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Troubleshooting System Slowdowns
Explanation: You have been using your PC for a while, but you notice now that it is
running slower than it used to run, or slower than it should be running.
Diagnosis: There are two generic causes for this problem: either something has
changed gradually over time to cause performance to degrade, or there has been an abrupt
hardware or software change that is responsible for reduced performance. There are a
number of different situations that can be responsible for the system performance
Recommendation: Try some of the suggestions below. In addition, you may want to
read the System Optimization Guide, since it contains
lots of general ideas about how to improve the speed of your system:
- Scan the system for viruses, as they can slow the
- Have you recently add more memory to your system? Do you now have more than 64 MB of
system RAM? If so, and you notice a slowdown, it may be because your PC does not support
caching of more than 64 MB of system memory. This
will cause performance to be degraded when accessing the uncached memory.
- Check the processor to make sure it is not overheating, and make sure the CPU fan is
still running. Some CPUs, especially OverDrive processors, will intentionally slow the CPU
down if they detect a failed fan, in order to prevent heat buildup.
- Double-check all BIOS options to make sure nothing has been changed from what it should
be. Look at cache and memory timings, and hard disk modes. Verify against your last BIOS settings backup. Sometimes people
accidentally change a parameter when they are trying to modify something else in the BIOS.
Viruses can also change BIOS settings, rarely.
- On an older machine with a functional turbo switch, make sure it is pressed in and the
turbo light is on. If you find yourself frequently accidentally disabling turbo and seeing
your PC go into glacier mode, as a result, consider disabling the switch. See here for details.
- Do you see the hard disk light flickering a lot when you load a lot of programs into
Windows? Does your machine not have a lot of memory? The PC is probably thrashing.
- Try defragmenting the hard disk.
If you have not defragmented in a while, file fragmentation can lead to reduced
- Check the free space on your hard disk, especially the C: volume. An overly-full hard
disk can reduce performance. In particular, if you have set Windows 95 to dynamically
resize the swap file, and you let the volume where the swap file resides get too full,
Windows 95 will shrink the size of the swap file and this can cause problems.
- Try updating your Windows drivers.
- If you are a utility-toy-freak like I am, you may be loading a lot of unnecessary little
"fun" programs into Windows, which taken together can use up a lot of resources.
Consider removing some of these from your system. Look in the
C:\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup folder and see how many programs are starting
up automatically when you boot up the machine.
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