Because many people have problems with their computer responding slowly, Town Tech is posting a summary checklist of general steps you can take to resolve this problem, and briefly discussing the three most common causes: malware, uncontrolled applications, and lack of maintenance.


Perhaps the greatest contributor to a poorly performing computer is malware. Usually this is associated with downloading an application that contains spyware, by not having browser security settings high enough, by carelessly downloading P2P files (peer-to-peer file sharing – ex. limewire, kazaa, etc.), or by failing to install security patches in a timely manner.

Step 1. Update the definitions of your anti-virus and run a complete scan of your hard drive in Safe Mode. Resolve any unfixable issues. Note that some viruses require additional steps before they can be removed; usually a websearch will find specific instructions or a special removal tool. If you cannot find a solution, contact Town Tech to request help.

Step 2. If the sluggishness is sudden, and you have recently downloaded an application, the problem may reside there. Test this by completely removing it. A wise user will generally perform a websearch about the application before downloading it because in most cases, any potential problem with malware or poor performance will have surfaced.

Step 3. Adware and Spyware can drastically effect your computer’s performance, and these are all over the Internet. A very recent study indicated that one out of every 20 executable files on Web sites is spyware, and 1 in 25 domains contain at least one piece of spyware waiting for victims.

Update the definitions of your anti-spyware applications and scan your hard drives in Safe Mode. Experienced users will regularly run two or three of these applications, because each company has its own criteria for what constitutes spyware and will only search against their own set. (A list of very good, free anti-spyware applications is provided here). Again, resolve any open issues before proceeding to the next step.

For further reading about Malware and some malware removal applications, use Town Tech’s Tutorial section; most of the applications have very good Help files that explain how they work as well as the unique features of each.

Uncontrolled Applications

Step 4. Review applications that self-launch on startup. Your computer can be a battleground for your attention. Many programs, for instance, install a quick-launch feature that allows them to be opened quickly; other programs will include an automatic update feature that requires them to be running in the background. Each of these slows down your launching Windows and each requires a small bit of resources while your computer is running.

The easiest way to review and than to manage start-ups is to use one of the many small utilities available (see the Town Tech list of free applications). If, for example, you have Spybot Search and Destroy, you can use its startup tool that lists startups and allows you to turn off any you do not need. If you are unsure about what can be safely deleted, remember that Town Tech maintains a very comprehensive Startup Database that includes information about whether the questioned item is needed, optional, or not needed.

At the same time, remember that all those icons on your Desktop also take a small amount of boot time to place themselves.

Lack of Maintenance

Step 5. Clean up your hard drive (preparation for Step 7). Delete unused programs and transfer old files to a CD. Unplayed games, lots of family pictures, zipped files that you have already opened, applications you have not used in two years, software for that old printer you threw away last year—these are some examples of files you can delete. Then use Window’s Disk Cleanup to delete temporary internet files, temporary PC health files, etc..

(Note for advanced users: some experts would include the additional maintenance step of cleaning up the Windows registry, and there are several applications to help do this. For the most part, registry maintenance will not make a significant difference, and unless you are very comfortable with Windows, and carefully make backups of the registry, you can do serious harm by making registry changes, so this step is not included.)

Step 6. Run scandisk/checkdisk in Safe Mode. Have it repair anything it finds.

Step 7. Defragment your computer. Windows tends to put new files in any available open space; defragging will place associated segments of files closer together so your read arm has less travelling around the hard drive to do, saving wear and tear while speeding up programs.

Hopefully, now that you have have finished, you will see a marked improvement in computer performance. However, if you complete these steps and your computer is still sluggish, then the next step is to submit your problem to Town Tech for more detailed help. The problem, for example, may be application/operating system specific or turn into a hardware issue.


Step 1 – Safe Mode
Step 3 – A list of very good, free anti-spyware applications
…. use this Tutorial section.
Spyware study:…cleID=179102695
Step 4 – (see the list of free applications)