A slow computer can hurt your business’ bottom line—the minutes spent waiting for the computer to do what it needs to do add up to hours (or even days) each month of unproductive time. Plus, the frustration of these computer issues can add unnecessary stress to your workday, which isn’t ideal when there are other business-related tasks to worry about.

Finding out why your computer’s performance is slowing down is worth the effort to ensure your business hours are spent productively.

What Causes A Computer To Slow Down Over Time?

If your computer is running slower than normal, there may be a number of causes, ranging from outdated software to insufficient hardware. Keep reading to learn about the most common causes of computer lag and what you can do to fix it.

Business man working at a computer looking at watch.

Why Your Computer Is Running Slow (And How To Speed It Up)

1. You Have Programs And Applications Running In The Background

The Problem: If default settings aren’t changed, some programs start automatically when you start your computer. These programs can run in the background, using up a significant amount of your computer’s resources.

The Solution: Open up your task manager (CTRL + ALT + DEL on Windows, or Activity Monitor on Mac), and close programs you don’t need running while using your computer.

To improve speed performance even more, disable any programs that automatically open every time your Mac or PC starts:

  • On a Mac, you will need to configure login items in your system preferences.
  • On a PC, the process will vary depending on the version of Windows running on your computer. Refer to this guide to find out how to disable your startup programs.

2. Your Computer Is Infected With Malware

The Problem: Malware (or malicious software) are programs that end up on a user’s computer without consent, inflicting mild to severe damage depending on the type of malware you’re dealing with. These programs can run quietly on your computer and use a large amount of your device’s resources and energy, resulting in significantly slower computer performance.

The Solution: Make sure you have a reliable anti-malware and anti-virus program installed on your computer and run it often to identify and remove any infected programs. Once any malware is removed, be sure to only download programs from trusted sources (like app stores) to avoid accidentally downloading infected programs.

3. You Have Outdated Software Or Operating System On Your Device

The Problem: If you regularly ignore or postpone software updates, it can slow down the performance of your computer. Older versions of software may have bugs or security loopholes that make them much slower than intended, even if you aren’t infected with any viruses.

The Solution: Keep up-to-date with software as new versions become available. Software companies regularly release updates to improve how these programs run and to patch security holes, improving privacy and performance.

4. You Have Too Many Unnecessary Programs

The Problem: Having too many games or programs installed on a computer can seriously slow down performance.

The Solution: Routinely remove unnecessary programs from your computer (such as expired ‘free trial’ software, or programs you no longer use).

5. There Is No Space On The Internal Hard Drive

The Problem: If you have no space left on your internal hard drive, it can hinder your operating system’s performance. Storing a large number of data files or applications can use up your internal hard drive storage.

The Solution: First, look to see how much space you have remaining on your drive. Invest in an external hard drive to store files and data you need to keep, but don’t need to access on a consistent basis. Make sure there is between 200-500MB of free space on your internal hard drive—this ensures that there is adequate space for the computer’s daily functions.

If your computer is running slow but shows no signs of viruses or issues with software, then it may be a hardware issue.

6. Your Computer Has Less RAM

The Problem: Your computer doesn’t have enough RAM (Random Access Memory) to load and use applications, work with bigger files, or use programs that require a large amount of memory to process data.

RAM is different than internal hard drive storage. Your computer’s RAM is used while you are using your computer—when you run a program, open a document, or watch a video, the RAM is used to store that data temporarily. The internal hard drive has the ability to save files and data indefinitely.

The Solution: If your computer supports RAM upgrades, consider increasing the size. This will help your computer load and use more applications at the same time without slowing performance.

It is important to note that some newer devices (particularly Apple computers) do not offer the ability to upgrade RAM. If your computer doesn’t support upgrades, double-check to make sure there isn’t another reason your computer may be running slow before investing in a new computer.

7. Your CPU Is Overheating

The Problem: If your CPU (Central Processing Unit) is overheating, it can impact your computer’s performance. If overheated, the CPU will cut back on speed to try to reduce heat. There could be a few reasons why your computer is overheating, like a build-up of dust inside the computer or poor ventilation.

The Solution: Check to make sure the fans are running, and your computer is in a well-ventilated area. Clean your device with compressed air to remove dust, and keep laptops off your bed and/or couch. Only run applications that are necessary for what you are working on to avoid additional strain on your CPU.

8. Your Computer No Longer Supports Latest Technology And Software Updates

The Problem: If your computer is old, it may not be able to support the latest technology and software.

The Solution: First, double-check to make sure there isn’t another problem causing your computer to run slow. If you have done all that you can do to try and solve the issue and your computer is still running slow, it may be time to invest in a new computer.

A laptop computer's screen showing the progress of installing new updates.

Help Your Computer Perform The Way It Should

A properly functioning computer is important for ensuring your time is spent as productively as possible. If you notice your computer is beginning to slow down, use the tips above to check for potential causes before it becomes an even bigger issue.

If you can’t figure out why your computer is slowing down own your own or need some extra help fixing the problem, our team of Nerds is always available to help.