Diminishing PC Performance Over Time

by on September 8, 2007

Q: I have an IBM ThinkPad R40 with Windows XP, 256MB ram, and a 40GB hard drive. It has become very slow over time, and seems to be getting worse lately. I use it for surfing the web and conducting personal business. I have the latest versions of AVG antivirus, Ad-Aware SE, and Spybot Search and Destroy to protect my system and am wondering if I need a registry cleaner or if you could suggest something else to help with my speed issues.

A: There are many things that can cause a PC to slow down over time. The number one cause is poor maintenance. Running an anti-virus application and occasionally running a spyware remover is not enough to keep Windows running quickly. The first thing you can do to speed up your PC is to uninstall programs that you do not use. Scroll through the list of applications on the Add/Remove Programs screen (which you can access from the Control Panel). Then you can follow these instructions to control what applications start up when Windows boots. Once you have reduced the amount of applications on your system, and the number of startup applications, you should defragment the hard drive (Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter). This should be done regularly to keep your PC running quickly. Once you have defragmented your hard drive, you can reboot it to assess how quickly it is starting up and running.

After performing all of the maintenance steps above, if you do not see a change in performance, you may need to reinstall Windows. If you do not have the CDs that shipped with your laptop, contact the manufacturer to see if you can obtain replacement CDs. Make sure that you backup your data before you reinstall Windows.

You may also want to consider adding RAM to your laptop. Adding an additional 512MB-1GB of ram to your laptop should boost performance enormously.

3 Responses to “Diminishing PC Performance Over Time”

    Why worry about manual defragmentation when automatic defragmentation is becoming the norm? No point in wasting time with defrag, virus scans etc when they can be done more efficiently, automatically. So, look for a good automatic defragmenter that works on multiple drives; it will make life much easier.


    Automatic defragmentation will only become the norm when the vast majority of people are using an OS with it integrated. The truth is that most Windows users don’t know that it is something they should be doing somewhat regularly. Automatic defrag is great for people who leave their PC on all the time. Unfortunately, since most people don’t leave their PC up continuously or carry laptops, teaching them to acknowledge defragging as a regular maintenance step is more important than pushing another bit of software that might not run as scheduled.


    Automatic or Manual it would be a huge step if people are aware of the impact of a fragmented drive in the first place. In my view, just as most people hardly know about their own bodies/health, they know little about the PCs they operate and the maintenance required. A heavily fragmented drive would lead to an underperfoming system and increase chances of instability besides slowdown. Chances of recovering data are also higher when drives are not fragmented.