One of the most common questions I field from folks regarding home machines is, ” My machine is so slow…should I be looking at buying a new one?”
In some cases, the answer is yes, most definitely but 9 times out of 10, the issues lie not with the hardware but with the software and operating system. Spyware, malware, adware are huge performance hogs. In some cases, the spyware is coupled with some nasty trojans also running on the machine and slowing down performance even more. So, first, download some anti-spyware/malware/adware software.
I’m a big fan of the free tools and spybot search and destroy and lavasoft’s adaware are free to use on personally owned machines. These tools sometimes find different items so it’s a good idea to run them (but not at the same time!). Anti-malware by malware bytes is another great utility. With all of these, you’ll want to download, install, launch and make sure you update the database before running a scan. If you haven’t already run something like this regularly, chances are they’ll find a number of items that have jumped on board when you’ve been out surfing the web. You can fix them via these software packages. If it finds a large number of items, you’ll probably see an immediate increase in performance of your machine.
Running an anti-virus scan is crucial as well. You may think you’re covered because the PC you bought 2 years ago came with a copy of Norton or McAfee installed. But, these software packages are only as good as their virus definition files and in most cases, the software that came free with your computer has a 3 month or 6 month subscription after which you must pay for any future definition updates. Since new definitions are released almost daily due to the high influx of viruses/trojans, etc. that come out each day, it is crucial that you are running your anti-virus program with the latest defs. Luckily, our faculty/staff/students can download the Symantec Endpoint Protection from the ITS downloads site to use on their personal machines while affiliated with Penn State.
If your machine is in such bad shape that you cannot install an anti-virus software, there are a number of good and free anti-virus packages that you can run from the web. For example, Panda Security’s activescan and Kaspersky Lab’s virus scanner prove very helpful.
Sometimes booting into safe mode before you run your anti-virus or anti-malware software is the best way to go about cleaning up your machine. I’ve never seen much improvement from all of those ‘clean up’ programs. Studies show that they don’t boost performance either and in some cases slow a machine down more than it was in the first place. In a worst case scenario, reinstall the os from the discs you received with your machine or from the recovery partition vendors will often hide on the machine.