Debugging Slow Computers – Common Problems and Solutions

Have you recently gone out and purchased a state of the art PC, with all the bells and whistles hoping to get the very best performance for your money? Are you now starting to notice that your computer isn’t performing as well as it originally did? Are you looking for answers as to why your top of the line computer isn’t working any better then the old machine you gave to your friends? If any of these questions ring a bell then this article is for you.

I am a certified computer technician, that is trying to educate as many people as possible as to why their expensive, or not so expensive computer never seem to run as well over time as they did the day they bought them. In this article I will be covering the following the subjects:

1. Signs of a computer slow down
2. Common causes of a computer slow down
3. Easy solutions to a computer slow down
4. How to avoid a computer slow down

1. Signs of a computer slow down

You may be thinking, the obvious sign to my computer slowing down, is I start to notice it slowing down. If you are thinking this, then you are obviously correct, however that does not mean that you cannot detect a computer problem earlier.

The first sign of a computer slow down, is you start noticing many programs loading in your task bar. Your task bar is located at the bottom right portion of your screen, and as the computer is initially loading you will see items pop up in that tray. When your computer comes configured from the manufacturer it may or may not have a lot of applications running, but in most cases it does not. As time goes by and people download things like MSN Messenger, Limewire, Yahoo Messenger, AOL Messenger, ICQ … they all start to accumulate. Eventually there are so many programs running that it takes a very long time for your computer to load.

Another possible sign of your computer slowing down, is you start to notice weird looking banner ads and pop ups while browsing the internet, or maybe even when your computer is just sitting idol. This is sorta a worst scenario then above, as this usually points towards a virus issue rather then just a maintenance issue. Keep an eye out for this symptom because this is where things can go from bad to worse in a heart beat.

There exists many other common symptoms, however for the purpose of this article, I feel that if you can get a handle on these early signs and how to resolve them, then you will be much better equipped moving forward.

2. Common causes of a computer slow down

In 80% to 90% of my clients that come to me and their problem description is “My computer is very slow”, there are usually two causes.

Cause 1 – to many programs installed and running

The first problem I see, is people do not keep their computer organized. This problem often occurs in houses with many family members using the computer, each person has their separate accounts, and each one downloads and installs programs at will. One thing to know right away is, for the most part every program you download and install comes by default with a “Run on startup” option enabled, meaning as soon as your computer loads all the programs that were downloaded and installed with this option checked must load on startup. This is a very common cause to a computer slow down, and can easily be fixed. If you take a look at your taskbar (bottom right of your screen) and notice that there are many applications running, some of which you do not recognize, then we suggest reading our article on running MSCONFIG utilty to disable unwanted applications. (Refer to Apendix A at the bottom of this article for a link).

Cause 2 – Potential Virus or Spyware problem

As mentioned in the previous section, this is unfortunetly the much worse of the two causes. You can easily tell if you have been infected by some sort of virus, spyware or adware if you notice that while you are online or even when the computer is sitting idol, that there are banner ads and pop ups on your screen. Typically in this case, what happens is while you were browsing the internet, you accidentally (or on purpose) clicked a link to a site that contained malacious data. Often times when you visit legit sites, you may see a banner add saying “punch the monkey and win” or something to that effect. Word of advice DO NOT PUNCH THE MONKEY. Also, if you are reading this and thinking you might have this problem, and are wondering why your anti-virus program did not find this, it could either be that the virus is new and your software is not up to date, or perhaps if you accept the download and ignore warnings from your anti-virus then its your fault.

3. Easy Solution to a computer slow down

As mentioned in a previous section, the solution to cause number 1 can be handled by using MSCONFIG to disable installed programs so they do not run every time windows starts. In addition to this, you can choose to perhaps uninstall programs that you do not need. For example, I have seen on some computers people are running, Limewire, Napster, Bearshare, etc… First things first, I hope you are using those to share pictures with your friends, and not download pirated music. Second, do you really need all those programs running at once? My suggestion would be to go to your control pannel and uninstall the programs you don’t need. If you are unsure how to uninstall programs from your computer, then read our Uninstalling unnecessary programs article. For a link to this article please refer to Appendix A at the bottom of this article.

In regards to the second cause for a slow down, this is where you have a decision to make. There are chances that this problem does not get worse, depending on what type of virus you have been infected with, however in my experience it will get worse. The easiest way to try and remove this problem is to run your Anti-Virus scan and see if it is able to detect the problem and remove it. In the event that you cannot resolve the issue, I would suggest referring to a computer technician and have the threat removed safely and cleanly before causing other issues. I am aware that if you have been reading this article and this was the problem you were experiencing that you are a little frustrated at this point. If this is case I apologize.

How to Avoid a computer slow down

Avoiding the problems described above is quite simple actually. The first and most obvious solution to avoiding your computer slowing down, is pay attention to what sites you are visiting, what programs you are downloading and what you accept to install on your computer. Often times, companies will play tricks on you when installing downloaded applications. A common example of this is when you go to download “Adobe Flash” there is a small section on the install page asking you if you also want to install Google toolbar, and by default it is selected. For those people who just click click install on a regular basis, this is a perfect example of how extra applications get on your computer without you knowing.

I wrote this article in response to many requests from my actual clients. I am not quite able to go into the level of detail in this article as I have explained on my website. If you feel that you want to learn more about computer related problems and how to resolve and avoid them, then I encourage you to visit my website. Using the links in Appendix A you will be able to access many of my online computer help documents. If you wish to request specific computer help information from me, then please visit my blog site at – A direct link to it is available below.