Or at least, Googling and general surfing: that’s what my boss wants to do at the office. He’s convinced people spend too much time cyberloafing, and then they moan that their computers are too slow. He has a point: the computers are *very* low spec, but they were OK when they were new: why are they so slow now?

Well, it is a well-known phenomenon that computers slow down over time, with Windows as an operating system anyway. I imagine the same thing happens with other OS’s too. Many IT people just wipe their machines every few months: a clean reinstall fixes a lot of nonsense. There’s no doubt that Windows becomes corrupt over time and there are various cleaning tools that can help fix it (and sometimes break it). Why does Windows get corrupt over time? Well, junk gets left from crashes, from installed software, from inefficiently uninstalled software, from orphaned temporary files, and more. No doubt Trojans and viruses lurking contribute on a lot of machines.

Then there’s all those security updates to beat the viruses and hackers. They all add bloat, and not just to Windows: applications have updates too.

And then… programmers, I suspect, write their updates with the assumption that people are using the latest whizz-bank hardware, when in reality people are trying to hang on to some cobweb-ridden old crank-box to save a few pennies for their retirement. Some people may have shares in hardware companies, but most of us don’t.

So what can one do? Use a crap cleaner like ccleaner and also defragment your hard drive. But even that won’t help all machines: new software and new websites are just not written with antiques in mind. Furthermore as we add more and more programs to them, even if they are uninstalled later, the junk piles up.

I’ve found one other factor that may apply more in a working environment: when a PC has multiple users and each user has their own profile on the PC, the registry expands massively for each user as it records that user’s preferences, their programs, their programs’ options, and more. Windows has to read the entire registry to do anything much on a PC, so it knows what to do when you click on things. A PC that has had 10 or 15 different users over the years has a huge registry, and it takes time for Windows to scan it every time you want to do something. If the PC only has a small amount of RAM, then Windows will be caching the registry on the hard drive and reading it back from there all the time, rather than storing it in working memory. This will slow the machine down enormously over time. What can you do about it? I don’t know. Wipe the machine and start again, I suppose. Adding more RAM will certainly help in some cases, however.

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