I had a very enlightening experience a couple of weeks ago with my primary desktop computer, and if anyone else is suffering from a computer that seems to be getting slower by the day, this may be your issue.
TL;DR – Check your computer’s ventilation.
For myself, I’ve had my desktop for about 6 years or so. I’ve upgraded some of the internals (swapping hard disk for SSD drives, doubling the RAM from 4GB to 8GB), but the processor, motherboard, graphics card, and other “guts” of the computer remain the same.
About two years ago I was doing some optimizations to put videos on a website, and I noticed that my computer would be off in the morning after I started a video conversion session at night.
Since I had (and still have) Windows 10, I figured it might be related to Microsoft’s numerous attempts at “automatic” updates that would fail or generally be annoying. But (this time) Microsoft wasn’t the issue!
It turns out that my older processor was really chugging along to transcode these larger video files, and my front (intake) case fan had stopped working completely. The processor was generating lots of heat, and the small processor fan/heatsink and the exhaust fan at the back of the computer were not strong enough to dissipate that heat. I ordered a replacement case fan and my computer was as good as new!
You’d think that I would learn that lesson, but I did not.
Over the past 6 months I’ve been having constant issues with the same machine just being generally sluggish. Not just slow on high-intensity work, but thinks like Alt-Tab taking about 1 or 1.5 seconds to work, typing being consistently slow to show up on the screen, any moderately intensive website (like Amazon) taking forever to load.
Well, turns out, the processor fan was dying. The bearing had been making noise for a little while (two months or so), but it had probably been slowing down and moving less air for awhile.
Now that I think of it, this may have even started when the intake fan went out – I’m sure the exhaust and processor fan were both working overtime, and so that might have contributed to the processor fan’s early demise.
Anyway, I did a little bit of research and found this moderately-sized (and priced) CPU cooler from Cooler Master. I ordered it Saturday, it showed up on Sunday, and after installing it things are noticeably snappier. Make no mistake, my desktop is not fast (I’m still rocking an AMD A6-5400K, released in 2012), but it is much more useable now for 90% of what I use it for. Not a bad way to spend $30!
So if you’re having problems with a computer suddenly (or gradually) slowing down, spend a few minutes checking for dust, clogged intake or exhaust vents, or non-working fans. Fixing these problems is both cheap and (potentially) incredibly effective!