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There are many reasons a computer can slow down with use and all of them are either preventable or fixable. Often the culprit turns out to be a combination of things, but in most cases a little simple maintenance can help get you back up to speed.
Has your computer slowed due to fragmentation? Every time a computer accesses information on a hard drive, it must seek out the requested data. If files are contiguously placed on the drive, this can occur quickly. However, with continued use files become fragmented. The times it takes to retrieve all parts of the file increases, slowing performance. “Defrag” tools are built into most operating systems and are also available online.
Is the hard drive nearly full? A full hard drive can also slow down a computer, leaving little available space for read/write processes. These processes use a portion of the disk’s free space as a virtual drive or “scratch pad.” In this case adding a second drive and distributing your data can improve performance.
Is your Windows™ or Vista™ registry corrupted or cluttered with junk? Over time the registry can become littered with incorrect values and false pointers from programs that don’t uninstall properly. This can be especially noticeable while booting into the desktop, as it might take noticeably longer than it once did. A registry cleaner will restore your registry to a clean, efficient state.
Have you recently upgraded your operating system? If you noticed the computer slowed after installing a new operating system, it could be that the new system requires more Random Access Memory (RAM) to run efficiently. For example, Microsoft™ Vista™ utilizes more RAM resources than Windows™ XP™. Install more RAM to alleviate a memory-based bottleneck.
Has your computer slowed because it hasn’t been routinely scanned for adware, spyware or viruses?Assuming the issues previously mentioned aren’t the problem, third party programs might be leeching resources. Adware, for example, is “free” software that continually gathers information and serves advertisements. This consumes both bandwidth and system resources. Adware can also be a source for security breaches.
Your computer might also have slowed due to spyware, commonly installed surreptitiously, imbedded inside what appears to be a benign program or email attachment. Spyware can hide its tracks while using your computer resources for its own benefit. Spyware scanners can check for and remove spyware.
It could be that your computer slowed due to a virus that is interfering with system processes. Some viruses are merely annoying while others cause repeated crashing, spontaneous rebooting, or the eradication of valuable data. If your computer does not have an anti-virus program running or if its database is out of date, your system might have picked up one or more bugs.
Has your computer slowed due to a root kit? A root kit is yet another type of infestation. This small program, installed secretly by ‘hitch-hiking’ its way on to your computer, allows a remote operator to control your computer without your knowledge. Hundreds, thousands, or in some cases over a million computers can be part of a single “robot network” known as a botnet. The controlling hacker can send a single command that propagates out to every computer in the botnet. Victims’ computers are often used for illegal purposes, such as participation in attacks on websites or email accounts. A root kit can also delete files or erase hard drives.
To keep a computer running its best, periodically defragment the hard drive(s), ensure you have plenty of room and sufficient RAM, and use scanning software to check for adware, spyware and root kits. Install a good anti-virus program that provides regular database updates, and keep a firewall running to block unwanted intrusions. Periodic cleaning of the registry is also a good idea. These tasks can be scheduled to run automatically using any common scheduling program.
There are many freeware and shareware programs available for scanning your computer, defragmenting the drives, cleaning the registry, and searching for root kits. For advice on which software to use, try referring to current issues of popular online computer magazines and technology websites. Read the editor’s reviews and user reviews to find the most popular, proven programs.
In general, every 2-4 weeks is good, if you use your computer daily. You can't run it "too often" so it's just a matter of when you want to stop to do maintenance. The more frequently you run it, the less fragmented your files will be, which means the computer will run more efficiently AND defragging will be quicker, because there will be less to defrag. Running it every day would not be necessary, as there would be little to defrag and little benefit.
how often should one run the disk defragmenter?
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