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 main contributors to computer slowness:

  • The processor or CPU

  • Amount of memory or RAM

  • Type of storage, hard drive vs SSD

  • Speed of Internet

cartoon man pushing a snail

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, and unreliable for a lot less money. Similarly, you buy a crappy computer with a slow processor, low-res monitor, insufficient memory, slow hard drive, etc. And just as a crappy car will (usually) 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, poorly specced computer.

Slow Web Browsing: Today's web sites are very complex and full of programming 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 simply going to take longer to render those web pages. Sometimes much longer. This applies to all web pages, not just Amazon.com. Having lots of browser tabs open amplifies this effect.

Slow Program Launching: 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. A poorly specced computer can take 10 to 15 minutes from power-on to stable desktop. Go fix yourself coffee using a french press, you'll have time.

Time to Trash it?

If your existing computer does not have these minimum specs then it might be time to buy a new one.

What CPU do you have?

Here's how to tell

  • Right-click on the task bar (at the bottom) over a blank area then select Task Manager from the popup menu
    (Task Manager should appear)

  • If Task Manager shows "More details" on the lower left corner, click that. If it says "Less details" then leave it alone

  • Click the "Performance" tab near the top. It should be the second tab.

  • In the left column, you should see a vertical bar of colorful boxes with CPU at the top. Click that.

  • Look above the graph, to the far right. You'll see the CPU info listed.
    It'll probably begin with Intel or AMD.

The line of text describing the CPU will look something like this:

  Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-8700 CPU @ 3.20 GHz

           ^^^^     ^^ ^

           |        |  |

        Family  Model  Gen(eration)

The bits of text that I've shown above in green is what you need to take note of. Also note: If the Gen digit says 1 then look at the second digit as well and read it together as a two-digit number. So it might be gen 10, 11, 12, etc. Sorry, this won't display right on a smartphone.

If Intel:

  • If the Family says Core    and...
    the Model says: i5 or i7   and...
    the Generation is 7 or higher then... Good 🟢  or if 6 or less then Acceptable🟡

  • If the Family says Core and the Model says i3 then... Acceptable🟡

  • If the Family or model includes the words Atom, Celeron, Pentium, Core 2, or Dual Core, then... Bad 🔴

If AMD:

  • If the CPU identification says Ryzen or FX then... Acceptable🟡 or Good 🟢 (depending on numerous other factors)

  • If the CPU identification says Sempron, Athlon, or Ann (where nn is a number) then... Bad 🔴

AMD processor naming is more complicated with many different models on offer. And although AMD has some higher-end processors, such as the Ryzen and FX series, most computers that use AMD processors tend to be lower-end models. Unless you're a geek building your own computer and know how to buy a processor then stick to computers with Intel Core i5 or i7 CPUs.

How much RAM do you have?

Here's how to tell

  • In the left column of colorful boxes on the Task Manager, click the second item Memory.

  • Look above the graph, to the far right, for the amount of RAM in GB.

  • Less than 8 GB is... Bad 🔴

  • Between 8 and 14 GB is... Acceptable🟡

  • At or above 16 GB is... Good 🟢

You need a bare minimum of 8 GB RAM today and 16 GB would be a big improvement. The biggest memory hog on your computer are all the web pages that you have open. The more RAM you have, the more web pages you can have open simultaneously without Windows having to kick other program out of memory.

Type of Storage, Hard Drive or SSD

Here's how to tell

  • On the task bar, in the search box, type in the letters dfrgui.

  • A window will open entitled "Optimize Drives".

  • Under "Status", look in the first column (Drive) for a line ending with (C:)

  • The second column "Media type" indicates the type of storage device, Hard drive or Solid state.

If it shows as "Hard drive" in the second column then this is big factor in the slowness of your computer. For more info on why hard drives are so dang so and how an SSD can dramatically speed up your computer, CLICK HERE.

Bloatware

This 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. Fortunately, bloatware is easily cured.

Slow Internet

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 pretty much all 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 web pages to load. That's no way to live or work.

If you can get cable-based internet, such as Comcast, Time-Warner, Spectrum, 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 (unless you can get fiber, which is unlikely). Your online productivity will soar when you aren't waiting for web pages to load and email attachments to download.

Testing your internet speed is easy.

Visit my custom speed tester which is an ad-free version of SpeedTest.net, wait for the page to load, then click GO in the circle.

Download speed will nearly always be much higher than upload. This is normal and okay (well, not really, but that's another story). If you have cable-based internet then you should see at least 50 mbps download speed -- probably a lot higher. If you have DSL then your download speed will be much lower, single digits even. Get cable-based service if it's available at your address.

New Computer Specs

Click HERE for my articles on new computer specifications. That links discusses laptops but the common specs are the same.


I've visited many clients that hit the bad-experience 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.