Computer slowing you down? There’s no easy answer

Dear Larry,


Windows seems to be running like a dog on my computer. I realize this is pretty subjective but what might be causing such a slowdown? It used to be quite peppy.


R. P.


Dear R. P.,

Well, the phrase “my computer is running more slowly” is a little vague and might mean different things to different people.

Is Windows taking longer to start up? Is your favorite Internet site delayed in coming up? Are programs, documents and folders opening more slowly? There are different causes and solutions to each particular issue.

Let’s proceed under the assumption that the latter observation applies to you and that Windows, in general, seems to be taking its time in obeying your every command.

When it comes to a computer, there’s never an easy answer. And, also, you haven’t indicated how old your computer is. In general, there are many reasons that might explain your computer’s poky behavior. My best guess would be that you’re taxing it with too many background jobs.

It’s easy for the average computer user to forget that Windows is a multi-tasking system. In the same way that we can walk, chew gum, breathe, and consider our next stock purchase all at the same time, Windows can be a very busy piece of software.

Contrary to what you might think, it isn’t simply sitting there twiddling its thumbs waiting for you to decide where to click next. It’s probably working on scores of other tasks in its spare time, monitoring this, processing that. We call these housekeeping chores “background tasks” because, unbeknownst to us, they’re taking place behind the scenes as opposed to the foreground task, which is the icon we’re clicking, the letter we’re writing, the Internet site we’re surfing, basically whatever happens to be occupying our attention at any particular moment.

Windows comes with a nifty little system configuration utility to help manage the background jobs that kick in when Windows starts. However, because this utility is a program that directly impacts how Windows operates on your computer, it should not be used frivolously.

If you feel you’re up to it (or like to live dangerously), click on Start, Run, type MSCONFIG, and click OK. When the program opens, click the Startup tab. You’ll be presented with a list of all the programs that are automatically run when Windows starts. Scan the list and see if there are some programs you think you can live without. If you’re unsure, you can always uncheck one or two boxes and click OK.

Windows will then restart, and you’ll have an opportunity to see if anything doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. If you don’t like the result, you can always return to MSConfig and recheck the items you previously cleared.

Whatever the case, remember that your computer has a finite capacity. Every program you install will change it in one way or another. And after a while, the cumulative effect of all these programs will be one that you’ll end up feeling every time you point and click.

This is Larry Schneider, logging off.


Larry Schneider is the owner of Accent on Computers, a Greenwich-based consulting firm now in its 15th year of business catering to individuals, businesses and professional offices. PC and Mac services include computer setup, training, troubleshooting, virus resolution, networking, Internet, database and programming. Call 203-625-7575, visit, or send e-mail to [email protected]

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