Last updateFri, 11 Mar 2016 6pm

Understanding why computers sometimes turn into tortoises

It’s sooooo slooooow!  A couple of weeks ago I warned readers that this was a complaint I frequently hear from clients about their computers and that I was sure to have more to write on this topic than would fit into one column.

Every time I hear a client say “It’s so slow” I have to start the investigation grammatically by attempting to determine the antecedent of the pronoun “it.”  In the abstract, “it” refers to the computer of course, but my job is to determine more specifically what “it” really is so that “it” can be fixed if that is possible.

“It” tends to fall into one, or sometimes more than one, of three broad categories.  These are hardware, software, or connectivity.  The first step in the direction of fixing a slow computer is to narrow the field and determine in which of these three areas the problems lay.

If “it” is hardware then this will likely mean you will be looking at the repair or replacement of your computer.  There are some hardware failures such as hard disk, memory chips or network interface that might be repaired at a reasonable cost.  Unfortunately, today’s laptop computers are not as easily repaired as those old boxy desktop computers and many owners of a malfunctioning laptop will find the practical solution is to replace the damaged computer with a new one.

If “it” is software then you have many more palatable options because most software-related issues are fixable.  A computer infested with virus or malware is going to run slower than it should.  It is also true that perfectly legitimate software can slow down operations if the computer is not configured correctly.

If “it” is connectivity, well; this can sometimes be the most frustrating of all.  If the “it” at the root of your “it’s so slow” complaint is that your Internet Service Provider is delivering less than expected bandwidth and performance then it is going to be up to them and not you to fix their problem.  Of course. they may need some encouragement in the form of your continuing to pressure them to do something.  A slow or intermittent internet connection caused by a problem outside your house is not something that can be remedied by a new computer or upgrading software.  This must be dealt with by your ISP.

In addition to the three likely categories I have outlined here, there are also some rare environmental circumstances such as the one I addressed here two weeks ago.  Playing music at ear-splitting levels can cause enough vibration to slow down your computer, and excessive heat can produce the same result.

As you can see, there are many different things that can lead to substandard performance of your computer.  Over the next few weeks in this column we will take a look at some of the causes and fixes for slow running computers, because nobody today has the patience to wait for a computer that is “sooooo slooooow!”

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with more than 20 years IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico.  The opinions expressed are his own.  He may be contacted through his web site at SMAguru.com.

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