sure to backup Registry first. The Reg. cleaner in CCleaner (Which is fairly mild) does indeed have a default backup (But gotta be clicked ).
    Luck all.

  58. Before you add more RAM, you need to make sure your OS can take on the extra memory. 32-bit OS systems can accept up to 4G RAM while 64-bit OS can take as much as 128G max…. I am experiencing gradual slowdowns and have 32-but OS and the full 4G RAM. I need to boost my OS to 64-bit, but money is the issue now.. Best way is to reboot and run a cleaner and your computer will be ok for a while until next time….

  59. Maurice, personally i think the upgrade to 64bit is a waste of money, been there,done that and with 8Gigs of very expensive ram noticed NO diffrence in the speed of my machine. With the exception of MS Office my programmes are all 32bit so upgrading was a mistake.
    Best to make sure your present setup is running properly. Just my twopennorth.

  60. Whereas “Brewbox” may not have experienced any performance increase with a 65 bit OS, Maurice’s point is still valid. That is, if you’re running a 32 bit OS, adding RAM simply cannot help. Sorry – 2^32 = 4,294,967,296 so the absolute max is 4G. I’m not saying one should or shouldn’t adopt a 64b OS, but those who stick with 32 should not waste money or hopes on benefits from RAM beyond 4G.

  61. No mention was made of hardware interrupts. I had to disable my Nvidia card because of this; and I could not discover what other hardware it was in conflict with. Hardware interrupts will bring your system to its knees.

  62. This article has nothing to do with the link that brought me here. The link was from Watching Online Video Without The Stops and Starts.

  63. I also agree with this comment by Jim.
    Is it simply “Ask Leo” marketing, or is there a link error here?
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Jim Sobliros
    December 2, 2012 8:17 AM
    This article has nothing to do with the link that brought me here. The link was from Watching Online Video Without The Stops and Starts.

    Where was the link that you clicked on? My staff and I are unable to locate it. The article you’re looking for is here: http://ask-leo.com/how_can_i_view_online_video_without_the_starts_and_stops.html

    Leo
    05-Dec-2012

  64. Hi Leo does the number of emails that you have sitting in your inbox also affect the speed of your computer? I get lots of newsletters and have not been diligent about deleting them.
    Cheers

    It shouldn’t affect it at all.

    Leo
    03-Jan-2013
  65. The absolute best tip for fixing a windows machine that has slowed down with years of use is to create a new user account, copy (or move) over your personal files (photos, documents) and then use the new account. Once you are satisfied that you have got all your files over and everything is working you could delete the old user and all the files if you liked. I left behind everything that was not my personal pictures and documents, that is all the hidden files and folders etc.

    e.g. user/fred/AppData was left behind.

    There is a possible problem if you have installed applications for “This user only” but I have never ever done that. You will have to re-apply your name to applications that want it, eg Word etc.

    Obviously delete rubbish files and defrag too but the difference that creating a new user has made in the three or four cases that I have tried is much, much more that.

    I have no explanation for it but since I discovered it by accident I have done it on a few machines and all were restored to sparkling as-new performance.

    Perhaps Leo might have an explanation?

    Give it a try. Just create an account and try it without moving anything. Takes five minutes.

  66. I’m on the M20 motorway and my car refuses to go more than 25 miles per hour. I phoned BMW and they said check the engine while you’re moving but be careful not to fall off the hood. Injuries can result when falling from vehicles, even at slow speeds.

    Why do we accept computers that behave the way they do. Why can’t i get a computer whose functionality can be locked as it is and where it is? Basically I just use the internet so why should I want a thousand different vendors trying to put crap on my machine?
    This whole situation has become absurd.

    • Computers are very complex, and believe it or not, the vast majority of problems are caused by installed programs, not Windows itself. If all you do is use the Internet, you might be a candidate for a ChromeBook. The functionality is locked to mostly browser activity. Or since you probably don’t want to buy a new machine, you might opt for a slim version of Linux. I personally like Lubuntu, a very light stripped down version of Ubuntu which I run on a very old machine.

    • Larry,
      If you want a computer like that, buy a Chromebook. To a first approximation*, a Chromebook runs one and only one program … the Chrome Browser. Everything you do, you do in the browser and on the Internet. No user security decisions, Google keeps it updated, Google checks for viruses and malware, and Google controls the interface and all the stuff you do.
      -bb
      *One can do things off-line on a Chromebook, it just takes some effort – mainly syncing webpages and Google drive with a local copy. But that is definitely a second-order use.

  67. Windows is lagging a lot, when i try to run my computer it even lags then and when i go to login it takes forever when i try to open a program it wont open and will just crash or freeze instead :/

  68. My compaq machine got very much slow after installing any software even after just transferring some movies or pictures from my pendrive.
    it runs normal after reinstalling of windows XP.

  69. I’m helping out my neighbor who has no knowledge of computers whatsoever. Her computer is a year old (yeah I know…it’s a dinosaur by now!) Medion tower. Since yesterday it started slowing down and jittering when using her mouse. The funny thing is it all seems alright, until it comes into contact with moving things on the screen (a youtube video, the auto-hiding taskbar, when in a game). When the problems started she was using a wireless mouse. She switched to a wired mouse hoping that would fix it. It didn’t. The latter is a generic mouse with a driver from 2006 that Windows claims to be up-to-date and doesn’t need replacing. I installed AVG for her, removed 9 threats, updated her nvidia geforce driver (this resulted in two crashes after updating!) I’ve set things back to the restore point of 12 Feb. Things runs fine for 30 minutes, and then the jitters start again when we use the mouse. I’ve come to the conclusion that it HAS to be mouse related, but why? It’s fine until it comes into contact with any form of moving graphical interference as described above. Can anyone please shed some light on this one? I’m stumped here. Thanks.

  70. Hi again. Please disregard the previous post. It seems to be graphics card related, so we’ll be replacing that.

  71. hey leo, i got a problem on my windows 7 ultimate PS1 that every now and then the whole thing freezes, cant do anything on screen and even when i hold down the power button to force it off it turns off sure, but the problem comes right back, only thing that works is if i flip the main power on PSU at the back and start it again then its fine. (however so long) so read a bit around and wanted to test my RAM with a program called memtest wich basicly just tests your RAM for bad recived info or whatever, problem is, windows limits the amount of RAM a single program can use, any way to raise that limit? would be very helpfull if you had any idea, thx 🙂
    specs are:
    OS: windows 7 ultimate, service pack 1, build 7601, x64 based PC
    motherboard: asus crosshair v formula-z
    GPU: msi geforce GTX 760 gaming 2gb physx
    CPU: amd fx 8350 8-core processor
    HDD: seagate barracuda 2TB
    RAM: corsair vengeance low profile 16GB, 2X8GB

      • ah thx, well when i start the program with a single copy of it trying to test all 16gb ram it says ¨windows limits the amount of contiguous RAM single program can allocate¨ haha, says i should run multiple copies of it and set each one to test 2047MB of RAM but that would be like 80 copies of it runing, wich i wont even bother to click open to put it like that, anyways thx, gonna read trought that link, was messing around on comp today sorting out battle.net games and got to play like 4 mins of diablo 3 before it froze, turned it off, and on again, only lasted about 10 mins then, first time id have have it runing since yesterday atleast tho, cant remember haha :/

  72. i would like to more applications on computer mantainance and latest hardware the way they work and if they get problems the solutions required. thanks.

  73. Samarth,
    I spilled water on laptop there is a small gap between spacebar of keyboard it spilled just 2 drops on that and it got off ..will it be ok.please suggest something.

    • I’d use a hair dryer with no heat to dry it and wait a few days to be extra sure. It may work but there is no way to be sure the damage hasn’t already been done.

  74. If you watch all the ads downloading off to the side of your article,you will notice the blue circle stops when they get completely downloaded with their mini-videos and such. Inability to stop ALL ads on an webpage is my biggest problem.

    • Are you talking about the article you commented on? If so, something else is going on with your computer. There is only one advertisement on this page and nothing should be downloading to your computer. Please try another browser to see what happens. It might be that you have some sort of toolbar going on that is causing thirdparty ads to be downloaded.

    • “all the ads … off to the side”??? I have no ads off to the side. There’s one up top, and one down below. And occasionally my own ad (a static image) in the middle. I don’t understand what you’re referring to.

  75. Hi Leo –

    I’ve reset my whole laptop but it’s still running slowly (it actually took 4 hours to upgrade to Windows 10 as well as restoring all factory settings). Is this a case of it just getting old and slowing down naturally? (It’s only 2.5 years old but I appreciate that might still be old in technological terms). It’s a Sony Vaio

    Any ideas would be much appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Liam

  76. I’m no expert, so bear with me as i share with you what turned out to be a SOLUTION. (No question here. This is something that SOLVED an enormous number of problems in my computer:

    Something interesting occurred in my computer on June 18, 2016: A problem with my use of the Mozilla Firefox Browser, and with the speed of my computer generally, disappeared. That problem had been a growing one over a period I would estimate to have been more than three months. The first symptom was that my computer had been functioning slower and slower in all operations. But increasingly I was getting hangs in Firefox and BSODs whether on the Internet or not. And, for a several days, I had been getting error messages more an more often whenever using Firefox, reading, “A script on this page is not responding… (etc.)”

    My browser choice had been Mozilla Firefox for years, because of its lack of clutter. The problems with my computer overall, and when I used Firefox, in particular, only dated back for two or three months. It started with a slowing down. I would click on something (whether on the Internet or not) and the response had been taking longer and longer, even up to ten seconds or longer. And I had been trying all sorts of things to diagnose what was causing it. I had run multiple virus scans, and they had indicating no problem whatsoever. I had searched on the web for diagnostics, and none of them indicated anything was amiss. I had run utilities such as disk check and the speed of my Comcast cable access. I had tested my memory and it was fine. I has read everything I could find published on the Internet about the causes and cures of the “script is not responding” error messages, and none of them provided any clue. I had tried to determine what might be using so much of my computer’s processing capacity… and was unable to identify the cause or causes of my problems. I tried disabling all add-ons and extensions, refreshing Firefox, re-downloading Firefox, restarting my computer, cussing… nothing had helped. I was seriously beginning to suspect that my hard drive was faulty, or that formatting it might provide a solutin. Then, on June 8, I decided to try using another browser, Internet Explorer (I.E.) to see if it would at least get rid of those “script not responding” messages.
    First I checked to make sure IE in my computer was up to date, and got a message saying it was. I went into IE and indicated it could be my default browser… and, it was at that moment that a complete turn-around occurred. Suddenly, the script messages no longer occurred. Everything in my computer suddenly worked as fast as ever (as fast as some three months or so earlier). Both when browsing and when not browsing, my computer’s operation was as fast as ever I recalled.

    But that is not the end of this story.

    I hated all the clutter on the screen when I opened IE and got the CNN page; so I decided to try Mozilla Firefox again. And this is where this story gets interesting:
    Now, Mozilla Firefox was working great in my computer. No error messages popped up. No hang occurred. No BSODs happened. And, when I exited browsing mode, my computer was fast.
    What had happened? Beats me. But it seems pretty obvious to me that it had something to do with Internet Explorer doing something that had been gumming up all my computer’s performance, as well as causing all sorts of problems with my use of Firefox.
    Not being an expert in browser programming, nor in computer technology generally, I have no clue how the conflict originated, nor how it was perpetuated for days and days, while I tried every means I could think of, or read about, to try to end it.
    My guess is that you may know, from what I have told you here, what would have caused all the problems I was having, leading up to June 8, what would be changed by nothing more than telling I.E., so to speak, that it could be my default browser… even though I did not allow it to remain my default browser for more than at most half an hour.
    Whatever changed, it changed dramatically, and for the better, and lastingly.
    My computer, and my browsing with Firefox, now are working great.
    So I just wanted to share this experience with you, Leo, so that hopefully it might help one or more others of your subscribers.

    • I couldn’t say exactly what happened to fix that problem, but other browsers often use components of Internet Explorer.

  77. Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 CPU 2.40 ghz,
    1024 KB Chche Memory
    RAM 2.00 GB
    32 Bit Windows 7 Professional O.S
    But its Getting Slow in task manager always Show performance 100%
    in safe mode also.

  78. Hey Leo,

    My laptop (Lenovo) was working completely fine. But a few days ago, it automatically restarted and updated and since then the startup takes forever. After half an hour, when it usually starts, and I begin using it it’s as slow as a slug. Opening a folder itself is such a pain and my internet browser works very slow. Then when I open a folder and wait for it to load, one wrong click and it crashed and began to startup again, which took another hour. I tried everything but nothing works well. What should I do?

  79. thanks for the work done here bt mine is a question.
    I have a Lenovo thinkpad edge E520. this started after repair that when I start this pc normally it will shut down in use but when i interrupt its normal setup while starting it, wont shut down in use. any help please.

  80. I FOUND IT! It’s a stupid piece of software called Seagate Dashboard, and it automatically installs itself in your ‘puter when you plug in a Seagate external hard drive. For some reason, this POS does something cyclically, about once a second. Whatever it’s doing involves RAM, and as usual Windows — in combination with anti-virus software, which for some reason uses a dreadful lot of RAM — has all the RAM occupied, so the machine has to resort to virtual RAM and starts driving the HD. Getting the virtual RAM adjusted takes about a second — just long enough for Seagate Dashboard to hit it AGAIN. The system is constantly occupied with this cyclic RAM fiddling, which doesn’t show up as an activity (!) and prevents anything else from working right.

    Fix is simple:

    Start -> Control Panel -> Administrative Tools

    double-click on Services

    scroll down the list to find Seagate Dashboard Service

    right-click on it and hit “Stop”. Things will get a LOT better immediately!

    right-click on it again and change “automatic” to “manual” — or perhaps even “disable” — so it won’t bother you any more.

  81. Hi my son has a gaming pc it was around ÂŁ500 it’s a little slow .my brother put a anti virus on and now we can’t get Google and you tube and now is very slow not sure what do do he has only download minecraftI and csgo. Would be grateful for any feedback thanks.

    • Some AV programs slow a computer down. You might try defaulting to Windows Defender which is the AV program Leo recommends, and see if that works.

  82. Hello All,
    One of the software that uses up resources is the backup software that sets up several services running all the time,
    even if you only want to perform a backup once in a while, and always on specific demand.

    It would be great to know which of the recommended backup programs have the lowest foot-print in what concerns services used/installed.

    Thanks a lot in advance,
    Iudith Mentzel

  83. first you need to install Ccleaner and clean your computer and install Hitmanpro and run a full scan it deletes malware, spyware and junks file from your computer.

    Upgrading your RAM You have to upgrade your ram for better performance.

    Disk defragment-

    Go to startup button-> All programs,->Accessories-> System Tools-> disk-defrag. this will organize your files on your hard-drive so that they are easier for the hard-drive to access and produce faster speeds.

    Edit your performance

    Click the Start button and select “System.” Click “Advanced System Settings” on the left and click the “Settings” button under Performance

    Choose “Adjust for best performance” under Visual Effects to disable all the animations, or select “Custom” and disable the individual animations if you don’t want to see or you can select for better performance..

    {Potential webspam link removed}

  84. Uninstalling an application is one way of freeing up HD and RAM. But in Task Manager you can also simply tell it to no autostart the background process associated with applications that you don’t need “instant” access to. So the app is still there, it just may be a bit slower to start.

    Once you have 8GB RAM you are at the bottom end of the current “sweet spot”. While bumping RAM up to 12 or 16GB may help, there is now another hardware fix that will help more. That is switching from a “normal” hard drive to a SSD. Swapping out the old HD for a SSD will give you a performance boost that is simply amazing. The price of SSDs has come down to the point where this is a reasonable option, on par with getting more RAM.

    One of the replies asked for help identifying which programs they can turn off to prevent autostart. As well as autostart programs, in the background there are autostart Windows “Services”. Windows default setup has a lot of services that the average user does not need. MS / Windows has them running “just in case” the user needs them. There is a second reason for turning off unneeded services. That is computer security. A running program is an opportunity for a hacker. If you turn off unneeded services, as well as freeing up compute resources you are making your computer “safer”, more secure. This is called “Hardening”.

    There are many LONG established web sites with information about MS Services, listing ones they suggest you consider turning off. Here are just a few. Black Viper has been around for at least a couple of decades …

    http://www.blackviper.com/service-configurations/black-vipers-windows-10-service-configurations/

    https://www.upguard.com/blog/the-windows-server-hardening-checklist

    https://www.itprotoday.com/security/understanding-windows-service-hardening

    https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Windows-10-security/Hardening-Windows-10-on-an-IT-Pro-s-laptop/td-p/180502

    https://www.hardenwindows10forsecurity.com/

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