Got a slow computer? Defragging your hard drive is often the right first step, but you also need to watch out for bigger problems. This list of questions will indicate whether or not your system could benefit from defragmentation or if you should try something else:
Are you running Windows?
If the answer is "yes," then defragging can make a real difference. Over time, your files are saved in different places on the hard drive, and defragging brings all those bits and pieces together. By running the Windows defragging tool, or the defragging tool of your choice, your computer should run faster.
Do you have a habit of downloading software and files from many different sites?
Your computer might be slow not because of fragmented files but because some malware has managed to sneak onto your hard drive. If your computer is slow and you are dealing with annoying popups or you are being directed to specific Web sites, then invest in a good Internet Security suite, and run a virus scan that can help you detect and delete the offending malware.
Are you running Linux or Mac?
Defragging won't do much for you. Those operating systems are better about how they store files, and they don't "frag" in the way that Windows does. A slow Linux or Mac operating system might be the result of an even bigger problem, and you may want to talk to a pro.
How can I stop this problem from happening again?
Be more cautious about what you download onto your hard drive, run scans regularly, delete any suspicious files and keep your virus definitions up-to-date.
I defragged the hard drive and ran a virus scan, but it isn't any faster. What now?
You might be running so many new applications on the computer that you've run out of memory. In this case, you can install more RAM (random access memory). Installing RAM requires you to open up your computer and install a RAM chip in a socket. If you are not comfortable with mucking about in your computer or are worried you might break something along the way, hire a professional, or click here for Life123.com's tips for memory upgrades.
Should you learn how to defrag a Mac? Read on because the answer might surprise you.