If you find yourself saying the statement above then this post is for you.
It came to my attention recently that many people have random computer slowness lasting lets say from a few seconds to an hour or what have you. The issue with these folks isnt that the computer gets bogged down doing some task or program that was expected of it. No the issue is at seemingly random times without any prompting, the compuer just starts slowing down maybe even horrifically so.
One thing that should be understood, and as I have stated in previous posts, Your computer does alot of things wether you are aware of it or not. You dont have to be running a program or even at your computer for it to be doing its own thing. As long as the power is on, your computer will be doing many many behind the scenes tasks...
Now in order to get random slowness what has to happen is one or more of those behind the scenes tasks has to get bogged down in operation. And the good news is its relativley easy to figure out whats going on and who the "trouble maker" is =P
If you are running windows (which you should be) you simply press the crtl + alt + delete keys to bring up your task manager. If you are running windows vista or higher when you press crtl + alt + del you should then select "start task manager" Once the task manager is up you will see a number of tabs at the top and various other buttons and lookie-loos =P Below is a picture of a windows xp task manager.
There are 2 tabs to worry about when trying to locate the source of computer slowness, The first is the "Applications" tab which show a list of programs that you have started up manually for example FireFox or Internet Explorer or Microsoft Word or whatever. The only programs that should be in that list should be the ones that you have started up yourself, anything else is a problem. For example lets say you start up Internet explorer and when you are done with it you close it down but it doesnt close down all the way or some kind of error occurs. Internet Explorer at this point may still be inside the Applications tab list. In order to get rid of it you can click on it in the list then click the button that says "End Now" You will eventually be promoted to end the program now or wait till it closes by itself, that desicion is yours but I ussually say close now.
The second tab you need to know about is "Processes" tab. Below is an example
This tab is important because it will show you the problem at hand. There are 3 columns inside this tab The First one to the far left is the name of the program running in the background. The second row with numbers shows how much cpu or processing power that program is using. It is measured in percentages 100% being max processing power. Any one program that shows anything close to 100% lets say 70-90% is going to slow your computer down so much you could do a better job calculating with an abbacuss. Please note that the system idle process will ussually have a 98-99% processing rate (that is normal). It bassically shows you how much percentage is available currently or how much is left. Now if the freuqnecy of occurance of your random slowness is alot then you can keep an eye on those programs running in you processes tab and see if the numbers in the second column jump or spike to a high percentange. If it does then congratulations you have just discovered the cause of your slowness! The third column of numbers shows the amount of memory that paticular process is using. This could also be a cause for computer slowness if it isnt CPU usage/processing power then its most likely going to be the memory. Now I cant tell you how much is too much because every computer is different. You will need to know how much you have total to begin with then compare that number to the number that shows how much an indiviual process is using. With windows xp process memory is measured with a k next to it or kilobytes. 1000 k or kilobytes = 1mb or 1 megabytes or 1 million bytes. Most modern computers have a total amount of memory measured in gigabytes or billions of bytes. Now in the image above you will notice that the process called iexplorer.exe is using over 60,000k of memory. That translates to over 60mb. My computer has a total of 1.5gigabytes of memory so that means I have plenty of memory remaining.
Now that all of that has been addressed now its time to talk about the typical causes for random slowness.
In my experince most cases of abnormal slowness are due to one of two things. Anti-virus programs and or operating system automatic updates!
In the case of an Anti-Virus, every time it automaticaly downloads and installs updates it will slow your computer down some. Or every time it does an automatic system scan it will slow your computer down too.
If you find this to be too unbearable then the fix is as easy as configuring the anti virus to only allow manual download of updates and only manual activation of computer scans. These settings will not affect your anti-virus programs automatic virus detection should a virus try to get in so dont worry.
As for the case of windows automatic updates simply configure them so that it doesnt not check for automatic updates at all.