TIME TO READ: 5 MINUTES
"Why is my computer running so slow?!"
Chances are you've said this at some point in your career. Computers run as fast as their hardware will allow. If you're noticing a longer wait time for something that only took a second last month, you may have a problem.
We receive more calls about computer slowdowns than almost anything else. As such, we've seen just about every possible cause, from the very simple to the dangerously complex (cryptomining in background).
In this WOOF! article we'll list out the top 6 reasons encountered, as well as how to avoid them happening to you. Again.
Six Causes for a Computer/Phone/Tablet Slowdown
We’ll go through the list starting with the most common.
1. You're running too many programs at once.
You have a Web browser, the whole Office Suite, Skype/Teams, design or development tools, and a few other apps running at the same time. Why won't the computer work?
Each program uses memory. Think of an elevator. One person gets on, then another, then another . . . pretty soon it's packed!
HOW TO TELL: Save and close anything unnecessary. If that doesn't work, try a reboot. The computer should speed back up.
(Note: Typically, employees in Finance or Web Development require more RAM than main line employees. Depending on your job responsibilities, you may need 16GB of RAM or more to avoid slowdowns like this.)
2. You have too many browser tabs open.
Web browsers can gobble up memory. With a large number of tabs open, they can easily use up most of the computer's memory.
HOW TO TELL: On Windows, search for 'Task Manager.' Click the More Details button in the bottom row. You should see a screen like this. Google Chrome has eaten up too much memory. Close and reopen.
3. Your Internet is slow.
Sometimes Internet connections slow down due to external factors (e.g., bad routing one state over) or insufficient bandwidth in the office.
HOW TO TELL: Run a speed test. Visit a speed test website like SpeedTest.net. If you see a very low number (less than 5 Mbps), your Internet is slow. Check with IT. If there's insufficient bandwidth, it's never been cheaper to upgrade.
4. Your hard drive is full, or close to full.
When was the last time you checked the amount of free space on your drive?
Computers use a small portion of disk drives to speed up their everyday operations. We call it 'virtual memory.' If the drive is close to full—over 85% full, usually—it has no space to use for virtual memory.
HOW TO TELL: On a Mac, click the Apple and select 'About this Mac.' On Windows, click Start / This PC and right click the primary hard drive (usually C:), then go to Properties.
5. Your hard drive is dying.
When the brakes on your car start to die, you know it. They make noise. The car has trouble stopping.
In a computer, the hard drive is the 'brake.' Used all the time, storing & deleting files. Eventually they wear out, causing the device to slow down & fail. Sometimes they make noise too!
HOW TO TELL: When you do intensive work (compiling an app, running a big spreadsheet), the computer's performance drops suddenly and sharply. It may stop responding entirely for a moment.
If you're concerned, run a Disk Check. It will tell you if the hard drive has errors. To run a disk check on a Windows computer, follow these steps:
- On your Windows 10 computer, open "This PC."
- Select the drive you want to run a check on, e.g. C:\
- Right-click on the drive.
- Click Properties.
- Go to the Tools tab.
- Select Check, at the Error checking section.
Don't ignore this. It could mean the drive is about to die…which can result in you losing data.
6. You have a cryptominer or malware on your computer.
Cryptominers are a new type of malware, and a serious threat to businesses & individuals alike.
Cryptomining software doesn't try to destroy your computer...just steal its power. It turns your computer into a 'miner' – running through complex math in order to gain cryptocurrency. Cryptomining eats up a lot of computing power & electricity. Cybercriminals figure, why not take yours? Then they get the cryptocurrency for themselves.
You get a much slower, almost unusable computer.
Cryptominers are easier to run than ransomware attacks, which makes them more profitable. They last longer too, since you can camouflage it in background processes, a la “My computer’s run slowly for a few weeks now.”
HOW TO TELL: None of the actions for the previous 5 causes work. In this case, call us immediately.
How to Avoid Computer Slowdowns
Most of the time, slowdowns are only temporary. You can decrease their chances of happening—including the bad ones—with a few simple behaviors.
- Close unnecessary apps before leaving for the day.
- Reboot your computer once a week, at minimum.
- If your hard drive is dying, replace it with an SSD (Solid State Drive). Prices range from $100-$200.
- Don't visit sketchy websites.
- Don't open suspicious emails. (If you're not sure how to recognize a phishing email from an ordinary one, learn the ways of Cyber Fu!)
What caused your last computer slowdown? Send your experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org!