There's never really a set procedure to fixing a slow computer, the cause could be anything and everything although more commonly these days it's those pesky bugs, toolbars, addons and other annoyances all contributing to the vast majority of slow computers.
However, if your computer is particularly old, say more than about 6 or 7 years old, you could be fighting a bit of a loosing battle when it comes to speed. Obviously, it would depend on the spec of your machine to begin with, so if you had a very high spec machine 5 or 6 years ago it should still be able to compete with an off the shelf machine these days (or in some cases probably even outperform it!). However, a budget desktop or laptop of 5+ years could certainly be showing signs of its age (moreso laptops).
That said, let's start off trying to breath a little life back into that slowwwwww machine of yours ......
If your machine is painfully slow to startup or run, you're probably better off starting with a few boot-time scans before doing anything else. Before going any further, I would recommend disconnecting your machine from the internet
. This is to prevent further infections, if indeed, this is the issue you are having. Normally, and because I always use avast!, I'd try as best I could to schedule a boot time scan through the GUI. If that isn't possible because the machine is so slow, we'll need to download a few things (if you are having the issues with the only computer available to you, try downloading the following recommendations on a friends computer).
Download something like AVG Rescue CD
(USB version HERE)
, Avira AntiVirus Rescue CD
or if you have another favourite, use that - boot your machine using the disk and follow the on-screen instructions until you've completely scanned your machine for viruses. You could also create a USB boot disc
using The Ultimate Boot CD which contains a few more boot-time virus scanners, although do remember to update the definitions beforehand, you don't want to scan using out-of-date definitions. Normally, it's just a case of looking for the updated definition files in the vendors website or alternatively if your using a ready made antivirus boot disc just download the latest one and the definitions will be current. Personally, I'd recommend a boot-time scan using more than one virus scanner if possible.
Once you've done this, hopefully you'll have found and deleted a few bugs which will hopefully be enough to get your machine up and running and to a point where it's useable. It doesn't have to be lightening fast at this stage, just useable!. Let's try connecting your machine back to the net now.
The first thing to check when you've logged into Windows is your current antivirus software - is it up-to-date, is it even enabled?. What about your firewall?. Check both these things immediately and rectify the situation if there seems to be a problem with any of them (i.e. if they are disabled. try re-enabling them - we'll get round to updating your antivirus shortly). If you have to, uninstall them completely and ideally install something like avast! and perform another boot-time scan. You can schedule this using the interface as shown below:
Download a few spyware scanners such as SUPERAntiSpyware
and MalwareBytes AntiMalware
and make sure you update them immediately. Perform complete and full scans straight away, using one program at a time and it's almost inevitable that each program will find its own collection of goodies for you to delete!. Depending on how long ago you last performed a scan, those scans could take anything from 10-15 minutes to 1-2 hours, so be prepared for a bit of a wait.
The next thing to look at is the startup - our man Jimbo has written a great piece using freeware "Soluto" HERE
. The trick here is to figure out which programs you need at startup and which can be disabled or set to manual - give that article a good read and decide which programs you can live without when your computer starts.
Download and install CCleaner
as well, it certainly won't do any harm to give the machine a good scanning and clean using that - you may even free up a considerable amount of space on your hard drive too !!. Make sure you also run the registry cleaner built-in to CCleaner.
The registry is often a neglected part of the computer, but over time and after installing and uninstalling a lot of programs, the registry can often become somewhat fragmented, like your hard drive. If you want to specifically defrag your registry, give Eusing Free Registry Defrag
Cleaning your computer in this way could remove any saved passwords you have stored in your browser, so be prepared to have to enter your usernames and passwords again - if you can't remember them you'll have to go through the password reset options which will be available.
Next, let's turn our attention to the hard drive. As you place more files on your computer, take them off, install programs and browse the web, your hard drive is namely responsible for keeping a track of all these files - after a while, these files can become scattered across the disk which means your computer has to search a little harder for them, but by performing a defrag of your hard drive those files will be sorted and stored in a much more convenient and manageable way. This allows your computer to access those files much quicker (in theory). As well as the built in defragmentor in Windows, a good third party too would be Piriform's Defraggler
Once you've covered everything here, I would hope your computer is back to some form of normality - if not, you could have bigger issues with hardware or you could be looking a having to completely reinstall your operating system. If your computer contains the option to restore itself back to manufacturer settings, it may be worthwhile doing that as a last resort otherwise you will have to use the original OS disc that came with your computer (you did keep it didn't you?).
If nothing seems to work and your computer remains painfully slow, it's possible you have hardware issues - if you already followed our advice on creating a boot disc
using a USB stick then you may already have The Ultimate Boot CD readily available, if not grab a normal copy HERE
, burn to a disc and perform the hardware test's available on that disc and note any potential issues that the utilities report then take the necessary action to rectify them (i.e. if a memory error is shown, replace the memory module) or if you're unsure of the workings inside a computer it may be best to leave it to a repair shop.
The above steps are really only meant as a rough guide to sorting out a slow computer, sometimes we may need to go down a different path depending on our findings and the reactions of the computer in question but if you're machine is slow because of bugs and such, the above should definitely help get your machine back on track.
It goes without saying that you should also consider installing some form of site advisory tool also - my recommendation would be LinkExtend
because that tool collects information from the popular advisories and gives you a better overview of what they are all saying about a site rather than relying on just one of the advisories.
Feel free to chip in with your own recommendations on how best you would tackle a slow machine or which freeware you would favour to my mentions above