Looking back at this year’s repairs we seem to have two distinct issues that keep cropping up – compromised computers (The bad guys are after your money!) or computers that are so slow the owner has been tempted to throw it out of the nearest window.
We dealt with the bad guys in a previous post so now it’s time to talk about the slow computers.
What do we do?
The first thing I do is find out how old the computer is, if it’s less than 2/3 years old we’re probably looking at a fault, if it’s older than 3/4 years old it could probably do with some love and attention.
Let’s take the newer computer first. We’ll turn it on and see if it’s slow to start up. It’s time then to get into a key area of a Windows computer – the event logs. You can get to these through control panel / administrative tools / event viewer ( I can talk about how to access this in future if anyone wants some more detailed info). In here we look first at the system log. This log is where windows captures information about events relating to the system such as hardware failures.
What we’re looking for is any repeated errors:
Without blowing our own trumpet too much , the skill is in interpreting the serious from the trivial. Windows can be very noisy about what it reports! Disk errors are a classic cause of a slow computer and if yours is failing, you’ll see it reported here many times – sometimes like this:
Other causes of slowness with newer machines are often down to incorrectly installed software or possibly a malware infection. It seems that sometimes even after an infection is cleaned by anti-virus software, the resulting damage leaves the computer limping along. Often the only sensible remedy for this is to wipe the machine and reinstall everything (yes, I’m going to lecture about backups again!)
So for a machine that’s less than 3 years old that’s running slow this is a rough checklist:-
Check hardware (hard disk first then other errors)
Check for viruses or malware (or evidence of recently cleaned infection)
Any recently installed software ?
Any specific date when it seemed to slow down? If so, consider doing a system restore (only if you have a backup – in fact, stop what you’re doing and make a backup!)
If nothing obvious wipe and reinstall from backup – or if possible do a factory reset. This is more tedious because you have to reinstall any software that you installed previously.
Now we come to the older computers.
Unless you can identify a particular event when things seemed to slow down, we follow a similar pattern as we did for the newer model. That is, we look for hardware failures, viruses etc. Note that I don’t talk about defragging the hard-drive. It’s often something I’m asked about but to be honest I’ve haven’t seen a machine in years where a defrag made a significant difference to the performance of a home pc. Back in the 90’s perhaps but now it just doesn’t seem to be a factor.
Check if you still have software installed for printers that you don’t have any more. A lot of printer/scanners install software to run at start-up and this can slow the machine considerably.
Are your windows updates all up to date?
Anti-virus current? Also worth checking you’ve only got one anti-virus product installed. If you’re not happy with your AV, get another that you are happy with. Installing two on the same machine rarely ends well if you want a fast machine.
in just about every older machine I see, the easiest thing you can do (though maybe not the cheapest) is to swap the hard drive for a newer solid state (SSD) drive. It seems that with ever increasing demands on PC’s through firewall, ant-virus software and other software that loads when you start your machine, the older “mechanical” drives just can’t really cope. I put an SSD in a 7 year old Sony Vaio earlier this year and the owner felt it was now faster than when it was new! In a laptop they’re also good because they draw less power so you usually get a great improvement in battery life.
So to summarise – newer machines tend to be slow because something is broken or have software mis-installed. Older machines just can’t keep up because of redundant software still running or because the demands placed on them are causing the performance to drop,
An SSD is a great way to breathe new life into an old Sloth! Fitted and setup by us you’re usually looking at the £100 pound mark. The price is dependent on the disk capacity.
If you’ve got the time and the interest you can always have a go yourself!