Hardware

10 tips for troubleshooting PC system slowdowns

When PC performance slows to a crawl, a systematic troubleshooting plan will help you zero in on the cause. Deb Shinder runs through likely culprits and describes steps you can take to improve system performance.

Windows 7 has been out for almost a year, and the PCs you bought right after its release may be slowing down now. User complaints are minimal when new PCs are rolled out. They start up quickly, and programs seem to open in a snap. But over time, users begin to notice that their systems are slower or hang up more and more often. While the possible causes of system slowdown are endless, this article identifies 10 common troubleshooting areas you should examine before you consider drastic steps such as reformatting and reimaging or buying new computers.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Processor overheating

Chipmakers have recently been working to make processors more efficient, which means they generate less heat. Nonetheless, some modern processors still generate a lot of heat. That's why all processors require some sort of cooling element, typically a fan of some type. A system's Thermal Design Point (TDP) rating indicates, in watts, how much heat it can safely dissipate without exceeding the maximum temperature for the chip. When the processor temperature goes over spec, the system can slow down or run erratically (lock up) or may simply reboot. The processor fan may fail for several reasons:

  • Dust is preventing the fan from spinning smoothly.
  • The fan motor has failed.
  • The fan bearings are loose and jiggling.

Often, you can tell if there is a fan problem by listening and/or touching the computer. A fan that has loose bearings starts jiggling and vibrates the case, making a characteristic noise. As time goes by, the sounds and vibrations will become so prominent that you'll change the fan out just to regain some peace and quiet.

You don't always need to replace the fan. If it is covered with dust, you can often spray away the dust with compressed air. But even though you might get the fan running again, its life span has likely been reduced because of the overwork. You should keep an extra fan in reserve in case of failure.

Processors may also overheat because the heat sink is not properly placed above the processor or the thermal paste is not of good quality or was applied incorrectly (or not at all) when the system was built. This is more likely to be a problem with home-built systems but can happen with commercially manufactured ones as well. The paste can break down over time, and you may need to reapply it.

Case design is another element that can contribute to or help prevent overheating. Cases with extra fans, better vents, and adequate room inside for good airflow may cost more but can provide superior cooling performance. Small cases that squeeze components together can cause overheating. For this reason, laptops with powerful processors are prone to overheating.


Tip

Another common reason for processor overheating is overclocking. Until heat begins to take its toll, overclocking does allow for significant performance improvements. Because processor overclocking can really cook a processor, most dedicated overclockers do not use regular processor fans. Instead, they use complex -- and expensive -- water-cooling systems. For more information on overclocking, check out overclockers.com.


Overheating can also be caused by the external temperature (that is, the temperature in the room). Computers no longer have to be kept in cold rooms as they did in the early days of computing, but if the room temperature goes above 80, you may find your computers exhibiting the symptoms of overheating. If the temperature is uncomfortable for you, it's probably too high for your computers. Adequate ventilation is also important.

Most computers today have an option to display the CPU temperature in the BIOS. There are also a number of utilities that will track the temperature of your processor and case, such as Core Temp. If you want to look for other such utilities, check out TechRepublic's software library and use the search term "temperature."

2: Bad RAM

Several situations can lead to RAM-related performance problems with a particular machine:

  • RAM timing is slower than optimal machine spec.
  • RAM has minor flaws that appear only on detailed testing.
  • RAM is overheating.
  • There is insufficient RAM.

In the old days of Fast Page RAM, buying new RAM for your computer was a simple affair. You just needed to know what speed your motherboard supported and the maximum each slot would take. Today, there are many types and speeds of RAM, and the better motherboards may be tolerant of using RAM that does not match the motherboard's maximum specs. For example, your motherboard may support PC133 RAM but will still work with PC100 RAM. But be aware that you may see performance decreases if you install RAM that is slower than the maximum spec. Some motherboards will even allow you to mix speeds but will default to the slowest RAM installed.

Minor flaws in RAM chips can lead to system slowdowns and instability. The least expensive chips often have minor flaws that will cause your system to slow down or Blue Screen intermittently. Although built-in mechanisms may allow the system to keep working, there is a performance hit when it has to deal with flawed RAM chips.

In the past, no one worried about RAM chips getting hot, because they didn't seem to generate much heat. But that's changed with newer RAM types, especially SDRAM. To check for overheating, open your computer's case, power down, and pull the plug out. Ground yourself and touch the plastic on one of your RAM chips. Ouch! They get pretty hot. If you find that your RAM chips are overheating, you should consider buying a separate fan to cool your memory. If your motherboard doesn't support a RAM fan, you might be able to get enough additional cooling by installing a fan card that plugs in to a PCI slot.

Of course, one common reason for poor performance that's related to RAM is simply not having enough of it. Modern operating systems such as Windows 7 and today's resource-hungry applications, combined with our increasing tendency toward extreme multitasking, result in a need for more RAM. The minimal specified system requirements may not cut it if you're doing lots of multimedia or running other memory-intensive applications. 32-bit Windows is limited to using 4 GB of RAM, but 64-bit Windows 7 can handle from 8 to 192 GB, depending on the edition. If your system allows, adding more RAM can often increase performance.

3: Hard disk issues

Traditional hard drives are mechanical devices that eventually wear out. There are many signs of imminent failure before a hard disk finally gives up. Some of these signs include:

  • Slow access times on the affected drive.
  • An increasing number of bad sectors when running scandisk and chkdsk.
  • Unexplained Blue Screens.
  • Intermittent boot failures.
  • An "Imminent Hard Disk Failure" warning.

Detecting a failing hard disk can be tricky because the early signs are subtle. Experienced computer professionals can often hear a change in the normal disk spin. After the disk deteriorates further, you'll see the system slow to a crawl. Write processes will take a long time as the system tries to find good blocks to write to. (This will occur if you're using a robust file system such as NTFS; other file systems will likely Blue Screen the computer.)

When you notice the system slowing down, run scandisk or chkdsk, depending on your operating system. If you notice a bad sector where a good sector existed earlier, that's a clue that the disk is going bad. Back up the data on the disk and prepare for it to fail soon. Make sure you have a spare disk ready so you can replace it when it fails or replace the disk as soon as you notice the early signs of failure.

Disk noise and scandisk/chkdsk are your best indicators for identifying a failing drive that's leading to a system slowdown. However, if you are managing a system remotely, or you can't take the system down for a full chkdsk/R, you can use tools that monitor disk health, such as Executive Software's DiskAlert.

You may also get a warning message from SMART hard drives that failure is imminent. Sometimes, you'll get these warnings when the hard drive is fine, due to problems with the hard drive device driver, the chipset driver, or the way the BIOS interfaces with the drive. Check for newer versions of the drivers and BIOS firmware.

Even if it's operating properly, your hard disk may be a bottleneck that's slowing down the rest of your system. See the next item for more information on what you can do about that.

4: Disk type and interface

Once upon a time, buying a hard drive to work with your system was easy. Today, things are more complicated, with many types of drives available, offering differing levels of performance. Most modern motherboards will support more than one type.

For best performance, you may want to dump the old IDE PATA type drives and upgrade to SATA, which comes in several speeds  from 1.5 Gb/s to 6 Gb/s. Obviously, the faster drives will also be more expensive. Some new computers also have eSATA connectors for attaching a SATA drive externally. Other options for attaching drives externally include USB and Firewire/IEEE 1394.

Slowdowns may be caused by installing programs or often-used files on slow external drives. If you must use external drives for such files, go with the latest version, such as USB 3.0 (which is up to four times faster than USB 2.0) or Firewire 800. If you don't have ports to support the faster version, you can install a card to add support.

New Solid State Drives (SSDs), which generally connect via SATA, can often provide better performance than other drive types, but cost much more per GB of storage space. Windows 7 includes support for TRIM, which optimizes SSD performance. SCSI drives are still around, too, notably in the form of Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) with super fast access times -- but they're expensive and noisy and used primarily for servers.

5: BIOS settings

One frequently ignored cause of system slowdown is the machine's BIOS settings. Most people accept the BIOS settings as they were configured in the factory and leave them as is. However, slowdowns may occur if the BIOS settings do not match the optimal machine configuration. Often, you can improve machine performance by researching your motherboard's optimal BIOS settings, which may not be the same as the factory defaults.

There is no centralized database of optimal BIOS settings, but you can employ a search engine such as Google or Bing and use your motherboard name and BIOS as keywords to find the correct settings.

6: Windows services

Many Windows services are enabled by default. A lot of these services, however, are not required for your machine to run properly. You should review the services running on your Windows XP/Vista/7 computer and disable those that you don't need.

One way to see which services are running is to use the Services applet found in the Administrative Tools menu. In Windows 7, click Start and type "Services" in the search box, then select Component Services. In the console's left pane, click Services (Local) to display the list of services, shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Use the Component Services console to identify the services running on your system.
Important information contained in the Services console includes the service Name, Status, and Startup Type. You can get more details on a service by double-clicking on it to bring up the service's Properties, shown in Figure B.

Figure B

The Properties sheet for the service provides detailed information.

You can stop the service by clicking the Stop button. If you are sure that you don't need the service, click the down arrow in the Startup Type drop-down list box and set the service to Disabled. If you are not sure if you need the service, change the Startup Type to Manual. Then you'll have the option of manually starting the service if you find that you need it.

Another way of controlling which services start is using the msconfig utility (see Figure C). In Windows 7, click Start and in the search box, type msconfig. Click msconfig.exe.

Figure C

Use the System Configuration utility to control the behavior of services.

Note that some secure Microsoft services cannot be disabled. These are considered essential for running the computer. For a list of some Windows 7 services you may be able to disable, see Disable unwanted services and speed up Windows 7.

7: Runaway processes

Runaway processes take up all of the processors' cycles. The usual suspects are badly written device drivers and legacy software installed on a newer operating system. You can identify a runaway process by looking at the process list in the Windows Task Manager (see Figure D). Any process that takes almost 100 percent of the processing time is likely a runaway process.

Figure D

Use the Task Manager to identify processes that are slowing the system.

We see an exception to this rule, however, if we click the button to Show Processes From All Users. On a smoothly running system, the System Idle Process should be consuming the majority of the processor cycles most of the time. If any other process were to take up 98 percent of the processor cycles, you might have a runaway process.

If you do find a runaway process, you can right-click it and click the End Process command. You may need to stop some processes, such as runaway system services, from the Services console. If you can't stop the service using the console, you may need to reboot the system. Sometimes a hard reboot is required.

For more detailed information about running processes, check out Process Explorer 12.04, shown in Figure E. This is a handy little utility written by Mark Russinovich that includes powerful search capabilities.

Figure E

Process Explorer gives you more detailed information about running processes.
8: Disk fragmentation

As files are added, deleted, and changed on a disk, the contents of the file can become spread across sectors located in disparate regions of the disk. This is file fragmentation. All Windows operating systems subsequent to Windows NT have built-in disk defragmentation tools, but there are also third -party programs available that give you more options.

If you have traditional hard disks, disk fragmentation can significantly slow down your machine. The disk heads must move back and forth while seeking all the fragments of a file. A common cause of disk fragmentation is a disk that is too full. You should keep 20 percent to 25 percent of your hard disk space free to minimize file fragmentation and to improve the defragmenter's ability to defrag the disk. So if a disk is too full, move some files off the drive and restart the defragmenter.

Note that SSDs work differently and can access any location on the drive in essentially the same amount of time. Thus, they don't need to be defragmented.

9: Background applications

Have you ever visited an end user's desktop and noticed a dozen icons in the system tray? Each icon represents a process running in either the foreground or background. Most of them are running in the background, so the users may not be aware that they are running 20+ applications at the same time.

This is due to applications starting up automatically in the background. You can find these programs in the Startup tab of the System Configuration utility, as shown in Figure F. Uncheck the box to disable the program from starting at bootup.

Figure F

You can disable programs from starting when you boot Windows.
10: File system issues and display options

Some file systems work better than others for large disk partitions. Windows 7 should always use the NTFS file system for best performance.

Cleaning up the file system will also help speed performance. You can use the Disk Cleanup tool to:

  • Remove temporary Internet files.
  • Remove downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets).
  • Empty the Recycle Bin.
  • Remove Windows temporary files such as error reports.
  • Remove optional Windows components you don't use.
  • Remove installed programs you no longer use.
  • Remove unused restore points and shadow copies from System Restore.

To run Disk Cleanup in Windows 7, click Start and type "Disk Cleanup" in the search box. Select the drive you want to clean up.

Another way to increase performance is by turning off some of the visual effects that make Windows 7 look cool but use valuable system resources. In Control Panel, click the System applet and in the left pane, click Advanced System Settings. Under Performance, click the Settings button and then the Visual Effects tab. Here, you can disable selected Aero effects or just click Adjust For Best Performance, as shown in Figure G, which disables them all.

Figure G

You can turn off selected (or all) visual effects to increase performance.

Conclusion

When troubleshooting a system slowdown, you should always look for potential hardware problems first. Then, investigate the common software problems. If you use a systematic troubleshooting plan, you should be able to improve the performance of most computers suffering from system slowdown.


About

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

80 comments
william.xu
william.xu

It improves speed if you have install and uninstall many software.

MeadowsPV
MeadowsPV

Many clients load freeware tools to 'ehance thier computing experience'. These tools often add additional 'features' that if not unselected installs a myriad of virus scanners, tool bars and gadgets. Note well, that these additions may or may not conflict with existing installation/configuration. Most end users select default installation options and take no notice of the potential impact, leaving a technician to resolve [PC system slowdowns]

Leqtown1987
Leqtown1987

Would someone please show me how to remove Windows temporary files such as error reports?Thanks

mihai_mgd
mihai_mgd

In this document at point 3) is a link to "http://www.diskeeper.com/support/techsupport.aspx". When I accessed it: "Reported Web Forgery! This web page at www.diskeeper.com has been reported as a web forgery and has been blocked based on your security preferences. Web forgeries are designed to trick you into revealing personal or financial information by imitating sources you may trust. Entering any information on this web page may result in identity theft or other fraud." There is any malware?

PHILLMASH
PHILLMASH

For speed and effeciency....don't assume some common flaws with your system.

wizdumb
wizdumb

This may sound bizarre - it's only on one PC that I've experienced it, and it's too early after diagnosis to be 100% certain I've solved the problem permanently - but here goes. On a fast desktop machine (i7 & SSD hard drive, Win7 64-bit) I was encountering a progressive slowdown during any Windows session of certain explorer functions. For example, certain dialog boxes that I invoke hundreds of times a day (e.g. open/save on UltraEdit or Snagit editor) would take longer and longer to load, the longer the session had been going on. They would snap back after a reboot, but then the whole cycle would repeat. Nothing else was acting slow. Process explorer, performance monitor, etc. - nothing I tried could pinpoint any kind of process or service as being responsible, there was no drag on CPU or ram, event viewer showed nothing, etc. Chkdsk and memory checks all okay. But as far as the affected explorer/shell functions, I felt like I was back in Windows 98 and running out of resources! I finally traced it to some mix of the illuminated USB keyboard I was using plus device manager settings for USB hubs and/or the power options settings for USB selective suspend. Reverting to a plain PS2 basic keyboard fixed the problem entirely. Disabling USB hub suspend and/or USB selective suspend also mostly fixes it even with the problematic keyboard attached. Anybody else run into problems traceable to peripherals and the ports they attach to?

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

If not mentioned, you can add garbage left behind from old installations. As an example, you used Motorola Phone Tools but ditched the phone and software when you switched to a BlackBerry Bold 9700. Problem is that the Motorola phone software was removed but junk is left behind. If you use Microsoft/Sysinternal's AutoRuns you can see which garbage is left behind that is loading but may not be used at all.

rpetitpas
rpetitpas

I found interesting the points given by Debra. For routine speeduping a system I do the following steps, in the order given: 1. Make sure there are no virus and no malware present. Use AV and AM software. Tools I like are NOD32, SpyBot S&D, Malwarebytes AM. Step "Kick bugs out". 2. Clean all debris with tools like CCleaner or R-Wipe&Clean. Step "Take a bath". 3. Clean the Registry with tools like RegScrub, Registry Booster or other proven tool. Ideally that tool should also be able to defragment the registry. Step "Comb nicely". 4. There is another step which I found out that speed up systems in no negligible way: to wipe the MFT, which becomes huge innecesarily and makes windows loose more time looking for file addresses slowing everything. The tool I use is R-Wipe&Clean. This is a slow process, can take many hours but the result is worth the pain. 5. Last step is to defrag hard drives/partitions. The tool I like is O&ODefrag. Step "The final makeup". Best regards, Roberto

jacobus57
jacobus57

I looked up the author, and while she has an MCSE (big deal), it appears that she has no field experience. Anyone can tack a bunch of letters for "certifications" after their name, but unless those certifications are tested in the crucible of field experience, experience that gives a technician the skills to assess the user, the environment, and the unique "ecosystem" of EVERY machine, they are useless. As for me, twenty-three years in the field working on everything from the old ATs to AS400s, on OSes from Win 3.1 to the most recent iterations of Windows, the Mac OS and various Linux distros; extensive experience with more types of shrink-wrapped, Open Souce, freeware, and full on FOSS apps than I can count; designing, installing, and PD'ing a variety of clusters, network scenarios, and environments, has left me with a long list of very satisfied clients. T This blogger is a poser, yet another sad example of the worst the internet has to offer as it has become a frontier overrun with self-defined, shamelessly self-promoting "experts." If you don't believe me, read her resume: http://www.shinder.net/debres.htm I guess I am too busy plying my trade to hawk myself and endlessly blog regarding topics about which I really know very little.

Persepone
Persepone

OK--under Windows Services--does anyone out there know what PC Angel is? It's the only "service" I can't figure out what it is and whether it should be "automatic" or "manual" or "stopped" or what... My other question: if you change a service from automatic to manual, what tells you you need to turn it on?

MeadowsPV
MeadowsPV

imho, PC slow downs on your stated Win7 1 year old PC seem slanted to mostly hardware related issues. IF you had used an 'older' machine (3-10 years) as your refrence, the article has more merit. Your minor mentioning of [non-mafacturer (added)]legacy software installation issues does have merit. If the software came on the PC from the factory, and the PC was fast on day one, thier software installation can be ignored as a slowness issue. Slowdown PC issues seen by many technicians are malwares/viruses/PUPs or possibly user installed non-WIN7 compatible [legacy] software. And yes, users usually do not perform routine file and disk maintenance. Many users do not modify the hardware on thier PCs, so slowness due to hardware & driver misconfigurations are 'usually' not to blame. Your example of mismatched RAM from the factory is highly unlikely. I also doubt, seriously, if any PC sold in the last year has a PATA IDE drive installed; it is hard enough to find a new ATA6 IDE drive, in the current marked. Factory set BIOS is another. If it came from the factory with default settings, were unmodified, AND was fast at day one, then BIOS issues are also unlikely. Overheating issues are of significance, many are due to user ignorance or neglect; e.g. changing BIOS settings, room temperature, PC shoved in a non-vented desk cubby, or floor mounted in a dusty / furry pet environment or placing a notebook [formerly laptop]on one's lap or bed or carpet. However, a one year old desktop or mobile computer from the factory, having a failure from dried thermal paste is almost blasphemous, especially since many mfgs. use silicone thermal pads and thermal epoxy. I agree with many of your hardware failure issues and resolutions in much older PCs and/or user modified ones. As I said at the beginning, this article does apply for older, kit form [bundled parts] or user modified computers.

cory.schultze
cory.schultze

Take a look in Regedit at: HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Run ...and the same folder in HKCU. Get rid of anything that?s not related to your antivirus, printer, sound card, graphics (or any other hardware unless you don?t use it), network tools or database servers. Also, you may wish to take a look through your scheduled tasks - this is in (Administrative Tools in Vista/7) And finally, empty your temp folders (put this in a text file and rename the .txt to .bat: DEL /q "%userprofile%\Cookies\*.*" DEL /q "%userprofile%\Local Settings\Temp\*.*" IF EXIST "%userprofile%\Local Settings\History\History.IE5" GOTO HistoryIE5 DEL /q "%userprofile%\Local Settings\History\*.*" :TempInternet IF EXIST "%UserProfile%\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5" GOTO ContentIE5 DEL /q "%userprofile%\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\*.*" GOTO UsrComplete :HistoryIE5 DEL /q "%userprofile%\Local Settings\History\History.IE5\*.*" GOTO TempInternet :ContentIE5 DEL /q "%UserProfile%\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\*.*" DEL /q "%Temp%\*.*" RD /s /q "%SystemRoot%\$NtServicePackUninstall$" FOR /f "delims=" %%a in ('dir/ad/b %systemroot%\$NtUninstall*') do (rd /s /q "%systemroot%\%%a") For Vista/7 users: DEL /q "%LocalAppData%\Temp\*.*" DEL /q "%LocalAppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\*.*" DEL /q "%LocalAppData%\Microsoft\Windows\History\*.*" See about clearing your page file aswell and if you have any animations on your display settings (especially an animated gif desktop background) get rid. Finally, Windows XP needs an absolute minimum of 256MB RAM to run itself alone, with all the latest updates. I recommend 1GB for standard users or 2GB for gamers. PC2-6400 or faster is ideal with low latencies (4 or 5), but if you have an old system, PC-3200 should be your choice. Older still, you'll want to overclock your PC-133 to 200 MHz or faster, depending on if your latencies are low (2 or 2.5) and if your processor is stable enough.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

It IS spam! YOU shoulda marked it. :D

MeadowsPV
MeadowsPV

http://www.microsoft.com/atwork/maintenance/speed.aspx Free up disk space:- The Disk Cleanup tool helps you free up space on your hard disk to improve the performance of your computer. The tool identifies files that you can safely delete, and then enables you to choose whether you want to delete some or all of the identified files. Use Disk Cleanup to: 1. Remove temporary Internet files. 2. Remove downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets). 3. Empty the Recycle Bin. 4. Remove Windows temporary files such as error reports. 5. Remove optional Windows components that you don't use. 6. Remove installed programs that you no longer use. 7. Remove unused restore points and shadow copies from System Restore. ?Delete files using Disk Cleanup? http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/Delete-files-using-Disk-Cleanup

SamFrench
SamFrench

I went to Diskeeper.com, and I pasted the link in your posting into my browser and was re-directed to a SECURE page which did, in fact, ask for information. The explanation was that I was basically trying to access a service which required a logon profile. I do websites as part of my living so my security settings are admittedly a little to the lax side of what's' probably 100% safe. But even when I turn them WAAAY up, I don't get any dialogs telling me about a reported web forgery. That doesn't sound like the real language of a legitimate warning, either. May I suggest the following: Go to any other website that has a "membership" sign up process (try to reply to a post on some site you're not a member of) and let yourself be redirected to a similar form. See if the same dialog pops up in your face. Try following the clues of the "warning" you were given. Go into your browsers preferences and temporarily allow EVERYTHING. Go back to the same URL and see if you get the same "warning." Chances are, you will. Then put your security settings back where you usually have them. Get a utility like process explorer. You can mouse over any element on the screen and it will tell you everything you want to know about it... And then some. As you drill down through the process responsible for that dialog, you'll come across a thread that points right to the code responsible for the "warning." (You must have it on the screen while running Process Explorer. Just touch the top bar with your mouse and watch the PE window. I can almost guarantee you something nefarious is at work. The re-direct on the Diskeeper site was to a SECURE html page, the company is partnered with Dell, HP, Microsoft and a bunch of other brand name alumni and, from the sounds of it, the warning you got sounds funny. The part about warning you before giving out personal information was legitimate enough, but to call a site page a "forgery" just doesn't make sense. A real warning would say something more concrete like their site certificate was out of date or that you were being re-directed to another domain and it would have a clickable reference to take you to the source of the accusation, not just lamely say your security settings were preventing you from anything. It would also say which setting you need to change. You can also try using another browser and going back to the same URL. If you're not familiar with Process Explorer or similar utilities, run all the malware removal tools you can find. The Microsoft tool generally comes with Windows Updates every month or so. But there are other reputable, free ones out there. As always, make sure your anti-virus definitions/signatures are up-to-date and if none of that works, you can always call Ghostbusters (kidding) or someone with experience in exorcising malware demons out of computers. Hope this helps, Sam French

MytonLopez
MytonLopez

I do not know if this is related but ran into a problem where my photos (jpegs) were opening slow on my computer that I had saved on my desktop and for a long time just dealt with it until I found out the root problem. I had shortcuts on my desktop that were not valid and caused my jpegs to take a really long time to open. Kind of weird but this happened on my XP box.

gechurch
gechurch

I can't say I've seen that problem before. The whole time I was reading your post I was thinking "resource leak - GDI handle, or paged pool etc". Keyboard wasn't even on my list of suspects! I've certainly seen peripherals cause issues before though. My 'favourite' was a machine that came in with a BSOD every boot. It took me a while, but I tracked it down to the webcam driver. Every time I installed it, it would BSOD the next reboot. The driver must have been watching for any USB activity, kicking in when it saw any (presumably starting with a check if the webcam was the cause of the activity), then been doing something dumb to cause the stop error.

NetMammal
NetMammal

Ditto the removal of old anti-virus. I have found lots of machines with shreds of Norton or Mcafee still running, even though they have another A/V product. (Of course having TWO A/V products installed does cause slow-downs, and I suspect is a more common real-world cause of slow-downs than overheating.) The regular defrag tools can't defrag the system files. Look to the sysInternals PageDefrag tool: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb897426.aspx, which does the deed on the next boot. BTW, I'm apparently lacking the certs to get the nod, yet I can do this in my sleep. I started life as a S/W engineer, and have only been doing this full-time for 2-3 years. I actually think guys who get the certs are fine, but they may actually have less real-world experience for working in non-corporate environments. Better to ask how many machines the person has tuned up in the last year. Corporate IT guys are really good at other things I can't do as well, but often don't have the time/patience to give a single system a personalized tune-up. They are used to well-maintained systems which are often all set up with the same software installed. I support my customers one at a time, and I answer to myself, instead of a boss who cares more about how things look, than how they run.

jacobus57
jacobus57

Excellent, Gis, and especially if there are bits of old anti-virus installations. I find Norton, McAfee, and anything provided by an ISP to have serious deleterious effects on performance, and to be very hard fully to uninstall. Indeed, "uninstall" does not really uninstall Norton. If you search their site they have a special clean up tool that actually removes this heinous application.

jacobus57
jacobus57

Malware--excellent point not even mentioned by this alleged "expert." Malwarebytes is indeed an excellent tool. A few more points: canned air is death unless very carefully used. If should NEVER be used without removing a component from the case, and then, only on such things as fans and heat sinks. Fine particulate can easily be driven into HDDs, wreaking major havoc. And on older systems especially, the good ol' wipe and load works wonders. It is often faster and more successful than a piecemeal approach. And if it is--gag--a Vista machine, then abandon all hope and upgrade to Win7, after, of course, making sure that Vista was not loaded on some aging boat anchor. And finally, the perhaps most obscure cause of intermittent failure and BSODs are blown capacitors. I saw this problem on the Dells that were recently the focus of so much attention two years before it hit the news, and I have had the problem with two mid-range motherboards on my own machines. A REAL tech with experience is observant, systematic, and somewhat intuitive.

seanferd
seanferd

You have attacked the author, not any content of the article. So, what is it you find so wrong? You could spend a few words on that in exchange for the hilariously ironic hawking of the purported credentials (while claiming you have no time to do so) of your nameless, faceless self. No problem with disagreeing whatsoever, but you haven't done any.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

in my 35 years in electronics and computer service: I somehow failed to obtain a truly condescending attitude... "With the birth of the artist came the inevitable afterbirth...the critic." —Mel Brooks

KenV
KenV

"This blogger is a poser, yet another sad example of the worst the internet has to offer" "I guess I am too busy plying my trade to hawk myself and endlessly blog regarding topics about which I really know very little" Those that simply make personal attacks on someone's effort strikes me as the worst type. As for your second comment I included above, you just did what your complaining about without demonstrating any real knowledge of the topic.

SamFrench
SamFrench

Microsoft and Tech Republic have well documented (over the years) which services should and should not be set to AUTOMATIC, MANUAL & DISABLED respectively. If you're not on a LAN through which you're authenticated as a user, there are a whole BOATLOAD of services you can take off AUTOMATIC. As for PC Angel, it's an app you (or your IT geek) installs to recover your system following an EXTREME failure. The "service" which runs is basically a sentry which throws an exception when you try to access the "hidden partition" through an upper-level utility like the NT Disk Manager (ships with PRO versions of Windows since 2000, I believe). It also engages the actual app, should you wish to perform a system recovery. PC Angel is an operating system only recovery utility. It has nothing to do with data you've ever saved or any updates Microsoft or your hardware manufacturer has issued since PC Angel was installed. Remember, you don't always want to take a system back to the state it was in the day it was shipped out the door, expecially if you've upgraded or changed any of the hardware. I would set the service to MANUAL which, by the way, activates the service when the app is launched --just like most responsibly-coded services. There are SO MANY of them which are set --by default-- to run all the time and you REALLY DON'T NEED THEM. After all, how many times (in a single computing session) do you need to go off to a software manufacturer's website and check for updates? How often do you think these things are released, anyway? Some of the worst offenders are Real Player, anything from Adobe, Apple services on a PC, license activators from trial software, Java updates, desktop themes, MS-Office source engine, messenger, SharePoint services... The list goes on. If you're considering disabling any service you don't know 100% about, knock it down from AUTOMATIC to MANUAL for at least one re-boot. And always check the dependencies going both ways before recklessly changing the run-state of any service. Sam French

jacobus57
jacobus57

There is this thing called "Google;" I know it is a little new and you might not have heard of it since you claim to work in IT and, well, IT people really don't use the internet much (yes, I am being bitingly sarcastic). I love bleepingcomputer.com, and although I don't usually give this kind of support without being paid for it, because you seem to really need it here is a freebie: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/startups/PCAngel.exe-17998.html Now, go forth and edify yourself, and become a little bit self-sufficient.

MytonLopez
MytonLopez

I agree for this article talks about hardware, BIOS, (steps 1,2,3) and this can be the problem for some but is not usually the case. I would rank step 9 for #1 and step 10 for #2 and than you can go from there. Running msconfig will do step 6 so that can be done away with. For slow systems and just about every system in general I run msconfig and go into services and check the box to hide all Microsoft services and see what is not needing to load at startup like google stuff and etc.. I do the same by looking at the startup tab and make my adjustments and reboot the system. Than I would go and clean up the profile/profiles of excessive temp files, temporary internet files, windows\temp and prefetch files. 9 times out of 10 that is all that is needed. Granted every system has it's own unique problem and could be related to spyware and any other problem and you can use tools to clean up that stuff. Use caution when using msconfig for turning off services and startup items. Don't just uncheck it if you don't know what it is. Do a little research and search for the questionable service or startup item and determine if you need it to load at startup. For example unchecking Reader_sl from startup tab doesn't stop Adobe Reader from opening a PDF. Same thing applies to Java and and all the other crap that loads at startup on systems I check that gets put into the service and startup when those types of software gets installed by default. Also when installing software look at the custom install versus the default to see what get's installed. Alot of software out there try to throw in google toolbar, crome, and other stuff by default.

jim.wyse
jim.wyse

Cory, I'm with you! Clearing out all the dross that gets stored up in temporary files of one kind or another is by far the most efficient way to improve the speed of any Pc more than about a year old! I've been using this for ages, cd /d "%userprofile%\local settings\temp\" rd /s /q . saved as a batch file in the all users' startup folder, but I think I'll upgrade to yours now! Cheers! Jim

pigflipper
pigflipper

The comma at the end of the link to the sysinternals defrag tool (.aspx,)is causing an error. In order to get to the tool you need to manually enter the link without the ending comma.

jacobus57
jacobus57

I am not condescending--certainly NONE of my clients, who are at all levels of expertise--find me so. I would be happy to provide a list of unfiltered references off-list if you would like to check me out. The problem with the internet is that almost anyone can anoint themselves as an "expert" sans portfolio, and there are too many people who innocently take their word as gospel. It is difficult for the novice to sort wheat from chaff, which is why this 10 Things post so rankled me. As tech PROFESSIONALS, we must challenge misleading, erroneous, and possibly damaging information. I want to build my business through word of mouth, not through desperate clients who have fallen victim to the all too common unqualified tech, or who employed the advise they found in an ill-conceived blog post. To those I have gained that way, I am especially kind and patient, because they and their data have already suffered enough.

jacobus57
jacobus57

Not a personal attack. Simply an observation based on reading a very poor, misleading, and possibly damaging blogpost and my review of the author's personal site. I have worked in the industry as a sys admin, consultant, technician servicing a wide range of equipment, and now as an independent consultant, for almost 25 years. I have picked up the pieces of ham-fisted attempts to fix boxes and configure networks, perpetrated by well-meaning end-users and alleged "professionals" for years. I am far from perfect, but I have never broken anything, which is more than I can say for someone who might blindly employ some of the tactics outlined in this blog. This industry is, alas, full of posers. Ms. Shinder has lots of company. Many of these posers--and I use the word unapologetically--charge way too much for their services, scalping their clients and leaving people like me to handle the wreckage, which is often costly in terms of time, data loss, and sometimes equipment damage. If you want proof of who I am and what I do, contact me privately and I will provide you with my CV and a long list of references. And BTW, before I get slammed for posting so much, I am away from my home base dealing with a serious family situation and a very sick child. As I said, I am normally too busy actually working in the IT field--which Ms. Shinder shows no evidence of having done herself (I do not count training other people how to do things that one has not actually done oneself as legitimate experience)--to spend much time self-promoting.

Persepone
Persepone

I've set it to manual. It is the only service that I was unsure about and did not want to change without knowing... I am NOT a "computer tech" but I don't have access to a good one either, so I'm pretty cautious. This is the critical information that I could not find with Google, etc. "PC Angel is an operating system only recovery utility".... I absolutely don't want to take the system back to the state it was in the day it was shipped out the door... I spent days getting the crapware off the computer and there are hardware and software mods... I suspect this program is the reason my recently purchased backup hardware/software doesn't work. (Still using old and more cumbersome backup.)Now I can pursue that... Thanks again for the very helpful information.

Persepone
Persepone

Thanks for the help and the link to bleepingcomputer.com. There is not much about this on Google--not enough for me, anyway. I'm NOT a "computer tech"--you'll see I'm listed under "other." I've the same problem as the one discussed in the "Finding a good computer tech" thread. It's not easy to find a good one. And you are one the other side of the continent or I'd probably call you...

NetMammal
NetMammal

I used to be big on deleting temp files too (and still do it before malware removal), but I think its misguided to think it speeds up a system. History, cookies, and cache SPEED up a person's real-world use of the internet. Lets assume for a moment that the S/W engineers who have been working on browsers for almost twenty years actually know how to code. Going to the well-indexed HDD cache for images for frequently used web pages is WAY faster than waiting for those bits to be dragged off some HDD half-way across the country. (with its own indices, and cache) Having to re-type URLs and login information for frequently used web pages is way slower than getting it out of your cookie caches & internet history. Unlike ten years ago, when disk space was much more scarce, most of my customers are sitting on HDDs 1/10 to 1/3 full. I think deleting temp files to 'clean up' is probably a waste of time. I may do it, but I'm honest with myself-- I am just being obsessive compulsive, its not going to make that machine run testably faster. I'd love to hear hard numbers on this, but if blindly deleting all cookies and history speeds browsing by even 5% I'd be surprised. Just think of have much it slows you down, and annoys you. All of your logins and preferences for certain web sites get lost etc. I think the technique of deleting temp files is going to join registry "cleaners" on the trash bin of history. Now on the other hand, running Spybot S&D or CCleaner to clean up privacy invading cookies is fine. Hard numbers anyone on recent browsers?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But you didn't challenge the information, you impugned both the author's qualifications and motives: [i]This blogger is a poser, yet another sad example of the worst the internet has to offer as it has become a frontier overrun with self-defined, shamelessly self-promoting "experts." If you don't believe me, read her resume.[/i] Why not do it the easy way? Simply state "I disagree with your post, this is why." Point. By. Point. Then leave it there and let the rest of us bask in your glory. ;) No need to denigrate others, no name-calling involved, nobody hot under the collar, and no need for this exchange.

JCitizen
JCitizen

that is the performance I would expect. I very much appreciate the reply Nick!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I've only had to restore twice, but it was with two different images. There are some limitations. - The partition you are working with cannot be mounted. If you're working with a local PC, you must boot to Clonezilla Live. - There is no incremental/partial capability. - You can't view/extract files from the image without jumping through a BUNCH of hoops. - You can't restore an image to a drive smaller in size than the original. But, if all you want is reliable imaging without massive licensing costs, Clonezilla is one of the best. Visit http://clonezilla.org/ for more information and the download.

JCitizen
JCitizen

from someone I trust! CNET only has one user review on that one. I never usually go with that little information. Thanks Nick! v/

JCitizen
JCitizen

That is a very good suggestion; I've not updated my OEM drive programs lately and was unaware of that! It has been my experience that doing it the OEM way is much more reliable; and my drives last 10 years or better, even if horsed pretty hard! I thank you as well MeadowsPV!! :)

MeadowsPV
MeadowsPV

Western Digital and Seagate [Maxtor + others] has a quite capable free version of Acronis. Seagate DiscWizard is an OEM version of Acronis True Image. http://www.seagate.com/www/en-us/support/downloads/discwizard Acronis True Image WD Edition Software, formerly DataLifeGuard, http://support.wdc.com/product/downloaddetail.asp?swid=119 Both of thes are able to imnage the system drive Wjile in Windows!!! Reading The Fine Manual ... tells all. I have heard rumors about other Mfgs. getting on the bandwagon, but not verified. The FREE version is great IF you don't want to do incremental images or mount previous image as read/write. hth

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Clonezilla. If you can take the system off-line to back it up, it's very reliable. I've [u]never[/u] had a Clonezilla backup fail to restore.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I've been hesitant to use it on my Vista PC; maybe I better re-think it, before I buy into Acronis. I've been using Norton Partition Magic, but I've never tested the reliability of the image it makes. I've never had a crash that bad (yet).

SamFrench
SamFrench

When in comes to backup software, I cannot over-state the two total advantages of using the Microsoft Backup utility that ships with Windows: 1) you don't have to upgrade to the latest version in order to perform a restore; and 2) it can re-create the backup job from the media itself. Let's face it, if your computer crashes, you probably don't have the directory that stores all the details about your backup jobs, allowing you to tag the job, select the files and then asks you to insert the appropriate media, etc. The version of Microsoft's backup the shipped with Vista will actually read a disc you created with MS-Backup back in the days of DOS-3.x. I don't know why I ever went to anything else --which I did recently, and had to purchase an upgrade before it would even re-create the backup catalog for me. Learn from my mistake and stick with MS. Sam French

JCitizen
JCitizen

within a couple of hours if I don't either clean these files, or set security settings that block them in the first place. The problem is, that web-sites place misbehaving files in both places that cause a lot of chatter in the system and network. Adobe flash cookies are particularly nasty; CCleaner will make short shrift of them! Besides, I find a LOT of malware sitting dormant in temp files on standard accounts. There is no reason in the world to leave these kind of files in there, when they could come out of hiding and attempt to takeover an admin session or other form of attack vector. Better yet, I use AdAware; despite the fact that it is a RAM hog - we got plenty of RAM these days - it insures that browsing speeds are up to snuff! I am not a spammer for Lavasoft; I just use what works! I ONLY use the free version - I'm not ready to trust their anti-virus on the paid version. I have seen some pretty good performance using it as a backup scanner for viruses though. A good host file like AdBlock Plus for FireFox or MVPS for windows, goes a LONG way to speeding up browsing performance. We don't need no stinking ad/bad servers!

jshelley
jshelley

I agree. I see no value in killing a user's cookies and history. I can't imagine a quicker way to tick off my customers. Many of them use highly secured websites, and killing their cookies requires them to run through a rather extensive prove-who-you-are process. If I put that in a batch file that ran on startup, I would quickly be fired, or perhaps killed.