Nothing is more frustrating than having a slow laptop. In this post, we’ve broken down the necessary steps to figuring out why your laptop is so slow and how to fix the problem.
Is your laptop too slow? Has it been slowing down over the years? Or, did it slow down suddenly? Is it always slow? Or, is it just slow in certain programs/applications? These questions are important to ask yourself and answer, as they will help you identify why your laptop is so slow and how you can fix the problem.
In this guide, we will help you troubleshoot a slow-running laptop by covering the three different reasons laptops have performance issues and their various root causes.
Drilling Down on the Cause of A Slow Laptop
There’s really no broad way to determine why your laptop is running slowly. You have to drill down to the root cause of the problem. So, before you start troubleshooting, you need to ask yourself these two questions:
- What was my laptop designed to do?
- Am I asking my laptop to do something it’s not designed to do?
If your laptop is running slowly because you’re trying to get it to do something it’s not designed to do, then you need a new laptop.
As an example, if you are you trying to run the latest graphics-intensive video game on your 7-year old laptop that has integrated graphics in it, your laptop isn’t cut out for the job you’re asking it to do.
If you bought a $500 budget laptop and you’re trying to use it for video editing or graphics design work, you’re going to feel like your laptop is slow. And, it will be slow, because it wasn’t designed to handle those kinds of tasks.
So, before you jump into troubleshooting why your laptop isn’t running how you think it should, first make sure that it is even capable of performing the tasks you’re asking it to perform.
If you think your laptop should be running fine, but it’s not, then keep reading for potential solutions.
Three Potential Problems
A laptop running slowly (when it should be running fine) is due to one of three major causes:
- Your laptop has a software problem
- You have an internet problem
- Your laptop has a hardware problem
In the sections below, we’ll discuss each of these problems in further detail, as well as cover the variety of potential root causes for each one. We’ll also discuss potential fixes to help speed your laptop back up (where applicable).
1. Software Problem
One of the main reasons why your laptop might be running slow is an issue with the software on your laptop, whether that’s the programs you have downloaded on it, or the way you are using your operating system.
Here are some potential software issues that could be causing your laptop to run slowly:
- You have too many programs/applications running
- You have too many browser tabs open
- You have too many browser extensions or add-ons
- Your laptop has a virus or malware
- You’ve installed multiple antivirus programs on your laptop
- Your laptop has power saving features turned on that are limiting its performance
- Your gaming laptop isn’t plugged in
Here’s a quick rundown of each and how to fix the problem:
Too Many Programs/Applications Running
The more things you ask your computer to do, the slower it’s going to run. So, first check and make sure that you aren’t running any programs or applications that you don’t need.
This might seem like a no-brainer and one that you’ll dismiss, but it is possible that there are programs running on your laptop that you didn’t realize were running. A lot of programs launch at start up and you may not even realize they are running in the background.
Finding & Turning off Programs
When your computer feels like it is running slowly, the first thing you should do is go into Task Manager and see what is taking up resources.
To get into Task Manager:
- Hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete
- Choose Task Manager
Once in Task Manager, check and see what programs have the highest CPU and memory usage. If there are programs running that are using a lot of your CPU or memory, and you didn’t realize they were running, you can close them by right-clicking on them and hitting ‘End Task.’
Disabling the Program from Launching at Startup
If you find that there are programs running that you didn’t realize were running, you can also make sure that they aren’t launching at startup so that they only come on when you want them to come on.
You can do this in Task Manger:
- Once in Task Manager, switch to the Startup tab
- In the Startup tab, sort by Enabled
- Find programs that shouldn’t be launching at startup
- Right-click on these programs and hit Disable
Delete the Program Altogether
Alternatively, if you don’t need the program anymore, you can delete it entirely. To do so:
- Type ‘remove program’ into the Windows search bar
- Find the program you want to remove
- Click on it and hit Uninstall
You Have too Many Browser Tabs Open
This one is straightforward… the more browser tabs you have open, the more resources your browser will require.
To fix this problem, close unused or unnecessary browser tabs!
Too Many Browser Extensions and/or Add-Ons
Like the issue listed above, installing too many browser extensions or add-ons to your browser can take up a lot of your system’s resources and result in slow performance.
So, if you have a ton of browser extensions and/or add-ons installed, get rid of some of them.
Your Laptop Has A Virus or Malware on It
Computer viruses and malware take up resources on your laptop and cause it to run slower than it should. Certain viruses and malware are more difficult to get rid of, but a good antivirus program will get rid of most viruses or malware on your computer and ensure that you don’t accidentally get any more in the future.
So, if your laptop is running slow and you can’t find the culprit, try installing an antivirus program like Malwarebytes, McAfee, Norton, or Webroot, to see if a virus or malware are the culprit.
Your Laptop Has Multiple Antivirus Programs Installed on It
On the flip side of the issue listed above, another reason why your laptop might be running slow is because you have multiple antivirus programs installed on it.
Some antivirus programs conflict with each other and when they are installed on the same system, they can cause performance issues. If this is the case for you, choose one program and remove all instances of the other.
Your Laptop Got Switched Into A Power Saving Mode
One simple reason why your laptop might be suddenly running slower is because it got switched into a power saving mode. Most laptops have a power saving feature that will limit the system’s performance in order to help the laptop run as long as possible.
To check and see if your laptop is running in low power mode and to change it into balanced or high performance mode, follow these instructions:
- Type control panel into your Windows search bar and hit enter
- In the Control Panel, select ‘Hardware and Sound’
- In the Hardware and Sound menu, select ‘Power Options’
- In power options, make sure either ‘Balanced’ or ‘High performance’ are selected
Your Gaming Laptop Isn’t Plugged In
If you have a high-end gaming laptop and your games aren’t running as good as they normally do, the reason could be that your laptop’s GPU needs the laptop to be plugged in to an outlet in order to run at full capacity.
Some gaming laptops are designed to use the CPU’s integrated graphics when they aren’t plugged in to an outlet in order to preserve power. So, if you’re seeing a drop in in-game performance when your laptop is unplugged, this might be the solution you’re looking for.
2. Internet Problem
Another problem that might make you think that your laptop is running slowly is a poor internet connection. This one will be easy to tell, because your laptop will only run slowly when doing tasks that require an online connection.
Do web pages load slowly? Do videos constantly get stuck buffering? Do you lag in online games? If your laptop runs fine outside of online tasks, then your internet connection is the culprit.
(Do you have the right internet connection for gaming? Check our guide What is A Good Internet Speed for Gaming? to see.)
And, the only way to fix a slow internet connection is to either…
- Improve your Wi-Fi connection if you’re on Wi-Fi
- Or, upgrade your internet service, if applicable.
So, if you’ve got a slow internet plan, there’s not much you can do to make your laptop perform online tasks more quickly.
If your internet plan is adequate, but your connection is slow, then you either have a poor connection to your router, or there are too many other users using your network.
If you’re on a Wi-Fi connection, you can try moving closer to the router, upgrading to a better router, or switching to a hardwired connection.
3. Hardware Problem
If none of the above is the culprit for your laptop running slowly, then you could have a hardware problem.
There are a handful of hardware problems that might be causing the issue:
- Your laptop is overheating
- You’ve ran out of storage space
- You don’t have enough memory
- One or more components have malfunctioned
Your Laptop is Overheating
If your laptop runs too hot, its components will throttle—which means they will run slower on purpose in order to try and cool down.
It’s fairly easy to tell if your laptop is overheating, as it will be extremely hot to the touch. But, to be absolutely certain, you can also install a temperature monitor program to check your laptop’s CPU and GPU temperatures.
There are a number of ways that you can cool down your laptop. Effective methods for cooling down your laptop can range from blowing out the vents with compressed air, to switching the surface that you are using the laptop on, to using a laptop cooler to provide more airflow underneath it.
You’ve Run Out of Storage Space
If you’ve run out of storage space on your laptop, it’s going to run slower. This could be also construed as a software issue, as you can fix it by deleting programs and files you don’t need anymore.
To check whether or not you’ve run out of storage space:
- Open File Explorer (you can just type File Explorer into the search bar)
- In File Explorer, click on This PC on the left-hand sidebar
- Check your disk space
If the bar showing your available space is over capacity or close to over capacity, you need to free up storage space or add more storage capacity.
Of course, you can delete any unused programs or files to free up space and that should solve the problem.
You can also buy an external hard drive or a USB flash drive and transfer important files to that if you need to keep them.
You Don’t Have Enough Memory
There’s only a couple of ways that you can upgrade a laptop to make it run faster. You can add a bigger and faster storage device (like an SSD) and/or you can add more memory to it.
Certain programs require more memory in order to run properly. And, if your laptop feels slow when running those programs, even if you have a CPU and GPU powerful enough to run them, you might not have enough memory.
This could either be a hardware problem, or, as outlined above, a software problem.
Again, if you have other programs running in the background, they are going to use memory. The more applications that are running, the less memory will be available. So, first make sure that your memory problem isn’t the result of running too many programs.
If that’s not the case, your system might not have enough memory. Fortunately, upgrading a laptop’s memory is fairly easy. You just purchase the right RAM, remove the RAM access plate on the under side of your laptop, and install the new RAM.
You can either add to the existing RAM in your laptop if there is a slot open, or you can replace the existing RAM with higher capacity RAM.
However, it’s important that you check the exact steps for upgrading your RAM according to your laptop’s manufacturer. Not all memory kits will work in your laptop.
One or More Components Have Malfunctioned
Unfortunately, sometimes laptops come with faulty hardware. Or, sometimes they get dropped, or get something spilled on them, and they either stop running, or there is performance issues.
If your laptop shouldn’t be running slow and you’ve tried all of the solutions listed above and none of them have worked, then your best bet is to take your laptop into a computer repair shop and have diagnostics run on it.