Six reasons your system is running slowly

Whether you’re in a small business with just a few desktop stations or a larger organization with full-time IT support, one of the most common – and dreaded – IT complaints is, “My computer is slow.”It’s like going to the doctor and complaining of a general malaise – it’s a vague ailment and can be caused by many things.Here are six reasons your computers may be running slowly:1. System resources: There are a host of system resource issues that will slow down processing time.Two things control system speed: processor and RAM.A fast system will have a high processor speed and plenty of RAM to run programs.But when it comes to software, most need updates or upgrades on some regular schedule. If you installed a piece of software on an older system and have performed the recommended periodic updates, your system may have a hard time running that program.Among other things, those regular updates will optimize the software for faster machines; if you’re still running the slower system, it can take longer for those programs to run.If you can, limit software upgrades to security-based and other critical upgrades, rather than improvements an older system may not need or be able to handle efficiently.Additionally, if you’ve got an older machine but you install more current software, the computer may not have enough memory or the processor may be too slow to run the program perfectly because of its age.Modern software makes significant demands on computer systems. If your system doesn’t have the necessary minimum requirements, even simple tasks will bog down the computer.2. Viruses and spyware: You may not know how you picked them up, and you may not see or feel them during normal use of the machine, but viruses and spyware can slow down your computer. These malicious programs replicate themselves, so they take up a lot of system resources, which makes systems slow. They also take up network bandwidth or system resources while they try to spread themselves.3. Server connection: If you have a business with multiple desktop stations connected to a server, you may notice some stations perform quicker than others. This can be a matter of the connection to the server. If one station is running a 100 MB network card and another is running with a 1 GB network card, the second station will connect with the server 10 times faster than the first station.For someone running a processing-heavy program with data kept on the server, like a photo-editing programs or large databases, that can make a big difference in productivity.4. Age: How old hardware is can make a big difference in how quickly it processes its tasks. Remember when we all thought dial-up Internet connections were great? By today’s standards, that speed is unacceptable. Hardware evolution is similar. This is true whether you’re talking about desktop hardware or server-level hardware. In addition, we’re much more cognizant of how fast performance CAN be these days. Blame it on the speed of technology.Further, when it was brand new five years ago, that hardware WAS running better than it does today.
After turning on and off for years and maybe experiencing power surges, hard drives do fail after a certain amount of time.5. Optimization: As a business operation grows and adds computers, the way these systems work together, or work with the main server, adds up. If some of the systems are not optimized for the best performance, they can bog down a whole organization.When files are written to a hard drive, like a game of Tetris, they take up whatever space is available at the time, even though it may not be the most efficient method of storing them. This is called fragmentation. Performing a disk defragmentation will tell the hard drive to rearrange the files and store them in the most efficient, and most contiguous manner. When files are stored efficiently, the hard drive will read them faster.Also, many software programs have little “services” and “helpers” that aren’t completely necessary but get installed into the memory. Things like “quick start” buttons fall into this category. All these little apps slow the machine down because they take up too many system resources. A clean system will optimize that.6. Perception: While you may think your system is running slowly, you may just be wrong. Just because it takes 30 seconds or a minute to launch a program doesn’t mean it’s slow. The computer might be running as fast as it always was. Our concept of speed has changed over the last decade – we’re an instant gratification society. Not everything happens as fast as changing channels.Matt Mercier, owner of Manchester-based Acapella Technologies, can be reached at