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So You Think You Can Tech: Basic Computer Troubleshooting – My Computer is Slowing Down

Tech Tuesday, So you think you can tech, John Carter, Tech Help, E-services,

#TechTuesday with E-Services

It happens to all of us at one point or another. Maybe your computer starts slowing. Maybe the ‘W’ on your keyboard stops working. Maybe your printer won’t connect. Is it the WiFi Goblin messing you’re your machine? Have vaguely defined ‘hackers’ taken over your computer to launch satellites and spy on your credit?! Regardless of the issue, or its cause, you have probably looked at your computer, sighed, and started mentally shelling out for the hundred-dollar Geek Squad appointment. Did you know that isn’t necessary though? Did you know that many of your computer’s problems can be easily fixed? If not, then this is the post for you.

We are picking up where the last SYTYCT—My Computer Keeps Restarting —left off. Today’s problem is:



My Computer is Slowing Down

It happens to everyone. Over time your computer or phone start slowing down. Does this mean you need a new computer? Are hacktivists using your computer as part of a pyramid scheme? The answer to both is, probably not. Instead, let’s check some other possibilities:

 

When is it Slow?

This is a key component to all this. When is your computer at its slowest? Does it take five minutes to turn on but afterwards it runs like normal? Does it wake up fast but then is slow while you are attempting to perform a task you normally do? Or is it slowing down while you are trying something new, maybe Digital Art, 3D Rendering, or something else? Each of these has different causes and solutions. Let’s do a run down.



Is Your Computer Confused?

This is related to a problem we have discussed several times over the past few SYTYCTs, your computer can become bogged down by internal processes and get confused. If this is the case, if you haven’t restarted your computer in weeks, or months, then try turning your computer off and then back on again. This may solve your problem until the next time. Also, remember to update your drivers and software, this can help ease your computer’s confusion.



Is Your Computer Slow to Wake Up?

When you first get a new computer, it works like a dream. You push the power button and, in a few seconds, it’s awake ready to go. Now, a few years later, you push that same button then go off and make a three-course meal in the hope that, when you are finished, your computer might be ready. This isn’t how it is supposed to be and thankfully there is a way to speed the process up. I warn you though, this will take us into places of your computer you may not normally feel comfortable going. By the way, this is a Windows only thing.

Still with me? Good.

So, click on the Windows Icon at the lower left corner of your screen. It normally looks like a cluster of four squares in two rows. This leads you to the Start Menu.

In the Start Menu type this: Task Manager. Don’t worry about where you type it, just start typing. Once you have typed Task Manager hit enter. If you are in Windows 10 your Task Manager will open.

If, at the bottom of your Task Manager, you see More Details then click on that to open the full view of your Task Manager. Along the top you should see several tabs, one of which says, Startup. Click the Startup tab.

The list that appears is known as your Startup list. Each of these programs opens when your computer does. As you install devices and software this list gets longer and longer, increasing your startup time.

Now the first thing I want you to understand about the list is this: if you don’t know what something is don’t touch it. The next thing I want you to understand is this: choosing to disable something on the list does not delete it, you are just telling the computer to not turn it on with the rest of the computer.

A good example of something you could turn off is Google Services. It goes by several names but Google is in all of them. If the only time you use anything by Google is when you open Chrome to browse the internet then you don’t need Google Services to turn on with your computer. The first time you open anything Google related that day it will activate Google Services. Just by disabling this one item you might save yourself some startup time.



Is Your Computer Slow While Doing Normal Tasks?

This happens sometimes. You open a program you’ve opened a hundred times before only this time it is painfully slow. Good news, this is pretty easy to fix too.

Have you updated the software? Even if you have done nothing to change the program but suddenly it is running slow then it might mean something else has updated and, in the process, messed your program up. My advice is to go, find your app or program online from the manufacturer and install the latest update. This often solves the problem for me.

Another possibility is that you are just doing too much at once. If you have several programs open at once it can eat up system resources. Think of your computer’s resources as a pie. There are only so many pieces at any one time. For every program you have open that is another piece taken away. Some programs are really greedy—browsers are really bad due to all the images and videos that can play—and take more pie than others. If too much of the pie is taken, then there will not be enough for your program to run at the speed it needs. Sometimes a program will, when faced with limited amounts of pie, will start trying to grab pie that doesn’t exist or is being used elsewhere. When this happens, you can reach a point of critical pie scarcity and the computer shuts down to rebuild pie reserves.



Is Your Computer Running Slow While Doing Something New?

For me this is when I really have to worry about my machine running slow. I love to try out digital art programs and 3D modeling software and some of those can take up a lot of system resources. Every piece of reputable software will post a list of the system requirements to use the product. These lists usually come in two flavors, Minimum and Preferred. If your computer’s specifications falls closer to the Minimum then it will more than likely run slower that you would want.

Depending on your computer you may be able to upgrade the ram fairly easily, and fairly cheaply. However, if you are running into slowness problems with new software it might end up being a situation where you have to get a new machine. If you are using freeware such as Blender, GIMP, or Inkscape you can often download older versions of the software that might run better on your system.

 

Have You Run Out of Room?

For a long time this particular problem fell away as most commercial computers were sold with, at minimum, 256 GB hard drives. Recently though, with the advent of easy cloud storage, a lack of space on your hard has reared its head once more.

Now you may be wondering why a lack of hard drive space might make your computer run slower. Normally, when talking about computer speed, professionals will talk about RAM and Multi-Gigahertz Processors, but rarely will they mention the part a hard drive plays in the computer.

Both your RAM and Processor has a certain amount of storage used to perform tasks. Because these two parts of your computer speak extremely quickly anything stored in them can be used easily. Sometimes though they need more room than they have available and then offload non-vital information into a section of your hard drive. If your hard drive is low on storage the processor and RAM have to hold onto everything, making room where they can and slowing the whole system down.

The good news is that they recommend for your computer to have 2 GB of free space on the hard drive. Usually this is easy to achieve just by clearing out some junk documents. Just don’t forget to remove any deleted items from the Recycle Bin. Until you do, the dent you are trying to make in your storage problem won’t go away.



Is Your Computer Getting Too Hot?

Like we’ve discussed in other SYTYCT entries, heat is a problem for all computer devices. In extreme cases it can make your device melt or shut down. In less extreme cases though, heat can slow down your machine. This has to do with how conductors, such as copper and gold, lose conductivity as they get hotter. A decrease in conductivity can and will lead to your device slowing down.

Now don’t throw your computer in a freezer, the frost in there is just as bad as the heat. But as we stated before, clean your device’s fans, make sure your device has plenty of air circulating around it, and be mindful of the room’s temperature. There are some who go out and buy a cooling system for their computer but I only recommend this if you are highly skilled and comfortable taking your computer apart. Most of the time just pointing a fan at it is enough.



Anything else?

On this particular topic? Not much. At least not much that can be easily solved. But that’s okay. There are still a lot of options for you to try, so give them a whirl.

Until then, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe.

 

The Jacksonville Public Library's E-Services Department is dedicated to helping users learn and master the technology needed in today's economy. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, join us for our online computer classes. All of our classes are free and open to the public.

 

Meet the Author

John Carter, Tech Tuesday, Tech TipsHusband, Father, Digital Artist, and Teacher, these are but a few of the hats John Carter wears. If he is not at one of our many public libraries hosting a computer class or helping someone in an appointment you can find John working in his yard practicing hügelkultur, hidden away sketching and writing, making a pilgrimage to Disney World, or trying new recipes in the kitchen.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Jacksonville Public Library