floydius it's almost like you've got nothing better to do

5Jan/10Off

How I fix your (windows) computer

It’s a new decade, but some things never change. Over the course of the last ten years, I’ve built (and fixed) more than a few computers. Amazingly, I’ve never had to fix anything but a windows machine. (Of course, Macs don’t break (usually), and people who run Linux are used to finding answers on their own. : ) In any case, I thought I’d put down in writing why computers become slow, and what I do to fix it. So get ready to be the envy of your friends, neighbors, and even impress your girlfriend (let’s face it, if you know how to do all of this already, you probably don’t have one).

Why is my computer so slow?

Yeah, I know. When you bought your computer it was all speedy, but now it’s not. What’s the deal?

Your computer is slow because of one or more of the following three reasons:

  • You have too many applications running simultaneously with not enough RAM (memory) to support them.

  • You have some sort of spyware bogging down your computer. This is actually just a subtype of #1.
  • You have a virus designed specifically to slow down your computer, or designed to do other things in the background without being detected. This is also a subtype of #1.

So now that we’ve identified the problem, let me tell you exactly what I do, almost every time, to fix it:

  1. I run msconfig. Just go to your Start menu and click on “Run”. Then type in msconfig.exe and hit ‘enter’. If you’re on Windows 7, just type msconfig in the start menu search box, and hit ‘enter’.

  2. I go to the tab that says ‘startup’. This tab shows you what programs are slated to begin running as soon as you boot your computer, before you get a chance to do anything, and they are the main reason your computer takes so long to boot in the first place. Some of them are important, and some are not. I usually un-click them all, unless I know for sure that I want it running at bootup. You will not break anything here, even if you un-click every single one. If it’s a necessary program, it will just start up again at next boot anyway. If you’re still confused, here’s a handy dandy website to help you.
  3. I reboot. You will probably notice that your desktop loads a lot quicker this time than it usually does. When the little box comes up warning you that you used msconfig, just check the box saying not to show it again, and be done with it.
  4. I uninstall all the programs that are either unnecessary or that the person whose computer I’m fixing doesn’t even know are there. Go to your Start menu, choose ‘Control Panel’, and then ‘Add or Remove Programs’. Then find the ones you don’t need, and get rid of them. If you’re unsure about a particular program, put the name of said program in a search engine and see what comes up. That’s how I decide when I don’t know.
  5. I get rid of Norton Antivirus. I cannot stress this enough, and there are plenty of people who still won’t listen to me, but Norton is terrible. Yes, it may help keep viruses off of your computer. However, if it brings your computer to a cripplingly slow pace in the process, what good is it? If you cannot seem to remove Norton (or Symantec, same thing) from your computer via the control panel or an uninstall program in the Norton/Symantec folder, then consult your nearest geek for help, or just google the word “uninstall” and the name of your particular brand of Norton product.
  6. I get rid of IE. Stop using Internet Explorer. It’s bad… stop it. Find some other browser to use. I recommend Firefox, but there are many others. Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari are also good choices if you’re looking for alternatives.
  7. On my new non-IE browser, I download and run Spybot S&D. This is going to find and help you remove any spyware that may still be on your computer.
  8. I download and run Clamwin AV. This will help you identify and remove any viruses that may still be on your computer.
  9. I reboot, and I’m good to go.

Optionally, you can run a registry cleaner like Ccleaner to clean up your registry (in case you have old entries remaining from previously installed programs, corrupted entries, or other problems). Some people like to defragment their hard drive as well, but it’s not as necessary in the NTFS file system that has been in place since Windows NT/XP, since that file system doesn’t fragment as much as Fat32 did.

Hopefully this will help some of you better understand and solve your slow PC problems. I still think you should try Ubuntu, or get a Mac though. : )

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. And don’t forget the infamous “too much stuff on your hard drive” issue. (I suppose this goes along with deleting unneccesary programs.) I’m not sure it happens to many other people, since I assume most people usually don’t fill up a hard drive, but more times than I’d like to admit I’ve noticed my computer running obnoxiously slow only to find out that I am running low on space for my operating system partition. Naturally, the best way to avoid it is to install your OS on its own partition to begin with, giving it plenty of space to work with, and then not adding a lot of programs or data to the same partition. I was surprised at the exponential decrease in speed associated with filling up a partition.
    Also, while I agree that Firefox is still the faster and more hassle-free internet browser to use, I’ve noticed that IE8, as opposed to IE7, has almost comparable memory usage to the version of Firefox I have installed on my computer, and with the release of Google’s public DNS (8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4), I haven’t noticed much difference between the two browsers. I think we can all agree that Norton is evil, though. I spent a couple days removing the traces of it from my mom’s computer, including a proxy port that Norton added to the wireless card’s configuration settings that was protected by some strange permissions policy that I couldn’t just change as an administrator.
    Finally, I would buy a Mac, but I have too much pride and not enough money, haha. Good tips though, Lloyd!

  2. Along with all the good instructions you gave Lloyd, I want to emphasize the hard drive more. NTFS is not fool-proof. Specially with IDE hard drives, the hard drive is USUALLY the slowest part of the computer. I’ve even seen better performance after I’ve defragged my SATA drives.

    1) As Jacob said, removing large files from the computer is needed. Also remove unused programs (step 4 above). Open My Computer, right click C:, click Search. Then search for all files on your computer by typing *.* You’ll have to wait a long time, but when it’s finished, order by file size. Find the largest files on your computer and delete them if you know what they are and if you can live without them.

    2) Defrag. Start > Assessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. Choose to analyze and/or defrag the C: drive.


Trackbacks are disabled.