Can’t Stand The Slowness? The Top 10 Reasons for Poor PC Performance

Christian Cawley 31-10-2012

pc performanceHas your computer loaded this webpage yet? If it has, you’ll be halfway toward working out just why it seems to be running so slowly. There are many reasons for desktop and laptops to chug along at their own, slow pace, defying the system specs and performing more like a relic from the 1990s.


Where you’re browsing the web, word processing or gaming, poor performance will cause problems. The irony is that in most cases, these problems are avoidable, or in the worst case scenario, easily resolved. From relying on old hardware to poor application management, bad airflow and the need to defragment your hard disk drive, the following list will tell you everything you need to know about finding the reason for your computer’s poor performance. You’ll be able to deal with these problems quickly and in most cases with zero outlay.

1. System Startup

Booting Windows typically takes around the same length of time on any computer – it’s when it comes to loading the drivers and startup files that things slow down. As you add software to your PC, any that is required to launch as part of the Windows startup will result in sluggish performance, and perhaps even freeze your computer.

To fix this you will need to reduce the number of applications that are loading at this time. Various utilities can be employed to deal with a slow Windows startup, from MSConfig How To Troubleshoot Your Windows With The MSconfig Utility The System Configuration Utility (or MSconfig.exe) is used to manage the processes that happen when the Windows operating system boots up. Read More to the very useful Autoruns.

2. Fragmented Hard Drive

pc performance

One of the most common causes of a slow computer is a fragmented hard disk drive, although the actual effect of this has been called in to question in these days of faster, larger drives and massive games and media files. Nevertheless, checking the disk for fragmented data won’t take too long and can help with dealing with slow performance issues. In Windows, open Start > Computer and right-click the C: drive, selecting Properties > Tools > Defragment Now and following the instructions displayed.


Note that while you can’t defrag an SSD, you can optimize it for peak PC performance 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD For years, standard hard drives have been the speed limiting factor in overall system responsiveness. While hard drive size, RAM capacity, and CPU speed have grown almost exponentially, the spinning speed of a hard drive,... Read More .

3. Too Many Permanent Temporary Files!

Temporary folders are supposed to make using Windows and your browser faster by providing easily-accessed files that can be loaded up extremely quickly. This might be data that is downloaded from the web or regularly required by other applications.

When your hard disk drive becomes over 90% full you will find that performance dips markedly. In order to combat this, one of the best things you can do is delete your Windows temp files and clean your web browser. While deleting your Internet history and temporary Internet files is something you can do from your browser How to Manually & Automatically Clear Your Browser History The websites you visit leave tracks on your computer. We show you how to delete your browsing history in Firefox, Chrome, Edge, and Internet Explorer. Read More , CCleaner is a good option for tidying up the Windows temp folders.

How To Uninstall Applications Efficiently And Remove Obsolete Files How To Uninstall Applications Efficiently And Remove Obsolete Files Read More deals with the use of CCleaner.


4. An Incorrectly Configured Pagefile

Error messages and slow performance can be due to a problem with the Windows Pagefile, a temporary portion of your hard disk drive that is used for processing functions, part of which involves the temporary holding of data.

improve pc performance

Increasing the Pagefile is easy. First, open Start and right-click Computer, selecting Properties; from here, open Advanced > Settings > Performance > Advanced. Under Virtual Memory, select Change, and alter the size of the Pagefile so that a larger portion of RAM is available.

Note that if no more space can be allocated you will need to uninstall software or add a new hard drive.


5. Uninstalled Applications & The Windows Registry

When you uninstall software on Windows, the uninstaller doesn’t necessarily remove everything from your computer. While you can employ the Piriform CCleaner utility to remove software completely, historical uninstalls and other problems will have caused issues with your Windows Registry.

The Windows Registry is like a vast database of filepaths and instructions for the operating system and installed software, and it can become corrupted and overloaded. These issues will cause slow boots, poor performance and a very slow shut down, as well as an inability to resume from sleep/standby modes.

Once again, CCleaner can be employed here, but there are many other tools that can be used to fix problems in the Windows Registry. Remember to back up the registry before running tools that might cause problems, even if your PC is running slow.

6. Slow Network?

While network speed might not have a direct impact on your computer’s performance in many cases, if you’re relying on downloading data or perhaps using a cloud application or even a remote virtual platform, slow network speed will come into play.


improve pc performance

To overcome these issues, first check that your network cabling is secure and undamaged. If you have a wireless router, make sure that you are getting the very best connection Wireless Feng Shui: How to Optimize Wi-Fi Reception in Your House Setting up a Wi-Fi router for optimum coverage isn't as easy as you think. Use these tips to cover your whole house with Wi-Fi! Read More , and spend some time checking the configuration on your router. You can use the Windows command prompt to check the speed of your Internet connection using the tracert command, while various websites provide live speed tests.

Don’t overlook your local network as the cause of your problems, however. Network management software can be used to find out if anyone is piggy-backing your connection, and allow you to remove them.

7. Viruses & Spyware

If you’re using security software, it *should* be protecting you from malware and viruses on your system. Malicious software is one of the primary reasons for slow or poor system performance, and can add themselves to your computer while you install software downloaded from the web. Malware doesn’t just come in the form of viruses, worms and Trojans, however – there are plenty of toolbar hijacks and Facebook apps that can be described as malware or be the cause of malware ending up on your computer.

You can deal with malicious software by ensuring that your computer is fully equipped with anti-virus and anti-malware tools that run regularly. Removal of malware and viruses could prove difficult, however, if you don’t have these tools installed.

8. Security Software Letting You Down?

Try to stick to anti-malware/anti-spyware applications with good reputations, however, as opposed to any that might have come bundled with your computer. There are plenty of free tools that you can use, but any of them can be responsible for drawing on too many system resources.

improve pc performance

You can check whether security software (or other applications) are draining too many system resources by opening Task Manager, either by right-clicking the Windows taskbar or pressing CTRL+ALT+DELETE. Using the Processes and Performance tabs you should be able to identify which applications are causing the largest drain on resources – if it is your security software, you will need to deal with this in the application settings or even remove it completely. As there are many good free anti-virus and anti-malware applications available online, this shouldn’t be difficult to replace.

(Note also that running two anti-virus applications will be counterproductive, as each is likely to identify the other as a threat, resulting in more slow PC performance.)

9. Old Hardware

Possibly the hidden villain of slow PC issues, old hardware can prove deadly to your computer. It’s a familiar tale – the computer bought five or so years ago slowly upgraded component-by-component until it eventually has all brand new shining parts that simply cannot hope to perform as intended.

This is usually because of a single element, such as RAM that hasn’t been upgraded or replaced, or perhaps a system that has been completely overhauled except for a motherboard with slow bus speed.

Elsewhere, old cables can result in slow transfers and data loss, impacting performances speeds and making an apparently decent computer look over the hill.

10. Positioning, Airflow and Ventilation

There are many factors that can determine the lifespan of your computer, but one of those that you should pay attention to is dust.

pc performance

This single substance can wreak havoc in a computer, which is why machines should be regularly serviced to remove build-up of dust in vents, on cables, fans and heatsinks. The internal airflow of your computer should be such that the processor, graphics card and motherboard are kept cool – if this is not possible, performance issues will occur.

A computer should be positioned in a ventilated area, one which is relatively cool and largely dust free. You should also avoid covering the vents on your computer.

Speed Up Your PC With Regular Maintenance!

Using one, some or all of these solutions in tandem will enable you to speed up your computer, in some cases with remarkable results.

Note, however, that there is no substitute for regular maintenance. Whether that means keeping your hardware clean and dust free or running frequent checks with CCleaner and other utilities mentioned here, you should probably set aside one day a month to make sure your hardware is running at optimum speed for the rest of the time.

After all, computers are expensive pieces of equipment – looking after your investment will give you the best results.

Image Credits: Laptop dirty fan front view with dust via Shutterstock, Closeup of Virus Detected Sign on LCD Screen via Shutterstock, Knot in network cable, via Shutterstock, Broken hard disk drive via Shutterstock, Man on laptop via Shutterstock.

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Defragmentation.

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  1. Anonymous
    August 21, 2015 at 9:35 am

    very helpful information......
    It resolves critical issues.
    thanks a lot

  2. Frank Zedmore
    December 10, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Great article! Will be trying some of these out

  3. Jen Schumacher
    November 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Nearly all above problems can be solved by simply shifting to just about any popular distribution of Linux :) If you really need Windoze for something you can use a number of excellent, free virtualisation tools and let Windoze chug along in a virtual machine while doing real work on the linux host. I made the move years ago both at home and at work with both development and production machines and never looked back :)

    • dragonmouth
      March 9, 2013 at 11:33 am

      "Nearly all above problems can be solved by simply shifting to just about any popular distribution of Linux"

      Linux will cure SOFTWARE related problems, although too many services/programs started at boot time will slow Linux down also. Linux will not help with any hardware or mechanical problems. Dust herds, bad cables, slow drives, etc. affect all O/Ss.

  4. Chaos Emperor
    November 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    wew it looks like i need to clean up my computer because it is dusty

  5. Shirley Lim
    November 8, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Great article on common causes of sluggish pcs - I have to say they are pretty much part of our everyday lives in technology. You'll never know when the next hang/crash will be.

  6. Mohammed Jibril
    November 7, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Many thanks for sharing very interesting informations about
    PC Performance.

  7. Anonymous
    November 6, 2012 at 3:44 am

    great tips, thanks for the valuable information

  8. Leigh Holing
    November 6, 2012 at 1:53 am

    I quit working at shoprite and now I make $35h - $ I'm working online! My work didn't exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn't be happier. Heres what I do,

  9. Tarek Ramadan
    November 5, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    wonderful tips

  10. aggelos
    November 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    excellent article!!!!

  11. Boni Oloff
    November 4, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Sometimes computer slowdown not because the virus itself, but the antivirus itself can do a lot more to slowdown your computer.

  12. B. Jackson
    November 4, 2012 at 1:01 am

    The article assumes that ALL your readers use Windows-based PCs. Why did you not include reference to Macs, unless you believe that Macs never slow down.?

    • john rigby
      November 7, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      @B.Jackson Either you are an Apple troll (likely) or missing the WHOLE point here.
      There are *so* few people that are gullible enough to buy an Apple today, that it is a miracle that even the lowly 7% that do, are out here.
      The simple truth is that not much can be done to help you, anyway.
      1. The box is designed to be non-user serviceable.
      2. There are no reasonable parts sources for them anyway.
      3. There are very few good programs to recommend for an Apple. They all cost money - lots.
      4. Clever tech advisors certainly don't use Apples anyway, so can't offer much help to this orphan of the computer world.

      You need to upgrade to a real PC (very cheap and easy to do - cheaper than your next "service")
      OR learn to live with the fact that you've been had and NEVER assume that anything will work with an Apple.

  13. Ritwick Saikia
    November 3, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Good reasons all of them.

  14. Rigoberto Garcia
    November 2, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Excelent resume Christian. Thanks

  15. druv vb
    November 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Startup Programs (Bloatware by manufacturers!), outdated and expired Antivirus and dust are the main culprits. People are still ignorant. They buy a computer and just use it. But most of them don't even know that it needs to be updated and cleaned! And when their computer starts to crash on software, slow down and gets hotter (laptops!), they just buy another system and dump the old one. People just want a computer that works, they don't care how it works. Its upto us (IT guys) to repair their problems. We can tell them how to maintain their system properly, but at the end of the day they will come to us with the same problems.

  16. dragonmouth
    November 2, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Not mentioned as a cause of computers being slow is Indexing. While it may momentarily speed up a search for a particular file, it slows down the PC the rest of the time by constantly trying to index and re-index hundreds of thousands of files. This applies to Windows and Linux. I don't know about OS/X since I have not used it.

  17. Jim Spencer
    November 2, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Good Article! Even for us old-timers out here, lest we forget to keep a regular routine, can get caught with slow performance issues! I think the key word is regular, keeping an eye out on a regular basis and routine maintenance.

  18. Anil Kumar
    November 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    ha quite cimmon tips.......!!!!

  19. Thomas Madsen
    November 2, 2012 at 9:07 am

    ", old cables can result in slow transfers"..................Sorry but plain copper don't get old as such. You might have a bad connected between you cable and MB, but that is something else.

    • Christian Cawley
      November 2, 2012 at 9:39 am

      A needlessly pedantic (and incorrect) comment. By definition, an old cable is one that has been used for some years, during which time it will have been pulled, kicked, stretched and bent to excess.

      In the case of a motherboard cable (such as IDE) damage can and does occur inside a hot case, both with the cable folded over neatly or left hanging. I've seen this hundreds of times and replaced the cables on almost as many occasions with perfect results.

      If the issue was the connection, then the replacement cable wouldn't work, would it?

    • Christian Cawley
      November 2, 2012 at 9:39 am

      A needlessly pedantic (and incorrect) comment. By definition, an old cable is one that has been used for some years, during which time it will have been pulled, kicked, stretched and bent to excess.

      In the case of a motherboard cable (such as IDE) damage can and does occur inside a hot case, both with the cable folded over neatly or left hanging. I've seen this hundreds of times and replaced the cables on almost as many occasions with perfect results.

      If the issue was the connection, then the replacement cable wouldn't work, would it?

  20. Ramon Fletcher
    November 2, 2012 at 6:44 am

    The surest way to slow a computer is to use windows. Try Bodhi linux. A 10 yr old computer will run better than many of the new ones running windows

  21. v3gA
    November 2, 2012 at 3:59 am

    Ditch windows. Use linux => much faster

  22. Anonymous
    November 2, 2012 at 3:41 am

    CCleaner is pretty good.

  23. Ravi Lamontagne
    November 2, 2012 at 12:26 am

    CCleaner always come to save the day

  24. Yang Yang Li
    November 1, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Dust is just horrible for a computer. Dust leads to heat, which is the number one killer of components. Keep your computers clean geeks!

  25. Alex Perkins
    November 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I always find *&^%ware on people's PC's and sometimes when upgrading their RAM find a horrible mess inside, no wonder it was slow...

  26. John B
    November 1, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I dumped Windows for Ubuntu years ago and will never go back to the bad old days of windows.

  27. Bud
    November 1, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    My one and only biggest complaint now using an Apple iMac, is the inability to open it up like my former Windows-based desktop to clean out accumulated dust.

    To have it cleaned at an Apple service department store is a minimum of $125.00 the last time I checked. And like all Apple products, way over-priced and a consumer "rip-off."

    Only true positive thing about Apple is their very stable OS. Their iPads suck, their laptops are too damned expensive, and I hate the monthly update of bloat on I'm damned if I do, and damned if I don't !!!

    • john rigby
      November 7, 2012 at 7:56 pm

      @Bud. @JohnB is the right advice. We should all do our bit to stop the malicious (but brilliantly run) Apple propaganda machine.

      People in the complex where I live in OZ (Australia) are mainly oldies and it is sad when they come to me for neighbourly help with their "rotten Apples".
      ( I once foolishly owned a Computer Service Company) and it is sad to have to tell them that they were conned.

      There are two classes of people who buy Rotten-Apple products:
      1. "Wannabees". The ones who MUST buy the latest fashion in everything and to whom "value" means nothing in their quest for oneupmanship.

      2. The gullible/unwary who lack the knowledge to know the difference.

      (1) Don't want to know the truth. Nothing can help them except growing old (wiser).

      (2) This group includes many journalists (even "technical" ones) who should know better, or know it means death to their career if the tell the truth.

      1. Apple sources parts from the same places as everyone else. They MAKE nothing ( - except brilliant propaganda)

      2. They have chutzpah! Even finally admitted that their original system was crap and "announced" their latest invention: a poor copy of the FREE operating system that actually runs the world: Linux. AND they put the price up.

      3. There is not a single aspect of Apple computers that isn't "borrowed" from existing technology in the real world and can't be had for a fraction of the price in a real computer.

      The moment I see a "tech journo" using an Apple, then I know that here is a non-real world person. Either gullible or compromised in my opinion.
      1. Apple users only have a fraction of the tens of thousands of programs available to real users. AND they get socked for them.
      2. Yes, even to clean one, costs $120 and it is cheaper to throw them away than "update/upgrade" them and to go buy a new real Linux PC.
      3. There is unlimited friendly real support from literally millions of the other more clever 92% of users on the Net.
      Yes, despite spending a billion dollars on propaganda/ promotion all these years, it is only the gullible fashionista 7% who buy them. Who dumbly queue up in the rain to beat their "friends" to the latest model.

      But they are prettier to look at.............


      • Scott M
        March 14, 2013 at 11:12 pm

        Bravo!!About time someone spoke the truth and spelled it out in a proper manner.Good one!

  28. Jeff Byers
    November 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    You all do nice work, and this looks like a fine article for Windows computer owners. But please make clear in your headlines when you have an article directed at a particular OS, so the rest of us can simply delete and move on, knowing that we'll get good stuff that applies to us some time in the future. Thanks.

  29. Navin jayswal
    November 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    I need to maintain my Mac computer,is there any suggestion?

  30. G3roff Rothwell
    November 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Sorry to point out that I think No4 about the page file is wrong. The Pagefile is allocated space on a disc and not the RAM. If it was in the RAM it would be faster. Virtual memory (or Pagefile) is used when RAM is short. It is advisable to have the page file on a separate disc (if possible) to the system drive so they don't interfere with each other trying to read/write at the same time. Even better is to use a Solid State Disc, almost as fast as internal RAM. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong!

    • SubgeniusD
      November 2, 2012 at 11:31 am

      With multi-Gigs of cheap Ram available these days the pagefile is really just a relic of the past.

      My big media "laptop" (18.4" screen) came with 4 Gigs of Ram and I haven't even bothered to install the other 4 GB stick I got because usage rarely even hits 3 GBs - so the pagefile just sits there dormant. Well that's with a dedicated Graphics card with it's own 1 GB dedicated Ram.

      • G3roff Rothwell
        November 2, 2012 at 4:20 pm

        @SubgeniousD I agree to a point. There are resource hungry tasks in graphics and video editing which may demand more than even your 4GB, and in those cases the demands placed upon a single drive would slow the machine. By how much depends on what the RAM GB is, the task at hand and the speed you expect from the machine. I don't game yet, my most demanding tasks are graphic editing, but in the future who knows? So would you recommend your laptop to others looking for performance?

      • Himagain
        March 16, 2013 at 7:15 am

        @subgeniusD and people,
        Unless your new PC was loaded with Windows 64Bit System extra Ram over 4 Gigs is wasted - Windows 32Bit can only use 3 Gigabytes of internal Ram. :-{

    • Christian Cawley
      November 2, 2012 at 11:43 am

      Thanks for pointing that out, I really should know much, much better! The error has been rectified :)

  31. Carl
    November 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Pagefile is not using system memory. It is on the harddrive. The picture shows a recommended size of 6 GB and current size of 4095 MB (6 GB)

  32. Mot Mansfield
    November 1, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Thats why I have a Mac.

    • Christian Cawley
      November 1, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      Not all of these issues are exclusive to Windows machines, Mot Mansfield...

  33. mezig
    November 1, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    SSD are cheaper and cheaper.
    Very fast.

  34. Grr
    November 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Nice article and all points covered.

  35. Catherine McCrum
    November 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Bugs (the creepy crawly kind) can get into the smallest cracks, die, and clog things up. A greenhouse brought in bugs to eat aphids on the plants, the bugs reproduced at a rapid rate and sought the warmth given off by the computers. Everything slowed as the dead and dying tiny bug bodies piled up inside computer components. -- true story!

  36. Nikhil Chandak
    November 1, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks for the information and was useful !!
    I did not knew about these at all ...

  37. Hoku Sarroca
    November 1, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    I've changed the location of where I have my cpu, we all remember how the older computer desk has a spot for it under the desk with the door closed... not much air circulation... so I had to rethink and see if I could just set it on the desk where it would get much more air flow and don't heat up as fast. It's a really good way to remember to clean out the fans and interior. A lot I've learned though all the great full ppl on here that has been willing to break it down to none puter geeks . Thank you!!!

    • Christian Cawley
      November 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      That's great feedback and a great comment, Hoku, good to know we're hitting the right note :D

  38. Efi Dreyshner
    November 1, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Thanks for sharing :)
    I will translate it to Hebrew, and publish in my forum :D

  39. Joe Ndzulo
    November 1, 2012 at 8:01 am

    I knew about some issues and learnt more about others especially the cause related to Windows registry. Computer users should therefore learn that, depending on the environment, the frequency of servicing a computer varies.

    Thanks for the great post!

  40. Nancy B
    November 1, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Great tips! ..... excuse me while I go defrag!

  41. Philip Yusenda
    November 1, 2012 at 7:18 am

    When I saw some photos about how big a dust bunny can accumulate inside a computer, I thought it was a hoax. Well, until someday I had to open my client's computer, that was never been maintained since it was delivered a few years ago...

  42. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    November 1, 2012 at 4:46 am

    Too much running programs in system tray (background) and antivirus scanning could cause bigger performance decline than most people believe. Also, the 90% hard drive limitation is not paranoia. It's true. I stuffed my hard drive full when migrating my PC's data, and my laptop crawled for a week.

  43. Félix S. De Jesús
    November 1, 2012 at 3:12 am

    I have one question... What is the relation between Slow network and the computer performance?? I think that thing is not quite related, the other 9 are really related, specially the dirt on fans.

    • Kieran Colfer
      November 1, 2012 at 7:20 am

      Depends on what you are doing really. If you're online a lot and pages take ages to load because your network connection is slow, then it looks like your computer is slow as things aren't happening fast enough. Also, if you have an office/home network set up and you're accessing shared drives on another computer, explorer will hang if the network connection is too slow. This even has knock-on effects to other programs like browsers, office etc if you're saving files to a network drive - even opening the "save as" dialog will hang if you're trying to look at network drives on a slow network.

      • Dmitriy Tverdov
        November 1, 2012 at 7:57 pm

        On WinXP i've noticed that slow network really uses much more CPU power during any operations than faster one - forex. old 10 mbit cable network at my work generally slowed PCs to the crawl - which was cured by transition to 100 Mbit.
        And slow (or laggy) internet connection is influences number of internet-accessing programs this way.

  44. Harshal Warkhede
    October 31, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    Always searching for this. Thanks.

  45. Caroline West
    October 31, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    What I learned lately was about Windows 'Ready Boost'. It speeded up my NetBook really quickly and am getting an 8GB one for this laptop. I keep my system maintained and Ready Boost is just a hit for me at the moment :-)

  46. Nohl Lyons
    October 31, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    I see this on people's computers all the time. Good tips.