As you use your computer over time, your system can be impacted by a number of factors that slow or reduce performance, cause errors, or even prevent your system from starting! But before you rush to replace it, take a few minutes to pinpoint the exact cause–you may be able to repair or tune-up your PC for fractions of the cost of replacing it, or perhaps without opening your wallet at all!
Can You Still Get Into Windows?
If you can boot into Windows, the first thing you need to do is run a good anti-virus, anti-malware, and/or anti-spyware program like System Optimizer Pro. If you’re experiencing pop-up problems or lock-ups, you may have a virus or other malware. Try running more than one anti-virus application for maximum detection.
If you’re experiencing general sluggishness, try freeing up disk space, especially if you are near your hard drive’s capacity. Also try defragmenting your hard drive.
If you’ve recently installed new drivers or other software, uninstall it or roll back to a previous version using Device Manager. Observe the problem carefully and note details–does the problem coincide with the use of any particular application(s)? If so, tweak that application’s settings, read its help files and look online for any known compatibility issues, and uninstall or look for alternatives if possible.
If none of this stops the problem or pinpoints its cause, you can try using Windows Restore, found in the Start Menu (Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore). This can restore your system to a previously saved restore point. If the first restore point doesn’t help, roll back to the previous one, and so on.
If That Doesn’t Help – Or You Are Unable to Log Into Windows
If you can’t boot into Windows normally or the performance is so bad it is unusable, try booting in Safe Mode and performing the above. If you can’t get Windows to start even in Safe Mode, you may have corrupted system files or dysfunctional hardware.
If you suspect corrupt system files, try a Repair install of Windows using your Windows install CD. This replaces all system files but leaves your personal files intact. If this doesn’t work, you may want to try a full fresh install of Windows, although this will require formatting your hard drive and losing all existing files–a last resort, but less expensive than a new computer.
To check your computer’s RAM for faults or leaks, download (on another computer if necessary) the free memtest86 utility, burn it to CD, and boot from it. Memtest will run various diagnostic tests to reveal whether your memory is to blame. If so, RAM is very cheap and easy to replace.
To check other hardware, remove all non-essential components from your motherboard, and try booting into Windows (Safe Mode first, then normally). If this solves your problem, one of the components you removed is the culprit, and you can systematically reinstall the hardware one at a time until you discover which item it is.
Finally, make sure any dust and dirt is cleaned from the interior of your computer, as this can cause serious overheating problems.
If you can’t pinpoint the cause of your issue or you aren’t comfortable replacing components, it may be time to throw out. But on the other hand, with technical savvy, detective work, and a little luck, you can tune-up your PC, increase performance for less money, and maybe even learn some things in the process! Good luck!