Windows XP/slow computer

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Question
My seven yr old Compaq desktop has gotten really slow and erratic. I suppose viruses could be a problem  Are there any reliable virus remal services that aren't a ripoff online?I am using Avast antivirus and scans come up clean Have also used the windows cleanup in my computer with no help.  I prefer explorer 8 because it has the file option on the toolbar permitting me to send shortcuts to desktop that I can't do with Google or Firefox easily.  I have uverse high speed service. I'm wondering if switching to the Google as default browser would be faster than explorer 8?  Trouble is lately I keep getting the frowny face when I go there with the message that it is unavailable and I can either kill or wait even though I have selected the option to use Chrome as default browser instead of explorer just to see what it would do.  Once question I would really appreciate having answered out of all of this is the refusal for years with this and my other older PC to "end program" in a timely way leading me to hard shutdown rather than wait to see if it would ever end.  What's up with that?  Quite a list, hope you can help with at least part of it.  Thanks

Answer
Hi Clem, I'd be glad to try to help with some ideas.

There are quite a number of things that could cause computers to get slower as they age. Here are a few quick ideas and their remedies:

- Overheating (Dust out the computer inside with a can of compressed air) Dust acts like a blanket on computer parts and as they already generate heat on their own, a layer of dust makes it worse

- Fragmented Files (run Defragmenter, which comes free with Windows, run by going to Start>AllPrograms>Accessories>SystemTools>DiskDefragmenter). Files on a WIndowsXP computer, I used to tell people, are like socks in a drawer. After organizing them on Laundry Day, they are in neat piles, Blacks/Whites/etc and it's easier/faster to find what you want quickly. Over time, taking out socks and putting them back in the holes creates dissarray and they will soon be mixed up and it will take slightly longer to get to what you want. The same thing happens with your WindowsXP files. Over time, things moving around, downloading and deleting things like family photos, etc all get mixed up and things just generally take longer to access/retrieve. Running a disk defragmenter every few months is a good way to "change the oil" of the file system by organizing the files again. If you haven't done this for a long time it may take a while (hours on end).

- Hardware Failure (take to an Expert or a Store to check out what may need to be replaced) Computer parts generate heat and break down over time. This can be anywhere from 1-20 years with a mean time of about 5 years, with many parts having a 2-3 year warranty. It's great that your system has lasted this long, but glitches and general speed loss can also be a sign of waning hardware inside slowly dying. If you aren't familiar with testing computer parts, it's best to get a Professional, an experienced friend or a Computer Store technician, to take a look at it

- Malicious Software/Malware (yes you are right, it could be a virus or trojan, but if using 1-3 scanners don't pick up anythng, you're probably ok) With websites that look real but are fake, email links that can be clicked on without stopping to check, friends installing unsafe programs and many other things, there are a lot of ways to get Malware on a system (usually not intended of course). Scanning with purchased software such as Norton Antivirus or Kaspersky, or using free software such as Avast, AVG and others can help you detect if something unwanted is on the system. Stores may also have specialized software that can help you, as they always purchase versions to test systems with. Be aware that even if there are none detected, there may be something on a system (but it's rare). Although drastic, erasing everything (Formatting and Reinstalling Windows) is a surer way of clearning a system, but you lose your files (family photos, letters, etc) in the process, unless they are backed up onto a disk beforehand. If you are unfamiliar with Reinstalling Windows, you can learn how (searching on the Internet for guides/videos) or get a friend that knows, or take the system to a computer store and have them do it for you (once your files are backed up, those you want to keep). This will also create a system that is 'fresh and new', which should be a lot speedier, provided the hardware inside is in good working order.

As for Google vs Internet Explorer, it's been debated for a while which is "Better".  It's mostly relative, and you will find people who prefer one or the other.  Both are being optimized and updated all the time. Personally, I find Chrome a little snappier but less Stable than IE, and I use Google for general browsing but I use IE for my important online purchases, as Chrome/Firefox/etc are all "Open Source" progams, which all have arguably less security than proprietary Internet Explorer. But this is a personal opinion of mine, I suggest researching on your own and testing them both a bit to find out which you personally would prefer.

Your problem with Google Chrome could be a few things, such as a corrupted User Profile. To create a new User Profile for Chrome, to see if it helps, Google's Support page on  how to do it is here:
http://support.google.com/chrome/answer/142059?hl=en
You could also try Uninstalling Chrome and Reinstalling it. Google's instructions on how to do that are here:
http://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95319?hl=en&ref_topic=2365160
As  I am not a developer for Chrome, I wouldn't be much help beyond these superficial troubleshooting steps for that program, sorry.

Lastly, having to forcefully "end" a program is possibly a symptom of something else having trouble, such as hardware or malware; but you can try things like Uninstalling/Reinstalling the programs that are giving you trouble, seeing if there are Patches or New Versions of the programs you are trying to use. This seemingly 'random' problem has been going on for many people for a long time, as can be seen in this Microsoft Forum thread here:
http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/windows/en-US/598fe2b4-844d-412d-b195
So you are at least not alone with this. One of the posters say something that is what I was going to say, that although a task may be ended 'from the user viewpoint', Windows is still working with it in some manner (writing changes to disk, etc) and this can cause it to seem to be locked with nothing apparent to do about it. This can be particularly annoying if you are trying to must Shut Down Windows.
Again, if this happens a lot and Reinstalling the program doesn't seem to help, it may point to a problem with hardware (eg. Windows keeps trying to save the changes to the harddrive, but it just can't and retries over and over until you turn off the system). If getting a new version of the programs that hang or reinstalling them don't seem to help, if you do not feel ready to take a big step like formatting/reinstalling Windows yet (to get everything fresh and clean), taking your system to a computer guru friend or computer store to get it looked at more in depth, can help with this.

I hope these ideas at least start you off, Clem. As you can see, there can be many causes for things; but a little troubleshooting, or having someone else do it for you, can usually get things figured out. Good luck with it and try to have fun!

Sincerely,
Troy

Windows XP

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Troy M. MCSE, CNA, MCP, CST, IC3, Aplus

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Hi there! Even though I am relatively new around here, I have been having great fun with PCs for over two decades now, becoming familiar with Windows through versions 3.x/9x/Me/2000/XP/2003/7/8/10. I enjoy helping others with what I feel is an exciting industry - computers are always changing, improving and offering new opportunities for learning. I look forward to assisting you with questions concerning Windows, how it interacts with your PC Hardware, configuration/settings or just general tips and ideas. Besides troubleshooting questions, feel free to ask the basics, as well. I will always start there, and I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a dumb question - we are all ‘Beginners’ at one time or another!

Experience

I am an A+ Certified, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer with Computer Service Technician and LAN Administration diplomas and over 15 years direct experience with PCs including assembly, troubleshooting/support and upgrading. I have worked for retail outlets, schools and businesses, and have been an Instructor in the past as well – helping others, just like you, understand and enjoy computers!

Education/Credentials
MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer), CNA (Certified Novell Administrator), MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional), CST (Computer Service Technician (Formerly Computer Engineering Technician)(Hardware/OS servicing Diploma), IC3 (Internet and Core Computing Certification)(Hardware/OperatingSystem/Internet Fundamentals Certification), A+ (Computing Technology Industry Association Hardware/Operating System Certification)

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