"My computer is so slow it no longer runs programs, it walks them.” Funny? Sure, but if your computer is slower than molasses, it can be incredibly frustrating trying to get anything done. Many people believe that after a certain number of years, the computer just slows down and there is nothing you can do but replace it. In some cases, replacing an old, out-of-date computer with a newer, more powerful model makes economic sense, but many computers can be cleaned and have their useful life extended for much less than a new computer costs.
Over time, your computer slows down from an overload of registry errors, out-of-date programs, conflicting program files and many other computer-related issues that cause what I like to call “sludge.” This sludge makes every task a real chore for your computer because it has to fight its way through the barrage of file conflicts and look everywhere for files it needs to operate. This all takes time and although a few milliseconds seem like nothing to us, it is an eternity to a computer. So how do we make it faster? First we need to determine whether this is a computer slowdown or an Internet slowdown.
To test your computer, go to www.speedtest.net and wait for the page to load. Then click Begin Test. The website will measure your download speed and then your upload speed. Download speed is how fast you can download images, files, etc. to your computer making the page display faster on your screen. Upload speed is how fast you can post things to the Internet, like your Facebook status, pictures, etc. Write down the speeds and then use another browser like FireFox or Google Chrome and run the same test. Write these speeds down as well. There is no hard and fast rule on what your speed should be but generally, if your download speed is in the 20 Mbps (megabytes per second) range, it should be sufficient but I recommend you call your Internet provider (Cox or Century Link) and ask what speed you should expect to see. If it is lower than the 20s, you may have line breaks or loose lines causing you to lose Internet speed. Checking the lines for breaks outside is free. Once an ISP technician steps into your house, there is a cost involved.
If your Internet speed looks good and you are still plagued with slow performance, it may be due to the sludge we spoke of previously and/or some adware or spyware issues. Check for any malware by updating your virus protection program and running a scan. If you need a great anti-malware program, you can download one free at www.malwarebytes.org or purchase a registered version for about $25. Make certain when the scan is completed that you remove every file detected and clean out the quarantine area as well. This is listed under the History tab.
If your performance is still atrocious, you should consider uninstalling unused or unwanted programs. The best program I have found to uninstall programs is Revo Uninstaller. You can get a free version at www.revouninstaller.com and clicking the Downloads tab. After Revo uninstalls the unwanted program, click Scan to find any leftover registry entries, then Select All and Delete to remove any and all vestiges of the program, thereby eliminating any registry errors from the program.
Pictures, especially digital pictures stored on your hard drive, take up a lot of space. It is a good rule to check your available hard drive space periodically. Click Start then Computer or My Computer. A window will open displaying the size of your hard drive as well as how much available space you have on your C drive. If it is under about 10 GB (gigabytes) of free space, you may need to consider getting a portable hard drive for your pictures or saving them in one of the many online storage websites.
If all of these things look good and you are still experiencing lower performance that you need, it may be time for a computer upgrade. Keep in mind that Windows 8 (or 8.1) is still a long way away from being user-friendly, and it is challenging to get new Windows 7 computers.
On another note, we have received a number of calls recently complaining about incessant Malwarebytes pop-ups in the lower right hand corner of the desktop. If you are seeing these and you click to update and nothing happens, you may need to uninstall Malwarebytes and then go to www.malwarebytes.org and download the free version and install. If you have a registered copy of Malwarebytes, it will be automatically registered after re-installation of the program, so you will not have to buy it again.
• Mike Smothers is president of Ahwatukee-based Smothers Computer Services, a mobile computer repair company. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (480) 753-7667.