The very first thing I look at when my computer is running slowly is the processes that are currently running. Often times there are programs and processes that are running in the background that I forgot to close, or are somehow stuck in a loop, or were snuck in by some malicious software. To assess this follow these instructions.
Close all programs
Every program that you have running is eating up resources. If you have programs that are running, shut them down as you normally would. This especially includes your email program, (like Outlook) your web browser (like Internet Explorer), and any image manipulation software (like Photoshop) as these tend to be memory hogs.
Ctrl+Alt+Del, aka the 3 finger salute
This process will help you assess what is running and whether this is what is slowing down your computer. This may also help you identify viruses or malware that have been placed on your computer by unscrupulous programs.
- Press the Control, Alt, Delete keys on your keyboard at the same time.
- Click on Task Manager. A box will open.
- Click on the “Applications” tab at the top. See what programs are running. Do you want them all running? Can you stop them without losing important work? If so, stop them by highlighting them by clicking on them once and then clicking “End Task”
- Important: Many of the processes you will find in this next step are necessary for the normal operation of your computer. Do not stop processes if you don’t know what they are. Click on the “Processes” tab at the top and then click “Mem Usage” twice. This should arrange the processes by the amount of RAM memory they are currently using. The higher the number, the more that process is slowing your computer down. If you recognize the process, for instance Microsoft Outlook or Internet Explorer, it is probably safe to stop it, (you will lose any unsaved work). If you do not recognize the program, do not stop it! If you can get to the internet, do a search for the process name (including the file extension, usually .exe) and see what the process is. Only then should you consider stopping it. How much is a too much? Different program use different amounts of RAM but if you see something that is using way more memory than the other programs, this could be the culprit. Check it out. Do you recognize the process? Did you want the process running? Is the process part of a program that is stuck? Can you research it online? If you determine that you want to stop the process, highlight it (click on it) and click “End Process”
Many programs that you will install over the life of your computer have an overinflated sense of importance. They feel that you will want them to run every time you start your computer. After a while, your computer can get bogged down with many programs that launch in the background “at boot”, meaning every time you boot up the computer. You may not know these programs are running. Often you can see their icons in your system tray at the bottom right of your desktop. Each of these programs is using resources and memory.
To trim these down, most Windows based operating systems come with a utility called MSCONFIG (short for Microsoft Configuration, obviously). If you go through the steps below and your computer cannot find this program, you may be able to download and install it. Search for it online.
- Click “Start”, then “Run”. A dialogue box will open up.
- In the box, type “msconfig” (without the quotes).
- Click on the “Startup” tab at the top. This shows you a list of the programs that start in the background each and every time you start your computer.
- Determine if you need these programs to run every time you boot your computer. (If you don’t know what the program is, look it up online). Usual culprits here are ITunes, QuickTime, Google Update, and Printer monitors. Know what you are turning off! You may not want “ITunes” to launch on boot, but if you turn off “ITunes Helper” your computer may not recognize when you plug your phone in to synch it. This is just one example.
- Turn off the program by un-checking it and then clicking “OK”. Note: You will have to reboot. Also, some operating systems will not allow you to stop certain programs from running “on boot”.
Often times a slow running computer is caused by programs that are running in the background. Streamlining these programs is one of the first steps in identifying any issues.