Does your computer take ages to open apps and browsers, save files, or play movies?
It can be frustrating as we’re used to getting things done with quick clicks.
In addition, a computer can lag due to a wide range of issues, which can be difficult to detect.
However, in most cases, the underlying cause isn’t serious, and you can find it without taking the PC to a technician.
Why Is My PC Lagging? (Causes, Fixes)
If your computer is more than five years old, you should expect it to lag.
The main reason is that software programs keep upgrading and require more powerful hardware.
If your hardware can’t keep up, your system will slow down.
You may want to upgrade your entire system or individual components.
One of the primary causes of a PC lagging is insufficient memory.
Since RAM is responsible for performing tasks quickly, it requires free space to store the current processes.
Different factors can hog your RAM space, including background processes, demanding apps, malware, and browser tabs.
However, if your RAM capacity is low, you need to upgrade it, especially if you multitask and run intensive programs.
That said, many other factors affect your system speed.
You may want to consider them before upgrading your hardware.
1. Make Sure It’s Not A Temporary Thing
Everyone may experience occasional lags while working on a computer.
It can be temporary and stop when the underlying cause disappears.
For example, you may experience lags while the PC is downloading a major OS update.
It may be even worse if you have a slow internet connection, with the downloads taking too long to complete.
Similarly, antivirus tools can also run in the background and scan your PC, reducing your speed.
When the tool finishes the scan, your system will get back to normal.
Therefore, you should first ensure that it’s not temporary and try to find specific patterns.
Try restarting the PC because it can clear RAM, remove temporary glitches, and close unwanted programs.
That’s particularly necessary if you haven’t turned off your PC for a while and put it in sleep mode instead.
It can fill your RAM and eat up resources, slowing down the PC.
2. Old Or Incompatible Hardware
Your PC performance depends on the hardware features and specs, especially if you run demanding programs.
In addition, software programs are constantly getting updates, making older devices unable to keep up.
If your hardware can’t deliver the processing power that the programs require, you may experience lags.
In addition, all your hardware components should have similar specs and processing power.
Otherwise, the weakest component can bottleneck others, making the entire system run slowly.
For example, you can’t get much done if you’ve upgraded to a high-end gaming-grade GPU while your CPU is still old and has low specs.
Your CPU can’t handle the demands of your GPU and programs that you run and will bottleneck the overall performance.
You should ensure all your components are compatible with specs and capabilities and replace the old ones.
3. Insufficient RAM
RAM is one of the most important components affecting your PC’s overall performance.
It’s the number one component that enables you to run several programs simultaneously.
When you start your PC and run programs, everything from the entire OS to each program has to be loaded on the temporary memory.
It speeds up the processes and operations because of its technology and closeness to the CPU.
Insufficient RAM means you don’t have enough space to keep all the running programs, affecting your performance.
This problem has a simple solution: adding more RAM sticks to upgrade your memory capacity.
The catch is that you must ensure your system supports this upgrade by having the number of slots required and the maximum capacity it supports.
In addition, upgrading a desktop PC’s RAM is more straightforward, whereas a laptop may require more skills and considerations.
4. Faulty RAM
Before upgrading your RAM, you may also want to check if your RAM modules are working properly.
If one RAM stick doesn’t work, the workload will shift to the other one, overloading the good RAM.
Most computers have beep codes that appear at startup and indicate hardware issues.
If your RAM is bad, you’ll get a beep sequence that you should count and check online for your specific motherboard brand.
Whether you get these beep codes or not, you should rule out the possibility of faulty RAM by removing your current RAM sticks and replacing them with good ones.
You should also check the RAM slots because if they don’t work, your RAM doesn’t work.
Get a RAM stick that you’re sure is functional and try it with one RAM slot at a time.
After your turn on the PC, listen for a beep code indicating your RAM slot is faulty, or work with your PC and see if things are different.
All PCs have robust cooling solutions because heat can affect your PC performance significantly.
Since heat can damage the PC’s internal components, CPUs have a thermal throttling mechanism that reduces their performance when the internal temperature reaches a certain threshold.
If your computer is lagging, you should check its temps and cooling solutions.
Unfortunately, PCs don’t have built-in tools to monitor temperatures.
Thus, you should install third-party apps, such as Core Temp.
If the tool shows unusually high temps, you need to look for the culprit.
It can be an intensive program that uses many CPU resources while heating the internals.
If you find the problematic software, you may need to downgrade it or adjust its settings to fit your system specs.
Otherwise, you need to look for the culprit among the internal components.
It involves a lengthy process of checking everything that can increase heat, from CPU and GPU heatsinks to fans and vents.
First, ensure the fans are working properly.
Listen to the fans and see if they spin when the PC is under load.
Then, turn off your PC and detach all the connections and peripherals.
Turn off the PSU switch at the back of the case and press and hold the power button to drain the static charge.
Now, inspect the GPU and CPU, cooling fans, and heatsinks.
If their heatsinks are loose, you need to reapply the thermal paste.
Reapplying thermal paste is recommended if it’s more than three years old.
Then, move on to the internal parts and see if there’s any dust buildup.
Dust buildup is the primary cause of heat because it traps the air inside and prevents proper ventilation.
Clean the innards thoroughly with a microfiber cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol.
Don’t miss the fans and vents.
Make sure they’re not clogged.
Finally, ensure the PC is in a cool place with proper ventilation.
6. Background Processes
In addition to the programs you open and actively run, several processes may run in the background.
Some are essential to maintain your system’s functioning, while others aren’t and only eat up your system resources.
As a result, your CPU has to allocate resources to the programs you don’t need.
They can also increase the heat inside your PC, reducing the performance and leading to thermal throttling.
You can detect these processes through the Task Manager’s Processes tab.
You can see the programs currently running and the CPU usage.
If more than 30% of the CPU is occupied, there’s something wrong, and you should end the unnecessary processes.
You may find processes you’ve never seen or heard of, but you can’t be sure if they’re essential or whether you can end them.
To make sure, you can search the process online and see if you can kill it.
7. Close Unnecessary Programs
If you like opening several apps simultaneously without using them, your PC may lag, especially if you have low specs and resources.
For example, you may like to leave messaging apps open while performing other tasks.
These programs can use your resources by connecting to the internet, upgrading, or heating the innards.
Some may even become unresponsive, making the PC work harder to resolve their issues.
Make sure to open only the necessary program that you currently work on and close all the unnecessary apps.
Web browsers can also have the same influence.
Opening multiple browser tabs can hog your system resources, significantly slowing down the entire PC.
That’s particularly the case when you run intensive apps, so free up as much as possible to give them what they need.
Close the browser or unnecessary tabs to free up resources.
8. Hard Drive Issues
Your hard drive is another critical component that can affect your PC performance if faulty.
It may be damaged, fragmented, or full.
You can do the following to rule out the hard disk.
A. Run CHKDSK
The first thing you should do is make sure the hard disk is functional and not physically damaged.
Since hard disks have moving platters and heads, they can go bad over time, leading to hard disk failure.
Slow performance, BSOD, frequent system freezes, and extra noises are telltale signs of a bad hard drive.
You must take these signs seriously because you may lose all your data if the hard drive fails and you haven’t backed it up.
The CHKDSK is a Windows built-in utility that scans your hard drive and looks for physical and logical damages.
Here’s how to do it:
Sign in to your PC with an admin account.
Type “command prompt” in Cortana’s search box and select the first result.
Type chkdsk x: /f / r in the command prompt window and press Enter.
The process can take a while, especially if there are errors or damages.
If the utility can’t fix the damages, you may need to replace the hard disk drive.
B. Defragment The Hard Drive
Hard disk fragmentation is another important factor that can slow down your PC.
Fragmentation occurs when the system breaks up files to save them in empty spaces inside the hard drive.
When you open the file, the hard drive head has to move to different spots to get your file together.
This process can take longer than when your file is a whole piece.
You can use Windows built-in tool to defragment the files, although it performs the task automatically in most cases.
Type “defrag” in Cortana’s search box and click Defragment and optimize drives.
Click every disk and select Optimize.
C. Clean Up The Hard Drive
Your hard drive is responsible for permanently storing your data.
However, if it’s full, it can lower your PC’s performance because it affects your virtual memory and RAM.
You should always ensure you have enough free space on your hard disk.
The minimum free space for a hard drive is 200 MB, while the recommended space is 500 MB.
If it’s less than this amount, your PC will lag.
You can run the Disk Cleanup utility to remove junk files, app and browser cache, and temporary files.
To run Disk Cleanup, go to This PC, right-click one of the drives, and select Properties.
Under General, click Disk Cleanup, and follow the on-screen prompts to delete unwanted files.
Repeat for all the drives and see how much free space you get.
You can also delete unused programs through system apps.
Some of these can be bloatware automatically installed on your PC when you install a third-party app.
Right-click the Start button and click System > Apps.
Go through the installed programs, select the unwanted ones, and click Uninstall.
Here are some other things that you need to delete to free up space:
- Files inside the Recycle Bin.
- Unwanted files in the Downloads folder.
- Browser cache and cookies.
D. Upgrade Your Storage
If cleaning up your hard disk can’t free enough space to speed up your computer, you may want to increase your storage capacity.
There are different ways to do that.
You can move your big files to your cloud storage or an external hard drive.
Alternatively, you can add an SSD to your device, which can greatly affect your PC speed because it’s faster than an HDD.
Since SSDs are more expensive than HDDs of the same capacity, you can use both storage devices to complement each other.
Store your operating system or critical programs that require a fast speed on the SSD and leave the large files, such as movies and photos, on the hard drive.
You can also use external SSDs to enjoy all the benefits without moving or taking out internal parts.
9. Outdated Software
Keeping your software updated is probably more important than you think.
Outdated software may contain bugs that affect its performance and cause the system to overheat.
Regular updates address these bugs and ensure they run smoothly.
The software can include all the apps you run on your PC, drivers, and the entire operating system.
You can update your drivers in the Device Manager and Windows in Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update.
10. Power Settings
Everyone likes to get the most out of their computers by making them perform at the highest speeds.
Manufacturers understand that urge and give you features to crank up your PC.
One of these features is the power plans, pushing your system to work harder.
However, these plans can lower your speed by affecting the performance of unknown PC components.
It’s better to roll back your power plans to recommended and default settings, allowing your system to adjust the settings automatically.
To access power plans, go to Settings > system > Power & Sleep.
Click Additional power settings on the left side of the window and check your selected plan.
If it’s not Balanced, click Change Powe Plans on the left.
Select Balanced and save changes.
You don’t need to worry about saving power because the system will automatically optimize power consumption and hardware and software settings.
Still, you can take power-saving measures like reducing screen brightness or putting the PC into sleep mode when not in use.
11. Malware And Viruses
Even if you have a robust antivirus tool on your PC, it can still be vulnerable because malware has become complicated.
Viruses can affect your system in different ways and slow down your PC by using your resources.
You can rely on Windows built-in Defender to tackle viruses.
You can use it to perform a scan and find possible threats.
Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Windows Security.
Click on the required fields under Protections areas and select Scan.
If Windows can’t find any threats, you may want to install third-party apps and see if it helps.
12. Fancy Visual Effects
If you’ve changed your Windows visual effects, it can slow down your computer.
You may never notice taskbar animations, aero peek, or mouse shadows can reduce your speed.
Adjusting visual effects is one of the many solutions that can speed up your PC.
To do so, go to File Explorer and right-click This PC.
Select Properties and click Advanced System Settings on the right.
The default tab is Visual Effects.
Select Adjust for Best Performance, disabling all the visual effects, and see how it affects your PC speed.
13. Browser Plugins
Generally, browser plugins don’t consume many resources because they’re lightweight.
However, some of them are resource-hungry and can reduce your system speed.
You can ensure these plugins are the culprit when your system lags as soon as you open a browser.
If you have too many plugins, go through them and uninstall the ones you don’t need.
14. Startup Programs
If your PC lags right from the start, the culprit may be startup programs.
These programs launch as soon as you boot your PC and run in the background, even if you don’t need them.
Some of them are essential, while others can be closed.
That’s particularly the case for third-party apps you install on your computer.
They may request to run on startup, and you accept it unknowingly.
To identify these programs, go to Task Manager and click the Startup tab.
Find the programs you don’t need to run from startup, right-click them, and select Disable.
15. Reinstall Windows
If none of the above solutions have solved the lag issue, you may want to reinstall your Windows.
By reinstalling Windows, you can ensure all the unwanted programs are gone.
Removing these programs one by one may not increase your speed considerably.
Getting a fresh Windows install can give you a clean slate.
In addition, you update all the drivers and install the latest versions of system apps.
A factory reset can also give you the same results.
However, reinstalling Windows can only help when your PC is lagging due to software issues.
If it’s hardware-related, your problem can even get worse.
The reason is that you’ll install the latest software versions on your system while your hardware can’t support their demands.
In addition, if you go back to your previous habits, download unwanted apps, don’t keep your PC clean, or adjust the settings to the previous ones, your lagging issue will come back.