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why is my computer so slow?

this is a general question, pointers to a good resource would be appreciated.

my winxp system appears to be degenerating. sometimes so slow you can watch it draw things (like making a button active on the task bar, openingn start menu, opening the windows security dialog).

but what's weird is that i can't seem to catch anything eating the CPU time in the task manager. all day yesterday it would report high CPU usage, sometimes 90%+, all the while with the System Idle Process around 70%. true, the virus scanner appeared to be running in the background (often reported as 10-20%), but similar sympoms happen at other times too.

memory usage (commit charge) is usually near RAM, sometimes above, sometimes below.

anyone have hunting tips for windows gremlins like this? it's not the only one i've seen.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

My XP system is slow too.  Started out gradually.  Now I can watch my start menu redraw line by line.  Haven't installed any new software that I didn't have on my w2k machine.  I've read that XP requires periodic reinstalls.

Johnny Simmson
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

<standard slashdot response>
install linux

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

>> "why is my computer so slow?"

Maybe you're computer's not too slow...  Maybe you're reality is just too fast.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

OS rot.  Or have you patched recently.  MS changed a patch for XP awhile back cause it made it S L O W.  Maybe they screwed the pooch again.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Did you look at explorer.exe to see how much CPU it was using?  XP has had various issues with explorer.exe eating up 90-100% of the CPU from time to time due to viewing directories with corrupt files (corrupt avi files tend to cause a lot of problems, even if you don't open them, explorer spends a lot of cpu trying to determine information about them to show you in its preview pane) or directories that just have too many large files in them, with explorer being too eager to go in and learn all it can about the files.

Usually, killing explorer and restarting it via Run Task from the task manager window fixes the issue, and make sure to install SP1 if you haven't since it reduces (but doesn't eliminate) this behavior.

Mr. Fancypants
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Here's a quick 4-step rundown:

1. AdAware/Spybot Search & Destroy - get updated definitions and check your system.
2. until it stops telling you to install stuff
3. Firewall
4. Virus Scanner

Ok, so #1 should be your priority.  If it doesn't find anything, then just go to your task manager/processes and start killing processes.  Seriously.  It won't hurt.  If you notice that "hey, it's better", then that's a sign

Also: #5 - RAM upgrade to 256MB+

#6 Try turning off the virus scanner.  Most are well-behaved nowadays, but try it.  You can always turn it back on later.

#7 running some unheard-of third party software?  I ran ZipNGo (freeware Zip utility) which would slow your system to a crawl after opening large ZIP files.  I think it was memory leak-related.  The point is: turn off DeskFlag or whatever else you've got running, permanently.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Also could be an awful network connection.  Wireless hiccups can (and do) hang Internet Explorer on my XP system.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Fragmented swap space + less than 256 megs is a nice combo  I've noticed. Try putting the swap on its own partition.

Eric DeBois
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

The swap file should go on a separate physical disk if you have one but never on a separate partition on the same disk as the OS! That will just increase the number of disk head movements.

John Topley (
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Yeah, thats what I mean.. :>

Eric DeBois
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Interestingly, whenever I have any type, flavor, version of Java installed my computer slowly rots to slowing and freezing.  As soon as I uninstall that bitch of a language, everything works fine.  Don't know who to blame, but I know what Virtual Machine (JAVA) I no longer run.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Fragmenting your pagefile will NOT slow down the system.  This is a MYTH MYTH MYTH.  Pagefile fragmentation can actually be a good thing.  It reduces the seek time for the hard drive to access it.

Either way, you shouldn't be hitting the pagefile enough for it to matter one way or the other.

If your commit charge is near the saize of your physical memory, then you don't have enough RAM.  How much RAM do you have?  Something is eating up that memory.  Find out what it is and kill it.  If you've only got like 128MB, maybe you should think about an upgrade.

A good rule of thumb: Have twice as much physcial RAM as your commit charge.  The extra RAM gets used as disk cache.  If your commit charge is as big as your physcial memory, then you have very little left over for disk cache.

Also, if you've done anything stupid like a registry tweak to improve performance, undo it.  There are not registry tweaks that will improve Windows performance, no matter what a "tweak" site tells you.

Myron A. Semack
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

I've noticed something similar too. I hadn't used my PC for about 6 months (was in a box waiting as I was preparing to move). I set it up about 2 weeks ago and it is slooooow. Which is odd, because I remember it being really zippy 6 months earlier.

Its WinXP Home with most of what is recommended (to speed it up) above. Re: the advice above, in particular:

> 2. until it stops telling you to install stuff

Do you mean all the *required* stuff or *all* the stuff (you know the niggly little, update drivers for hardware you don't even have)?

Walter Rumsby
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

It tells you to install the critical updates, service packs, etc.  Those are what I mean.  Not the hotfixes, not the Media Player 9 upgrade.  Just whatever is preselected as a 'critical update'.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

All MS products contain timed 'slow down' algorithm, it's their version of planned obsolecence.  This is why it takes a 3ghz machine to get the same performance as a 100mhz machine did 10 years ago.

Check your clock isn't fast.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

"All MS products contain timed 'slow down' algorithm, it's their version of planned obsolecence"


cosmo kramer
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

My winME laptop runs plenty fast

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Spy Sweep is another good one to go along with AdAware and Spy Bot

Tom h
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

>>My winME laptop runs plenty fast

ME probably has a bug in the 'slow down' algorithm. :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Well, I hate to gloat, no really, but .... ;-)

I just upgraded my iBook (700Mhz G3) from OS X 10.2 to 10.3 and it is subjectively faster for the stuff I use it for (e-mail, word processing, document preparation, web browsing). This has never happened to me before, certainly not when upgrading Windows NT or 2K.

*AND* it's way more stable and a *LOT* less work to keep going than the Dell 800Mhz PIII I have running Win2K.

Can anyone explain, slowly, in words of one syllable or less that I might understand, why operating systems need to get bigger and slower, and to counter this machines faster and faster, to do the same stuff?

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Get a program like Startup Cop to see what's loading when your OS boots.
Wednesday, February 4, 2004


OSes get bigger and slower, because they provide more and more complex services than their predecessors. But not ever upgrade causes slow-downs.

The upgrade from NT 3.1 to NT 3.5 was quite a bit faster for people with single CPUs, since NT 3.5 was the first to offer a single CPU and a multi CPU kernel (saving you about 10% overhead in the single CPU case). And again, the move from NT 3.51 to NT 4.0 was quite a bit faster, because a lot of the drivers got moved from user space to kernel space, causing a lot less context switching.

Personally, I felt the upgrade from 2K to XP was also a speedup, on sufficiently fast machines. On pretty much every machine I have, it takes XP about half the time to boot that it takes 2K, and the login facility is available faster.

And then yet again, moving from 2K Server to Server 2K3 was quite a step-up in both boot-up time, and time to the console. This was a result of the major paring down of the "by default" startup service list.

Now, of course, when you move from the 9x-base (95, 98, or Me) to the NT-base (NT, 2K, XP, 2K3), yes, things did seem quite a bit slower. That's because they are fundamentally, architecturally different OS with wildly different capabilities.

Brad Wilson (
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

"different OS with wildly different capabilities. "

How wild?

cosmo kramer
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Maybe you shoudl look in the mirror and ask yourself why everythign has to be so fast. maybe then you will find the answer inside yourself.

confusing nonsense guy
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

"I just upgraded my iBook ... and it is subjectively faster ...
Can anyone explain ... why operating systems need to get bigger and slower"

You answered your own question. They don't have to get bigger and slower; some do, some get smaller and faster. By the way, do you know that OSX is a derivative of FreeBSD? A very good operating system.

Tom H
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

mb, sounds like it's time for your annual XP reload. Always works for me.

Nate Silva
Wednesday, February 4, 2004



Innovative System Optimizer

Thursday, February 5, 2004

"Can anyone explain, slowly, in words of one syllable or less that I might understand..."

Words of less than one syllable?

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Most MS Office installations have the useless FindFast that did nothing for me except randomly suck the life out of the CPU.  (see )

Win XP has the Indexing service to do the same worthless life-sucking operation.
See for just one example of how to turn it off.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

I swear the sob that wrote find fast is a close personal friend of Bill Gates.  That damned utility gets installed if you even look at your office cd.

Thursday, February 5, 2004


You are clearly an idiot with inadequate pattern recognition skills.  Installing Java cannot possibly slow down a Windows machine.  Java can only slow down your machine when a Java program is loading and/or running.

name withheld out of cowardice
Thursday, February 5, 2004

Not so fast.

As a side-effect of Java dumping a gazillion files on the disk the MFT can outgrow its original reservation. This leads to a fragmented MFT and as a result a possibly apparent slowdown of disk operation.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, February 6, 2004

this install of XP isn't all that old--it was in fact an attempt at 'fixing' the previous 'rotted' version, though it's on the same machine and most of my apps are the same.

i have 512 Mb of RAM, usually enough.

the virus scanner only misbehaves when it failed to complete its overnight scan. i predict it happening again today, as my computer was locked solid this morning for the second time this week. perhaps there is a hardware issue.

another interesting symptom is that the mouse pointer will hang--move the mouse and it jerks around the screen instead of moving smoothly...

i guess some day next week will be reinstall time.

Friday, February 6, 2004

When my computer was slow I did a google search and I got in here.
Some of my observations
a) It is slow with Windows 2000 professional also(which is in my machine)
b) explorer.exe is taking up 97-99% of cpu time
c) It starts happening when the machine is on many more days.
d) I can notice this problem when I run java based
programs( such as jbuilder)
e) I have network connection on,virus scanner(mc affee) on
f) Most of my windowsupdates are upto date

Friday, March 26, 2004

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