My computer is very slow, what can I do?


I recently bought a computer about 2 weeks ago and it was operating super fast, especially with the cable connection to the internet I've got. I recently installed a ddr ram stick to double my memory to 512 and installed a video card manufactured by ATI. I've noticed lately that my computer started operating more and more slowly. Now it is at the point where I have to wait almost 30sec to minute just to open up My Computer, and when I get to the point to where I just manually close the window out of impatience, I get "this program not responding" would you like to" End Task," alert. I thought all the music and video tracks I've been downloading might be causing the problem but it dosent even make a blip on my hard drive. Could it be a virus or something I downloaded? Can you tell me what the problem might be and how can I fix it, before I throw my computer out of the window. Thank you.


This question was answered on April 27, 2004. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

You should defrag the harddrive, and delete any start-up programs you don't use This could also be an indication that your harddrive is almost full If this is the case, then you need to upgrade your harddrive Anyway, this is what you need to do to run scandisk and defrag.Scandisk and Defrag are important utilities that come with Windows, to help you tune up your Windows filesystem and make sure it's running properly Scandisk checks your drive to make sure there aren't any problems with it, and Defrag (short for Disk Defragmenter) organizes your filesystem to help Windows read files faster.

You can usually find Scandisk and Defrag on your Start menu under "Programs" then "Accessories" and "System Tools" Another easy way to access both programs is to open "My Computer", and right-click on the drive you want to tune up On the context menu choose "Properties" and then select the "Tools" tab If you use this second method to start Scandisk and Defrag, you should see a window As you can see, this window tells you how long it's been since you last ran Scandisk or Defrag on this drive If you see a message like "Windows was unable to determine when you last checked this drive for errors", or "Windows was unable to determine when you last defragmented this drive", then you probably haven't done it since Windows was installed.

Just like you periodically get your oil changed in your car, you should run Scandisk and Defrag now and then, to keep everything running smoothly You should run Scandisk and Defrag at least once a month Later versions of Windows (Windows 95B a/k/a OSR2 and later) will automatically run the DOS version of Scandisk before starting up, if the computer was not shut down properly before this boot On these systems running Scandisk regularly is not as important, although there are some problems that the DOS version of Scandisk will not repair.

It should be noted that running Scandisk and Defrag more than once a month is still helpful Also, the more often you run Defrag, the less time it will take, because there is less work to do.

Running Scandisk

When you first start Scandisk, you should be greeted by a window.At the top you will find a box that lets you select which drives you would like to check for errors If you want to have Scandisk check multiple drives, you can hold down the Ctrl key while selecting them Usually you will just select the one drive you are interested in.

Moving downwards, there are two radio buttons, called Standard and Thorough A standard test completes fairly quickly, but only checks the FAT tables and directory entries The Thorough test can take a long time, but performs a test on each sector of a drive This test is similar to the one performed when formatting the drive.

Almost all of the time, I would recommend using the Standard option Any errors that are not due to a failure of the hardware can be detected with a Standard scandisk On the other hand, if you suspect the hardware is having problems, or sectors on the drive are going bad, choose the Thorough option.

The checkbox near the bottom named "Automatically fix errors" is controls the behaviour of Scandisk when a problem is found If you leave this box unchecked, Scandisk will stop and ask you what course of action to take, for each error it finds Scandisk's default actions are pretty safe, so it's okay to leave this checked The dialogue box presented after clicking the Advanced button The default settings are shown here, and there is little reason to change them.

Most of the settings are self-explanatory "Check host drive first" applies only to compressed drives A compressed drive must be contained within an uncompressed drive, and checking this option tells Scandisk the uncompressed drive first Running Defrag:After starting Defrag, you will see a windowasking which drive you would like to defragment Unlike Scandisk, there is no way to select multiple drives simultaneously In Windows 98, the defragmentation process will start as soon as you hit the `OK' button, so the `Settings' button is also on this window.

Under Windows 95, you will usually just click the `Start' button Under Windows 98, Defrag will automatically start working, so there is no need The `Advanced' button here takes you to Defrag's settings.After Defrag has started working, it will display a percentage bar showing how much of the drive has been defragmented already At this time you can click the `Show Details' button if you wish to watch Defrag moving the blocks of data around your drive It isn't a very useful option, but it can be fun to watch, especially if you're bored waiting for your Defrag to finish If you have a slower computer, using this option may slow Defrag down noticably, but anything faster than a Pentium 166 with a decent video card won't experience a significant slowdown.You can see a screenshot of Defrag in action, when Show Details mode is on Hitting the Legend button will show a chart detailing what the different coloured blocks mean The Pause button will halt Defrag temporarily, and Stop will cancel your defragmentation.

The default options are shown here There are 3 choices for the Defragmentation Method The first is `Full', which is the best choice It moves files so that they occupy continuous ranges of clusters, and Windows can read them faster It also tries to make the space not used up by files into one large block The second choice is `Files only' With this option you will get the benefits of defragmenting the filesystem, but since the free space may still be scattered around the disk, new information written to the disk will more easily become fragmented again The third option, `Free space only', doesn't optimise any of your current files, but will help make sure new ones do not fragment.

You should leave the "Check drive for errors" option checked It doesn't take much time to do a quick check of your drive before the Defrag, and you risk losing data if you try to defragment a corrupted filesystem.

The Windows 98 Defrag has fewer settings Again there is an option to check the drive for errors, and one to tell Windows to rearrange your files so that they load quicker I don't know of any downside to that option, and it does improve performance, so leave it checked.

When Defrag is done, it will present you with a window that says disk defragmenter Just hit `Yes' unless you want to defragment another drive.

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Posted by Raymond of Katharine Gibbs School - New York on April 27, 2004