Windows Legacy OS forum

General discussion

What slows systems over time?

Have been gathering info in preparation for a rebuild. Reason for this is that my system (XP Pro, SP2)has been on for ages & has become rather slow. Before I go ahead & do it (I live remotely so no close by assitance if I blotch it!) what I would like to learn is what causes systems to slow down over time?
What is it that ages or corrupts?

Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: What slows systems over time?
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: What slows systems over time?
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
That "has been on for ages" may be a clue.

In reply to: What slows systems over time?

Does that mean you have not 'shut down' the system for some time? If so, try that, shut down, wait a couple of minutes, then restart.

The things that slow down performance;

1] Malware. Do you use a firewall, an anti-virus scanner and other anti-malware scanners?

2] Grunged up PC. If this is a PC, look at Clean up your Grungy PC.

3] Too many start-up programs, eg software loading at start-up. Remove any unnecessary ones.

4] Low Virtual Memory. Let the system handle the Page File.

There are other causes.


Collapse -
In addition

In reply to: What slows systems over time?

In addition to some of the other suggestions, I would say perception plays a part.

When you first get a system, it's all shiny and new, and compared to what you had before, it's faster. Over time, the new system becomes the norm, or the baseline by which all other systems are judged.

I don't buy the whole "cluttered" argument, because the more you understand just how computers work, the less sense that makes. Malware and other garbage getting into a system can certainly play a part, but simply using a system does not cause any kind of entropy as suggested by plenty of people.

Collapse -
A bit confused

In reply to: In addition

Ok - I must admit to now being quite confused. Firstly, Vivianli's response made sense - I guess one could summarise all that as 'residual clutter'.

MarakFlax's ideas do not apply to my system. I clean regularly and use a quality anti virus and anti malware etc. Also clean up regularly and defrag.

Then Jimmy added what appears to be a reasonable point about perception but it doesn't really apply.
Everything works but takes a while to open. eg. OE works fine but does not open immediately, I have to sit and wait.

Since it is clezar to me that 'someting' slows the system down I remain unclear but grateful as no one mentioned drivers. In preparing to rebuild I saved all my drivers and wondered what might happen if they caused problems over time and I simply reinstalled same problems. Seems not, great.
Thanks for your posts.

p.s. small winge - don't like this forum layout where I can only see last post instead of many as in most other forums.

Collapse -
About the forum display

In reply to: A bit confused

Check the top right of the forum posts display and you will see options to change the "Forum Display". See if any of those are better.


Collapse -
Well then

In reply to: A bit confused

Well then, if you're planning to format the system, allow me to offer up my list of tips to keep the system running well for long periods of time. I use it myself, and all my systems maintain a pretty consistent performance level for months/years on end.


The more of these suggestions you follow, the fewer problems you should have. They won't solve any existing problems you have, but if you follow them all you should be able to avoid virtually all problems in the future.

Things you should NOT do
1: Use Internet Explorer (1)
2: Use any browser based on Internet Explorer (e.g. Maxathon and MSN Explorer)
3: Use Outlook or Outlook Express (2)
4: Open email attachments you haven't manually scanned with your virus scanner
5: Open email attachments you were not expecting, no matter who they appear to be from
6: Respond to spam messages, including using unsubscribe links
7: Visit questionable websites (e.g. porn, warez, hacking)
8: Poke unnecessary holes in your firewall by clicking "Allow" every time some program requests access to the Internet (3)
9: Click directly on links in email messages
10: Use file sharing or P2P programs
11: Use pirated programs

Things you SHOULD do
1: Use a non-IE or IE based browser (4)
2: Always have an up to date virus scanner running (5)
3: Always have a firewall running (6)
4: Install all the latest security updates (7)(8)(9)
5: Delete all unsolicited emails containing attachments without reading
6: Manually scan all email attachments with your virus scanner, regardless of whether it's supposed to be done automatically
7: Copy and paste URLs from email messages into your web browser
8: Inspect links copied and pasted into your web browser to ensure they don't seem to contain a second/different address
9: Establish a regular backup regimen (10)(11)
10: Make regular checks of your backup media to ensure it is still good (12)

Being a considerate Internet user & other online tips
1: Do not send attachments in emails (13)(14)
2: Do not use stationary or any other kind of special formatting in emails (13)
3: Do not TYPE IN ALL CAPS (15)
4: Avoid texting speak or "l33t speak" (16)
5: Do not poke sleeping bears (17)
6: Do not use registry cleaners/fixers/optimizers (18)(19)

Offline tips and suggestions
1: Avoid buying Acer, HP. Compaq, Gateway, and eMachines computers (20)(21)(22)(23)
2: Avoid sub-$500 systems that aren't netbooks or part of some limited time price promotion (24)


(1) Sadly sometimes this is unavoidable, so only use IE when the site absolutely will not work with any other browser and you cannot get that information/service anywhere else, and only use IE for that one specific site.
(2) Outlook and Outlook Express are very insecure, and basically invite spam. The jury is still out on Vista's Windows Mail, but given Microsoft's history with email programs, extreme caution is advised. Possible replacements include Mozilla Thunderbird, Eudora, The Bat, and dozens of others.
(3) When it doubt over whether or not to allow some program, use Google to find out what it is and whether or not it needs access to the Internet. Otherwise, denying access is the safest course of action, since you can always change the rule later.
(4) On Windows your options include: Mozilla Firefox, Seamonkey, Opera, Flock, Chrome, and Safari. I would personally recommend Firefox with the NoScript extension for added security, but it the important thing is to pick one and use it instead of IE.
(5) AVG Free and Avast are available if you need a decent free virus scanner
(6) XP/Vista's firewall is probably good enough for 99% of all Windows users, but other options include ZoneAlarm, Outpost Firewall, and Comodo. If you have a router with a firewall built into it, there is no need for any of the aforementioned firewalls to be running.
(7) Microsoft's usual system is to release security updates every second Tuesday of the month.
(8) Use of Windows Update on Windows operating systems prior to Windows Vista requires Internet Explorer, and is thus a valid exception to the "No IE" rule.
(9) Service packs should ALWAYS be installed. They frequently contain security updates that will ONLY be found in that service pack.
(10) You can go with a full fledged backup program, or simply copying important files onto a CD/DVD/Flash drive.
(11) I'd recommend a tiered backup system. For example, you might have 5 rewritable DVDs, and every day you burn your backup onto a new disc. On the 6th day, you erase the disc for Day #1 for your backup, and so on so that you have multiple backups should one disc ever go bad.
(12) Replace rewritable CDs and DVDs approximately every 3-6 months.
(13) These dramatically increase the size of email messages (2-3X minimum) and clog up email servers already straining to cope with the flood of spam pouring in daily.
(14) If you want to share photos with friends/family, upload them to some photo sharing site like Flickr or Google's Picasa Web and then send people a link to that particular photo gallery.
(15) This is considered to be the same as SHOUTING and many people find it to be hard to read along with highly annoying.
(16) Unless the goal is to make yourself look like a pre-adolescent girl, or someone overcompensating for their gross inadequacies, and you don't want people to take you seriously.
(17) Most REAL hackers are quite content to leave you alone unless you make them take notice of you. No dinky little software firewall or consumer grade router is going to keep them out of your system. So do not go to some hacker website or chat room and start shooting your mouth off unless you're prepared to accept the consequences
(18) Most of these programs are scams, and sell you something you don't need. Most of them report non-issues in an attempt to boost the number of "issues". Sometimes using these programs can lead to a non-functioning computer.
(19) The Windows registry is not some mystical black box of untapped performance tweaks for Windows, that will lead to untold improvements in system performance. Most of the tweaks will lead to very modest performance gains of 1-2% tops, and probably less than 10% all combined. There is also a good chance that you will render your system unbootable if you make a mistake when editing. Registry default settings are set that way for a reason. Just do yourself a favor, and forget you ever heard of the Windows registry unless you are a computer programmer/debugger and your job requires knowledge of the registry.
(20) Acer now owns Gateway and eMachines
(21) HP owns Compaq
(22) Hardware failures seem far more common with these brands than can be considered normal
(23) These companies use cheap labor in Asian countries were working conditions are often what would be considered sweat shops, and are run by brutal dictatorships, which you are supporting by buying from these companies
(24) If you just do some simple math, and realize that the cost of individual components like the CPU are around 25-33% of the total retail cost of the system, and everyone involved in the making and selling of the system is looking to make a profit, how much money can they possibly be making on each system. And if you're only making a few pennies on every system, how much quality control do you really think is going to go into the manufacturing process?

Collapse -
Great List

In reply to: Well then

Mark, what I prefer is to be able to scroll down to former posts to remind me when I'm responding. Tried the other views but they don't provide the view I prefer. Thanks anyway.

Thank you for posting such a comprehensive list. Clearly you have put a lot of time and attention into this and so I appreciate you sharing it with me and those who sensibly read yr post. I don't know how yr post could be made to stand out so people notice it more and read it. If there is a monitor or someone watching this thread perhaps you can highlight Jimmy's list.

Popular Forums

Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
Laptops 21,181 discussions
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
Phones 17,137 discussions
Security 31,287 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
Windows 10 2,657 discussions


Enter to win* a free holiday tech gift!

CNET's giving five lucky winners the gift of their choice valued up to $250!