We don’t all need to be software engineers or IT admins to use our computers efficiently. But sometimes our computers don’t seem so efficient – when the computer feels slow and our programs seems to lag, preventing us from getting our work (or fun) done. You may be writing an email and the words take don’t show up immediately, or opening a program or app that seems to take forever. Or often your Internet seems slow, but could actually be your computer acting as the bottleneck.

It’s a frustrating situation, but luckily there are plenty of easy ways to troubleshoot your slow computer. In this article, we are sharing simple tips for how to speed up your computer when it is running slowly.

Programs are running in the background

This is the most common reason for a computer to run slowly – and it’s not just limited to computers. Apps on your smartphone or tablet do this, too.

You may think that you are only reading email or browsing the internet, but one or several open programs may be using computing power in the background. If you’re running Windows, you can open the Task Manager. If you’re on a Mac, open the Force Quit option. Both will allow you to see everything that is technically running on your computer, even if you’re not actively using it.

Close any programs that aren’t needed right now, but remember to save any documents you may be working on before closing them. You would also be surprised to know that having lots of tabs or windows open in your browsers can contribute to slower performance. Many websites have background actions that can take resources away from your computer even though you aren’t looking at it. These actions free up some much needed oomph so your computer can give more power to the tasks you’re working on right now.

The same goes for your tables and smartphones: close any apps that you don’t need at the moment.

Restart your computer

Sometimes it’s as simple as closing all your programs and shutting down your computer. It’s the same as occasionally turning off and on your smartphone – it can easily reset and make your computer as efficient as possible. We also recommend restarting your modem and router from time to time. They are mini-computers after all and a quick re-boot can often do wonders.

One program is hogging all the computer power

This is similar to the previous issue. Depending what programs you run, some take considerably more power and resources to run than others. For instance, running Microsoft Word typically puts very little strain on a computer, but playing a complex game like World of Warcraft uses most of the computer’s energy at one time.

Same goes for your internet browser: reading the news uses a lot less computing power than streaming videos. And certain browsers are more bigger memory hogs than others.

To see how much power a program is using, open the Task Manager in Windows or the Activity Monitor in Mac. If something stands out as using a ton of power, closes the program – unless, of course, you’re in the middle of using it. Canceling the program doesn’t delete or remove the program from your computer; it simply closes it down so it’s not using your computer’s power.

Storage is full

Whether your storage is full often depends on the age of your computer. Older computers generally have significantly less storage than computers from the last couple years. Today’s models often have so much storage that a typical internet user, one who emails and browses the internet and saves photos, will probably never use it all.

If your storage is full, you’ll want to delete or relocate files and programs. Programs typically take up more space than most files (movies and large videos are exceptions), so start with removing any old programs that you haven’t used in a while. Remember: you can always download a program again should you need it in the future.

Consider taking advantage of some online cloud storage, such as Dropbox or the free storage that comes with Google, Mac, and Microsoft Live accounts. These can help free up some storage on your computer and also allow you to access those files from anywhere you have internet – from a desktop computer, a laptop, even a tablet or smartphone. Or buy an external hard drive to store any large photo or video libraries.

Your computer may have a virus

When your computer slows down, the first thing you may think is that your computer is infected with a virus. We’ve all thought it before! Fortunately, it’s one of the least likely reasons that your computer has actually slowed.

In our last article, we talked about what viruses are and how to prevent them. If you do have a virus, it is probably very obvious. There are plenty of ways of dealing with them that are specific to each virus, so search online and you’ll learn how to remove it.

Your computer is ancient

If your computer is legitimately old (5+ years), often a few hardware upgrades can buy you some time, but at a certain point it becomes a lost cause. You can get a lot more for your dollar these days and there’s always good deals to be had, so think hard about buying new if your computer is old enough to go to grade school.

AuthorMatt Osterman