Troubleshooting Jacob Thomasson

My computer is too slow

The first step to fixing a slow computer is to verify that your machine is the actual source of the problem. Videos that seem to buffer forever, and websites that take ages to load, may not be your computer’s fault. Geek Squad agent Derek Meister claims that many people mistakenly identify a slow system as the problem when “it’s actually not the computer, [but] their broadband connection.” See “Downloads are taking forever” below for instructions on how to use Speedtest.net to diagnose a slow connection.

If the problem is your PC, check whether you have plenty of free space on the hard drive holding your operating system. Windows needs room to create files while your system is running. If your hard drive is maxed out, performance suffers. Now is the perfect time to clear some space.

Downloads are taking forever

Speedtest.net is your best friend when you're having connectivity problems. Run a speed test to see what your download and upload speeds are—ideally they should be at least 50 percent of your Internet service provider’s advertised speeds, with a ping under 100 milliseconds.

If the speeds seem solid, make sure that you aren’t inadvertently downloading or uploading anything. Many torrent downloading programs run in the background and minimize into the system tray instead of the taskbar.

My machine keeps restarting

Hardware problems are hard to diagnose and solve. First, confirm that you aren’t just getting the latest wave of Windows updates, which can automatically restart your computer during installation. Then work on updating all of your critical system drivers. Your graphics card, motherboard, and network card drivers are crucial.

“Sometimes it can be viruses, sometimes it can be adware, sometimes it can be overheating, and sometimes it can be something as simple as making sure your video card is updated,” Geek Squad’s Meister says.

Is your computer making weird noises? If you’re lucky all you’ll need to do is give the machine a thorough cleaning. Modern computers have safeguards that shut down the system if a component is overheating, which can be the cause of frequent restarts when you’re running resource-intensive programs or video games.

Pop-up ads are appearing on my desktop

If you’re not running your Web browser and are still getting pop-up ads on your desktop, you’ve most likely installed adware—a program that displays unwanted ads. Although benevolent adware exists, most of the time adware is up to no good.

Google doesn’t look right

Browser hijackers are a particularly nasty breed of malware. Such programs take over your Web browser and can stealthily redirect your Google searches and other queries to fake pages meant to steal your personal information or to further infect your system.

My Wi-Fi keeps disconnecting

Confirm that your computer is within range of your wireless router. Weak signals mean weak connections. Next, make sure your PC’s wireless card has the latest drivers. Try letting Windows troubleshoot for you by right-clicking the Wi-Fi icon in the taskbar and selecting Troubleshoot problems.

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