The New Year is in full swing and everyone is motivated to work hard after persevering through the post-holiday lull. But as you race from task to task trying to knock out that to-do list before 5:00 PM, perhaps you’ve noticed that your computer can’t seem to keep up.
First things first, don’t panic. Slow-moving desktops and lethargic laptops are more normal than you think — unless you started working on a new computer at some point in the past few months, chances are you’re actually using one right now. But that sluggishness is simply due to your normal activity, as well: running programs, surfing the Internet, and slowly filling up your hard drive.
Below, we’ve collected five of the most common reasons why your computer might be dragging, followed by five ways you can fix those problems and make your desktop or laptop keep pace with your work ethic.
5 Reasons Your Computer is Slow and How to Fix It
1) Too many programs and/or browser tabs are open. Yes, in today’s digital world, it is possible to do a million things at once. But at some point, your computer’s memory and processing speed will not allow for the seamless switching from one open program to another. As for keeping multiple tabs open in your browser for future reference — if any of them auto-refresh (think news sites and live streams) or continue to download and rotate advertisements, you will notice a serious difference. In addition, popular Internet-connected music apps like Spotify can store a large cache of data that will similarly slow you down.
How to fix it: Shut down or quit any programs you aren’t actively using, and stick with just one browser window if you can. Want to save multiple tabs or links for future reading? Use the handy Bookmark option in Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Safari, or Chrome.
2) Your hard drive or memory could be maxed out. The biggest surprise here is that your hard drive or memory performance will start suffering long before it is 100% full. IT experts estimate that even at 85% capacity, your computer’s efficiency and productivity can be reduced to a crawl. Programs, application updates, Internet downloads, and temporary files are the main culprits for taking up hard drive and memory space, along with large industry-specific files for those in the graphic design, architecture, and engineering worlds. In short, you can’t run the latest version of Photoshop on an entry-level or old computer.
How to fix it: Start simple by emptying your computer’s trash. Then consider moving those aforementioned large files to the cloud, or delete files that aren’t being used. The assistance of a trusted IT provider can help you navigate these changes safely and securely. And if an upgrade to increased RAM or larger hard drive is necessary, working with a technology expert on installation and implementation is critical for continued success.
3) Unnecessary software updates are overloading your machine. This ties in to the previous point, but it bears repeating and extra exploration. Many programs and applications come pre-installed with automatic updates activated, but these can take up valuable hard drive space and interfere with normal functions when auto-installers turn on. They can confuse computer users, as well, and put your company’s security at risk.
How to fix it: Consider a proactive monitoring and maintenance solution, which keeps your computers running 24×7, handles all updates and patches for you, and deploys software upgrades during off-hours so that your employees are not affected.
4) Too many applications automatically open when your computer starts up. Similar to how some applications come preset to install updates without warning, many are programmed to automatically load upon startup. This can prove to be a massive drag on your computer’s processing speed, both when you first fire it up in the morning and throughout the day if you are not aware that these programs are running.
How to fix it: Altering a computer’s startup log is an extremely advanced procedure recommended only for IT experts. Working with a trusted partner, though, you can disable those that aren’t necessary while devoting precious operating speed to those that are important.
5) Your computer could be infected with a virus (or saddled with an ineffective anti-virus solution). Usually, the presence of a computer virus makes itself immediately known through the encryption of files, a demand for ransom, or other nefarious pop-ups. But some viruses do run unknowingly in the background, collecting critical information like usernames, passwords, financial information, and health care data. Most consumer-grade anti-virus solutions cannot detect such illicit operations, which makes multi-layered, constantly evolving security software a must for any business in the 21st century.
How to fix it: Never entrust your business’ critical data and computers to free anti-virus or anti-spam solutions — and don’t expect just one layer of security to keep you and your employees safe from data breaches, ransomware, malware, phishing and other forms of cybercrime. Online security is complicated, and threats are constantly changing. What worked yesterday may not work today, and hackers work tirelessly to stay one step ahead of basic security protections.
Jeremy Treister is president of CMIT Solutions in Chicago (CMIT). CMIT is the Managed IT Services Provider for American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA). Visit CMIT on Facebook and at their website.