Shirley from Fairfield, CA asks:
I understand that the many programs listed on the control panel may be what slow my computer. The security updates listed are 4 in 2007, 31 in 2008, 49 in 2009 and 37 already in 2010. A few are listed as Hot fix. Must they stay there year after year or can they be removed without causing trouble?
Well, Shirley, let me start by saying that installed programs may be causing your computer to run slow. It is probably not legitimate Microsoft updates doing it. These updates are typically less than 1 Mb in size, so the updates that you’re describing probably take up less than a Gb of your hard drive space. However, some of the Hotfix updates, that claim to be from Microsoft, are known to cause problems. This may not be true in your case, so let’s come at your situation from a different direction, by determining how full your hard drive is, and dealing with that.
The easiest way to check and see if your hard drive is too full is to open My Computer. That will show you your max hard drive space and the amount that you have free.
Depending on which operating system you’re using and how it’s set up, you may not see all the information shown above. If you right click on an open space in the menu bar, at the top, you can bring up more information about the free and used space in your drives.
Just check the boxes beside Total Size and Free Space.
If your hard drive is too full, you might want to consider browsing the programs and features section of your control panel to check for programs that you no longer use and uninstalling them.
As to whether or not you can safely uninstall the security updates, the answer is “probably not”. Microsoft states that removing these updates can cause your system to become unstable. One reason for this is that each new batch of updates is built upon the idea that you have all previous updates installed, so the new updates may not install correctly. Another is that you really have no idea which updates are currently being used by your system.
There are also many other reasons why your system may be running slowly.
One is that your system simply needs a RAM upgrade. As new programs are released, they are designed to be more powerful than old programs, and so need more RAM to run. One way to keep an eye on your system resources and how they’re being used is to run a Windows sidebar system monitor. The one that I use is called All CPU Monitor.
This shows my total CPU usage, how much of my RAM is being used, and how much of each core is being occupied. It also shows a second-to-second graph of how my system resources are being used. If your RAM is running at or near capacity, then your computer “caches” memory by creating temporary RAM space on your hard drive, which is significantly slower than RAM.
This monitor and many others can be found here.
Or you can get the information by checking your Windows Task Manager. Just click Ctrl + Alt + Delete, and then click on Task Manager. When it opens, click on the Performance tab at the top.
Another possibility is that it may just be time to defragment your computer. As you run, add and delete programs, your hard drive can become “fragmented”, which means that pieces of programs are placed on your hard drive where they don’t belong. Defragmenting will correct this. If you are running Vista or 7, you can set this check up to be done automatically. If you are running XP, this can be done by opening My Computer, right-clicking on your system hard drive (usually C), clicking on Properties and then Tools. (This screenshot is from Vista, but the tools submenu is the same on XP.)
It wouldn’t hurt to also run an error check while you’re at it.
One of the most common reasons for a computer to perform slowly is simply that you are infected with adware, spyware or viruses. The easiest solution for this is to make sure that you’re using a good anti-virus program and making sure that it is updated.
You can find many good suggestions, in this Worldstart tip, about antivirus programs and spyware removers.
Hope this helps.