From the Kenosha News on 11-21-04

3 Reasons Your Computer Could be Slow

      This is my first technology column for the Kenosha News, and I hope that readers will find it practical and helpful.  I will be giving tips for average computer and internet users.  Topics will apply to users of nearly all computer types, but many of the specific instructions will be geared toward users of Windows XP.  I would welcome questions, comments, or suggestions for future columns via e-mail directed to csabbar@yahoo.com.  Now, on to today's topic.

      If your computer is running more slowly than you think it should, there may be many causes, but here are three things that you can check without a lot of technical expertise.  Before you begin these tests, you'll want to ask yourself when your computer is slow.  Is it slow on the internet, slow to start up, or slow all the time?  The answer to that question will point you in the right direction.

      First, if your computer is slow to start up, look at what programs are loading when your computer starts.  To do this in Windows XP, click on Start and drag up to Run.  Type in msconfig and press Enter.  Click on the Startup tab.  The only item that needs to be loaded on startup is your anti-virus program.  You can uncheck any other items and then click Apply.  If you uncheck a significant number of items, the computer should start up much more quickly on subsequent restarts.

      Second, if your computer is slow especially on the internet, you may be a victim of spyware.  Spyware programs install themselves on your computer while you're on the internet.  Their purpose is to "watch" what you use the internet for and report the activity to companies who want to sell you things.  The most common symptom of spyware is the appearance of pop-up windows while you're surfing the web.  To eliminate spyware, download a program like AdAware or SpyBot from the internet.  Install it and run it to find and eliminate spyware.  We will discuss this further in the coming weeks.

      Third, if your computer is slow just about all the time, watch and listen for your hard drive.  If it's very busy, then you most likely are low on RAM memory.  The amount of RAM in your computer determines how many programs it can run well at one time.  Remember that RAM is not the same as storage space, so deleting files will not help.  Instead, in Windows XP, press Ctrl-Alt-Del and click on Task Manager.  Click the Performance tab to see what your memory usage is.  If your available memory is a very small number or percentage of the total, then a RAM upgrade to your computer could definitely make it faster.  This same window will also show you your computer's CPU (processor) usage.  In most cases, your processor is probably mostly idle, and getting a faster processor would not increase your speed.

      There are many more technical factors that can affect computer speeds.  Understanding some simple techniques like those above can help you avoid unnecessary upgrades and speed up your computer at minimal cost.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 11-21-04