PC Running Slow? 7 Possible Reasons Why

by Contributing Columnist

Having to put up with a slow computer can be very frustrating. The smallest tasks such as checking emails or printing off a document can end up taking forever. When you’re in a rush, this can be a real inconvenience.

There are many things that can cause a computer to become slow. First, you should consider whether it’s the computer running slow or an individual application. If certain software is running slowly, it may just be a problem with the software. If your internet browser is loading slowly or cloud-based programs are taking ages to load, it could be an internet connection issue.

In most cases, you’ll be able to tell if it’s a general PC problem or a specific problem – if multiple programs seem to be loading slowly (both online and offline programs), it’s likely that it’s an issue affecting your entire PC.

This post lists seven of the most common causes and how to fix them. In some cases, the solution could be very easy.

Lack of RAM

There are two main types of computer memory: RAM and disk drive space. RAM is essentially your computer’s short term memory. It affects how programs run in real time and is erased every time you turn off your computer. If there isn’t enough RAM, programs are likely to run very slowly.

A few signs that your computer could be low on RAM include:

  • Freezing
  • Lagging when typing
  • Programs not responding
  • Random rebooting

If you’re using a Windows PC, you can check whether your computer is low on RAM by loading up Task Manager. If the memory being used is over 60%, it could be a sign that you need more RAM.

Some computers are built with more RAM than others. Those with a lot of RAM can more easily handle more programs at once and may be better suited to high performance programs.

It’s possible to upgrade your RAM by buying memory modules. Alternatively, if you’re using a very low performance computer, you may want to consider upgrading to something more powerful.

Lack of disk drive space

A lack of disk drive space can also cause a computer to run slowly. This is your computer’s long-term memory and it is affected by how many programs and files you have stored on your computer.

You should aim to leave at least 20% of your hard drive disc space free. If more than 80% of your hard drive disc space is used up, you can expect your RAM to be negatively affected and there are likely to be frequent loading issues.

How can I create more disc drive space? One option is to declutter your PC. By deleting files you don’t need, you’ll help to free up space. Start by deleting any software you don’t need. Then start deleting any unnecessary files that are taking up space. Videos take up more space than any other file – if you’ve got a library of movies on your computer, consider whether you can get rid of any of these.

There are clean-up tools that can help to get rid of files you don’t use. When looking for files to remove, it can often be worth going through your downloads where there are likely to be lots of images, PDFs and one-time files that you don’t need.

On top of decluttering, you can also look into ways of increasing your storage space. This could include using external hard drives to store files on or using cloud storage. This guide can help you to find the best storage for your PC. Such measures can be useful when making room for high performance software such as video games, audio workstations and video editing software.

Malware/viruses

It’s possible that your PC could be running slowly as a result of a malicious software (malware) or another virus that has found its way onto your computer.

Malware may cause your computer to run slowly in an attempt to extort money from you – certain malware may trick you into paying for subscriptions or upgrades to improve speed, while other forms of malware may simply demand a ransom payment while holding your files hostage. In other cases, viruses may perform silently in the background, stealing sensitive information while taking up RAM.

Viruses and malware can find their way onto computers through various means. Downloading files/programs from untrusted sources, visiting untrusted websites or opening suspicious emails may lead to viruses ending up on your computer. Installing trusted anti-virus software can help to fend off the majority of these attacks, but some viruses may still find their way through.

Slow loading times are just one sign that you may have a virus on your computer. Other signs of a virus include:

  • Random pop-ups appearing everywhere
  • Web pages constantly being redirected to malicious sites
  • Scary messages from unknown programs claiming you have lots of viruses on your computer
  • Unfamiliar toolbars appearing in your browser
  • Unknown programs running on Task Manager
  • Task manager or Registry Editor is disabled

If you suspect that you may have a virus, it’s best to consult a qualified IT technician who can then work out the best way of removing the virus. If a program is demanding a ransom from you, you should seek out immediate IT support before making any payment.

Too many background programs

The more programs that are running at once on your computer, the more RAM you are likely to be using.

You should start by considering which tabs you have open. Running lots of programs at the same time or having lots of browser tabs open could be causing your computer to run more slowly.

You should then consider using Task Manager to see which hidden programs are running in the background – even if programs aren’t open, they may still be doing processes in the background. Task Manager can help you to end any processes that aren’t necessary and that could be hogging processing power.

On a Windows PC, you can also use computer management to find hidden programs. Press ‘windows key + R’ and then click on the ‘+’ symbol beside services and applications. Click on ‘services’ and then list services by ‘status’ to see if any rogue processes are taking up processing power. You can then click ‘stop’ to deactivate services. Just make sure that you know what a process is before you stop it – you don’t want to accidentally stop a critical Windows background task.

Sometimes simply restarting your computer can be an effective way to get rid of unnecessary background processes. If you haven’t shut down your computer in a long time, consider rebooting it and see if that has any impact.

Too many startup programs

Does your computer take ages to start up? This could be because too many apps are automatically opening when you launch your PC. Popular apps like Spotify, Steam and iTunes may automatically load up unless you tell them not to.

Consider disabling any programs that you don’t want to open automatically when you start up your computer. On a Windows PC, you can use the ‘Startup’ tab in Task Manager to disable any programs that are set to automatically start up. On a Mac, you can uncheck any unnecessary startup programs by going into either ‘Login Items’ or ‘Applications’.

Outdated software/drivers

If you’re running outdated software or drivers, you can expect your computer to perform much more slowly. This is because it won’t be able to keep up with newer applications and hardware.

When software reaches a certain age it can stop receiving updates. At this point, it may no longer be able to handle newer programs and functions. This can also leave it vulnerable to new viruses. In most cases, this is a good time to upgrade your software or buy a new PC with better software.

As for drivers, these will help you to connect your PC to any other hardware devices. You should check that your PC has the latest drivers installed, otherwise there are likely to be issues. Driver updating software can automatically install these drivers for you.

Hard drive damage

If your hard drive is damaged, this too could lead to your computer running slowly.

There are many ways in which a hard drive can become damaged. Dropping a laptop or computer could be one cause of this damage – this may result in immediate problems, but in other cases issues may start to occur more gradually. Poor ventilation and build-ups of dust can also lead to computer parts overheating, which could cause a hard drive to become faulty. Hard drive wear and tear can also naturally occur over time. If your computer is over 5 years old and has been heavily used, you may want to consider buying a new computer. Replacing a hard drive is an option, but can be very expensive. Unless the computer is relatively new, you’re usually better off replacing your computer with a new one.

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