In my experience, I have found these three things to be the biggest cause of sluggish, slow, computers:

  1. Too many anti-virus/security programs.
  2. Unknown, unwanted, and unexpected start-up applications.
  3. Browser add-ons and tool bars.

Generally, these things consume unnecessary system resources (CPU or processing power; RAM or memory; and hard drive reading and writing) and get installed without the user’s informed consent.

Here’s a more detailed explanation of these common problems and what you can do to resolve them.

Anti-Virus Overkill

Anti-virus programs are a necessity for safe browsing, but they can be very resource intensive, stealing your computer’s ‘Power” away from programs you actually want to use.  If you have more than one of:

  • Microsoft Security Essentials
  • Avast
  • Norton Anti-Virus (or security tools)
  • McAfee  Anti-Virus (or security tools)
  • AVG

currently running on your computer, then you are needlessly wasting your computer’s resources by double or triple-scanning each and every file you try to open!  Pick one anti-virus package you trust, make sure  that the program, virus definitions, and subscriptions (Norton, McAfee) are all up to date, and uninstall the other programs.

Start-Up Applications

When your computer boots, certain applications start automatically, and these applications all need to be up and running before you will be allowed to open any new programs. There are a  few different types of start-up applications, some required, some optional, and some that might even be malicious.  Your computer will boot and run faster if you eliminate the unnecessary start-ups.


Bluetooth is one example of a required hardware-related start-up application.    In fact, *most* users don’t use Bluetooth, so it could actually be disabled, but it could also make your Bluetooth keyboard, mouse, headset, etc. stop working if you do.

Other required start-up tasks initialize drivers needed to use your printer, wireless network card, your speakers, or other important system-related things.  Disabling these tasks will speed up your computer, but possibly prevent things from working as expected.


This category refers to start-up applications that you, the user, actually want to use – things like your Anti-Virus program, Skype or other messaging tools.  Try to avoid having too many optional start-ups, and only keep the ones that you frequently use.  Just because you tell Skype not to start on boot, doesn’t mean you can’t open it anytime you want to make a video call.

There are other optional start-up applications that are intended to give you faster-access to commonly used programs like Acrobat Reader or Microsoft Office.   It’s a lot like leaving your car running in the driveway for a faster getaway – if you’re a bank robber, it makes sense, but otherwise it’s just a form of pollution and a waste of gas.

Optional start-up tasks are also often used to check for software updates.  Java, Google, and Adobe all do this.  These programs aren’t too invasive, as they do a quick check, then show a notification or simply shut down.  Pay attention to any notifications and address them to prevent the updater from running unnecessarily, or disable these start-ups and check for updates manually.

Too Many Tool Bars


too many toolbars

I’ve seen too many Firefox and Internet Explorer windows that look like this.  In many cases, users don’t need or want the tool bars, or the associated browser add-ons, but don’t know how they got there, or more importantly, how to get rid of them!

Worse still, these tool bars often have startup or background applications associated with them that can perform hidden, nefarious actions without the user’s consent.

A tool bar or two may make sense for some users, but most people don’t need 15 different ways to search.   These tool bars eat up precious resources and slow things down.  Instead of using search tool bars, simply tell your browser which search engine you prefer (hint:  you *prefer* Google), and search by typing directly into the address bar.

Disable and un-install all toolbars and browser add-ons.  Many users also have multiple web browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.) and all need to be cleaned out.


Just like houses need housekeepers and automobiles need mechanics, your computer needs a tune-up from time to time to keep it performing as best it can.  Whether you do it your self or get a professional to help, it’s always a worthwhile investment.

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