If you ever watch old mystery movies, there is usually a scene where a guy is walking down a side street on a rainy night when he hears a “Psst. Hey fella. I have a secret to tell ya” coming from a dark alleyway. Well I am giving you the same “Psst. I have a secret to tell you.” It is an easy way to tell if your computer is running well and your Internet is slow and some simple things you can do to fix this.

If your computer is running slowly, it will make every process, including the Internet, run slowly as well. So let’s start there and determine what is causing the decline in performance. Make certain you do not have any Internet applications running. “How do I do that?” There are many programs that are constantly accessing data whether you think you are on the Internet or not. If you use CenturyLink or Cox, your computer and all the programs have access to the Internet all the time. Did you ever wonder how some email programs like Gmail and such are able to tell you when you have new mail even if you are not on the Gmail website?

The best way to ensure you are not using any Internet programs is turn off your Internet modem or router, if you access wirelessly. Just follow the power cord to the wall and unplug it. There are other ways to stop the flow of Internet data, but this is the easiest.

Once you have done this, perform a few computer-related tasks like opening Microsoft Word and typing a few lines. Notice how long it takes for Word to open and if you are having any computer freezes or lagging cursor issues. Leave Word open and open another program you are familiar with like a graphics program, your card making program, a Photoshop type program or any other program you can think of. Open four or five of these programs and notice the speed of the computer in performing simple computer tasks. If the computer does not freeze and seems to do these tasks without hesitation, your computer is probably running well and the Internet is the issue.

Shut your computer all the way down and then plug in the modem first and let it boot all the way up. This may take a few minutes but after all the lights are stabilized, plug in your router or if you do not have a router, turn on your computer. the Internet should be running again. Go to your favorite websites and open your mail. Are you seeing a marked difference in performance between when the Internet was unplugged and now If so, you may need to make some changes to improve performance.

When was the last time you checked your anti-spyware program? Is it up to date? Have you checked the logs to see if it is still scanning a few times a week? If you do not know the answers to these questions, you need to look at your anti-spyware program and update it and run a scan. I recommend Malwarebytes but there are a number of other good ones out there like Super Anti-Spyware and such. If you are using McAfee from Cox or Norton and like it, stay with it but you need to know you are losing about one third of your performance because of these programs and if you are using AVG, I highly recommend you get one of the other ones I spoke of above. If you use Malwarebytes, there is really no reason for a separate anti-virus program.

Once this has been accomplished, restart your computer and check the operation of your Internet. Is it faster? If not, then we need to look at which Internet browser you are using. If you are using Internet Explorer, I would recommend you download and install FireFox or Google Chrome and try those. FireFox can be downloaded at http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/ and Google Chrome at www.google.com/chrome/ Download and install one of these browsers and see if your Internet is faster. If so, you can use either of these as your default browser. Website programmers have been exploiting Internet Explorer for years and you are bombarded by cookies and other data mining activities to the extent that you experience freezes and all natures of other unpleasantries just because you want to see what the weather is like in West Allis, Wis. Longtime readers of this column have heard that soapbox rant before.

If none of this improves the performance of your computer, it may be time to call a professional.

• Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services, based in the Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to mike@smotherscomputers.com or call (480) 753-7667

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