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Computer Technical Tips: How to determine why you computer has suddenly slowed down.

Pictured is the task manager from an earlier version of windows. Why is my computer suddenly so slow?
Most of us have experienced our PCs slowing down to a crawl and thought the worst! A virus must have taken over our computer. There is a way to find out which program is hogging resources and causing your computer to slow down.

For Windows there is a program that allows you to see which program is causing the problem. You hit the Ctrl, Alt and Delete keys together and this program will start up it is called Task Manager. For Windows 7 the screen goes turns into a menu and select Start Task Manager. (for some earlier versions of windows there is no menu, it goes straight there)The performance tab shows a graph of the CPU (Central Processing Unit) usage and the Page file usage history.

Usually if there is a problem the CPU will show that it is running all of the time or 100%. This does not always mean you need a faster computer though it might if this occurs frequently. You next want to investigate this further by clicking on the Processes tab. This will show the file names of all the programs that are running and the percentage of CPU usage that each is using. Just look down the CPU column and find the one program that has a high percentage of usage. Some software packages use several programs so you may not recognize the name. Once you have the file name of the guilty program I go on the Internet and search for this name. More than likely someone else has also experienced that this and you will get some information about how to handle it. If you do not get any information from the Internet you can search for the file name on your hard disk drive. Windows 7 Click on the start button and then type the file name in the search box just above the start button. Based on the directory the file is in you can usually tell which software package the program is part of and then contact the software provider for more information. The lower displays on the Windows Task Manager shows page file usage. (A “page” is a contiguous group of memory.) However, on every XP machine I have ever seen the graph is just a straight line and does not show very much. For this reason I recommend FreeMeter.

The Freemeter Display

As its name implies it is free though there is a more robust version that you have to pay for. FreeMeter does show page file usage and is available from http://www.tiler.com/freemeter/.

But first, what is so important about page file usage is that it can indicate that you need more memory or one of your programs is utilizing a lot of memory. Now to explain this... Memory is permanently stored on your hard disk drive but a hard disk drive is too slow for a processor to directly access so it always runs programs and accesses data from the memory on chips. Most machines do not have enough memory to run all of the programs and the data these programs access simultaneously. The PC saves sections of memory that has not been used for a while in the Page file or swap file (older versions of windows) on your hard disk drive. When memory is referenced that has been stored in the swap file the computer makes space in memory by writing some data to the swap file on the hard disk and then reading the memory you need. This activity can really slow you computer down. It will occur most often when programs start up and you are switching between programs.

FreeMeter displays a set of meters that show up in the lower right hand area of your screen called Systray. (see picture above) You will be able to see what is happening so you can observe if one particular program is causing a problem or the problem is just not enough memory. It is a great program to have. The other nice thing about FreeMeter is that it also works on Windows 95 and up and older versions of windows did not come with a utility that like this.

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