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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting The System Overall ]

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 changing.

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 system down.
  • 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 performance.
  • 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.

Next: Troubleshooting Specific Components

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