Q: My computer occasionally becomes unresponsive, which is inconvenient. What is causing this, and what can I do about it?
A: Few things are more aggravating than waiting for your computer to respond to keystrokes or mouse clicks, but when this happens, it’s not something you should tolerate.
In some cases, this can be an indication of malicious activity consuming your computer’s processing power in the background.
Malicious programmes will not display an icon in your taskbar or provide any other indication that they are running, other than interfering with your computer’s ability to function normally.
The possibilities are numerous, especially if you do not maintain your computer on a regular basis.
Begin by restarting
The first step in troubleshooting should be to restart your computer, which will clear the working memory of everything it’s dealing with and replenish the resources available to your operating system.
If your computer’s responsiveness improves after a restart, you may be asking it to do too much. The working memory, also known as RAM, is the most likely area to be overburdened (Random Access Memory).
If you frequently open dozens of tabs in your web browser, each one depletes your memory, so try going on a ‘tab diet’ to see if things improve. If they do, adding more RAM (if possible) could be a worthwhile upgrade that allows your computer to keep up with your appetite.
If restarting your computer does not improve performance, you have a more serious problem.
Hard drive space
Another quick check should be to see how much free space is available on your hard drive. Because your computer uses free disc space to supplement its RAM, when it becomes full, its performance suffers.
If your hard drive is nearly full, consider upgrading to a larger hard drive based on Solid State Drive (SSD) technology, which provides the fastest performance.
Heat is your computer’s enemy, so if your computer’s cooling system isn’t working properly, it can result in unresponsive behaviour.
To prevent overheating, desktop computers have exhaust vents and cooling fans that must be operational.
Check your vents and make sure the processor’s cooling fan is still spinning by removing the cover if you haven’t blown the dust bunnies out of your computer in a while.
Corruption of the operating system
One of the most common issues we see is corruption of the operating system, which is the foundation on which all of your programmes rely to function properly.
Everything from a faulty update to an out-of-date software driver can slow down your computer.
Failure of hardware
It’s possible that one of your computer’s components has failed or is failing, which will necessitate some technical knowledge and spare parts to determine.
The cause could be bad sectors on your hard drive, a faulty power supply, a bad memory stick, or even something plugged into a USB port.
Detecting operating system and hardware issues requires some technical knowledge, so if the simple tests fail, consulting an expert is the quickest way to get things working properly.