Why is my computer so slow? (series)
Certainly one of the most common questions we hear is, “Why is my computer so slow?” While the answer is almost impossible to affirm without investigation, there are some things that will slow every computer down over time, and some things you can do about it.
I’ll start off the series with hardware failure; a less common and often misunderstood reason that your computer may be running slow. While any part of a computer system can fail, the most common and an inevitable failure point, is the hard drive. It is also the most frustrating because other than a slow computer, you probably won’t get any notice that it is failing, until it completely fails, at which time you will really wish you had been backing up regularly.
A standard SATA hard drive has spindles and an arm that reads data similar to that of an old record player. The spindles usually spin at 7200 rotations per minute. This happens almost constantly as long as the computer is awake or in use so as you can imagine, both the arm and spindle are very subject to mechanical failure.
While modern operating systems can track hard drives for error they don’t typically notify you by default, unless there is an actual read/write delay, or as we stated before, they completely fail. Events are recorded however in the event log so you could check every so often in the event log for errors or warnings created by the source “Disk”. However, our iSAFE products automatically check for “Disk” errors in the event log every day and report them to us.
When these errors are recorded in the event log, but the system is still functional, we call this a “progressive failure”, meaning that the hard drive is in the process of failing. When the OS has trouble reading and writing to the hard drive, many times it will look like it has slowed to a crawl or just locked up for a while. The mouse may hang, or it may continue to move. These symptoms can look very much like a virus, or other malicious software has taken over the computer resources.
How to Fix
The only way to fix this issue, is to replace the hard drive. The good news is that if it is caught early enough, it may be possible to clone the drive, run a data repair on the new drive, and keep all your programs, settings, and continue functioning as before the progressive failure began. Wait too long however, and the hard drive will have to be replaced, the OS, and all your programs will have to be installed. At that point we can just hope that your data is recoverable from the failing drive, or that you have a good, recent backup.
If your data is not recoverable in-house, we do have the option to send the drive off for data recovery in a “clean room”. This is a specially designed laboratory, free of dust and debris, where they can pull the actual spindles from the drive and read them that way. The cast can run anywhere from $600 to several thousand depending on the amount of data to be recovered. The best practice is to backup your data every day, because we always say, “It is not a question of if your hard drive fails, it’s just a question of when.”