Unless there is a hardware issue with a computer, a computer will not slow down simply because it has been in existence for a period of time. If you were to purchase a brand new computer, clock its speed under a variety of scenarios and then let that computer sit untouched for 3 years, the results of your initial tests shouldn’t change. If it’s not how old the computer is that degrades its performance, than what does?
1) Disk fragmentation: as data is added and removed, gaps start to occur in how the data is physically laid out on the hard drive platter. Blocks of information become less contiguous and instead start to begin in one place and end in another. A hard drive is similar to a record player. The hard drive platter is like the record. Both a hard drive and a record player have heads that read data off of these spinning disks. Having a fragmented hard drive is like having vinyl where the music begins and ends in scattered parts of the record. The needle would need to be manually picked up and moved to continue playing the music in its logical order. You can imagine it would take a lot longer to get through a song if this was the case.
Luckily, out of the box, Windows 7 and 8 will run a disk defragmentation every Wednesday in the middle of the night. This keeps fragmentation in check. If you don’t already do so, leave your computer on at night so defragmentation can happen. It’s also good to do this so that updates, virus scans, and other routine tasks can run as intended. If you don’t have Windows 7 or 8, Windows XP and Vista have built-in defragmentation software that can be run manually or scheduled to run via a scheduled task.
Also consider replacing your lower-tech hard drive with a solid state drive. Solid state drives are way faster than spinning platter drives. Solid-state drives should not be defragmented as this wears them down faster, however, they do not get fragmented to begin with. A solid state drive will knock large amounts of time off waiting for Windows and all of your applications to load.
2) More programs equals more resource usage: As more programs are installed more strain is put on computer resources. Every computer has a limit to how much it can take before it starts to slow down.
On a quarterly basis, go through and clean-up any unnecessary programs installed on your computer. Uninstall anything that you don’t use or that doesn’t serve a purpose.
3) As programs evolve they use more resources: Over time with new features, upgrades, and updates, software demands more from your computer. The software slowly begins to take up more hard drive space, more memory, and more CPU cycles.
Unfortunately programs need to be upgraded as time goes on. Security updates are always a must and customers are always demanding newer and better features. Companies are able to hold-off on updates for a while but sooner or later compatibility issues, security, or features force an upgrade. Migrating key services to the cloud can help relieve resource demands while keeping software up-to-date automatically. Just keep in mind that the impact on cash flow should be examined before determining to purchase a product outright or rent it in the cloud.
4) Viruses and Malware Cause Performance Issues: Viruses and malware don’t just cause potential data theft, down-time, and damage to data. They can cause substantial strain on computer resources by monopolizing network bandwidth, CPU cycles, or memory.
Everyone should have an antivirus solution, but this is not sufficient to protect you from viruses and malware. It’s critical to understand good browsing habits and the avenues which can cause a virus infection. Using a server side email scanner, always downloading software from the source, and using Google Chrome as your browser are some ways you can protect yourself. Google Chrome has a sandbox which minimizes the impact of viruses that try to infect your computer via websites. Also not plugging in foreign USB drives is a smart way to avoid an infection as well.
If your computer is acting funny or is slow, there is probably something wrong. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling the problem on your own, consider reaching out to an IT professional to check things out. Often times just running through a tune-up procedure can make all the difference in the world. For great long-term computer performance, keep in mind all the things in this article and educate yourself on taking the extra steps to prevent viruses.
Barry Robins is the founder and owner of Colbatech Solutions, an IT consulting practice that brings fast response and high quality IT care to small businesses with 20 and fewer PCs.