4 main reasons your computer slows down and how to fix it

Man with a Mac

I bought a MacBook Pro largely for two reasons: speed and user experience. I had an old HP laptop based on Windows 7 before the switch. Well, let's say there is no question about the ease of use of OS X (soon we would call it macOS)...

I'm a bit disappointed about my Mac's inconsistent performance.

Like any technology, a computer is prone to slowing down over time; it doesn't matter whether you are holding a Mac or PC. But, a slow computer doesn't necessarily mean you need to replace it. After all, getting a new one isn't cheap, and you have to spend time and efforts to recycle the old. 

Sometimes a small tweak can help get your computer back to its usual pace, as long as you know what's causing it to run slow. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it may sound. There are dozens of possible reasons your Mac or PC may be running slow. Here I want to show you four main reasons and fixes.

Reason 1: Adware and malware

Ask yourself, how much time you use your computer to surf the Internet every day? Quite a lot, right - checking Facebook, reading news, downloading apps, the list goes on. Beware that adware or malware might have caught you.

You probably have heard about malware, but what is adware? Simply put, it's a new piece of software that automatically displays ads often unwanted when you open a web browser like Safari or Chrome (personally, I feel FireFox is more secure). PCs are more likely to be infected with malware, while Macs with adware, especially if you install apps from third-party download sites other than Mac App Store.

How to identify and fix the problem? The easiest way is to launch your security software and run a full scan of your computer. If you are using a Mac and haven't installed any anti-malware program, I recommend AdwareMedic (now part of the MalwareBytes family) to get rid of adware issues. If you're using MalwareBytes and the scanning is slow, refer to this article for speed up tips.

Reason 2: Lack of free disk space

Although there is no research or evidence that a low level of available disk space would lead to a slow computer, I feel my computer (both PC and Mac) does run a bit slower with more stuff saving on the hard drive. If you get a warning message from the operating system that your computer is running out of space, it's a clear sign you should start to clean up the hard drive.

The process isn't easy as it sounds. You can start with deleting duplicated files, transferring large items like photos and videos to an external drive. Also, if you're an app junkie like me, removing unused programs can release a decent amount of space as well.

Don't know how to uninstall a program? Check out this tip we've covered in RAWinfopages.

There are also some handy cleaning software you may find helpful too. For example, CCleaner works amazingly well on Windows PCs and the program is totally free. If you use a Mac machine, CleanMyMac 3 is great and I've written a detailed review of the app. Bottom line - clean up your computer as much as you can, and you're sure to gain some performance improvement.

Reason 3: Bad computer habits

I have a messy, creative personality type — and that often extends into my computer habits. Case in point: I currently have 15 Chrome tabs open in two windows and five programs running on my Mac. Well, it's running okay as I upgraded my Mac with a shiny SSD (solid state drive) several months ago. The old hard disk drive died all of a sudden; I highly doubt it was related to another bad habit — uptime too long! 

Anyway, you get my point. Often, a slow computer is really just a result of some bad habits. Chances are that your computer only has a limited amount of RAM, which is what actively works with data and applications. The more programs and processes you run, the less RAM you have left and the slower your computer will run. How to fix this issue? Simple, regard your computer as your co-worker and treat him/her well.

Reason 4: Outdated hardware and software

These days technology sometimes just ages more quickly than you thought. If you've tried all the fixes above and your PC or Mac is still sluggish, your computer may be showing its age. Upgrading hardware such as RAM and hard drive is more likely to give you a real performance boost. As I said, I replaced the dead hard disk drive with a new Crucial SSD. And guess what, it now literally takes three seconds to start up.

In the meanwhile, if your computer constantly freezes or hangs while you open a specific program, it's time to check if the software is outdated. For Macs, simply click the Apple icon, then App Store, and it'll show you the list of apps to be updated. For PCs, you'll need to open the software, go to the about tab and check if there is a newer version available.


A slow computer is frustrating as it decreases your work productivity. New research also shows it is a source of stress that affects human health. But, you don't have to simply wait and suffer it out. Hope you find the above reasons and fixes useful, and maybe you have already implemented some of them. Either way, I'd like to know what you think.

Referenced resources:
Your Slow Computer is Affecting Your Health (Infographic)
How to Fix a Slow Macbook Pro: The Manual Methods
Crucial.com - solid state drive (SSD) and memory upgrades

Author: JP Zhang is the founder of Software How, a tech blog about helping you solve everyday computer or device problems. His goal is to provide you with unbiased software reviews and easy-to-follow tips. Learn more about him on his blog.



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