Solving Mysterious PC Slowdowns

June 20, 2011, By Christian Cawley

If you’re having issues with the speed of your Windows PC, you might be tempted to think that a defrag and perhaps purchasing some extra memory might suffice.

However, there are other reasons for slowdowns beyond a hard disk drive dropping data wherever it likes and a realization that modern apps require a bit more RAM. While there can be plenty of software reasons for slowness (and these can be quickly resolved with a few minutes of attention using tools provided in Windows 7) the hardware reasons are worth investigating first.

For instance, PCs can get too hot, which results in the CPU running slower. The BIOS might lose settings and run RAM at the wrong speed, or the amount of RAM on your system might appear to shrink.

Finally, a hard disk drive issue could be the cause of your slow Windows 7 computer. Let’s take a look at each of these factors and how they can be resolved.

Solving mysterious PC slow downs

Vanishing System Memory

Older systems or those that are regularly modified can occasionally see the BIOS reset itself. This can happen if the BIOS battery runs out, and when this happens, the settings in the BIOS revert to the defaults.

One of the things that this can affect is the speed of your RAM. While modern motherboards usually auto-detect RAM speeds based on the modules, this isn’t the case on all devices, so you should check that your system memory is set to the correct speed in the BIOS.

It is also possible that your RAM might appear to shrink. The Intel P55 and X58 chipset motherboards feature a quirk that results in RAM not being correctly detected. This occurs when a heatsink is mounted too tightly, causing a kink in the motherboard and preventing the RAM module from being detected.

Overheating Components

If your PC gets too hot, it will shut down as a safety precaution in order to protect the hardware. Finding out why your PC is getting too hot is another matter, however. If your PC is lagging for some reason, checking any desktop temperature monitoring that you have installed is a good idea. This will usually be supplied with your motherboard as it depends on the sensors provided on the device, but can be a very useful tool to have.

Not all motherboards have this feature, so the next thing to check is the amount of dust in your computer. Modern cases often have dust filters across the air intakes on the PSU, so removing and cleaning this is a good step to take, as is keeping the area around your PC clean and tidy and regularly vacuumed.

Hard Drive Failure Imminent?

If you suspect that your hard disk drive is about to give up – something that you should be able to detect from seeming constant use (a regular rattling sound) – then you will need to take steps to remove data from it to another device.

This is best done by copying data to a secondary, faster internal hard disk drive, but if this isn’t possible then you should use an external device to copy all of your vital files and folders to, and then replace the failing disk drive.

You will find that this requires you to reinstall Windows; if you have a copy of the operating system that will install, then use this, otherwise you will need to take the computer back to the supplier for them to deal with installation.

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