What Makes My Computer So Slow?

by Tom Ryan

A slow computer can be frustrating, especially when you cannot determine the cause of the slowdown. It can delay downloads, freeze programs or even cause the entire computer to lock up and crash---and if you are in the middle of doing something important, this can be particularly devastating. The next time your computer starts to drag, perform a simple diagnostic test---the cause may be simpler than you think.

Maxed-out HD

When your computer's hard drive gets too full, it can make programs slow down. Check your hard drive to determine how much free space is left. If you have less than 500 MB left on each partition of the hard drive, that could be causing the slowdown. Delete larger files like movies and audio files, as well as programs you do not use anymore. This can help free up the space your computer needs to run efficiently.


You may be trying to run too many programs at once, and your computer simply cannot handle the demand. While it may be tempting to listen to music, watch a movie, surf the Web, video chat and download pictures all at the same time, you may need to cut back on the multitasking. Press "Ctrl," "Alt" and "Del" at the same time to see what programs are running, and exit the ones that are unnecessary. You may find that some programs were open and you did not even realize it.


When you use a computer program, it uses up RAM: a precious and limited resource. When you run out of RAM, your computer slows down. This normally is not a problem, since when you close most programs, the RAM they used becomes available again. Some programs, however, fail to release the RAM even after they are closed. Rebooting your computer can remedy this problem---when the computer starts back up, all that RAM that was tied up will be free once again.


Spyware, Adware and viruses are malicious computer programs that infect your computer. They can duplicate programs on your computer, eat up your memory and even steal your personal information---all without your knowledge. Slow computer speed is a symptom of these programs, so if your computer is running slowly without any clear reason, it may be infected. Invest in malware removal software to remove these programs and protect your computer against future infections.


Over time, your hard drive can become fragmented---this is a result of programs being loaded and deleted. Windows comes preloaded with a hard drive defragmenter, which you can run as often as once every four or five days or as seldom as once a month. In any case, regular defragmentation can help prevent slowdown.

About the Author

Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.