Simple Things to Try to Buck up a Slow Computer

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It’s a cross that every family tech. expert has to bear – if you have enough experience with computers to fix most everyday issues, you’ll be on speed dial on most phones across your extended family. As much as I complain about it sometimes, I’m also secretly flattered, and I try my best to keep myself informed enough that I might retain my “top tech guy in the family” title. The complaints that I am called on to help solve most of the time, have to do with an inexplicably slow computer someone has.

I try to consider most possible explanations for why a nicely specified modern computer should stutter and tarry when called on to do anything – even routine stuff like opening the Explorer window. I’ve come across a few ways to defeat the problem over the time I’ve spent on this issue, but I’m struck by how often most complaints simply end up pointing to one source – the antivirus software. A slow computer, seven times out of ten, is slowed down by some impossibly tedious antivirus software, most often Norton.

But isn’t antivirus the stuff that’s supposed to keep out malicious nasties like spyware and viruses that turn your screaming fast i7 into a plodding slow computer of the 486 kind? Haven’t you heard of the sayings that describe cures that can be worse than the ailment? Antivirus is a prime example if ever there was one. The problem with all antivirus software, and Norton especially, is that they want to do is such a good job protecting you, that they’ll run constantly and sap your system’s available resources just checking, checking, and checking some more for problems you’ll never have. But how could you just uninstall your antivirus? Don’t we all read about how there are nearly half a million viruses out there waiting to rip out your PCs insides?

That number is a theoretical possibility; for an analogous problem, consider a friend you might have (and everyone has one of these), who is a self-styled Internet medical expert. No matter what drug or prescription a doctor writes out, they are on the ready with a list of the worst things that could happen with the side effects that those drugs are capable of. Have you ever looked at the possible risk factors to the use of aspirin? Those terrible potential side effects, brain hemorrhage among them, are just that – potential. And they strike perhaps one in 100,000. How funny would it be if the rest of the 99,999 of us refused to take aspirin to escape those deadly side effects?

Antivirus merely protects you against imaginary threats. And the reason you believe that there are tens of thousands of viruses ready to do you in is that  magazines and computer shows for the past decade have seized on the virus “problem” as a great sensationalist way of filling a few column inches. The only thing you’d lose by uninstalling your antivirus, and enjoying the glorious freedom of going unprotected, would be to miss out on a slow computer now and forever.

But there are other wonderful ways of getting your slow computer a kick in the pants, that don’t involve potentially risky stuff like what you just read above. Here they are:

1. For your Internet browsing, choose Google’s Chrome. You never saw anything so fast before.

2. If you have Vista or 7, and you have less than 2GB RAM installed, buy a flash drive to plug into an unused USB port, and just leave it there. These operating systems have a function called Windows Ready Boost that uses your flash RAM like it was real system RAM, and it could speed up some functions by three times.

If you haven’t upgraded from XP yet, be sure to do so.  Just because Aero looks so cool, it doesn’t mean that it slows down the computer.The visual goodies you have on Windows 7 don’t tax your CPU. They just tax your graphics card. And you get a faster system overall. And in the end, if you’re still running your computer on anything less than 2GB of RAM, you need to run out and buy some; more RAM (depending on how much you computer is capable of taking) is the best solution to  a slow computer. To find out how much more RAM your system can take, try the online tool on the Crucial memory website.

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