Why Do Computers Slow Down With Age?

Do you ever wonder why your computer seems to slow down as it ages? Computers are machines that deteriorate as they age, just as cars and phones. But if computers are designed with longevity in mind, why do they slow down as they age?

Computers slow down as they age due to memory, hardware, and software failure. The average lifespan of a modern computer is four years. Most become slow due to normal wear and tear and increased performance requirements from the latest operating systems, software, and games.

This article shares a deeper understanding of why your computer slows down as it ages and what you can do to keep it running smoothly.

Keep reading to learn more about your computer and why it slows down! 

a woman waiting for her slow computer with displeased expression on her face

10 Reasons why computers slow down as they age

Truthfully, there could be a million reasons why your computer is slowing down. Some may have to do with your device’s age, while others don’t.

With that said, here are the top ten reasons why computers slow down as they age.

1. Software and system upgrades

New system upgrades occupy large portions of space on the main drive. The operating system generally occupies more than 5GB on your hard drive.

Although it might not sound like much, this could really fill up your computer’s storage space along with the rest of your files and apps.

Regular system updates take up enormous space on your hard drive, limiting the drive’s capacity and slowing down information retrieval.

If you have a particularly full storage disc, you may have run into the issue of not being able to grab a new software update due to a lack of memory space.

If this sounds like you, a lack of storage space may be slowing down your computer.

2. Low Random Access Memory capacity

ram modules for a desktop pc

Random Access Memory (RAM) is the part of the computer’s storage specially dedicated to the temporary storage of instructions.

Older computers have limited RAM capacity, which may be why your computer takes longer to launch a program.

The more RAM you have installed, the faster your computer executes instructions. And it probably goes without saying, that after a certain amount of GBs, you won’t notice much of a performance increase.

Newer high-end computers are equipped with lots of volatile memory that handle large program files with higher frequencies and efficiency.

Nowadays, a computer will run most effectively with 16GB of RAM, especially given the latest price points.

3. Limited hard drive capacity

Your hard drive collects vast amounts of data every day. Piled-up programs, settings, updates, and system files slow down the operation of the computer system.

Files assigned to facilitate the system’s running take a while to be retrieved from the clutter.

If your computer is running low on storage space, then it will run slower. Consider clearing out obsolete files and photos you no longer need to make room for more important work.

Additionally, consider upgrading your hard drive if you have many important files that have accumulated over time.

4. Outdated hard drives

A SATA Mechanical Hard Disk Drive

At the onset of computer manufacturing, needles were designed to write data on drives.

This resulted in the production of spinning hard disks. These modules wear and degrade significantly over time due to continuous spinning.

As a result, booting an old computer could take longer than booting a newer computer.

Newer solid-state drives with better-advanced processor speed have enabled computers to work faster than older versions.

Replacing spinning hard disks with solid-state ones is costly but might help improve the processing speed of your old computer. 

An M.2 SSD, would add a significant increase in performance, even a SATA version would do the same if your motherboard doesn’t have an M.2 slot.

5. Antivirus and malware

An actively engaging antivirus program running threat scans in the background may slow down your computer’s response to your commands.

Additionally, malicious malware attacking the computer system may slow down running processes.

Virus attacks can be made anonymously through links and websites without the user’s knowledge.

Antivirus programs are also space-consuming – an antivirus program may consume a significant amount of space on the drive, although this won’t necessarily slow down the computer. 

6. Running too many background programs simultaneously

If your computer has too many programs open at once or too many background tasks running, then it slows down.

You can close these programs and turn off the apps from the task manager to give your computer some breathing space.

The processor can handle multiple tasks at once. However, running too many tasks in the background puts it under a lot of pressure to execute more instructions than it can handle.

Things get worse if you have an older computer with an outdated processor. 

Old computers may not have enough processing speed to run programs simultaneously.

Limited hard drive space may further add to the slow response in executing multiple instructions simultaneously.

7. Accumulated dust on coolers

a CPU cooler being cleaned with a brush

The cooling system on your computer regulates the temperature of the circuitry.

When the dust settles on the heat management system, it puts some weight on the rotating fans. As a result, your PC overheats, the system slows down, and your hard drive may even crash.

Blast the cooling system with a steady stream of air from a mini air blower to remove the dust pile-up.

This should restore the fan’s efficiency. Blow on the side-mounted ventilation, USB ports, and other inputs.

One thing you can do to remove this dust by carefully removing the outer case lid and blasting the heating system with air from the inside. 

To lower the amount of dust entering your computer, ensure that it has intake filters installed and you keep it from sitting directly on the carpet.

And it’s not only dust that can affect the cooling. Make sure that you replace your thermal paste every two years (at the very least) to ensure that it doesn’t turn hard and crusty.

Old thermal paste won’t conduct the heat very well rendering some of your cooling efforts pretty useless.

8. Having too many browser tabs open at the same time

Working too many browser tabs and windows forces the processor to work much harder than it should.

As a result, your computer slows down as it struggles to keep all the windows and tabs open. 

The tabs auto-refresh after every few minutes and compete for space on your RAM. This slows down your browser and other running apps on your computer.

The best solution is to close unnecessary tabs and only keep the relevant browser tabs running. 

9. Corrupt programs

A corrupt program can also slow down your computer as the operating system attempts to fix the problem.

An old computer is more likely to have corrupt programs that were installed a long time ago.

Check your PC for corrupt programs every once in a while. Troubleshoot to scan for errors and reinstall faulty programs.

Update the already existing programs (if updates are available).

10. Lack of maintenance

Computer and software programs are constantly being updated and improved, so it’s important that you keep your computer up-to-date.

Regularly updating your computer will help you protect it against security and virus threats that could cause your system to slow down. 

In addition to keeping your hardware and operating system up-to-date, it’s also a good idea to regularly back up all of your files regularly so that you’ll always have a copy of everything saved on an external hard drive. 

When can you expect your computer to slow down?

snail placed on top of a CPU

The lifespan of a computer can vary depending on the model of the computer.

Laptops, for example, have a shorter lifespan than desktops because they are mobile and therefore more likely to get bumped around and dropped and tend to be more fragile

You can expect your computer to slow down after three to four years. Some computers may even start slowing down sooner, depending on how intensively you use them and the hardware specs. If you’re using your computer for work or school, you can expect it to slow down faster than just by using it for personal purposes.

In general, the more often you use your computer and the more tasks you command it to perform, the sooner it slows down.

How to prevent your computer from slowing down

When your computer is running slowly, it’s usually because of some issue with the hardware or software it uses to run.

This could be a problem with the processor, the disk drive, or the RAM. To fix a slow computer, you first need to identify the issue. 

Once you know what it is, you’ll have to fix it. This might involve buying a new processor, disk drive, or RAM.

If you have a spare computer, you might want to take it apart and see what you can reuse. 

Here are a few more things you can try:

Clean your computer regularly

Cleaning your computer on a regular basis can help keep it running smoothly and help maintain its performance.

Once or twice a month, remember to clean your computer’s:

  • Keyboard.
  • Screen.
  • Trackpad.
  • Mouse.
  • USB ports.
  • Vents.

Dust and particles from the air can accumulate on your computer’s internal components, causing them to overheat and malfunction.

If you need to clean your computer’s keyboard, it is best to use compressed air rather than a wet cloth or liquid cleaner.

Use compressed air when cleaning out the inside of your computer as well. A small paintbrush is very helpful when cleaning your computer.

You can get a can of compressed air to help make your computer maintenance a little easier.

Keep your computer battery charged 

laptop battery being charged with charging indicator light on

A typical laptop battery can last 4 to 8 hours before it needs to be recharged. If your computer isn’t plugged in when you’re using it, the battery will drain faster than if it were plugged in.

Your computer will also drain more quickly if you use programs that require a lot of power, like video games or high-definition video editing software. 

Battery life varies depending on how often you use the laptop, how old it is, and what you use your computer for.

A laptop’s battery lasts around 1,000 charges on average, so you need to make sure to maximize your battery health.

Here are some tips for maintaining battery health:

  • Charge the battery when you first get your computer and right before using it.
  • Don’t leave your laptop plugged in when not in use. 
  • When your battery is low, recharge it as soon as possible to avoid losing power completely.

If you’re running your laptop on AC power, remember to remove the battery when it’s not in use. 

Try to keep your computer in a cool dry place

Heat and humidity can cause your computer to overheat, leading to data loss or hardware failure. It is best to keep your computer in a cool, dry place with good air circulation.

To avoid overheating:

  • Don’t leave it in a hot car or in direct sunlight.
  • Don’t put it on a blanket or pillow, as this can block the fans that cool down the computer.
  • Keep it away from heat sources like radiators, heat vents, and direct sunlight.

Turn off your computer when not in use. Leaving a laptop plugged in when it’s not running wastes energy. Also, unplug chargers and other peripherals when they’re not being used.

The ideal temperature for your computer is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 22 degrees Celsius).

The CPU slows down when your computer gets too hot, and your hard drive might crash.

A laptop cooler can go a long way to prevent your laptop from overheating and prevent a decrease in its lifespan.

Use a screensaver that won’t keep the screen on for long periods

Some screensavers can drain your battery very quickly. If you use a screensaver that keeps your display on for long periods, your battery will drain faster.

You might also want to turn off the display when not in use or turn off your computer altogether to maximize your battery life.

Remove any unused applications or unused programs 

uninstalling a program in windows

Use your computer’s task manager to close programs that are not being used by the system during normal operation (for example, if you’re using a browser, close it before going to sleep). 

You should also keep up with software updates. These updates help fix errors that may be causing trouble in your system and improve overall performance.

Software updates are particularly important for Mac users because Apple has been known to release many software updates over the course of a computer’s lifespan. 

Next, make sure that any programs or files you don’t use regularly aren’t left running in the background while you work on something else.

Finally, try to conserve your computer’s resources by only using the necessary features for the task at hand.

Be sure to regularly check your computer’s performance and symptoms to determine if anything can be done to improve it.

If your computer is still slow, don’t hesitate to speak to an expert to get the problem solved!

Final Thoughts

Old computers may naturally slow down as they age, but they should retain normal function for a very long time.

You can usually expect a computer to start slowing down after three or four years of regular use.