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Why do all Window systems slow down over time?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / January 31, 2013 7:48 AM PST

Why do all Window systems slow down over time?

Lee, I learn quite a bit from your members and discussions. I do have a few questions for you about Windows. It appears to me that any version of Windows runs fast when it is new, but slows down dramatically over time. Why is that? Is it the case that every Windows update gets installed each time you turn on your computer? Or other reasons? I am very careful to not have programs like Adobe reader always in memory. Also does this problem exist in other computers not running Windows, or issue I experience exclusive to Windows systems? Any explanation as why this happens would be grateful. And if there is method to prevent the slow downs over time, it would be a bonus to learn about! Thank you.

--Submitted by: Robert G.
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The biggest thing is programs installed, but...
by wpgwpg / January 31, 2013 8:19 AM PST

... there're numerous things that can slow a PC down. First every time you install a new program, it takes resources on your hard drive, extra entries in your registry, and all too often new programs to be loaded at startup. These slow the booting process and take up RAM. Windows updates and updates from Adobe, your antivirus software, and other programs like Firefox can cause software to grow and often replace existing files which can fragment the hard drive. Hard drives can develop bad sectors, causing the assignment or alternates; and this causes extra seeking which slows things down.
If you watch out for started programs using MSCONFIG's Startup tab and be sure Defrag runs periodically, that will go a long way to reducing this slowdown. At least once a year you should also Chkdsk and let it check for and attempt repair of bad sectors on your hard drive. Also sometimes dust can build up and cause excess heating inside the computer. This can slow things, sometimes cause "hicups" so at least once a year you should clean out the dust.

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MSCONFIG's Startup tab
by jiggyduffy / February 8, 2013 11:22 AM PST

Hi! you mention watching out for started programs using MSCONFIG's Startup tab... can you explain this please? How do you you get to this and then possibly remove programs from this area? I'm running Windows 7 Home.


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by raywigton / February 8, 2013 12:03 PM PST
In reply to: MSCONFIG's Startup tab

The MS config program is accessed by clicking on your start button in the bottom left corner of your screen and typing "msconfig.exe" in the block labeled search programs and files. Every program that you load on your computer wants to auto start when you boot your computer. They install themselves in the startup folder. When you open the msconfig.exe it will appear as a "System Configuration" with 5 tabs, the "general" which defines your normal or diagnostic or selective startup; the "boot" which will probably read as "windows 7(C:\windows) etc; the "services" tab which will show all the things that are running on your computer with the status of running and also the programs that are stopped or disabled. Your windows programs and antivirus need to be running along with anything else you know to be essential.

The "startup" tab will show you any programs that are automatically started when your computer starts. This usually includes your antivirus program and doesn't need to include much else. The manufacturer of your computer probably loaded lots of stuff here that doesn't need to run. Uncheck the stuff you don't need and then click the apply button at the bottom. The last tab is "tools" tab which launches many programs.
Hope that answers your question.

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How to use MSCONFIG...
by JCitizen / February 8, 2013 12:17 PM PST
In reply to: MSCONFIG's Startup tab

Experts will tell you not to us this utility except for troubleshooting, and to use the services section in Administrative tools to end unnecessary start-up entries.

Click Start >>>>and in the Start search bar type MSCONFIG, and in the results you will see the applet and can double click it or simply hit enter and it will start if you are logged in as Administrator. In XP you will have to type it into the "Run" box accessed from your start menu.

When the MSCONFIG dialog box pops up your focus should be on the tab that says "Startup". You can look down this list at anything you suspect you can do without automatically starting every time you boot up your computer. Fortunately you can't hurt your computer doing this, in fact you can click the [Disable all] button and do what is called a clean boot. This is a good way to install security software that is sensitive to interfering processes. However that would be a slow way to check performance.

Do not un-check anti-virus or anti malware as that would more than likely turn off your real time protection and leave you vulnerable to invading malware. I don't recommend messing with any other tabs on that box, unless you are a professional or experienced in this.

There are plenty of lists of suggestions online in search engines that could tell you the better way of doing this using the services applet in Administrative Tools. If you followed them carefully you could speed things up significantly. These same forums will give you other suggestions in configuring your Graphical User Inferface(GUI) to speed up operating performance as well.

For my clients who are newbies and don't like fiddling with such things; I recommend downloading and installing StartUpLite by Maleware-Bytes Anti-Malware(MBAM). That one shuts down services and processes that you should never have to use. That way you don't have to figure out why something you are trying to do won't work, and you forgot which service was attendant to such operations.

MSCONFIG will pester you after you reboot and finish configuring it; to ask you if you want to revert back to the original configuration. You can check a box to tell it not to do this anymore, but really - I only use this for one or two pesky startups myself, and anything more serious I will simply uninstall the offending program, or use the Administrative tools to change the behavior to manual startup. This is the way you are suppose to do it in the first place - but I've never hurt a PC by violating this tenant.

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I think you mean to say, "violating this tenet"
by avikey / February 8, 2013 1:05 PM PST
In reply to: How to use MSCONFIG...


a person or group that rents and occupies land, a house, an office, or the like, from another for a period of time; lessee.
a person who holds or possesses for a time lands, tenements, or personalty of another,
usually for rent.
<div>an occupant or inhabitant of any place.
any opinion, principle, doctrine, dogma, etc., especially one held as true by members of a
profession,group, or movement.

Violating a "tenant" would be doing something unpleasant to someone who lives in your apartment building.

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Thank you - I usually check my spelling more closely...
by JCitizen / February 8, 2013 11:52 PM PST
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(NT) No ***king kidding?!
by nonaste / February 9, 2013 5:58 AM PST
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Computer Slow Down
by casadia / February 9, 2013 11:38 AM PST
In reply to: How to use MSCONFIG...

You did not spend a lot of time on the services section of system configuration. As I have a large number of items manufactured by Microsoft listed, some running-some not, please confirm which are totally necessary to operate my unit safely. Also, there are a number of other manufactures in the mix.

Secondly; I am informed by my grandson that I have too many items on my desktop and task bar causing a slow down with my system. I am running Windows 7 Professional.
4 Gb RAM
Intel Core 2Quad CPU Q6600 @ 2.40 GHz
3.4 Windows EI because of I did not order the unit with 3D Gaming Graphics

I may be a little impatient.

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How to use MSCONFIG
by Muffysmum / February 9, 2013 3:51 PM PST
In reply to: Computer Slow Down

I agree with Casadia, have seen a lot of things about this,but in all honesty, I also dont understand. Is there any way, we can know for definate, which ones to disable etc....

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Why do computers slow down?
by casadia / February 11, 2013 4:47 AM PST
In reply to: Computer Slow Down

With regard to the services section in msconfig, if I were to enable all, there are items which would be disabled after a reboot.
The question regarding the task bar and desk top clutter remains unanswered.


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This section is not for newbies...
by JCitizen / February 11, 2013 8:59 AM PST
In reply to: Computer Slow Down
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by whobiggs / June 27, 2013 7:21 PM PDT
Confused Granular? You mean like sugar?
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As in byte sized chunks..
by JCitizen / June 30, 2013 5:43 AM PDT
In reply to: Granular?

pun intended - that word is commonly used by IT technicians to denote GUI features of consoles to applications that have many incremental settings for better customization - if that makes any sense to you, that is. Thanks for posting! Happy

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by offerPop5138041 / February 10, 2013 11:30 PM PST
In reply to: How to use MSCONFIG...

Quote (by: JCitizen)
Experts will tell you not to us this utility except for troubleshooting, and to use the services section in Administrative tools to end unnecessary start-up entries.

The only problem with the comment above is; NOT ALL Startup Programs run as a Service! Yes it is best to use the Services configuration to "Disable" a service if need be. But, sadly more Startup programs are in the Startup Group (easy enough removal) & usually more are in the Registry in the Run listings under "Current User" or "Local Machine", and for the regular User, please, only use MSConfig to make changes to these. Editing the Registry can really cause problems if you do not know what you are doing! As always, if you do not know what you are doing (in any & all cases), please, make sure you back up your system prior to any major changes... Macrium Reflect has a free version for home users that will allow you to create an entire image backup of your system & can be restored from a bootable recovery cd/dvd (which you have to create yourself, after installing Reflect).

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That is why I never got it...
by JCitizen / February 11, 2013 8:52 AM PST
In reply to: Except!?!

as to why this was such a big deal. But many techs like third party utilities better, such as auto runs. Me, I usually just go into the controls of the application itself and uncheck "start with windows". To each his own in my book.

Besides - taking a quick look at my management console shows me that setting many of these services to "manual" - does in fact stop the target process from ever starting with windows. Of course double clicking the application in the startup folder will start it manually on this setting - just takes longer.

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Swollen Folders
by drrasheed / February 8, 2013 12:39 PM PST

Folders like 'WinSxS' and 'users', go on swollen by themslves as time pass on. But one fails to know how to reduce reduce this phenomenon. The windows user has no choice to delete some of these. When the swelling process reaches a certain limit, all on a sudden the whole C drive gets a red color on explorer, and the system stalls. This is in spite of the limited number of applications. My habit is , following a clean virgin installation of windows and all those necessary applicatoins and after the first big bout of windows update, I do an image backup. When thing becomes very unfavorable I just restore the image backup, and do a defragmentation and disk cleanup using CCleaner and such softwares. This will suffice for a month or so.
OS: win 8 64 on a 120 GB Corsair SSD
Hard disk: a second 500 GB WD, and a 3rd Corsair 60 GB SSD on which other apps are installed
Motherboard: ASUS F1 A 75-V Pro
Processor: AMD A-8 3870 APU
RAM: Corsair 8 GB

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I've used "Tree size"...
by JCitizen / February 8, 2013 11:59 PM PST
In reply to: Swollen Folders

very successfully to find offending folders in XP systems; it is a real eye-opener to see just what folder some process is going bonkers on, and filling up the whole hard drive with useless drivel. I never delete the folder unless the system can automatically rebuild it - I just open it - select all - and delete from there.

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windows 8....
by Lynx_Firenze / March 4, 2014 8:26 PM PST
In reply to: Swollen Folders

You're using windows 8. You have lost all credibility. Enough said

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Best off using autoruns
by heresjaken / February 8, 2013 2:00 PM PST

Your best off using autoruns by sysinternals to find autorun programs becuase it will give you a comprehensive list off all startup programs inside of the registry including codecs and services

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Yeah but...
by JCitizen / February 9, 2013 12:00 AM PST

newbies won't know what to do with all that information, and must be carefull what process they are ending/blocking.

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Use REVO, not msconfig
by Old Dog New Tricks / February 8, 2013 9:12 PM PST

Many persons are unhappy in using msconfig. Possibly too many cautions about modifying elements within msconfig have created this nervousness. So I recommend using REVO (which you can download from CNET). As well as being the best (in my opinion) program uninstaller, it also offers (under Tools) a safe and simple alternative to msconfig entitled "Autorun Manager" which allows you to enable or disable applications on Windows startup. Right clicking on any application in the listing will offer a google search to help you decide whether to enable or disable the application from Windows startup. Should you decide to disable an application and encounter problems, it's very easy to return and simply enable the application (which remains in the startup listing.
I strongly support wpgwpg's comments about defraggiing on a regular basis but doubt whether chkdsk will speed up your PC (although it will perform important repairs if necessary).
I prefer to recover the original OS every year. It's as though you've just purchased a new PC. Of couse, whether you recover from a separate partition on your hard drive or your backup DVD's, you will need to recover all subsequent Windows updates, re-customise your installed programmes and personal data et al, but you do benefit from regaining a fast efficient system.

Hope this also helps.

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With one caveat...
by JCitizen / February 9, 2013 12:03 AM PST
In reply to: Use REVO, not msconfig

some applications or applets will not be permanently removed if that applet is auto restored by the system. It takes more effort to get rid of those annoying programs. Usually they come with printer drivers or some such attendant hardware.

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Is it the windows system or the actual computer?
by ClissaT / February 1, 2013 7:51 AM PST

I often look at things from a quite obtuse angle. So when I read this question I first ask if you know for sure it is the OS that is slow or is it the mechanical part, ie the computer itself.

I remember when cordless drills & other such things came out & the batteries had a memory. They had to be run right down then recharged to full or they learned to expire at half full/half empty.

Is it possible that the working components of a computer can also learn the same thing?

So that even after the OS has been cleaned up & lightened up, the darned thing still runs slow?

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Re: Is it the windows system or actual computer?
by Raregrit / February 2, 2013 7:01 AM PST

The PC does not work in a way whereby age itself is a factor.

All components have an estimated life cycle and do wear out gradually over time, but until the point of failure there should not be any noticeable drop in performance.

As far as battery's are concerned the only one present in all PC's is a small watch type battery that stores settings for the Motherboard, and the computer will forget its basic settings without this.

The only other battery types are the ones you get in Laptops to power them when not connected to the mains (and these have a fairly high failure rate component wise), and optional battery backup in the form of an Uninterruptible Power Supply.

PC's start off nice and fast when new because not much software has been installed on them yet, and Windows Update / Microsoft Update has not installed many system updates (patches) to the Operating System.

As others will have stated the more things that run automatically not just at start up will also slow the PC down.

Recommendations on performance is to run De-fragmentation software at least once a month, and make sure you leave around 12-14% (ideally) free disk space on mechanical hard drives. If you have a Solid State Drive you never defrag it, and just use the Trim feature included in the Tool Kit software provided, about once every ten days or so (which takes seconds to run).

As far as the Windows Registry goes this usually does end up full of useless entries for uninstalled programs, and a free product called CCleaner is good for handling this. But always backup the registry keys in case you remove an essential entry by mistake.

Everyone gets irritated by the loss in system performance and everyone who installs software or updates suffers from this Sad

I have often wondered whether the drop in performance was specifically from the Microsoft Updates to make you want to spend cash on new Hardware and Software, pushing the sales of new equipment?

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....whether the drop in performance was specifically .....
by Kaarlo / February 9, 2013 5:19 AM PST

I have stopped installing upgrades because more often than not they cause problems. The software mafia will of course invent new stuff that you do not need and people start for instance sending you docx documents.
In that case I always send a standard message: "Your attachement will not open. We only accept messages in WORD. There is also one diabolic way used often: you install a free utitlity. I works ok. You get pestered by a message "there is a new free version." The new version turns out to have less useful features than the old one. To be back where you were you have to buy the "pro version". I am a businessman and as such am not anti business, but the software business is the most rotten business there is, except maybe the fund managers who claim they know how to handle your money. If they did, they would not need your 2.5.% commision, they would get rich applying their fantastic knowledge.

Kaarlo von Freymann Helsinki Finland

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Did you know .DOCX is Word format?
by wpgwpg / February 9, 2013 5:30 AM PST

Since 2007 .DOCX has been the default standard Word format. If you have an older version of Word, you can download the free Word viewer from the MS web site. Or you can install an update to older versions of Word to allow them to open .DOCX files.
I've been downloading all the critical MS updates on 33 computers since 1998, and have yet to encounter one that causes a problem. Of course if you've used a so-called registry cleaner, any kind of update can cause problems. However, it's not the update that causes it, it's the snake oil registry cleaner which removes entries that're there for future use. Then when the updates come along and try to use them, wham-o.
I have to say though that just because you're paranoid, that doesn't mean they're not out to get you! Laugh

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windows updates
by seeharmony / February 9, 2013 7:03 AM PST

I have stopped doing windows updates. In fact, I "rolled back" the last set of updates I did. My previous computers always got worse after I updated windows and there was no other explanation, really. I rarely get new software, and I run anti-virus softwares often. This time, my computer doesn't seem to have slowed down at all, in well over a year. I'm not sure if Microsoft does it on purpose, as you postulate, to make it so people will buy the latest version, or if it's just an artifact. But I'm not having the problem, anymore.

People will say, "OMG! you HAVE to update! Something terrible might happen if you don't!" I'm not buying it, anymore. Something terrible happens WHEN I update, and not without doing it. My computer does slow down, from time to time, but I usually just restart Firefox or Windows and it's fine.

As for Adobe, I sure with they would get their act together. What would make them think it's OK to make us update 2 to 3 times a week?

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Lots of reasons...
by Doh_1 / February 1, 2013 8:23 AM PST

Why does any system slow down? Because of clutter and stuff that happens over time that you forget about as you go. Disk fragmentation, disks filling up, installing and uninstalling applications leaves clutter around the file system and registry, etc. Also, new software and newer versions of current software are installed that are designed for faster processors, and that makes things look slower on older processors, memory, disk, and so on. If you've had a virus and removed it, that takes it's toll as well. And patches and service packs tend to make things larger and slower.

Just the way it goes. On the other hand, if you back up the data that you care about, and do a full re-installation of your Windows system and just bring back the applications and data that you care about, you will see things become a lot faster.

So it goes...every OS has it's own version of slowing down with age.

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Slowed computer and re-installation of Windows Vista
by rkade111 / February 9, 2013 12:31 AM PST
In reply to: Lots of reasons...

This is my first-hand experience with my Sony Vaio laptop(which was very fast when purchased about 5 years ago). It got very sluggish. Standard stuff like defragging and anti-virus checks didn't help. I tried a free registry cleaner program. It "said" that I had hundreds of registry errors. I cleaned up the registry with that program. That led to a temporary speed-up. I decided to re-install Windows as a last resort.

Re-installing the operating system was a total nightmare. I found out the hard way that there are right and wrong ways to back up your computer. I think I worked on this for weeks!

Bottom line... Happy ending. A couple of important changes were: moving to Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus and using CCleaner. I used to use Avast or Avira free antivirus. I blew out 5 years of dust from the fan. It was running like a torch! I was selective about reinstalling all of my software. For example: I had an old version of Photoshop that kept having issues, so I dumped it. Also, when I downloaded new software versions, I was sure to delete the setup files. There was even more to it...but that was a good start.

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Drivers and Memory
by Bill C Pickford / February 1, 2013 8:40 AM PST

I have a Dell 8400 from 2004 and keep it going because of some programs. Over time, it slowed to a crawl. One of the more obvious things was slow graphics. I thought hard drive, graphic card and maybe because I only had 340 Megs out of 1 gig. I ever purchased a Windows 7 with 6 gigs of memory, 1.5 T hard drive, and 4-CPU. I just could not let the 8400 die without a fight. I downloaded Sandra from Sisoftware.Com of the UK (free) and ran the benchmark section. Got two answers. 1) Install more memory 2) Down load a current driver from NVIDIA for the 6800 graphics card and a few other Logitech drivers. NVIDIA was issuing new drivers about every two months and I installed the latest. Graphics got a an immediate quick step. installed 4 gig of memory and the poor thing came to life. My thoughts on the matter. After 8 years of upgrades, Windows XP Pro 3 needs more memory to run efficiently and some of the drivers were not up to the upgraded operating system.

Bill C

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