What Causes Slow Computers?
Computers can become slower over time. The reasons why you have a slow computer can be rather complex, and often there can be multiple reasons. We will attempt to explain a few common reasons, and give some potential solutions. These issues are often the hardest to diagnose and repair to get a permanent solution. My experience in tech support dealing with slow computers is that some problems are just not cost effective to fix. After some basic diagnostics to solve the most common issues, the question might be is it time for a new computer?
Firstly, never, ever believe something on your screen saying “Your computer is running slow!! Click here to fix it !!!,” as it is very likely to be a scam or just an attempt to sell you something that you don’t need. There is no way that using a web browser that any company can detect how “fast” your computer is running. Unfortunately in the computer industry there are just as many people trying to take advantage of you through scams as there are those trying to help you.
We run through a few of the most common issues that cause computers to slow down that we have found.
Potential Cause – Hardware
Most computer hardware components should not “wear” in theory. The exception to this rule is for hard disk drives, which contain moving parts operating at extremely fast speeds extremely close to each other, or in the case of SSD hard drives that have limited lifespans.
Hard Disk Repair
Over time the performance of hard drives hardware can degrade significantly, resulting in a slow computer but you are unlikely to notice any speed difference in the first 3 years of operation. Modern drives contain something called S.M.A.R.T which is a nice sounding acronym which represents “Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology.” This information contained in your disk can be read by specialised software. There are free tools available on the internet to read the S.M.A.R.T information of your disk, although sometimes it may be a challenge to get the right software for your particular brand of disk. The S.M.A.R.T report can tell you what the status of your disk is, but also has some specific information beyond the understanding of most people. If your computer is used often, after about 3 years it will likely to be moving towards a degraded performance and starting to cause some slowdowns. Replacement is the only real option in this case. Some software that may read your S.M.A.R.T status is here, be careful not to install the added “web browser extension”. This particular software is best used in conjunction with a Google search on what values your hard drive should be reporting. Drives can be significantly different in their normal operating ranges.
All computers should contain a number of fans that run to cool different parts of the computer. The most common location of fans are in the power supply, the CPU (processor), the case and optionally if you have an external graphics card. Of these fans, three of them can cause issues resulting in slower computer performance. The CPU fan is most critical, followed by the graphics card fan and the case fans. CPU fans blow cool air over the processor housing trying to cool the CPU. All CPU’s have inbuilt “thermal controls” which slow the performance of the device as things heat up to protect the CPU. If not enough cool air is reaching the CPU you will definitely see some major slow downs in the computer performance. Again there is some specific software that may aid in diagnosing whether the CPU temperature is causing problems such as Real Temp. If your CPU is running at temperatures above about 70 degrees it may be cause for concern. Unfortunately there are a few exceptions to this rule, so it cannot be used as a “rule of thumb.” Intel and AMD give product information indicating what the normal temperature of your particular CPU should be. Again, your friend Google will quickly find that information. Cleaning the fans with a vacuum cleaner very carefully can increase airflow and remove the problem. If the dust is embedded deeply into the cooling unit it may need more cleaning which could be beyond the skills of some users. Graphics cards suffer from the same issues, but the normal temperatures of the graphics cards is even more complex of CPU’s. Lastly case fans provide the general cooling, and are just as important to stay free of dust. It is a good idea when purchasing a new computer to check the dust proofing of the case. Some companies now offer a range of filters to block more dust than what was provided in the past.