Why does your PC get slow over time?

It has been a problem with most computers – and even smartphones. Over time, your PC gets slow. But why does this happen? And what can you do about it?
Now, your PC does not have a mind of it’s own. It does not slow down unless it is made to slow down. That brings it down to the user. In most of the cases, it’s the user causing the problem. Having knowledge about how your usage affects your PC can help you understand the performance bottlenecks.

Digital Baggage reduces performance

When I say baggage, I do not necessarily mean storage. People have terabytes of storage and can still have a high-performance computer. Most operating systems, including Windows do a poor job of telling its users how much the system has been slowed down.
Digital baggage that can slow down your system includes your personal files scattered around the disk, background services, startup items and other installed programs. A lot of programs, including office suites, or web browsers have background processes that allow them to update themselves quietly, or they can cache themselves so that you get a faster response when launching them. However, if you don’t use those programs that much, your PC’s memory is being occupied for no reason at all.
So, let’s dig in a little into this digital baggage and explore in detail what causes these unwanted system slowdowns.

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So, what slows down your system?

The real issue is that when you install programs such as Photoshop, a media player such as iTunes, or even something as essential as a graphics driver, you end up adding into your system tasks and processes that run in the background. These processes slow down your system even when you are not using them. Most of these background processes are programmed in a way such that their impact on performance remains negligible, but with a lot of these processes, you can feel your computer slowing down.
These background processes can be:

  • Services: On Windows, you can view running services by launching “services.msc” or “msconfig” from the Run dialog box. Services include processes that check the validity of the software license, that updates the software, or alerts the user when there is an update, or other things. Now, the reality is that in most of the cases, you do not require all that extra functionality. But then again, these will eat up precious CPU cycles and memory.
    You can obviously disable a few of them manually to get back some of the original performance. But then again, you have to know what you are doing.
  • Scheduled Tasks: These are usually performed by background applications, which come with Windows or other software you install. However, these tasks are mostly used to perform actions at specific times or in certain situations.
    Schedules tasks can also be used to launch items at startup, slowing down the startup. You can simply go to Run, type “tasks” and see a list of tasks that are there in your system.
  • Startup Items: These are additional programs that launch every time you turn on your PC. But while services and scheduled tasks run mostly hidden in the background, startup items tend to be more “visible”, as they appear in your systems tray:
    Most of these include antivirus programs, email clients, instant messaging, cloud storage sync, drivers and more.
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So, what to do?

  • Luckily, there are a bunch of things that you can do when it comes to keeping your PC in shape. Most of these include some good habits. Remember, prevention is better than cure. So, here are a few things that you can do right now to improve your PC speed.
  • Uninstall what you don’t need: A program called Bulk Crap Uninstaller does that pretty well. You can also use the Apps section in Settings on Windows 10 to remove bundled software and the programs you once installed but never used.
  • Think before installing: Before you install, think if you really need the program or not. If you are installing something for one-time use, then try grabbing a portable version of the program. If you install something, then uninstall it after use.
  • Eliminate start-up apps: Make sure that only the most important apps are loaded at launch. You can use the task manager to disable start up apps. Also using the task scheduler, you can see which apps run at startup and disable them too.
  • Defrag your PC: Hard drive defragmentation puts the files in your hard drive in order, making them easier to read. This does not have much of a pronounced effect on SSDs, but on high capacity mechanical hard drives, this can massively improve system performance.
  • Back Up: And finally, before you do anything, make sure that you have a backup of all your important files.

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