What Makes a Computer Fast? Part 1: Software

The first variable affecting computer speed is the amount of work your machine actually has to do. I think it’s best to talk about this first, before dealing with the hardware side, because, if we can gain a good understanding of what we’re requiring from our computer, we can get a good sense of how much hardware we’ll need in order to get through it all.

Programs

Firefox

The most obvious drains to your computer’s resources are programs such as Microsoft Word, Firefox, or Photoshop. Each of these programs require something from your PC, some of them more than others. Running a large number of hefty programs at the same time is a good way to get any computer’s panties in a bunch! Photoshop, for example, is an especially demanding program since it can require some very intense changes to be made to very large files. Computer games are another type of extremely demanding programs, since many modern games have very complex graphics and require your PC to make a lot of thing happens at once. This issue is the easiest to detect, (your computer shrieks in horror when you launch a certain program and doesn’t stop until you close it), but the hardest to fix, since it would require you to stop using the program (which is not the best option).

Processes

If it’s the programs you’re using that bring your PC to its knees then the best solution will be to improve your PC’s ability to deal with them, (hardware, which we’ll talk about it a bit). However, there are a couple of other influencing factors to peek at before we start buying stuff. It’s important to understand that, while Firefox or Internet Explorer might be the only programs you’re actually looking at right now, they’re not the only programs running. You can check the number of programs running at any given time by hitting CTRL + ALT + DELETE on your keyboard and opening up your task manager, then clicking on the Processes tab. Look at the bottom left of this window and you see the total number of process (programs) that your computer is running.

Windows Task Manager will show you the total number of processes

 

Most of these are essential Windows tasks that the OS keeps running to maintain the system. They handle really basic stuff like communicating with your keyboard, keeping your system clock correct and running anti-virus checks. Each of these programs requires something from your PC, often not very much, but they can add up to enough for some serious slow down if your system isn’t equipped to handle them.

To fix this problem, you can resort to the tips and tweaks I talked about at the beginning of this article but, it probably won’t be enough to turn your slow PC into a fast one. The two routes you might take to improve this situation are better hardware or a different operating system (namely, upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7).

Malware

Malware is the name of a huge family of programs including viruses, spyware, and other nasty bits of code that can do loads of bad things to your PC. While they’re capable of all kinds of bad stuff, their biggest sin in relation to this article is that they often require huge amount of attention from your processor and will make your computer run SUPER slow. While the best way to deal with malware is to not get any in the first place, if you do happen to have a virus, you can check out this tutorial from Microsoft or, if you live in the Las Vegas area, you could always bring it in to the virus removal experts!

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