What to do when Windows slows you down
Jul 28, 2009, 10:13 GMT
Washington - PCs were designed to help you get your work done faster - not to make you wait. Yet mysterious system slowdowns are a part of life for many Windows users. Often these slowdowns - ranging from excessive disk thrashing to delays in shutting down or starting up your computer - are easier to troubleshoot than you might imagine. Read on for some tips.
Q: My Window PC takes a long time to shut down and to restart. Can you suggest how to troubleshoot this problem?
A: Yes. Usually when this happens, a device driver is causing Windows to hang for some period of time. One way to troubleshoot this issue is to temporarily disable most drivers or processes that start up automatically and then re-introduce them one by one until you find the culprit.
You can do this by visiting Windows' System Configuration utility. Hold down the Windows key and tap the letter R to bring up the Run dialog box, and then type 'msconfig,' without the quotation marks, in the Run dialog box's Open form field. The System Configuration utility appears.
Click the Startup tab in the System Configuration utility. There, you'll see a list of many of the processes or drivers that start automatically each time you boot up Windows. Remove the check marks from each of those processes or drivers except for those that you know you need, and then click Apply. Click OK to close the System Configuration utility.
Windows will warn you that you may need to restart your computer to apply the changes. That's exactly what you want - in order to determine whether the changes worked - so go ahead and restart. If your PC boots up more quickly, then you know that one of the devices you disabled is the culprit. Go back into msconfig and re-enable processes or devices one by one. Once you find the offending process, uninstall the program to which it belongs, and your startup and shutdown issues should be solved.
Q: If I don't use my computer for 15 minutes or so, when I return and attempt to retrieve or save a file, my computer hangs for a while before it responds. Why is this?
A: Chances are good that some power-saving feature is the culprit - most likely a feature that shuts off or spins down the hard drive.
Go into the Windows Control Panel and select Power Options. There, you can explore how soon after a period of inactivity your hard drive is scheduled to spin down. Increase the amount of time before your hard drive spins down, or turn off automatic shutdown of your hard drive altogether.
When your PC's hard drive is turned off automatically by the Windows power saving feature, restarting the drive can take some time - sometimes 30 seconds or more, depending upon the drive.
Q: During the day, my PC shows excessive disk activity, even when I'm not working or saving files. What can cause this?
A: Often this type of problem is caused by some background process. Be especially suspicious of any scheduled activity, such as disk defragmentation, that accesses the hard drive often or intensively. Vista's automatic disk defragmenter, for example, has been known to kick in when it should not - such as during the day when you're actually using your PC. Visit the disk defragmenter, and make sure that scheduled defragmentation is turned off.
Insufficient system memory can also cause excessive disk activity. If you notice the activity when you are working with several applications open at once, lack of sufficient memory could be the problem. When Windows runs out of physical memory (RAM), it will use the hard drive as virtual memory, and disk writing - or 'paging' - can slow your PC to a crawl.
A third possibility is spyware or malware. Download and install the Malwarebytes (http://www.malwarebytes.org) and have it scan your computer. This is one of the better freeware anti-malware tools, and if it finds infections on your PC, there's a good chance that it will be able to remove them.
Q: I've been using Microsoft Outlook for almost a year, and lately it is taking a long time to start up. Why is this?
A: First, let's assume you have not recently installed any add-ons or toolbars in Outlook. If you have, uninstall them.
More typically, Outlook startup slowdowns are caused by a lot of e-mail choking up your system. Specifically, if you have not cleaned out your inbox in some time, you should do so. Outlook reads the headers in your inbox each time you start the program, assuming you have Outlook set up to go automatically into your inbox. Move old e-mail messages from the inbox to another folder within Outlook, and you should notice an improvement in startup speed immediately.
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