slow computer signOne of the most common tasks, dealt with by members of Computer Repair Vancouver, is fixing a slow computer. What exactly do we mean when we say slow computer? Although the term slow is rather subjective and ambiguous, the term slow computer tends to be associated with a machine which takes much longer than expected to complete simple, everyday tasks. You would expect your PC to take a few minutes to delete hundreds or thousands of files. Furthermore, you would expect your system to take a while to load 10 large programs at once. However, you would not expect it to take a considerable amount of time to boot, open a folder, open a single application, or perform other simple, everyday tasks.

Problems with the slow computer

The problem with the slow computer is that it can be quite difficult to diagnose. Even experts, like those at Computer Repair Vancouver, can have a difficult time determining exactly what is causing a computer system to be especially slow. Why is that? It is simply because PC’s have not reached a level of intelligence whereby they can tell us exactly what is wrong with them. We see a symptom, slowness, but do not know the underlying cause of this slowness. Furthermore, since a computer is extremely complex (on both the hardware and software side of things) – any number of problems could be present. In some cases, it is actually a combination of problems which results in a non-responsive machine.

Major causes of a slow computer (1 – 9)

Our aim today is not to go in-depth with regards to any particular cause of slowness. This is a topic which we will be covering extensively over the next few weeks or even months. Today we will just give a brief overview of some of the main culprits of computer slowness. If your computer is currently having problems, and you don’t want to wait for any of our other articles, by all means head over to Google and immerse yourself in the various topics. If not, just glance over the following information, knowing that we will be covering each topic in much greater depth sometime in the near future.

So, here are some of the main causes of a non-responsive computing system:

1) Infected Computer

One of the most common problems these days is that of an infected computer. Malware, the common term used to denote a piece of code which forces your PC to do something it should not be doing, is everywhere. Common variants of malware include: viruses, adware, spyware, Trojans, worms, and root kits. Computer Repair Vancouver has already covered these topics in a reasonable amount of depth so go back and take a look at our malware computer repair and virus computer repair information if you would like.

2) Old Hardware

Another common cause of computer slowness is due to age.  An old computer, or one with insufficient hardware components, will bog down and eventually grind to a halt.  Please note that even a new PC with insufficient hardware (particularly RAM and hard drive space) can have these problems. So, why does age matter? Software applications are typically designed with the current computing class in mind. So, if you buy Microsoft Office 2010, it is likely built with the computer spec’s of 2010 in mind. Obviously, it will work on machines created prior to 2010. However, it will likely not function optimally on a machine made, say, back in 2001. It’s just a fact of life these days that the computing industry moves forward with blazing speed. Whether this should, or should not be occurring is a valid question – however, the answer to it will not affect our current slowness problem.

3) Computer’s data is unorganized

Without going into the complexities of how information is stored on your computer (more specifically, on you hard drive), it is worthwhile to note that it is not necessarily stored sequentially. Let’s say that we are creating an MS Word document named “Computer Repair Vancouver Discusses Slow Computer Causes” which will store the information for today’s lesson. We, as humans, think that obviously the computer will store this file in one single location. Of course it would, you think, it is one file. Furthermore, everything in that file is associated – since it is the contents of the file. Therefore, everything should be kept together. The computer, though, is very concerned with efficiency and speed. Since different programs and different files are different sizes, it wants to be able to fit pieces of data all over the place. For our example, it may store the first half of the file at the start of the hard drive, and the last half of the file in the middle of the hard drive. It will then keep track of this meta-information so that it can get all of the files information back at some later point in time. Overall, this method of file storage is extremely advantageous. The one problem is that, eventually, the computer’s data can become very unorganized; this can create slowness. Pretend that instead of splitting the file up into 2 pieces; it was split up into 10 pieces (throughout the hard drive). It would take a while to put it back together, wouldn’t it?

4) Programs running in the background

Most of the time software applications sit idly on your computer (hard drive) until you decide to run them and use them. An idle program takes up space on your hard drive; however, it doesn’t inherently slow down your computer.  This is because the CPU (the brains behind your computer) doesn’t have to deal with it at all. When the program begins running, however, a different story ensues. Your CPU must now constantly communicate with the program in order to find out what it needs and when it needs it. This can help lead to computer slowness. Computer Repair Vancouver has found an even sneakier culprit, however: the background task. A background task (sometimes referred to as a program or process running in the background) is an active task which is hidden from the computer user. A perfect example comes through the examination of many anti-virus programs. These programs load upon start-up (which slows down your Windows loading sequence) and then proceed to run in the background, constantly checking for potential viruses: when you download a file from the Internet, when you navigate to a particular web page, when you transfer a file from a USB key to your PC. The advantage is that your machine has real-time protection. It will warn you ahead of time if it thinks you are doing something potentially harmful. The problem is that it is using large amounts of computer resources as it continually checks every move you make.

5) Windows is out of date

Computer Repair Vancouver has never really come across this particular situation, yet we have read that it does exist. Basically, according to what we have read, sometimes Windows updates are applied which help speed up your computer. Why? We can think of two different possibilities.

  1. First of all, the update provides a better implementation of a particular feature within Windows.
  2. Secondly, there may be problems with communication between certain programs and older Windows functionality (especially if these specific programs were designed to communicate with specific versions of Windows functions). As we said previously, we have never noticed a Windows update result in a significant speed boost. Nonetheless, it is an extremely simple procedure and, consequently, should not be omitted from this guide.

6) Drivers are corrupted or out of date

Drivers are small computer programs which translate information between your hardware (the stuff inside your computer’s box) and your software (think Windows or Mac OSX). Normally, when things are working smoothly, these guys talk with each other and have no problems whatsoever. If, however, a driver becomes corrupted (basically, it stops working properly) or is too old (and can’t communicate in the correct manner) then slowness can result. Think of it this way. If I communicate with you in a common language things should be fine; we can get things done in a relatively quick and efficient manner. If, however, we were suddenly told that we could not speak (we were partially corrupted) but could only use gestures – the communication would suddenly break down somewhat. Even if it were still possible, it would likely lose its fluidity and speed.

7) Hardware problems

Hardware problems can result in any number of possible symptoms, one being computer slowness. Now the term hardware problems is rather vague, therefore, we should probably provide a little more information. A piece of hardware which totally dies, particularly if you only have one of them, will generally result in a computer which is non responsive  We here at Computer Repair Vancouver tend to define that computer as being dead because it won’t start, or allow you to log into Windows. It will simply sit there with a blank, black screen. On the other hand, a piece of hardware which only dies partially can lead to slowness. Primary examples are: a defective hard drive, and defective RAM (random access memory). If either your computer’s short term memory or long term memory is defective (not completely dead though) then it will likely be able to complete the desired tasks, but in a rather slow, clunky manner. In all honesty, hardware problems are some of the most difficult to solve, consequently, we recommend that other potential causes are singled out beforehand.

8) Overheating computer

Another problem we have not had first hand experience with, although we read that it is a possibility. Apparently, a computer which overheats (becomes too hot) can slow down. How could a computer overheat?

  1. One option is that you have the computer in an unventilated room. If you have a large number of computers in such a room, temperatures can skyrocket. In fact, one of the members of Computer Repair Vancouver used to work at a local university and he was amazed how hot a room could become when it had 40 or 50 constantly running PCs in it
  2. The second, more probable, cause is that your computer’s fan, if it has one, has died or become partially obstructed.

9) Registry problems

Your computer’s registry is a special location in Windows which keeps track of a whole host of information. It keeps track of information about your computer’s user accounts, all the program’s you have installed, as well as Windows components which you never manually installed. As you use your computer, download new programs, and update Windows, the registry tends to balloon. Furthermore, there are times when existing values in it can become corrupt. Since your computer is constantly accessing the registry, this can create problems, including computer slowness. In the future we will discuss how to deal with these potential issues, however, Computer Repair Vancouver must stress that the registry is not a place to mess around with. Do not simply go in and start manipulating it! If you delete the wrong items, or modify something you should not have, you can cause irreversible damage to your computer. We don’t mean that you can’t undo the damage, we just mean that in order to undo the damage you will need to completely reinstall Windows (potentially deleting all of your personal data). Consequently, before you ever deal with the registry make sure to back it up (we will show you how later on) and, furthermore, back up all of your important user data on a CD, DVD, USB key, or external hard drive.


There you have it, what we consider to be the 9 most common causes of computer slowness. Today we have focused on briefly introducing each cause; however, this is not the end of our journey. Over the coming weeks (and months) we will take a look at each of these causes of computer slowness. Not only will be discuss the issues in greater depth, but we will also provide practical ways to solve each potential issue.