Why is my computer so slow?

Are you frustrated by your slow computer? What is making it so bloody slow? Slow computers are aggravating as hell and productivity robbing. There's no reason to tolerate it.


Here I'll go into the three main causes of computer slowness. This article is rather long as it has a lot to cover. But it should help you understand why your computer may be slow.

1. Low-end Computer

Just as with cars, there's a computer for every budget and need. You can buy a crappy car that's small, uncomfortable, noisy, unreliable, and has a stiff ride for a lot less money. So too can you buy a crappy computer with a slow processor and chipset, low-res monitor, insufficient memory, slow hard drive, etc. And just as a crappy car will still take you from point A to point B, a crappy computer will still do what you need. But it'll be aggravating as hell to use.

Here's how you'll suffer with a slow computer.

Slow Web Browsing: Today's web sites are very complex and full of code that takes a lot of horsepower to render on your screen. e.g. Amazon.com web pages that you see today are far more complex than they were 15 years ago -- or even five years ago. If your computer is a low-end model, then it's going to take longer to render those web pages. Sometimes much longer. This applies to all web pages, not just Amazon.com

Slow Program Launching: Just launching your programs such as Word, Excel, QuickBooks (a real pig), or your web browser can take forever. And if you have several programs open and are switching between them, that can take longer as well. Software itself today is bigger, more complex, and has more features, making it even slower on a low-end computer.

Slow Startup: Low end computers take a long time to boot up and become ready for use. Go fix yourself coffee using a french press. That will take you about fifteen minutes.

Unfortunately, there's very little that can be done to speed up a low-end computer. Memory (RAM) can be added, but that's usually insufficient by itself. The CPU and supporting chipset which is the heart of the computer generally cannot be upgraded.

2. Computer is Full of Bloatware

Bloatware is useless software on your computer. It often hitches a ride with software installations and updates. It's not generally harmful (e.g. malware) but it's presence benefits the company that installed it -- not you. It's bad enough all that bloatware sneaks onto your computer as you install and update various products. More aggravating is that a lot of bloatware comes preinstalled by the manufacturer! Why is it preinstalled? Because the computer manufacturer makes money by including it.

The only thing worse than a crappy, low-end computer is one that's full of bloatware. Fortunately, bloatware is easily cured.

3. Slow Internet Service

Even the fastest computer can be a dog if your internet speed is slow. As of this writing (July, 2015) the FCC classifies "broadband" as being at least 25 mbps (megabits per second) downstream. That disqualifies all pretty much DSL service and a lot of AT&T's U-Verse service areas as well. DSL and especially leased T1 (for business) is today's dial-up. It's agonizingly slow making you frustrated and unproductive as you endlessly wait for complex code-laden web pages to load. That's no way to live or work.

If you can get cable-based internet, such as Comcast, Time-Warner, Brighthouse, Mediacom, etc. installed then do so. Yeah, I know, you hate (insert-cable-company-here). Everybody hates the cable companies, but you gotta let go of the hate and just do it. They're the only providers that can deliver fast internet. Your online productivity will soar when you aren't waiting for web pages to load and email attachments to download.

Finding the Cause of the Slowness

There are five components that are measured, but three of them are the most important for most users. I've bordered them in red.

The subscores in this example show a very low-end computer.

A subscore of 3.6 and 4.5 are very low and slow. Ideally, you want the Processor and Memory (RAM) to be at least 6.0 and the higher the better. The Primary hard disk tops out at 5.9. Only an SSD may exceed 5.9 for this subscore.

How to see your computer's WEI

For Windows Vista and Windows 7, do this:
 

  • Click the Start button.

  • Right-click "Computer" from the second column, about half way down.

  • Click "Properties" at the bottom of the pop-up menu that appears.

  • Look about half way down for the "Rating".

  • Click "Windows Experience Index" to the right of the two digit number.

  • You should now see the Windows Experience Index screen. Make a note of the 1st, 2nd, and 5th subscores.

For Windows 8 and 10, do this:
    CLICK HERE to download the WEI tool. Run the tool after downloading it. Make a note of the 1st, 2nd, and 5th subscores.

If the Processor and/or Memory (RAM) subscore is ...

 

  • Less than 6.0: You should consider a new computer, period. See below for specs.

  • Between 6.0 and 7.0: We might consider other ways to improve the speed, but no guarantees on that.

  • Above 7.0: You're in fairly good shape.

  • Above 8.0: You're in excellent shape.

If the Primary hard drive subscore is 5.9 or less, then you may wish to replace your HDD (Hard Disk Drive) with a much faster SSD (Solid State Drive). This will increase the Primary hard disk subscore to at least the mid 7's, or even low 8's on Windows 8 and 10 computers. The speedup is absolutely phenomenal, especially if your Processor and Memory subscores are higher.

CLICK HERE to read more on SSDs and why they are so fast.


Testing to determine if you have a lot of bloatware running

An easy way to see if there's a lot of bloatware running is to make a note of the process count. Here's how to do that. Close all your regular programs before performing this test. You want the taskbar pretty much empty of running programs.

For Windows Vista and Windows 7, do this:

 

  • Right click on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen over a blank area (not over an icon)

  • Select Task Manager from the menu

  • The Windows Task Manager will appear.

  • Look on the lower-left corner for the word "Processes" and make a note of the number next to it.

 

​For Windows 8 and 10, do this:

  • Right click on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen over a blank area (not over an icon)

  • Select Task Manager from the menu

  • The Windows Task Manager will appear

  • If you see "More details" on the lower-left corner, click it, otherwise proceed

  • Near the top left, click on the Performance tab.

  • In the left column, click on CPU

  • Look near the bottom just below the grid for "Processes" and make a note of the number underneath.

In general, the lower the process count the better. If the process count is ...

 

  • Less than 80: Good.

  • Between 80 and 100: OK, maybe there's a little bloatware running, nothing too excessive.

  • Between 100 and 130: Bloatware is prevalent, needs to be cleaned up.

  • Above 130*: A lot of bloatware, your computer needs a good decrapifying.

* Special note: Windows 10 updates after May 2017 may show a lot more processes without it being due to bloatware. For these later versions, I might consider processes in excess of 170 to be indicative of bloatware.

It's also true that Microsoft is clamping down on manufacturer-installed bloatware because it was hamstringing performance on otherwise brand-new computers. But bloatware can still flourish and pervade once the computer is in your hands.

Testing your Internet speed

Finally, the third common cause of slowness is the internet itself. That's very easy to test.

Visit SpeedTest.net, wait for the page to load, then click BEGIN TEST in the green oval that is floating above the map. Don't click any other BEGIN or START buttons on this web page. SpeedTest.net is full of ads, don't click them.

Here's how to interpret the results:

If your download speed (mbps) is ...

  • Less than 2.0: Internet is way too slow. It may even be a leased T1 line (very slow)

  • Less than 8.0: Still too slow, barely adequate for 1-2 people in an office

  • Between 8.0 and and 15.0: Adequate (barely) for up to 3-4 people in an office

  • Between 15.0 and 25.0: Adequate for up 4-5 people in an office

  • Over 25.0: Fast enough for most business needs and a residential setting where people are streaming TV

  • Over 50.0: Very fast. Plenty of for speed for small business with 20-25 people, all residential settings

New Computer Specs

If your Windows Experience Index scores are bad enough such that I've recommended a new computer as described above, then there are certain specification that you should look for.

Click HERE and HERE for my articles on new computer specifications.


I've visited many clients that hit the trifecta: Low-end computer, full of bloatware, and slow DSL. They cannot believe the difference it makes to have a decent computer and fast internet.

I can assist with any of these issues slowing you down.