The Norman Transcript


August 24, 2013

How slow is your computer?

NORMAN — Sluggish performance is probably the number one computer complaint of all times.

“My computer is so slow.” If I’ve heard that complaint once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.

Care must be taken, though, to distinguish between slow computer performance and a slow Internet connection. They can appear sometimes to be one in the same, but they are not.

The actual speed of a computer depends on a number of things. How many useless programs are running invisibly in the background? What is the processor speed? How large is the processor’s cache? What is the speed of the motherboard’s front-side bus (FSB)? How much random-access memory (RAM) is installed? How much RAM is available to process video? How fast does the hard drive spin?

If you don’t know what any of those things mean, that’s OK. Outside of adding more RAM, there’s not much that most folks can do about these hardware-related specifications, anyway.

Most people judge the speed of a computer by how responsive it is to user input, i.e., when they click on something, how long do they have to wait before something happens? After pushing the computer’s power button, how long does it take for everything to “load” before the computer can be used to do something useful?

Generally speaking, if you have a fairly modern computer with a decent amount of RAM and it takes longer than about 10 seconds for a program to run after double-clicking its icon, then something is wrong. At this point, it’s time to see what programs and operating system processes are running in the background and trim those back to a minimum. Defragmenting the hard drive can help here, also.

Internet connection speed is a completely different subject. Some people think they have a slow computer, when what they really have is a slow Internet connection. It helps to make sure you are not comparing apples to oranges. For example, the bargain-basement DSL connection from AT&T will never be as fast as the extra-fast (and extra cost) cable Internet connection from Cox.

I pay a little extra for faster service and, to me, it’s worth it. I have also tweaked all of my computers to be as fast as possible, so I know that, if something is slow, it’s not the computer’s fault.

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