Help make my PC better.
February 15, 2008 7:00 PM   Subscribe

My computer is sick. Please help (XP pro).

I'm not terribly computer literate, but I'm not entirely clueless. My laptop's currently slower than it should be and I can't work out why.

2Ghz, 1 Gb RAM. The HD is 70% full. I've defragged it (that took a while), I have a firewall on my wireless router, I have up to date AVG virus checker, I ran Spybot, I turned the performance settings up, it's still slow to load programs and process things. What do I do next?
posted by wilful to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Delete stuff you don't need/want anymore (or back up stuff onto an external drive and remove it from the PC). Free space is good, as you can allocate more virtual memory (see here).

Empty the recycle bin and internet cache. Clear out temp files. Uninstall programs you no longer use or need.

More tips found here and here.
posted by educatedslacker at 7:21 PM on February 15, 2008

Also try trimming the startup programs. Click start, run, type msconfig, go to the startup tab and uncheck entries that you don't need. You'll want to keep some of them, but some (msmsgs, adobe, aim, etc) don't need to launch on startup, and startup programs are a huge burden on computers when they start to get numerous.
posted by omnipotentq at 7:23 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: I've never seen a 70% full hard drive slow down a PC. Usually you need to be flirting with 95% or more (which will slow it right down).

You should check what omnipotentq said to do, and while you're there, click on the "Services" tab, click "Hide All Microsoft Services", then feel free to also stop any services listed here as well (you AVG will be listed twice, leave those 2 checked)

Here's one other thing to check:

1) Right-click on "My Computer" and choose "Properties"

2) Click on the Hardware tab, then click "Device Manager"

3) Left-click the plus sign (+) next to "IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers"

4) Double-click on "Primary IDE Channel", then click the "Advanced Settings" tab

5) If the Transfer Mode is listed as "PIO", click "OK" to close the window, then right-click on "Primary IDE Channel" and select "Uninstall"

6) Reboot your computer. When it comes back up, it will redetect your hard drive controller. Reboot a second time and you should be back up to speed.
posted by mysterious1der at 7:33 PM on February 15, 2008

Are you running Google Desktop?
posted by IronLizard at 7:43 PM on February 15, 2008

Seconding the tips on startup programs and running services.

Have you tried running your computer without AVG running, just to see if that could be the cause? Unplug your computer from the network and try it out. Virus software often slows you down, and even though it's worked fine before, virus software is updated often--some new algorithm of theirs might be killing you.

I've found Windows looking for unavailable network drives can make things slow down quite a bit. Have you installed anything via a network? It might be hard at work trying to find a non-existant path.

Are you using a different, faster, computer than your laptop, perhaps at work? There's always the psychological aspects :)
posted by jsmith77 at 7:53 PM on February 15, 2008

As I go back and read further upthread, I'd also strongly advise against increasing the size of your virtual memory. If your computer is running out of real memory and having to resort to virtual memory - you need more memory.

In fact, if your computer is having to hit its' virtual memory, that could cause the exact symptoms you've described. Virtual memory is a terrible idea that we really ought to uninvent.

XP (and several applications) can all fit very comfortably into 1 GB of RAM.
posted by mysterious1der at 8:01 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: NAh, it's not a RAM issue, it's not a full HD issue. It's a *running processes* issue.
CTRL+ALT+DELETE and see if any system processes are eating clock cycles. I bet you've got...oh...70 or more entries in your task manager.

The simplest fix? Wipe it all and reinstall. Another fix? Google up "Hijack this" and "hijackthis reader" (featured on lifehacker the other day), and turn of whatever is eating your cycles.
posted by TomMelee at 8:09 PM on February 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

TomMelee has it. If push comes to shove back up all your important data and then do a fresh installation of XP.

Fact is it maybe quicker to backup and reinstall than it is to chase down phantom processes and other system hogs.

After you re-install be very particular about what programs you install there after.
posted by wfrgms at 8:15 PM on February 15, 2008

If you download AVG free anti-spyware, and select the "analysis" tab, then you can view and edit your startup and currently running processes in a very convenient way. Unlike CTRL+ALT+DELETE, it will show you where the source for a running program is located, and you can delete it (with caution.)
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:02 PM on February 15, 2008

Black Viper has service recommendations (from "safe" to "poweruser" to "barebones") and explanations.

Turning off stuff you don't need (and stuff that you want to have running) will help a lot.

Go into the task manager, and google all of the processes that are tunning. There's probably stuff there that you don't need and don't want. You can either configure or uninstall the programs that are launching the unwanted background processes. More drastically, you may be able to disable them through msconfig.

If you have lots of programs (or tried lots of programs but never use them anymore), there's a good chance that a bunch of them are pre-loading themselves or dependencies when you don't need them in the first place (or have to wait 2 seconds longer for it to boot up).
posted by porpoise at 9:14 PM on February 15, 2008

I had a problem where my Dell laptop slowed to a crawl, literally. 4 minutes to boot up. It turned out that there had been more than 6 i/o errors or some such because I had put the machine in my backpack without turning it off, and it overheated, causing XP to do something wonky to the registry that permanently slowed down the hard disk i/o. I was able to fix it up by following directions I found while Googling the problem, which I can't find right now. (try a search with terms like slow boot XP disk, etc)
posted by pjern at 9:18 PM on February 15, 2008

Read this.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:40 PM on February 15, 2008

I try to reinstall my Windows OS every 6 months. It'll definately do the trick, but you'll have to spend time getting stuff re-installed. (On the other hand, you won't have to spend hours guessing at how to fix the slowdown issue.)
posted by bprater at 2:33 AM on February 16, 2008

Best answer: Turning off System Restore is helpful

Windows Key+Pause, then choose the System Restore Tab->Turn Off System Restore

This is seldom used and in my experience when relied on simply doesn't work.

Virus scanners can be doing lots of unnecessary scanning, check the settings.

Use msconfig to remove unnecessary startup applications. This should not only serve as a guide, but will come in handy if you need to tweak your system at a bad teen party
posted by mattoxic at 3:03 AM on February 16, 2008

I didn't check all the links provided about so if someone's already mentioned this, never mind, but I'd recommend using CCleaner. It does definitely get rid of unnecessary "crap" that can be eating up hundreds of MBs of space on your drive. I think you can safely run the Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer cleaning, and under System, you might want to skip the Windows Log Files because it can remove files needed to uninstall or reinstall software. You might want to skip the Advanced stuff unless you're at the point where you're almost ready to wipe the drive and re-install everything anyway. Good luck.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:23 AM on February 16, 2008

Seconding mysterious1der's PIO fallback scenario. That happened to me fairly recently and colleague not soon after.
posted by NailsTheCat at 3:28 PM on February 16, 2008

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