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Why Is My Computer Slow?

If you think that your computer is running slow, you are not alone. Perhaps the word "slow", doesn't even describe how SLOW your computer is. But it hasn't always been like that. Your new computer used to be quick and responsive. It didn't have to 'think' for ten minutes before opening a window or going to a web page. What has happened? Maybe it needs an oil change or perhaps a visit to a computer psychic could help?

I have some good news for you. Your computer is as fast as the day you bought it. But how could that be? Well, the reason is simple: Your computer appears to run slow because is has to juggle many tasks in addition to what you ask it to do.

Consider this analogy. How long would it take you to walk from your kitchen to your bedroom (hopefully you don't live in a studio apartment)? Probably not that long. Now imagine that as you make each step, you have to recite a short poem. This will slow you down. By the time you're at your destination you might even forget why you went there in the first place!

Despite being a little silly, this "experiment" shows you the reason your computer appears slow. The answer is simple: it just has too much other work to do! It turns out that your computer is running a lot of programs in the background, even when it is apparently sitting there and waiting for your command. And here is more good news: It is very likely that most time-consuming programs that run in the background are not even necessary. And, you guessed it, if you get rid of them, your computer will be fast again.

So what are these hungry programs that eat up your computer's resources and make it crawl instead of fly? There are quite a few and here is a quick rundown:

The (relatively) Good:

Some of the programs that you install have components that run all the time, even when the main program is not open. These components may be periodically looking for updates, running some maintenance tasks, etc. These are generally harmless, but if you have a lot of them running, watch out. They can slow down your computer significantly. Often the software in question will have options that allow you to disable background tasks, so read the User's Manual. Oh, just kidding. Simply poke around the menus and see if you can find that setting.

The Bad:

Some legitimate software vendors have taken the idea of monitoring your computer internals to the absurd. For example, a certain major antivirus package needs so much computer power, that it hardly leaves anything for the user. This is one of the cases when "cure" is worse than the problem. Even one program like this can bring a relatively new computer to its knees.

The Ugly:

The previous examples dealt with good software gone bad. Now for the software that was conceived to be bad right from the start: Enter viruses, worms, Trojans and all kinds of spyware. Some of these will slow your computer intentionally. For the others it will be a side effect. But the unfortunate result is the same: your computer will be painfully slow, spy on you, and will attempt to infect other computers. So, if you noticed that your computer is running slower than it used to, this is a good indication that it may be infected by some type of malware. And often one malware program will try to bring its friends to join the party inside your computer. If you don't want this to happen, keep your computer clean!

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Updated on August 26, 2012.