“My computer is running so slow,” says everyone who’s ever owned a computer. It’s true: your computer never runs quite as fast as the day that you bought it. While a large part of that is simply your perception of it, it’s true that computers tend to slow down over time. That being said, there are a lot of misconceptions on why exactly this happens. Here are few of the common ones you may have heard.
Myth 1: You need to pay for an antivirus program.
When peoples’ computers start running slowly, many assume that it’s because they have a virus. At this point, they will often buy an anti-virus program, or even a second. However, the problem can usually not be solved at this point by these methods.
The way to keep safe is first to read up on safe browsing habits. That will be your biggest safeguard. Then make sure you have an antivirus program and that you can keep it updated. Use something like ‘Microsoft Security Essentials,’ (http://www.microsoft.com/security/pc-security/mse.aspx ) which takes up little disk space and is fast as well as efficient. Programs like Norton or McAfee are more often the cause of computer slowdown than the preventative measure. So, contrary to belief, you should probably get rid of your paid antivirus software to speed your computer up. Installing a new one will only compound the problem.
Myth 2: You need as much RAM and hard drive space as possible.
The truth here is that any RAM or hard drive space above what you actually use is generally just going to go to waste. If you have between two and four gigabytes of RAM, you probably have enough. Unless you’re running Photoshop or another resource-hogging program, that much will be plenty. Upgrade if you have between one and two gigabytes.
If you do use a lot of RAM, remember, unless your operating system is 64-bit, you can’t use any more than four gigabytes of it, no matter how much you put in. Check with your local computer repair guy to figure out what kind of operating system you’re running if you’re unclear.
Myth 3: Your hardware “wears out” and gets slower.
With the exception of your hard drive, your hardware cannot really wear out. And when the hard drive wears out, you’ll know because the computer will actually crash, not slow down. What causes your computer to seem like it’s just “wearing out” is because of the real cause of computer slowdown: you using it. As you use your computer and install programs, create files, and browse the Web, your computer stores more and more data. The one thing your computer isn’t great at is cleaning up after you. It doesn’t want to delete something that you might need in the future, which can be convenient, but it means that every once in a while you need to go in and do some maintenance.
For this task I would recommend the excellent CCleaner. It can scan your entire system for caches to clear and can help you uninstall programs you no longer need. It’s available here: http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner.
Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds On Call, which offers onsite computer and laptop repair service homeowners and small businesses. Based in Redding, Calif., it has locations in five states. Contact Eldridge at www.callnerds.com/andrea.