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Desktop and Laptop Computer Performance Tips

Dan earned his CompTIA (CIOS) certification in 2010 and worked in the computer repair/networking industry for several years.

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Computers can run optimally for a long time. Then, for no apparent reason, they run slow. Opening files and programs, displaying web pages, and video streaming become noticeably under par.

Even new computers recently out of the box can be slow. It causes confusion with regard to performance — most people are under the impression new computers should run great.

While it’s true computers work relatively well when turned on for the first time, some manufacturers overdo it with unneeded system settings or trial software. It can cause slowness and performance issues. Whether new or used, there are some key points to keep in mind.

  1. Startup Programs
  2. Antivirus Software
  3. Virus Infections
  4. Update Issues
  5. Hard Drive Storage
  6. RAM Memory

There are different ways to approach checking these. Depending on the urgency, importance, and time constraints, however, seeking professional assistance might serve better. The concepts apply to the three most widely used operating systems — Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux. Virus problems are more common in Windows, however.

Startup Programs

When computer programs are installed, in many cases they are enabled to run when the computer powers on. If too many programs are enabled to run at the same time, it can cause the computer to start up and run slow. Operating systems have ways to disable programs from running during startup.

Computer system vendors’ guidelines should be checked for the various steps. If using Microsoft Windows, one way to disable programs from running at startup is by opening the Task Manager program, selecting the “Startup” tab, and disabling programs not needed.

Antivirus Software

Security software comes with a variety of functions and packaging. When installed, it’s generally better to not accept default settings since it can overwhelm the computer and even interfere with user sessions.

Scheduled scans are settings of particular concern. The software can be set to run on a schedule — even set to run if the last scan is missed. This is something that should be addressed immediately if the computer is being used for mission-critical work.

Moreover, what’s known as real-time protection — in antivirus software — can affect performance on systems. It’s a function that constantly filters usage through a virus definition database and algorithms — a potential to interfere with normal usage. Real-time protection is a function that can be turned off. In some cases, it should be.

Virus Infection

When a computer is infected with a virus, the symptoms will vary. Computer crashes, slowness, and blue screens are among them. Virus infection is most common with computers running Microsoft Windows — and there are various ways to remove the malicious software.

Sometimes, removal is complex and requires customized or advanced methods. Other times, running an installed antivirus program can rid the problem and restore ideal performance. Be sure the antivirus software is up-to-date before scanning.

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Update Issues

The general software configuration of a computer can change fast — it helps to be mindful of what’s being installed and going out of date. Microsoft provides updates for Windows on a regular basis — installing them, whether manually or automatically, can cause unintended performance issues.

If opting for manual installation, it’s easier to know what’s installed and when — allowing easier mitigation of problems. If a computer doesn’t seem right after an operating system update, revert back to the point before the update was installed. In Microsoft Windows, for example, a restore point can be created before proceeding with updates. Other operating systems have similar features.

Moreover, opting for manual installation of updates helps avoid interference with routine usage. Image typing an essay while a noticeable delay with the computer mouse or keyboard begins. This can be due to the operating system trying to update. Keep in mind that discipline is necessary if opting for manual installation of updates — failing to install them raises security risks.

Computer program vendors also provide updates by which interference problems can occur. Furthermore, if installing an updated version of a program (or App) — and there are problems — revert back to the old version. Using workaround solutions can be useful as well until long-term solutions are found.

Hard Drive Storage

Operating systems require a certain amount of free space on the internal storage device, for regular function. The space is used as a cache for system processes and routines (not user files). Without enough free space, not only will it slow the computer, it can cause various other problems.

Either the storage needs to be expanded, or files need to be moved off the computer. Various options exist for expanding the storage of computers. USB-based hard drives, thumb drives, and online cloud services are common for storage expansion and archiving.

RAM Memory

Depending on what the computer is being used for, adding RAM memory can make a considerable difference — in overall speed and general performance. When computers are purchased new, they typically come with a minimum amount of RAM installed — even though the system could benefit from more.

Computer program (and app) vendors recommend having a certain amount of RAM installed for the optimal performance of their programs. In general, if common tasks like video streaming or gaming don’t seem on par, adding RAM can help. Check manufacturer documentation for correct type and speed of RAM to purchase for the computer.

Moving Forward

The step outlined herein can be taken by average users. If uneasy in approaching technology, however, professional consultation should be sought. Avoid making the problem expensive to repair by accidental damage of something. Some setups require specific knowledge in which manufacturer documentation be sought.

Even repair technicians must review technical documentation, on occasion. Understand the scope of the job before taking anything apart — or attempting to change settings — and the situation should turn out fine.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Dan Martino

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