6 Reasons Why My Computer is Slow and How to Troubleshoot

Have you ever asked yourself at least one of these questions? Why is my computer suddenly slow? Why is my computer slow to respond? Why is my omputer slow in starting up, slow to load, slow for no reason, slow in the first 1o minutes, even slow but has plenty of memory?! Trust me, you’re not alone. As a professional computer repairer, I see this problem every week.

Slow performance is a very common and inescapable issue for both Windows and Apple computer users who have owned their computers for quite a while. It can be caused by a range of things.

In this post, I’ll explain what causes the computer to slow down, and what can be done to troubleshoot your suddenly slow computer, how to clean up a slow computer, and make it fast again, or even much faster.

Finding that your computer can’t keep up while you’re trying to get things done is always an annoying problem.

But, understand this: parts inside your computer do wear out. Yes, your computer ages, just like the tyre in your car. When it does, it slows down, or freezes.

Though, slowness can also be caused by software issues such as virus or having too many startup programs.

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Why my computer is slow and how to troubleshoot them

1. Too many startup programs

Having too many apps that launch at startup can slow down your computer. This is one of the first steps, and easiest one to troubleshoot slow computer. “How to clean up a slow computer” is a question that I got asked by many customers.

They are called “bloatware“. Companies bid their way to show their apps in front of users. For example, when you purchase a new computer, it comes with pre-installed McAfee LiveSafe, or NetFlix app.

Some apps have a higher level of impact on the startup process and may take longer for the processor and boot drive to work things out. Programs like antivirus or music apps like Spotify are examples of this.

While you certainly need an antivirus app, do you really need NetFlix or Spotify to fire up whenever your computer starts?

You can check what startup programs you have from the “Startup” tab from Task Manager. It should also show you the program’s level of impact on the startup process. You may also disable programs that you don’t need launched at startup.

Disabling Spotify app from starting up does not mean stopping it from working forever, nor removing it completely.

It just means that, you allow Spotify to open only when you want to listen to music. This is a greate way to clean up unused apps to fix slow computer. But “clean up” here does not mean removing the apps.

The screen screenshot below, I have disabled all non-essential apps that I do not want them to open during startup process to avoid slowing down my computer.

Sure, I want to use all of these apps, Epson and DYMO ones are for my printers, Exetel Banter for my VoIP phone, Skype for video calls, etc. But I want them to open only when I need them. Other times, they can sit quietly unopened.

startup apps slow down computer

This is especially useful if your computer is still running on a spinning hard drive. Try this first to troubleshoot your slow computer.

2. Too many apps running in the background

Other than startup programs, long term use and accumulation of installed programs can slow down your OS. Some apps run in the background while you’re doing something else.

Running multiple programs at the same time can take up RAM space and CPU processing workload. If this workload is too exhausting to handle, the computer may run slower than usual.

This is also something you can check from Task Manager, under “Apps” and “Background processes”. That way you’ll be able to free up your computer’s workload by cleaning up some apps that you don’t use.

You may try refreshing your computer by resetting and reinstalling Windows to free up this space and memory. Resetting Windows or macOS is a great way to troubleshoot slow computer and clean up slow, outdated computer.

Or, you can also look up and uninstall unused programs from Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a program.

If you see apps such as McAfee LiveSafe, Spotify, and you know you’re not paying them a monthly subscription, they can go. This will help clean up obsolete apps to speed up your slow computer.

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3. Virus infection – common reason as to why computer is slow

Getting a virus can get you a lot of trouble. Besides the malicious things like stealing data and corrupting files, viruses also run as a background process.

And as we already know, background processes take up RAM space and adds to your computer’s workload whether it likes it or now. And this is a background process that you might not be able to find on Task Manager.

How do I know if my computer has a virus?

Trust me, you’ll know it when it happens.

Most viruses don’t sit quietly. It will be “in your face”: random inappropriate pop-up ads, changes to Chrome homepages, or random webpage redirects that you have no control over. Showing your computer have 200+ issues that need urgent fixing, and it’ll ask you to fork out credit card to fix it.

Getting a computer virus is like catching a serious cold: you’ll be lying flat on your bed with aches all over your body.

Having an antivirus software and be careful on the web can help you avoid getting your computer infected with a virus.

Having an antivirus by no means guarantee that your computer will never get viruses. It’s like police fighting criminals, there will always be criminal.

In fact, the best antivirus is “self-awareness“. understanding what a computer virus is and how it gets into your computer will be your best option to prevent it.

If you take enough caution to prevent virus from getting into your computer in the first place, you won’t have to find ways to remove viruses from your computer at all!

Just to tell you, I myself have no antivirus software on my own Dell work laptop, nor in my home Apple laptop. Knowing how to clean up viruses yourself (which is hard to do) is an excellent way to troubleshoot slow computer.

Being a computer technician, an IT guy, I can swim amongst the crocodiles without getting eaten.

4. Worn out or faulty hardware – The most common reason why computer is slow

After you’ve owned your laptop or desktop computer for a while, certain components will show signs of failure. Hardware repairs are the most common problem that we see with our customers’ computers.

You know that your car tyre will wear out, because you see it moving. The same goes with certain parts in your computer, but you don’t see it.

This can be caused by physical damage or natural wear and tear. Even if the device can last long, its performance will eventually deteriorate. Hardware failures in components like the hard drive or processor can cause the computer to slow down.

Quite often, a slow computer is caused by a hard drive failure. The OS boots and operates out of the hard drive, and a damaged hard drive can cause slow read and write times. An accumulation of bad sectors makes things harder for the hard drive to work properly as usual.

The fact is that, worn out hardware is the most common reason that slows down your computer. Knowing how to troubleshoot this will help fixing it. Clean up software cannot help fix a slow computer in this case.

To speed up your computer, the worn out or faulty part will need to be replaced or even better, upgraded.

Hardware replacement or upgrades to significantly speed up your computer

Almost every year, tech manufacturers release new models of their products. More memory, faster processing time, newer generation of chips etc.

Just by installing the correct parts for your computer, it will speed it up significantly. When I say “significantly”, I mean, it could fly.

There are a few hardware replacement or upgrades you can do to speed up your computer. Investing in hardware upgrades will outperform all other methods to clean up your slow computer.

They each come with their own benefits that apply to different kinds of computing uses and experiences. With this, consider each upgrade with reference to what you want to find the right upgrade for you.


Upgrade CPU to troubleshoot slow computer

The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is known as the brain of the entire computer. It is where instructions and calculations are made and executed. The CPU makes decisions and tells the other components what to do with electronic signals sent out via the motherboard.

The processor’s speed is represented with its IPS, that is instructions per speed. IPS is calculated by putting the processor’s clock rate (in hertz) and its IPC (instructions per clock). You can find out your CPU’s performance by running benchmark tests.

One thing that affects the performance of the CPU is the number processor cores it uses. These days, consumer-grade CPUs usually come in dual-core or quad-core processors. The more processor cores it makes use of, the more workload the CPU can handle.

There are also different types of CPU you can choose from. This includes Intel Celeron, Pentium, i3, i5, i7, and so on. Upgrading from Intel Celeron or Pentium to an i5 or i7 processor could get you a significant boost. If you’re only looking to upgrade from i5 to i7, there wouldn’t be much of a difference in performance.

If you are looking to upgrade your CPU, be sure to note that you can only do so with a Windows desktop computer.

Laptops have their CPU built onto the motherboard, so it’s impossible to just take the CPU out. Getting a CPU upgrade that is compatible with your desktop computer is also important.

While a CPU upgrade might seem like an easy choice to speed up your computer, options are quite limited and expensive as well. Upgrading the CPU to troubleshoot slow computer is a good method, but not always the best one.

GPU / Video card – Effective to troubleshoot slow computer for graphic design professionals

Nvidia video card GPU for desktop computer

GPU (graphics processing unit) upgrades can greatly benefits users who are keen on gaming or graphics editing. The GPU works to create images on a display, and more so to manipulate computer graphics and image processing.

So if you use your computer largely for gaming or graphics editing, you may want to look into getting a more powerful video card to support your computing needs. Playing games on a weaker graphics card can slow down the display and possibly disrupt your gaming experience.

Like the CPU, laptop video cards are usually embedded on the motherboard. So you can only upgrade your video card if you have a Windows desktop computer. Video cards that are more powerful will draw more power, so you might have to upgrade your power supply to support it.

RAM – Effective, more cost-effective way to troubleshoot slow computer problem for multitaskers

RAM memory chips

Computer memory RAM is important for multitasking, heavy graphic design software users. Upgrading RAM is a great, cost effective way to troubleshoow slow computer for these users.

RAM makes use of volatile memory chips for almost instant access of data that you might need while working on something.

This helps to keep things at the ready, rather than your system having to read from the hard drive all the time. So while you have different apps and windows open, the data you may need is readily stored in your computer’s memory.

As RAM comes in set capacities, you may find that need more memory for larger multitasking capabilities. Here are some common RAM capacities, together with its intended use.

  • 4GB — bare minimum for daily personal use
  • 8GB — recommended amount for personal use
  • 16GB — for high graphics use, photo editing software
  • 32GB and more — for movie editing and more

If you do a lot of multitasking, getting a RAM upgrade can get you a 30% performance boost. Before you do, you may also want to check whether your RAM comes in separate chips or is built onto the motherboard. You may add more chips in if they are separate from the motherboard.

Hard drive replacement

2.5-inch hdd hard drive

Hard drives are notorious for being a common computer issue. They don’t last very long and will fail over time. Its performance goes down and may even stop working.

Traditional hard drives contain spinning parts to read and write data. This delicate machinery can be prone to physical damage and bad sectors that causes hard drive failure.

While bad sectors do sound a bit intimidating, its something that all hard drives have. Nothing’s perfect, and so is the case for the hard drive manufacturing process. Even brand new hard drives come with a tiny amount of bad sectors, and they will accumulate over time.

When bad sectors on a drive accumulates to an intolerable point, the drive will start to fail. This will become noticeable if you start noticing slow boot up times or long response times from apps.

You can refresh your system by getting a new drive, preferably a better performing one if you want. A hard drive replacement is one of the most effective and quickest way to refresh and speed up your computer, you can even do it yourself easily!

Want to learn more about why hard drives fail and how to repair them? Learn more about hard drive error signs and how to test your hard drive for issues in our guide “Top 8 hard drive issues and how to fix them yourself“.

Switching to a solid-state drive (SSD) – One of the best ways to troubleshoot slow computer instead of simple “clean up”

A SSD will troubleshoot slow computer and speed it up

For the best of both worlds, consider an SSD upgrade. SSDs are better for both durability and performance, offering things that a traditional HDD can’t. It makes use of non-volatile NAND memory, which does not require moving parts to operate.

This lowers the risk of accidental physical damage, which makes it longer-lasting than HDDs.

Switching to an SSD from an HDD is a very popular upgrade solution these days as a quick performance boost. In fact, upgrading to SSD is the best way to troubleshoot slow computer problem, better than all “how to clean up slow computer” methods.

It can offer speeds up to 16 times faster than an HDD, which is a huge boost for performance.

Along with hard drive replacements, SSD upgrades can be a quick and worthwhile solution to slow laptops or desktop computers. However, if you’re thinking about getting an SSD upgrade together with a RAM upgrade, it might not be necessary.

SSDs are already fast enough for multitasking and other uses that RAM assists with, so you might not even need that much more RAM along with the SSD.

If you want your computer to fly, achieve monster productivity, you should seriously consider upgrading to SSD.

6. Water damage

Yes, water damages can make your computer slow too.

For example, water can damage SMC controller in an Apple Mac laptop, causing it failing to read temperature from certain parts. When this happens, the laptop throttles its CPU which slows down the computer.

And, it’s not just “water”, it can be humidity.

Moisture in the air can partially turn into water and causes the damages, or even kill your computer.

There were some weeks when it rained heavily everyday, the weather was wet. We saw dead laptops, slow computers coming in on daily basis.

Or, water leak may have happened and you didn’t know it.

For example, you had your laptop screen lid up, and water was leaking to it from behind. The screen blocked the view so you didn’t notice.

Computers like Apple Mac laptops have ventilation under the screen hinge cover. Hence, water leaking from behind will go straight into its internal components and causes damages.

macbook pro water spill

If your computer had water damages, it’s harder to tell if the slowness was caused by water, or by aging computer.

Here is some troubleshooting tips that you can try yourself, at home:

Checking your computer for possible problems

Running diagnostics on your computer from time to time can be helpful even if your computer is running fine.

You might also be able to find out why your laptop or desktop computer is running slower than usual, if it turns out to be a hardware issue.

Simple apps like chkdsk can help you detect and repair bad sectors, while full diagnostics tests or dedicated hardware analysis software can help you do more than simple tests.

Running diagnostics on your laptop or desktop computer

Your computer should come with built-in apps specific to its brand that you can use to run full diagnostics on hardware. These are apps like Dell SupportAssist or HP Support Assistant. This offers specific tests and solutions tailored to your model of computer.

Dell forum, or Apple community are also a good source to get answers without leaving your house.

Otherwise, you may also choose to run diagnostics from startup, also known as boot diagnostics, or pre-boot diagnostics.

You can enter boot diagnostics by entering a key specific to your computer’s brand. For Dell it’s For Dell it’s “F12”, “ESC” key for HP, “Enter” key for Lenovo ThinkPad laptops and Lenovo ThinkCentre desktop computers, and “D” key for Apple Macs.

Unfortunately, some computers don’t come with built-in diagnostic tools: Acer, ASUS, Toshiba, Razer, Clevo, and Lenovo IdeaPads.

Don’t you hate it when they don’t make these tools built-in.

Your system will report possible hardware issues found on components such as the fan, processor, or hard drive. Your slow computer problem could be traced back to hardware issues, or simply some other software problems.

Need same-day computer repairs and IT services?

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Getting professional help to troubleshoot your slow computer

Finding yourself not so technologically adept? Don’t have the time to do more research? Getting professional repair services from a technician might be what you’re thinking about doing.

You can get help from an authorised service centre or a third-party service. Or, simply getting advice from an experienced retailer can also be beneficial.

For authorised service centres, they can usually offer free computer servicing if your device is still covered by warranty or care. While an authorised service centre can get you specialised services, they might not be able to fix your device if it is too old or offer upgrade services.

Some might choose to go to a third-party repair service instead, if their warranty has run out, or they might not live close enough to a service centre.

If you’re looking for expert technical help in Inner West Sydney, our technicians at Safemode Computer Service can definitely be of service. We fix both desktop computers and laptops, Windows and Apple Mac computers.

We can help you find the right upgrade option for you, as well as any computer issues that you might be facing. This includes virus spyware removal, or data recovery. Come by our Inner West store for our highly rated services today.

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