Vista Laptop Slow

Dear Computer Lady,

I have a 6 year old Toshiba laptop using Window Vista Basic and finally have come to like Vista, but still no comparison to XP, but I digress. My computer lately has slowed up considerably despite my using your Smart Window cleaner, deleting histories, along with MacAfee regular scans. I have almost 50% space available showing in my memory. I have deleted old emails so that I no longer have more that 50 of the latest ones. The attachments are a different story as they show almost 700 of them and I have not been able find the method of deleting them alto it says they go to the temporary file. I understand from the Geek squad that they are not taking any room on my hard drive and shouldn’t worry about them. My question is, should I start thinking about purchasing a new computer? I have been happy with my Toshiba and hesitate buying a new one. I am 86 yrs old and this is my second computer, having been on computers, mostly self-taught with considerable hep from you, for about 10 years. It is no longer just a hobby as I have other interests that more than fill in my time these days. What is your opinion of the slow problem or possibly purchasing a new one which will no doubt have Windows 7 factory installed which may be a concern.

I have followed you for as long as I have been on the computer and have had much success in learning from your tips over the years and thank you for it. I have asked many questions over this period of time but have never had an answer, possibly this is the magic moment.

Cordially, John from York


Dear John,

Congratulations on running your computer for 6 years without any major problems! If you have been running the same installation of Windows for 6 years, a little bit of slowdown is to be expected, but if this is the only problem you are having, it is something you can get fixed.

First, lets look at what is causing the slowdown. When you first got your laptop, it had a fresh installation of Windows, and it ran the way it was supposed to. Over time, you have used the computer, made changes to it, and started it up then shut it down hundreds of times. Occasionally, small mistakes are bound to happen. Over time, these mistakes build up, and cause your computer to either slow down, or sometimes features will stop working completely. Many computer techs refer to this as, software rot.

Software rot can only be fixed by doing a clean install of Windows. You need to reformat (erase) the hard drive and then install Windows and all your programs. Your Toshiba laptop either has a set of recovery disks, or a special recovery program on the hard drive that will erase the hard drive and put the computer back in the same condition it was in when you first bought it. Then all you need to do is install all the windows updates, set your email back up, and restore the files that you backed up. This is a service that I frequently do for my customers.

There is one other thing that could be slowing your computer down that might not be fixed by a clean install of Windows. That is the amount of RAM you have installed on your computer. When your computer was new, the amount of RAM that you had was probably sufficient to run current programs like your antivirus, and updated versions of your web browser. 6 years later, however, your RAM is probably nowhere near what it should be to run these programs. You can upgrade your RAM, but you have to check first to see what your model of laptop uses for RAM and what the maximum amount of RAM it will support is.

Once you have figured out what upgrading the RAM and doing a clean install of Windows will cost you, then you can make a decision about fixing this laptop or purchasing a new one.


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    • ron007
    • May 13, 2011

    I agree with your prescription of Windows re-install. I would just suggest putting in a couple more points BEFORE saying re-install.

    First thing, create backups of the current configuration. A full image copy so you can restore to this point if re-install doesn’t work. Also a backup that allows you to easily extract data files (ie DriveImage XML backup freeware)

    Another thing to do BEFORE starting the re-install is make sure you have install files and registration/product keys required to activate the applications. These freeware tools can extract the key information:
    TOOLS TO EXTRACT PRODUCT KEY – not only does Belarc extract product keys, it reports on a WHOLE BUNCH of other stuff you want to know. Printing the report, or saving it is probably a good idea. SIW – System Information for Windows (portable app), the install keys for Windows, Office and some other programs are displayed. Start SIW (no install required) and click on Software | Licenses. (SIW for Win 2010 Build 0714g- Office 2003 OK, 2007 ???, 2010 Wrong, Win Vista OK) V 2.0.8- Office 2003 OK, 2007 OK, 2010 na, Win Vista Wrong) – review of Jellybean – Enchanted Keyfinder Beta Portable- Win (9X, ME, NT/2K/XP, Vista, Win7), MS Office (97, XP, 2003, 2007, 2010), Recover key for 484 other software and counting V1.45- Office 2003 OK , 2007 , 2010 , Win Vista ) License Crawler V1.2 B98 (Office 2003 , 2007 , 2010 , Win Vista ) – License Crawler for Vista XP (Office 2003 , 2007 , 2010 , Win Vista ) (Office 2003 , 2007 , 2010 , Win Vista )

    After you get the “keys” it may be time to contact the software makers for installation files if you can’t find your original installation disks.

    I volunteer on the MS Answers site. Way too many people write in for help to re-install apps, AFTER re-installing Windows. By that point it is way too late and they end up paying AGAIN for software that they shouldn’t have to

    Finally. After re-installing Windows and Windows updates, if she is restoring windows from a manufacturer “recovery partition” rather than installing windows from a MS installation disk, it is probably time to “decrapify” (pardon the “technical” term) the computer. Remove unwanted/unneeded apps that the recovery partition installed. There are freeware tools to help with this

    Then run a defragmentation tool to cleanup the disk. Installation of windows and apps uses lots of temp files that get deleted, leaving lots of open spots on disk that cause fragmentation.

    Finally, do image copies again so that you have a better recovery point (less work to be redone) than going all the way back to a fresh windows install.

    Although it is possible for “average” users to do re-install of windows. Doing it “properly” is a lot of work that in the long run it may be better to pay a professional to do.

    PS: Also, when I do re-installs, I try to convince my clients to let me add a “Data” partition. Separating your data files from Windows and Applications makes this sort of refresh much “safer” and easier.

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