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The 12 Root Causes of PC Slowdowns

How to eliminate these common speed-leaching culprits


Most of us have noticed that the longer we use our computers, the slower they get. In fact, the problem is so common that people assume it’s unavoidable and just part of a natural “aging process” of PCs.

But the reality is that your computer doesn’t get slower due to aging of its components; rather, the root causes of performance degradation are almost always tied to a key set of common problems that can easily be remedied with the right tools.

What causes performance loss?

After extensive research and testing, iolo Labs has classified twelve primary sources of gradual Windows PC performance degradation—these are the issues that iolo Labs has found to most significantly slow down your PC and diminish its responsiveness.

Some root issues are common knowledge among technical experts and have been addressed with tools included in early versions of System Mechanic. However, others are more elusive and have only recently emerged as a result of complex changes in the way modern operating systems and programs function and interoperate.

By focusing on these critical areas and using the options provided by System Mechanic in this article, you can reverse the digital aging process and experience noticeably better overall PC performance and reliability. With this regular maintenance, your system and its programs can remain as quick and responsive as the first day you used them.

1. Program Misalignment

The Symptoms: Your programs take longer to open and, once opened, they respond more slowly. When you have multiple applications running, you experience lockups or crashes.

The Problem: Over time, the many interdependent files that make up a program tend to drift apart and become scattered across the hard drive. This misalignment not only impacts the speed at which your programs can run, it also causes excessive movement of the hard drive, which leads to unnecessary wear-and-tear on your hardware.

The Fix: Program Accelerator™ uses a patent-pending calibration technology to determine which program files are misaligned and should be grouped together for the fastest possible access. Once the dependent application files are realigned, the result is more efficient startup and more responsive performance from all of your programs.

Go to Toolbox > Individual Tools > Increase Performance > Program Accelerator.

2. Available RAM Decline

The Symptoms: Your PC gets progressively slower throughout the day, even after restarting. One or more of your larger programs frequently lock up. You regularly see low memory error messages.

The Problem: When memory is low, everything on your PC can suffer. The two critical problems that reduce your available RAM are (1) fragmented memory, which occurs simply with regular use—as we open, use, and close programs, and (2) memory leaks, which occur when a program doesn’t release memory after the program is closed.

The Fix: Memory Mechanic® reclaims valuable memory and tackles both corruption issues: it allows Windows to reassemble memory into neat, contiguous order and it frees the memory held captive by memory leaks. (Read more about how Memory Mechanic works.)

Go to Toolbox > Individual Tools > Increase Performance > Memory Mechanic.

3. Windows Startup Traffic Jam

The Symptoms: Your PC takes longer to start than it used to, as long as 5-10 minutes (or more) in severe cases. When you start or restart your computer, you may see cryptic warnings or error messages.

The Problem: Many applications and services are set to automatically start whenever your PC is started. Some of these programs are required and should be in the startup process, but many aren’t needed and create resource bottlenecks that add to the time it takes for your PC to boot up.

The Fix: Startup Optimizer™ uses research-based program classifications from iolo Labs to automatically detect unneeded (as well as potentially hazardous) startup items. Your important programs load, but the unnecessary ones are turned off and prevented from clogging up the Windows startup process. (Read more about how Startup Optimizer works.)

Go to Toolbox > Individual Tools > Increase Performance > Startup Optimizer.

4. Redundant or Unnecessary Installed Programs

The Symptoms: PC speed and responsiveness have slowed over time, particularly when running more than one program.

The Problem: As a rule, the more programs you have installed, the more work your PC has to do—and installing multiple programs that run the same functions needlessly adds to this burden. But with certain redundant programs, the problem goes beyond just wasted storage space and a larger processing load; for these applications, having multiple ones installed is actively harmful because it overloads background functioning and leads to system conflicts that slow everything down.

The Fix: CRUDD Remover™ detects and displays the redundant programs that can impact your PC’s performance and stability, and then you can decide which programs you want to keep or remove. By removing redundant programs, you eliminate unnecessary processing, free up drive space, and remove program conflicts.

Go to Toolbox > Individual Tools > Increase Performance > CRUDD Remover.

5. Mismatched Internet Settings

The Symptoms: Your internet connection has recently started to feel sluggish or it has always been slower than expected, even with a high-speed connection. Video and other streaming media sputter when played. Online gaming randomly falters.

The Problem: A significant influence on your web speed is a set of Windows configuration settings related to network and internet connections. PCs come from the manufacturer with certain settings already in place, but these presets are not necessarily the best settings for your connection type. Further, various programs can make silent adjustments to these core settings.

The Fix: NetBooster® automatically custom fits your computer to suit your internet connection. By adjusting the settings that affect network and internet connection speeds, NetBooster fine-tunes your configurations so that more data can be transferred. (Read more about how NetBooster works.)

Go to Toolbox > Individual Tools > Increase Performance > NetBooster.

6. Registry Errors and Clutter

The Symptoms: You experience instability issues that can range from annoying, time-wasting lockups to complete machine failure. You see unusual error messages when printing, opening programs, attaching or detaching external devices, or restarting your PC.

The Problem: The registry, a database that holds key settings used by the Windows operating system, is one of the most important components of your computer. When it becomes corrupted with invalid and obsolete references, as it commonly does with regular PC usage, the overall condition of your computer declines: both speed and stability are negatively impacted.

The Fix: Registry Tuner™ repairs the registry by removing all of its invalid and obsolete references. The cleaning and repair process can also detect and remove dangerous files that may be running without your knowledge. (Read more about how the Registry Tuner works.)

Go to Toolbox > Individual Tools > Repair Problems > Registry Tuner.

7. Registry Bloat

The Symptoms: Overall PC speed and responsiveness have slowed over time, particularly when starting up or shutting down the computer.

The Problem: After cleaning the registry, old registry keys are deleted, but the registry does not get smaller. Rather, the old entries leave gaps and the registry becomes bloated: unnecessarily large and fragmented. And because the registry is loaded into RAM during startup, the bloat also eats up vital system memory.

The Fix: Registry Compactor™ defragments and compacts the registry to eliminate the bloated and unused space in the registry. Because the process allows the operating system to access registry values faster, it speeds registry access, improves registry efficiency, and frees up memory.

Go to Toolbox > Individual Tools > Increase Performance > Registry Compactor.

8. Fragmented Files on Hard Drive

The Symptoms: Overall PC speed and responsiveness have slowed over time. Files and programs take longer to open.

The Problem: As you create and delete files, your computer can’t store a single file as one unit and instead will split it up and store portions of it across different locations on the hard drive. Over time, this fragmented data builds up and your PC’s resources become overburdened: gathering the scattered pieces takes more time and the physical wear on the mechanical parts of the drive increases.

The Fix: DriveAccelerator™
defragments the hard drive and reorganizes scattered data, which not only boosts file access speed but also extends the life of the drive. In addition, DriveAccelerator works in conjunction with Program Accelerator to maintain drive integrity during the program realignment process.

Go to Toolbox > Individual Tools > Increase Performance > DriveAccelerator.

9. Accumulated Junk File Clutter

The Symptoms: You experience slower responsiveness, particularly during intensive operations like media streaming and game play. Your available disk space has noticeably decreased.

The Problem: With regular usage, junk files quickly accumulate on your PC: unneeded debris can come from internet browsing, programs that don’t clean up after themselves, unexpected computer restarts, and more. And while the source of the clutter varies, the result is the same: gigabytes of drive space wasted and your PC’s processing load needlessly overtaxed.

The Fix: PC Cleanup, one of System Mechanic’s five all-in-one PowerTools™, analyzes your computer’s level of clutter and then performs a deep cleaning by safely removing all the temporary and useless files that have accumulated. Read more about how PC Cleanup works.

Go to Toolbox > All-in-one Tools > PC Cleanup.

10. Fragmented Core Operating System Files

The Symptoms: Slow system startups, wake-ups, and resumes. Reduced foreground program performance, multimedia sputtering, freezes, and time-outs.

The Problem: Important system files vital to core Windows functions become fragmented and scattered, but cannot be defragmented using traditional tools.

The Fix: Drive Accelerator™ provides important tools to defragment and stabilize critical system files before Windows starts up (the only time they can be optimized). Keeping system files optimized can prevent unnecessary overhead and significantly improve PC performance from the ground up.

Go to Toolbox > Individual Tools > Increase Performance > Drive Accelerator > Configure Boot-Time Defragmentation.

11. Congested Solid State Drive (SSD) Memory Cells

The Symptoms: SSD file storage performance gradually degrades over time to levels significantly lower than original.

The Problem: As files are written to and deleted from SSDs, the physical memory cells that hold data are left in progressively mixed states, requiring inconvenient preparation and unnecessary computational overhead before further data can be written.

The Fix: SSD Accelerator™ Streamlines, optimizes, and prolongs the life of modern solid-state drives, keeping them reading and writing data at peak performance. SSD Accelerator automatically cleans and prepares available memory space on SSDs after data is erased, so files can be written without time-consuming preliminary “conditioning”. SSD Accelerator is also designed to work seamlessly with System Mechanic’s other drive optimization tools, and to keep SSDs in prime condition automatically using patented ActiveCare® technology.

Go to Toolbox > Individual Tools > Increase Performance > SSD Accelerator.

12. Obsolete Hardware Drivers

The Symptoms: Blue screen crashes, system freezes, malfunctioning hardware devices.

The Problem: Device drivers are small programs that act as translators between the Windows operating system and your hardware components such as printers, cameras, or scanners. As Windows receives updates and your software environment changes, drivers can fall out of date and pose system-wide stability and performance risks.

The Fix: Designated Drivers™ automatically finds and installs critical driver updates certified by Microsoft and required to keep your PC and its peripherals running swiftly and stably. It also takes the guesswork out of hunting online for manufacturer’s downloads, complex update processes, and accidental corruption due to incorrect driver installation.

Go to Toolbox > Individual Tools > Increase Performance > Designated Drivers.

iolo UptoSpeed

UpToSpeed™ is iolo's ongoing article series written by PC experts for everyday computer users. Each article is packed with easy tips and practical advice on the latest issues affecting computers to help you get the most out of your PC.

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