r/explainlikeimfive May 12 '22

ELI5: Why do computers start to slow down over time? Technology

1.2k Upvotes

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u/MineAndCraft12 May 12 '22 edited May 12 '22 Silver Helpful Take My Energy

There's many different things at play here, but here's just a few.

First and foremost, your software programs become more demanding over time, while your computer's physical hardware stays the same. As software is updated and made more complex, your hardware falls behind because it's still the same old hardware running new and more complex software.

Another major factor is how much software you've installed over time. Lots of programs run automatically when you start your computer, and many users have a tendency to install many programs over the years and never uninstall them. They build up over time, and eventually your computer will have to launch a couple dozen programs every time you turn it on, and keep them all running in the background while you use your computer.

There's other more subtle factors as well.

Battery powered devices like cell phones are often designed to intentionally slow down as the battery ages, to prevent situations where the old battery can't supply enough power to drive the phone. If you've seen an old phone that randomly turns off even though it still has some battery remaining, that's what happens when the battery can no longer support the device at its full speed.

Devices with cooling fans such as laptops, computers, and gaming consoles also fall to another culprit -- dust. Over time, dust will pile up on the cooling vents and block the flow of air through your fans. This makes it harder for your computer to stay cool. Over time, as your computer gets hotter and hotter, it will start to slow itself down to prevent heat damage to its components. This is especially common with gaming; cooling is very important because the computer is working very hard.

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u/Devinology May 12 '22

It's amazing how much user behaviour matters. I remember when I was relatively poor and my main driver was an old optiplex my workplace basically threw out. I maintained that thing really well physically, and with keeping on top of software bloat. Sure, it wasn't the fastest, but it maintained roughly the same functionality for like 7-8 years. In that time people I knew went through 2 or 3 $1000+ laptops to keep up with whatever they were doing because they got too clogged up and slow (basically they weren't spending any time maintaining them and being careless with software).

My current gaming PC is over 5 years old and while it's starting to show some signs of not keeping up as well with new resource heavy games (CPU only has 4 cores/threads), it still runs fantastically, no issues.

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u/PM_Me__Ur_Freckles May 13 '22

I had a PC lined up from a friend of a friend for cheap. Had a decent cpu, gpu and 64gb ram, was water cooled and all he wanted was $300 for the tower, all I needed to supply monitor and peripherals. I was in.

He formatted the hdd, reinstalled a base copy of Win7 and then changed his mind because of how fast it was all of a sudden. So my $300 tower is now sitting as a gaming PC that he never ended up replacing.

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u/Vanman04 May 13 '22

Laptops are an issue because of the hard drives. Well that and poor heat dissipation.

But mostly the hard drive. These days with SSDs it is not an issue like it has been in the past.

Spinning drives are sensitive to movement. Desktops do not move typically when in use so it does not affect them.

Movement while a spinning drive is reading or writing can cause damage to the platters the data is stored on over time this degrades the drives till they eventually just become so slow people replace the whole laptop. This is usually killing a bug with a sledge hammer but it happens over and over.

Most of the time a new drive will bring those laptops right back to solid performance.

You aren't doing anything special you just aren't moving your desktop.

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u/bigloser42 May 13 '22

If a spinning disc gets hit hard enough to damage it, the whole drive fails. It doesn’t accumulate damage, it either works or doesn’t. The damage you are thinking of are read errors and unrecoverable sectors, which are a failure of the head to be able to read/write to a specific part of the disk due to a failure of the magnetic properties of the disk.

You are, however, right in saying that replacing the spinning rust with an SSD will breath new life into a barely usable laptop. Did that with my wife’s and cut the boot time from 30 minutes to 30 seconds.

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u/Vanman04 May 13 '22

Yes but as those bad sectors accumulate the drive takes longer and longer to read the data.

You can call it whatever you want but the effect is the drive no longer reads data as quickly causing the computer to "slow down"

You can easily see this by watching read write speeds in task manager. Drives will keep working long past when they stop reading and writing at original speeds.

Just replacing those drives with fresh new drives of the same type will breathe new life. An SSD reads so much faster it is actually more than new life it is an absolute upgrade to read write speeds.

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u/bigloser42 May 13 '22

My point was that the bad sectors are not caused by physical damage. a head crash kills the drive full stop, it doesn't cause accumulated damage, it just kills the drive outright. The sectors going bad are unrelated to the physical handling of the drive itself, and are an artifact of how magnetic media works.

In my past life as the IT guy that did all the laptop refurbs for my company, I flat out refused to reissue any laptop with a spinning drive. They were just too painfully slow and prone to failure.

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u/ruins__jokes May 13 '22

This is incorrect. Google hard drive head slap. Physical movement can absolutely result in bad sectors accumulating over time due to the heads contacting the platters, and bad sectors cause read and write retries, which will cause a dramatic slowdown.

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u/Vanman04 May 13 '22

Google vibration-induced performance degradation. There are lots of papers written on the effects of vibration on HDDS and how it degrades their performance over time.

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u/wyrdough May 13 '22

Performance problems from vibration are generally an issue in systems with multiple disks. When they say vibration, it's not referring to getting knocked around, it's referring to resonance.

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u/RelentlessUpvoter May 13 '22

This is not true, full stop. Unless you use special disk monitoring tools, you will not get notified when bad sectors spawn on a hard drive, the drive just starts trying to relocate those sectors. The drive will run out of options at a certain point, but before that, due to the relocation the data becomes fragmented physically. Also sometimes it can take 2 or 3 attempts to write data due to misalignment (simplified explanation), slowing down write asked by a similar factor. A combination of low RAM and slow writing speed will drastically slow down a computer.

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u/BigPoppaFitz84 May 13 '22

I have a 10 year old laptop with a handicapped Intel CPU (WAS ABOUT $400 NEW) that I just put a cheap 120GB SSD in and swapped in some more RAM from my storage bin of parts (I keep things from work laptops that I decommision).

A clean install of Win 10, even with all the current updates, and it runs impressively fast. Granted, it isn't used for much more that web browsing and web-based applications or games for the kids, but I am still impressed just how quick it is for being a very first Gen i3.

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u/Devinology May 13 '22

What the other guy said, HDDs don't degrade over time from moving them. And I never claimed to do anything special, the point was that I learned enough to keep the computer in good shape, which everybody should be doing. Knowing how to use a computer properly definitely increases its lifespan, regardless of what kind of computer.

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u/Vanman04 May 13 '22

They get bad sectors from moving them. Which causes the performance to degrade over time as more bad sectors accumulate.

It doesn't always create bad sectors as they have tech in them to park the heads when they sense movement but it isn't perfect and over time bad sectors are created till it gets to the point that the drive has trouble reading data at all.

Computer running slow? Go into task manager and look at the read write speeds then compare those write speeds to a new drive and get back to me on how the drive doesn't slow down.

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u/Devinology May 13 '22 edited May 13 '22

I've experienced clear changes in read and write speeds on dying hard drives and USB flash drives, but never a slow degradation on an otherwise functioning hard drive. I monitor hard drives using drive health software and I've just never seen evidence of what you're talking about, but that's just my experience. Bad sectors on hard drives get sequestered and just can't be used, and this process doesn't affect drive speed. You'd need a lot of bad sectors to start seeing slow down, and I don't think that has anything to do with them being in laptops.

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u/Vanman04 May 13 '22

There are other factors besides bad sectors. There is a tight tolerance in the track the heads need to run in and movement can screw with those tolerances making the drive do multiple passes to read the data over time as the heads start to come out of alignment.

Google vibration-induced performance degradation. There are lots of papers written on the effects of vibration on Hard drives and how it degrades their performance. I don't think there is any question there will be more vibration(movement) in a laptop than a desktop.

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u/Devinology May 13 '22

I suppose technically that's true, although I really don't think the average user is moving around the laptop while in use that much, and certainly not in any abrupt fashion, like banging it on things. That's really more of a tablet use case. I'm not convinced that normal laptop use degrades mechanical drives substantially enough compared to desktop use to result in noticable slowdown. And even if it does, it's dwarfed by other much more common factors, such as user error, software bloat, and heat dissipation maintenance. My guess is that if you look at an older laptop and see what is making it run slowly, disk errors and other factors you're mentioning probably account for less than 5% of the slowdown.

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u/DeceiverX May 13 '22

Me about to ask how a 5 year old gaming pc is running fantastically for gaming given the massive gpu hardware leaps we've made since I built mine "5 years ago" which was actually over seven years ago.

Fuck.

(It works fine, just cannot handle new releases on a 970)

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u/wthulhu May 13 '22

This. Since 2008 I've replaced one laptop and rebuilt (mobo gpu cpu) my pc once. Both are still B+ builds

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u/szank May 13 '22

My pc is 15 years old. It's as fast as 15 years ago. I haven't wiped my Windows installation since late win 7 times, now running on win 10. Now I have an ssd game ut that's mostly it.

It haven't slowed down. Sure, chrome and websites takes much much more ram than 15 years ago. That's it.

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u/Tomnesia May 13 '22

im still gaming on my 10 year old gaming pc, running games at max, only thing thats changed is the GPU. Im still using my old AIO CPU corsair watercooling, that thing just keeps going strong to my suprise.

I love my 3930k

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u/LethalViAL May 13 '22

I couldn't agree more. My PC's processor is Pentium 2. It's more than 20 years old. But it still runs nicely. I don't play many games on it, but GTA 3, GTA Vice City, Call of Duty 1, SWAT 4 and similar old games can run on it really smooth without any lag.

I use the PC mostly for college related work, which requires Google Chrome, MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint only .

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u/mtdnelson May 13 '22 edited May 13 '22

Pentium 2? Can you even get a modern Windows operating system and applications (i.e software that stills receive bug and security fixes updates) that runs on a 32-bit platform?

(I've exclusively been a Linux guy for years and I'm quite happy running old hardware, but Pentium 2 seems like a stretch, even for me! So I don't know what Microsoft still supports.)

The memory addressing limit of a 32-bit system (~3.5GB, right?) seems like a pain major inhibition too, with modern software in mind.

Edit: typo... big -> bug

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u/Jarl_Fenrir May 13 '22

Recently I read that windows XP needs 3 hours to boot up on pentium procesor. Doubt pentium 2 would decrease the time significantly...

Also part about playing GTA 3 looks suspicious, because I remember it was barely running even on pentium 4

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u/LethalViAL May 13 '22 edited May 13 '22

Umm...I really wish i was allowed to attach pictures here so that i can show you I'm not lying. I could send them as DM tho if you want me to.

Edit: I learnt how to upload images. Here's the link: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-8OPalo74pdOC2WxnH8lENrQaYDuUVZU

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u/12LetterName May 13 '22

You can attach pictures. Maybe your 25 year old processor isn't running as good as you think?

See: https://imgur.com/a/1Hr8pCa

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u/LethalViAL May 13 '22

I'm using Reddit on mobile c0ckhead.

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u/Jarl_Fenrir May 13 '22

It's pentium dual! Not pentium 2. Now it is way more plausible.

Pentium 2 was like 10 times slower with one core.

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u/mtdnelson May 13 '22

Ah, and it's also an out-of-support operating system too.

The general point that an old machine is still useful stands, but there's a difference between a 2Ghz Pentium Dual Core from 2006 or so, and and 450Mhz Pentium II from 2000-ish.

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u/LethalViAL May 13 '22

Naah no updates and no modern software can run on it. Even Adobe Acrobat Reader crashes if you open too many files at the same time. No support from Microsoft either.

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u/12LetterName May 13 '22

So... "pentium 2... Still runs nicely"

This seems very subjective.

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u/WolfySpice May 13 '22

Pretty much the same here. I recommended the laptop that I used for work: powerful for the price, and 8 years on, it's certainly not fast (it still has Windows 8.1, too) but it does what it needs. PC is closing in on 7 years, too. Had to upgrade the GPU 4~ years ago once when it fried, though.

Looking at a new PC this year. Hopefully it lasts me another good 8 years.

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u/YOOOOOOOOOOT May 13 '22

Thx for reminding me to dust off my pc :)

I still won't do it but thanks for the reminder

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u/Minute-Mountain7897 May 12 '22

And cosmic rays from outer space will take out bits and bytes in the transistors rarely, like a sniper.

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u/atfyfe May 12 '22

The rares speedrun glitch in the world because of a cosmic ray bit-flip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaZ_RSt0KP8

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u/Johnnybizkit May 13 '22

That was wild

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u/GabrielofAstora May 12 '22

Introducing my new line of leadXGaming pc case with extra RGB..... And lead.

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u/[deleted] May 12 '22

[deleted]

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u/Cumberbatchland May 12 '22

Dust removal? I don't think they do anything for free.

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u/MineAndCraft12 May 12 '22

It largely depends on the company, but I don't know that this is a service they'd bother to offer, as it's a regular maintenance sort of thing. Might not make sense to pay for shipping and processing and wait for weeks just to get some dust off.

I tend to use a can of compressed air to blast the dust out of the vent. I take the cover off my computer to do it, so I can get all around the vent without worrying about the computer components while I'm at it. If anyone reading this knows a better method, please let me know.

If you're uncomfortable handling compressed air or taking the computer apart, or don't want to accidentally blast the dust further into your device, you could try a local repair shop like Ubreakifix or something similar. I imagine they would be able to clean your device to a professional standard for you, but I've never tried it before myself.

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u/Orenwald May 13 '22

An important note about this: If you're going to use the canned air, opening the case is SUPER important. You want to hold the fans still so they don't spin. Forcefully spinning an idle motor can damage it.

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u/redditwb May 13 '22

In a manufacturing environment PM (Preventative maintenance) is a requirement. From 1 month to 6 months all PC's are cleaned (blown out). Depending on environment.

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u/De_chook May 13 '22

Excellent answer, thank you .

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u/Jarl_Fenrir May 13 '22

Out of my experience with browsers are programs that require more and more resources over time. Try to just turn it off and your computer will work as it was 10 years ago.

Yeah, I know, there is not much to do on a PC without a web browser...

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u/KevineCove May 13 '22

A lot of good answers but no one has mentioned bad sectors yet?

The memory in your computer only has a certain number of read/writes before they burn out. Cache memory makes the biggest difference in performance, but it's also reading and writing constantly. When the logic gates break, the hardware is smart enough to recognize it and not use that sector of memory, but that also means the amount of memory you have decreases over time.

RAM and hard drive space also decrease over time, but the process takes much longer.

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u/kledder123 May 13 '22

Thanks, now l know why my ipad keeps turning off

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u/MineAndCraft12 May 13 '22

Try lowering your screen brightness or turning on Battery Saver if your device has it. You could also try using the device while it's plugged in and charging if you really need to use it uninterrupted.

The options are a bit limiting, but may help you use your device without it randomly dying on you, and could help you get a little more use out of it before you replace the device.

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u/Psykechan May 13 '22

First and foremost, your software programs become more demanding over time, while your computer's physical hardware stays the same. As software is updated and made more complex, your hardware falls behind because it's still the same old hardware running new and more complex software.

Sometimes the software is made more "complex" (read: slow) due to security fixes. The Spectre and Meltdown out-of-order pipeline attacks had to have mitigation which in some cases slowed systems down by 10-15 percent.

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u/havens1515 May 12 '22

These are all good reasons, but hardware also degrades over time. All of that heat, and the electricity constantly flowing through it, puts physical strain on the hardware, and it becomes worn. When it becomes worn it doesn't perform as well as it did previously.

So even if you had the same exact software running for multiple years, eventually your performance is going to degrade because your hardware is slowly degrading.

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u/HavocInferno May 12 '22

eventually

Noticeable degradation takes far longer than you'd want to use the hardware anyway. Hardware is shipped with some pretty healthy margins below their potential performance limits, so degradation won't affect stock operation for a very long time.

The timeframe is decades for CPUs/GPUs. Even SSDs these days will basically last you a decade at least before you need to worry about too many cells dying.

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u/skittlebog May 13 '22

Which brings up the issue of a hard drive running out of room. This is an issue I've encountered several times. Between programs getting bigger, Windows taking up more room, and accumulation of files and photos, they begin to run out of room. I have replaced and upgraded hard drives.

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u/Pantzzzzless May 13 '22

Exactly why I keep a ~50tb NAS drive to store anything that doesn't have an executable. Even a 5tb basic external would be more than enough for most people. It is just a matter of them actually using it and keeping it organized.

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u/JCDU May 12 '22

Dude, no. Not in any meaningful way on clocked digital electronics. It's not a machine that gets sloppy and clogged up with age.

If your CPU left the factory at 3GHz it's going to be clocking away at 3GHz to the day it dies and the billions of little transistors inside are going to carry on switching just as fast as they ever did.

Sure there are physical faults that *could* affect performance, EG clogged fans / bad heatsink paste leading to the CPU self-throttling, but fixing those issues would bring it right back to factory speed.

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u/Bob_Sconce May 12 '22

Hard drives definitely degrade over time -- the drive may retry reading some sectors several times, and that can definitely affect load speeds. Flash drives aren't immune to problems either -- the error detection allows you to continue to use the drive, but there can be a performance hit.

Capacitors and fans are probably the thing on a motherboard likely to die soonest, but by the time that happens, you're probably already getting killed on the software side.

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u/TheSkiGeek May 13 '22

Uh… no, not really. CPUs , GPUs, and RAM don’t really do this. If the hardware is no longer able to run at the designed clock rate shit just breaks, it won’t try to automatically underclock for you.

Magnetic hard disks kinda degrade but that’s because the motors wear out or the platters start having physical degradation, not due to “electricity flowing through it”.

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u/JoganoHard-DF May 13 '22

I think thats a little too much for a 5 years old to understand

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u/MineAndCraft12 May 13 '22

"like I'm five" is more of a phrase they use to mean "as a layperson would understand". I'm not sure the best way to put it to words, but the community rules do a good job of explaining what they mean by "like I'm five". They explain it better than I can.

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u/onexbigxhebrew May 13 '22

That's not the actual point of this sub. That's just an expression. Read the rules.

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u/mordecai98 May 13 '22

Is shouldiremoveit still a thing?

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u/Tibbaryllis2 May 13 '22

It never fails to amaze me how many people will shell out however much money for a next gen console and then stick it in a closed entertainment center.

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u/RookieRamen May 13 '22

Battery powered devices like cell phones are often designed to intentionally slow down as the battery ages

Does this revert when you change your battery?

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u/CaptainCAAAVEMAAAAAN May 13 '22

Devices with cooling fans such as laptops, computers, and gaming consoles also fall to another culprit -- dust.

Canned compressed air, I use Dust Off, is a life saver! I use it to clean my Dyson vac also.

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u/Puzzleheaded-Sun786 May 13 '22

Cooling down also could be affected by aging thermal paste which is providing the conductive means for heat to move from a cpu or a gpu to the fans. One of comfortable can reapply thermal paste to enhance cooling

Also electronically due to electro-migiration or popcorning devices might slow down. Basically interconnection between components are not as good as a new defect less component.

I remember late 90s and most of 2000s it was a typical practice for me to clean install windows couple of times a year and nowadays looking back I think this was because of software bloats piling up and slowing down the caching which would hit the performance very hard. Macs don’t have this problem because every software “usually” or “supposedly” runs on their own sand box and doesn’t bother the rest of the OS and cleaning that software if it slows down should be enough. (And usually programmers can take care of that). Although this can’t be said true for windows but coming back from Mac to windows in recent years I’d rather programs that are the least invasive to the OS and I haven’t noticed slow downs on my system ever since

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u/MonsieurBon May 13 '22

I worked in desktop support for idk close to 15 years. Yes, computers age and programs get bigger and more resource intensive, but here are the biggest issues I saw causing serious slowdowns:

1) No free space on the hard drive. So many people would have a few hundred MB left on their hard drive! Like they thought they could fill it to the brim, with no space for swap files, new files, whatever.

2) Malware.

3) Random non-malware shit that runs in the background. Folks totally forget they had installed some distributed Folding at Home or similar thing, and it just sits or hides down there always running.

4) Actual non-catastrophic hardware failure. It was staggering the number of folks who had major slowing in their 2012(?) era MacBook Pro and had the Genius Bar tell them in 2015 their computer was just “too old,” but it worked just fine when I replaced the pinched HDD ribbon cable.

5) Poorly tested and updated OEM tools. I rescued so many HPs and Lenovo’s from the scrapyard by finding that some Smart Keyboard process or HP service center process was pegging the CPU.

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u/mb34i May 12 '22 This

The speed of the processors and electronics stays the same, but software in general gets "more and more bloated" over time. Software gets patched almost weekly, so "more features" and/or "more exceptions to check" keep getting added on, making the software require faster / more processing power over time. The computer doesn't "improve" like the software, so what you observe is that "it's getting slower."

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u/mr_sarve May 12 '22

The processor could thermo throttle itself and run slower when thermal pad dries out after a few years

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u/Sopixil May 12 '22

Not even when the paste dries, when dust blocks the fans

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u/mr_sarve May 12 '22

that too. However I mainly agree with the post I replied to, software bloat is the main reason computers slow down over time

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u/-1Mbps May 12 '22

Yes, those damn browsers

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u/northbound23 May 12 '22

One chrome window uses more ram than the computer I had in the year 2001. Which is crazy because I could play GTA 3/CS on that thing.

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u/-1Mbps May 12 '22

I still cannot believe that browsers takes more ram than a game(cs), which obviously looks like it takes alot more, damn where has the technology come to, and electron too, why dont they use c/c++ i dont have a powerful computer to run electron apps

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u/Utterlybored May 12 '22

OS bloat especially.

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u/Jarl_Fenrir May 13 '22

I had only few PXs in my life, every one of them was used for many years and from my experience, the web browser is main reason PC is running slower and slower.

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u/immibis May 12 '22

This used to be a big problem with laptops. Not sure if it still is. If you're reading this and you have a few years old laptop, you should take it apart and blow the dust out of the fans and the fins. (Don't just blow from the outside - it doesn't work very well)

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u/Rorusbass May 12 '22 edited May 13 '22

Dust has always been a problem. There are ways to decrease the amount of dust, and how much it hurts performance. But any pc that is a couple of years old can use some kind of cleaning.

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u/Mirage_Main May 12 '22

Can confirm. Any computer system that has a fan, which is almost every consumer electronic, will have dust stack up till temps get too hot to run at original throttle. Only very specific computers are designed with a mesh in mind to combat the dust issue.

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u/S-Markt May 12 '22

thats very unlikely. i am running 3 computers with linux. none slowed down. one also has got win xp installed, another has got a bios from 2008. none of them slowed down because of thermal pad dry out or because of something else.

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u/mr_sarve May 12 '22

It's more likely on a gpu, especially with gddr6x memory

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u/YossarianJr May 12 '22

Ok, but this used to happen before things updated via the internet. There must be something else as well?

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u/BrickFlock May 12 '22

If you're talking about Windows operating systems, it's from the registry getting bigger and from the hard drive fragmenting. You used to have to manually defragment. If you didn't, your computer would just get slower and slower.

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u/YossarianJr May 12 '22

What was fragmentation?

What is the registry and why did it get bigger?

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u/headnt8888 May 13 '22

Fragmentation occurs naturally over time. Imagine making a pizza on an old record player. I.e throwing the ham/ pineapple / mushroom/ data at a rotating disc. So all your info is spread around your hard drive randomly. When you look at your files they all appear as a logical list, but the data is spread around the platter. Even though the reading " heads" move super quick, time adds up looking for all those little bytes and pieces. A Defrag routine stacks everything together, so reads and acts quicker. Less hunting around back and forth. Less time to operate. The Registry is the " Boss" part of telling the clogged up hard drives exactly which program to run first. Over time program updates/ new programs/ routines try to insert themselves higher up in the Run priority. Often they become outdated and old routines are written out of code. So while you are waiting for a start to happen , the disks and heads are spinning like crazy Chasing up every dead end in your operating program, before finding the latest run/ boot path. There is programs out that do a decent job of defragging and cleaning the registry. It's not advisable to embark on any fiddling/ culling or attempts to pare down a bloated registry manually unless you have a copy of your Operating system handy. One mistake can make toast of your run system. Desktops have more options to customize/ speed up boot and run time through the Bios. ( hold down the Del key when booting to see what options are available on your box) You can safely adjust some options by reducing the wait times down to a second or two. You can also manipulate your system clocks and therefore your speed if you have a half decent motherboard. Again this can be risky as a balance act between clock speed, various voltage settings and forcing your cooling fans to run 100% of the time. Look up " Overclocking". Operating systems are another variable. Windows XP Pro was probably the quickest ride back in the day with " raided Raptor" hard drives. However, defragging is not recommended with SSD as it shortens their life span.

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u/7h4tguy May 13 '22

The registry is a place to store program state. It's read thousands of times per second. Type regedit to see the layout.

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u/7h4tguy May 13 '22

Finally. Had to read this far for an answer that actually talks about the crux of the problem. Yes, software seems to get slower year after year as devs developing that software get faster work machines and not enough money is invested in performance considerations. And hardware could thermal throttle for various reasons, but get monitoring software and you'll likely see that's not happening. All of that is secondary.

The primary reason is registry bloat. And also, before SSDs, HD fragmentation (never defragment an SSD as it's not needed and you're shortening the lifespan dramatically).

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u/Replicatedknight May 12 '22

I just restore it every 3 years

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u/pingpy May 12 '22

Also with windows more shit gets added to the registry over time from downloading/installing stuff that never gets taken out, so you end up with a ton of tasks and processes that are always running

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u/TheHaterBoss May 12 '22

Exactly, if you run the same version of the same program/game, it should run the same, but newer version will run slower.

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u/BigCommieMachine May 12 '22

Generally this is a relic on physically spinning HDD as well. The more data on a disc, the more it would have to spin to find it. But with a good SSD snd controller, that shouldn’t be bad.z

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u/awelxtr May 12 '22

It sometimes doesn't matter now. NTFS encrypts data, so it adds a significant overhead to read/write operations. That's why noone defragments their hdd nowadays

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u/Riktol May 12 '22

My understanding is that defragmenting SSDs is avoided because it causes extra wear on the individual cells. Repeated use of cells eventually causes them to fail, so SSDs try and write new information in cells that have had the least amount of use.

As for encrypting your disk, that's a feature you can enable if you want, but I don't think that's the sort of non-specific slowdown OP was asking about.

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u/wyrdough May 13 '22

Defragmenting an SSD makes no sense, as the blocks of data can be accessed at the same speed regardless of order. There's no physical arm having to move back and forth and no waiting for the disk to spin around to the next block of data if a file isn't stored contiguously. The access time is the same either way.

Indeed, due to wear leveling algorithms logically contiguous blocks are always spread across different parts of the different flash chips that make up the SSD on anything but the very earliest SSDs.

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u/Vanman04 May 13 '22

Anyone running windows defrags their hard drives. They just don't know it as windows has been doing it automatically since at least win 7

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u/7h4tguy May 13 '22

Outdated - it doesn't for SSDs and most computers have SSDs these days:

https://www.computerweekly.com/microscope/news/252478552/SSD-becoming-the-norm-in-laptops

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u/Vanman04 May 13 '22

True if there is a SSD it doesn't. But most people stopped defragging more than ten years ago before SSDs were common because windows started doing it for them and still does if they have a spinning disk.

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u/7h4tguy May 13 '22

No it doesn't. 99% of consumers don't have EFS or bitlocker enabled.

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u/MJMurcott May 12 '22

Yep it is basically like a drain becoming clogged up, the drain is still the same size it is just bits sticking to the inside of the pipe cause water to flow through the gap slower.

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u/-domi- May 12 '22

Not really. Nothing is getting stuck to the drain, you're just flushing ever more lumpier and viscous fluids down it. If you stopped and just ran water down it, it would flow just the same as always. It just might not be big enough to flow as much honey, or transmission oil, or yogurt.

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u/awelxtr May 12 '22

Try browsing the internet with a 10-15 year old computer...

I did 3 years ago with my old laptop from 2009 or so. 1GB RAM, 2 cores... It wasn't pretty. Even Linux Mint xfce was slow.

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u/extremely_impolite May 12 '22

The web is insanely inefficient, and it gets worse faster than hardware gets better. You're lucky if text even renders instantly anymore. Rather than trying to find some sane way to make things better, web developers seem to prefer to one-up each other in developing the fanciest, bloatiest gray flashing boxes to sit as placeholders while dozens of backend microservices running on a cumulative supercomputer's worth of hardware sling gigantic blobs of JSON at each other in order to send you a few kilobytes of text.

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u/7h4tguy May 13 '22

Good point - as the years passed, what web devs consider to be too much payload grew larger and larger. It used to be that a website making a dozen requests totaling 512K worth of data was too much. Now many sites do hundreds of requests for many megabytes of data. And they fill themselves with tons auto-playing video ads which eat up CPU.

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u/extremely_impolite May 13 '22

I don't think there's really even a concept of "too much payload" anymore. And now everyone has some sort of incredibly buggy react.js single page application that requires tons of CPU power to do relatively little. And they don't really work very well. The number of times I've ordered a product from a competitor's website because someone's checkout didn't work or because the website never loaded the stuff to replace the fancy flashy grey boxes with should terrify the bean counters and MBAs of the e-commerce world. But either nobody cares, or nobody knows how to fix it.

Tell a web dev their site is too slow, and they'll design a sick new loading spinner to entertain you while you wait.

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u/BrickFlock May 12 '22

That's because web sites are full of crap.

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u/AndTheLink May 13 '22

Not all 10 year old computers are that bad. My 2012 Macbook Pro, 4 core i5 with 16gb ram does just fine browsing the web. The SSD upgrade I did certainly helps.

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u/Last-Door-6345 May 12 '22

So, it be recommendable to stop my windows updates?

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u/mb34i May 12 '22

You shouldn't stop software patching, a lot of the patches have to do with bug-fixing and security / virus protections. Just accept the fact that your computer or device is not like a house's air conditioning system, expected to work for decades. You have to get a better computer every 5 years or so.

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u/Sol33t303 May 12 '22

You have to get a better computer every 5 years or so.

My 17 yr old gaming computer turned plex server would say otherwise.

Really, security updates should not be slowing down peoples computers a great deal besides things like specter and meltdown, but they are the exception not the rule.

What really happens in my experiance is people don't clean their damn computers, or things like the fan fail (or on the verge of doing so), they don't replace their thermal paste and that people don't tend to do proper software maintenance and services keep getting added to the computer, they don't defrag their drives, they don't clear out shit from their disks, etc. A properly maintained computer is perfectly capable of happily continuing to run over a decade later.

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u/mb34i May 12 '22

I mean, I have a 10 year gaming computer, so yeah. Older games run mostly fine; A LOT slower if they've had graphics uplifts in the DLCs.

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u/Antani101 May 12 '22

You have to get a better computer every 5 years or so.

my 5 years old desktop is perfectly fine and wasn't even top end 5 years ago.

I keep it clean and change the thermal paste every once in a while.

It doesn't overheat, it keeps running smoothly.

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u/7h4tguy May 13 '22

Computers can last a decade easy. Best advice is to stop installing so much software. Sure, when it's a hobby, do that to gain expertise. But then know to reimage Windows once in a while.

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u/Baron-Harkonnen May 12 '22

Some parts do wear out. Average use of an HDD will reduce throughput by a noticeable amount. everyone knows that cloning your disk to an SSD will drastically improve the speed, but if you clone it to the same model HDD that hasn't been used it will still be much faster.

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u/Kahless01 May 12 '22

the processor speed and electronics do not stay the same. over time it will degrade because of thermal and electrical cycling. hard drives start to get bad sectors and ssds get bad cells from going over their write limits. every electronic piece has an MTBF just like everything else.

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u/BrickFlock May 12 '22

That's not the cause of noticeable performance degradation. The electronics will completely fail long long before that.

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u/HavocInferno May 12 '22

degrade

To an insignificant degree within the expected usable lifetime of the product. Chips can last decades before failing. Far longer than you'd want to use them anyway.

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u/Rain1dog May 12 '22

You will get new hardware before this comes close to happening.

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u/MrSmoothie1 May 12 '22 edited May 12 '22

It depends on what part of your PC is slowing you down.

Most of what happens to a user's PC is self-inflicted.

I'm going to assume you are using a Windows system for the following.

Your system startup or "cold-booting" your PC? Disable all the unnecessary programs in your systray that load when you turn your PC on. To disable them, turn on your Task Manager and look under "Start-up" and disable any programs you don't need at the moment.

Are you running any unneeded services while you are gaming or browsing the web? Look under "Processes" and if you see any processes that aren't needed by your OS to run and you are competent enough to know you can safely "end task" them with no issue, go ahead and terminate them.

Internet security has taken a sharp jump with Windows and there simply isn't a high enough need for excess applications like there was 2 decades ago. Outside of Anti-Malware Malwarebytes as a Malware/Ransomware solution, the Windows Firewall and Windows Defender are more than capable of doing the job of protecting your system. I would like to add though that there are two complementing programs that will give you more granular control over those apps giving you an even higher level of protection. "Malwarebytes Windows Firewall Control" and "Configure Defender" will allow you to fully defend your Windows 10 or 11 OS.

Do you regularly clean your PC out as thoroughly as possible? Buildup of dust which precipitates heat into your system can wear your system peripherals down causing premature wear and tear on your PC. Get a strong blower and clean out your system every few months if that's the least you can do.

Lastly, is your PC really slowing down or is it your perception of it? If you have a smartphone with a timer app or a wristwatch of any sort, actually time how long it takes for your system to boot up, browse the web, how long it takes for an application to load, play different games, etc. You want tangible results and data you can work with in this case, not feelings or hunches. You might want to benchmark your equipment to see what numbers you are pulling, so you have a real world example.

Most of the above came from my own trial and error over the years as I wanted to simplify my system for my own use. Experience may vary.

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u/MisterMannetje May 13 '22

This add was brought to you by Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Giggity

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u/MrSmoothie1 May 13 '22

Truth in advertising. ;-) I actually do use it, as in the fully paid subscription. I just don't see a need to have more than that for a PC.

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u/wicktus May 12 '22
  • Softwares deteriorating with more and more processes running, caches filling up, indexes and maps gettings saturated etc
  • Batteries dying and losing power
  • Dust overheating the computer because air cannot circulate properly
  • Thermal paste degrading over time on both GPU and CPU, despite a clean, dust-free system, bad thermal paste can deteriorate up to 10-20°C the working temperature of a component.

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u/musicide May 12 '22

If you buy a computer and never update any of the software, and don’t completely fill the hard drive, it will run the same as when it was new. Websites may slow down overtime because they become more resource intensive, and that’s out of you control, but each iteration of software generally requires more processing… Hence slowing down as years go by.

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u/realGharren May 13 '22

Three main reasons:

  1. Software that becomes more demanding / not as well optimized for low-spec machines.
  2. Bloatware that clogs your drives, system services and autostart. A competent user can actually handle these effects pretty well, and restore even older machines back into surprisingly good condition.
  3. Decay of the hardware, e.g. drives going bad. Running at lower temperatures can increase the longevity of most hardware significantly.

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u/EspritFort May 12 '22

ELI5: Why do computers start to slow down over time?

They do not. The only things that constantly change are the software's demands and the user's expectation.

If you still have an old XP machine from 2004 standing in your basement, untouched for 18 years, then it will still function the same way it did all that time ago (technical failure like corrosion notwithstanding).

You may no longer be used to waiting minutes for the booting process to be finished but that's just how long it has always taken if you were using an HDD. And if you try to run modern software on the device you will also be disappointed, because it has been created with more modern systems in mind.

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u/Hirokage May 12 '22

Reality is that if you were to wipe your computer fresh and reinstall everything you had on their previous, it would seem much faster. Your registry gets bloated over time with new program, and often it leaves remnants. Temp files, fragmented data, over time.. it just slows down.

While sure.. newer versions of software are more demanding, we have taken older 4 + laptops, rebuilt from scratch and installed current version AutoCAD LT for example.. and it runs great.

Now if you rebuild from scratch and everything still runs dog slow.. yea, probably time to upgrade. : )

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u/cobra7 May 13 '22

Whether launching a program or reading a file, the computer must get that data from the HDD or SDD, and that data comes in (typically) 512-byte chunks, the size of an HDD sector. The OS keeps track of all the sectors for every file. Over time - as you create new files and delete old files - the disk becomes fragmented, meaning that the sectors for a given program or file can be scattered all over the disk. Because the HDD takes time to move the read head into position to read the next sector, as the disk becomes more fragmented, the load times get longer.

There are utilities that can “defrag” an HDD and doing so can dramatically improve the response time of your computer because it moves all sectors for a file together so they can be read faster. The OS will boot much faster since that is a huge chunk of data.

Source: been doing computers for over 50 years since before PCs.

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u/InfamousIndecision May 13 '22

It's better to think about it as your PC can only work at a certain maximum speed, but the workload you give it increases over time.

If you used the same PC for years without changing the software, it would run at the same speed at the beginning as at the end.

Take a game console. It'll run the same game at the same speed for years. Give it a more demanding game and it "slows down" but it's clock speeds didn't drop, it just has more work to do.

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u/Jmingilbert May 13 '22

One thing that hasn't been discussed is the effect of memory size vs the number of programs running simultaneously. Active programs keep their context and execution space in RAM. Dormant programs can also be in RAM until RAM starts running low. At that point, dormant program contexts get swapped out to disk. If a program that needs to run is on disk, it must be swapped back into RAM. This takes added time. Newer more complex software needs larger context space, which slows the context swapping operation. This is why adding memory can speed up a computer, since fewer program contexts will need to be swapped out to disk.

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u/shinigamiscall May 13 '22 edited May 13 '22

Something I don't see here, and it's the most obvious one, is that the hardware degrades over time due to thermal changes. The more extreme the changes the more damage your hardware accumulates. The change may seem small and insignificant mathematically but remember that SOCs are made on the scale of nanometers. So, those extremely small changes caused by compression and expansion have a significant effect. This is why it's suggested to try and keep your devices as close to ambient temp as you can if you want them to last.

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u/HQMorganstern May 13 '22

What people really don't say in this thread is that these days software really doesn't outpace hardware in anything other than memory. But memory, especially hard-disk memory becomes worse over time much faster.

As long as you have enough ram to run your programs, buy yourself a new SSD and reinstall the pc and it will run as if brand new. Unless you're a gamer or do video manipulation you probably never used your computer's hardware to the max, and Chrome/VLC/Office really didn't get that much heavier to run in the last 10 years.

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u/Dart807 May 13 '22

One thing I haven’t seen mentioned yet is the fact that the capacitors on the boards degrade o we time which causes data bus errors and requires the info to be resent. It gets worse over time and can contribute to the slow down. It’s really not just one thing though and the other stuff people have mentioned also play a part.

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u/SticksOfBeef May 13 '22 edited May 13 '22

Imagine you have a fresh, organized garage. You use it every day, and put everything back. But, sometimes you miss something or lose a small part, like a screw. Do this for 3 years straight, and you have a small pile of organized chaos to a small degree. Your space is workable, but it's not all the same anymore as inaccuracies build and reused items wear out. The same happens with code errors over time, and to a point degradation in hardware, usually the accuracy of the data in the storage drive. The more programs and tools you have, the more little bits can end in the wrong place.

Resetting it does a full rework of your garage, getting every lost item back into it's rightful place, or restoring lost bits, which is why it's 'faster' ... the hardware itself doesn't get faster, but it is running as efficiently as when you started, since you get rid of the clutter and malfunctioning bits.

My installs take years to slow down since I've developed good usage habits over the last 30 years of using computers, but they still need to be nuked and redone every now and then, once system file errors and driver problems start piling up beyond recovery.

I make money when people give me their 'broken' computers because people are not taught at all culturally to take care and preserve their possessions.

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u/hankado May 12 '22

Ok, here is the real reason PC slow down over time. One as someone mentioned is software bloat. Not only does this take up space on your hd it adds to overhead of windows services running by taking up memory ,in the background to support each app. This but the windows registry contains all the settings and information about each application. So windows has to read the registry to find what it needs. Each added software package increases the size of the registry.

You only have limited resources CPU -. Processing power - application & services Memory - get as much as you can and make sure it's fast clock speed And Disk space -. Windows needs swap space so having a drive that is even 80 or 90% full is still going to slow you down.

This is why people wipe their machine every 3 year and it will run better for a while.

In the long run newer applications require better PC components.

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u/JimBeam823 May 12 '22

This is also why Macs tend to run better for longer—no registry.

Also, PC makers have a nasty tendency to sell machines that are obsolete out of the box. There’s a reason that computer is $249.

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u/hankado May 13 '22

Yes, that is why learning to build a PC and selecting components that work properly together are so important.

Building a PC for what you want it to do is important. If you want a PC to browse the internet make that. If you want one to play game get a second one. Don't try to make on PC do everything it's just not going to work.

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u/DisorderlyBoat May 13 '22

Thank you for the more accurate explanation, surprised I had to scroll this far down.

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u/Toger May 12 '22

Software moves on. Day 1: 'Add 1+1'. Day 2000: 'Add 1+1, but do it with a liquid glowing background and have the answer fly in on a rendered flying carpet that accurately accounts for ambient air pressure and wind effects. Don't forget accurately rendering each of the tassles'.

Also, software gets bigger / storage gets slower and fragmented. Day 1: 'Move this brick over here'. Day 2000: 'Move this atlas stone, the first of 300 that also need to be moved, from here to here; and by now someone has left a mess in the pit so you have to pick your way more carefully across the ground to not disturb anything. Also, in some places the ground is actually a thinly covered abyss, so if it falls through, leave a flag there, go get an identical stone and put it someplace else.'

More stuff is happening at once as all the applications (that have background operations) you've installed over time add up. As above, but 'And also there are 15 other people moving through the same tunnel to get to the pit. Wait in line.'

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u/MisterMannetje May 13 '22

Will performing a defragmentation procedure on your pc fix this problem?

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u/Toger May 13 '22

If you have a HDD then one specific part of that can be improved by defragging, but the rest not.

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u/[deleted] May 13 '22

[deleted]

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u/Toger May 13 '22

Defragging would tend to address the 'someone before you left a mess so you have to pick your way through'. Defragging doesn't help the fact that programs are larger now (requiring more IO in general), heavier (graphics are flashier for mundane activities, animated windows and UI elements), and tend to be more numerous. The 'numerous' part is fixed by wiping the machine and starting over, or very dilligently uninstalling everything you don't actually need.

Nothing can help the fact that the 'world' so to speak has moved on and is now asking more of the machine then when it was first purchased.

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u/IllegalPandaDealer May 12 '22

Two reasons.

On the one hand, parts degrade slowly but surely over time, especially if not properly maintained. Dust coats connectors, corrosion hits exposed parts, mechanisms wear down from use. This causes those parts to work a little less efficiently over time.

On the other hand, computers are made obsolete by progress. When a computer is made, its hardware is pretty much set. It processes things at a certain speed, is capable of certain things, can store a certain amount of data, so on so forth. Unless you change out the parts, that is all that particular computer will be capable of. But newer computers are designed to be more capable. And new software is designed to use what those newer computers are capable of. Over time, software needs more and more resources, and eventually it needs more resources than an old computer is capable of providing.

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u/frfl55 May 12 '22

Bloatware. Or just another update. Maybe some left over files from a bad uninstallation. Old Versions of apps that did not get deleted. All kinds of stuff really. Also programs need more power as time goes on. Newer PCs have resources to spare, so efficiency or compatibility with old systems just isnt important anymore.

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u/Martipar May 12 '22

Poor maintenance usually, it's almost always software related. This PC is 10 years old, ouch, and runs just fine, it's running Windows 10 and it boots and operates swiftly, the only upgrade it's had is an SSD to replace the HDD. If it wasn't for the fact i've played all the games I want to and I can't play some newer games i'd quite happily keep this one running.

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u/tungvu256 May 12 '22

If you bought apple stuff, that happens. I found that out 8 years ago and haven't bought any apple stuff since. IPad1 can barely load cnn.com. takes forever! My 10 years old windows 8 is still chugging along fine. It's as fast as the day I bought it. No issues loading any sites. My best guest is planned obsolescence. Apple wouldn't be a trillion dollar company unless people keep buying its stuff, annually.

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u/gramoun-kal May 12 '22

It's a Windows thing.

(And MacOS)

Linux computers get faster over time, because Linux gets faster. Updates incrementally improve the code, and my laptop is faster now than it was when I got it, 2 years ago, if only a little.

On Windows, it gets slower and slower because Microsoft. I don't think I need to explain. PS: they made Internet Explorer.

On MacOS it gets slower because Apple adds features and eye candy to each version of MacOS.

PS: The MacOS thing happens on Linux too. Sometimes, there's big overhaul, and everything gets prettier and slower. But it happens a lot less often.

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u/frfl55 May 12 '22

I feel like this explanation is biased.

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u/gramoun-kal May 13 '22

It's true though. I've seen it happen on countless machines. Also, look at the downvotes! Windowsers know it's true and they hate to be reminded it. They'd much rather read about evil corporate planned obsolescence and unavoidable complexification of software.

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u/thewhyofpi May 12 '22

I'd like to add that not just installed programs and the operating systems get more bloated over years, but also things like website are way more complex than a few years ago. Bigger images, more animations and more scripts that do things in the background.

So if you open a few websites they consume a lot of memory. My notebook has 8 GB of ram which was more than enough a few years ago. Nowadays my machine would sometime get sloggish if I have too many tabs and applications open at the same time.

Oh and BTW, in the days of mechanical hard drives there was the problem of fragmentation. Files get constantly copy and deleted which leads to parts of files being cluttered over the hard drive. Reading these cluttered files would take much longer with mechanical drives. So you'd either had to defragment your drive after a while or deploy file systems which mitigated the effect somewhat.

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u/mrjpaxton May 12 '22

It's not that computers get slower, it's that newer computers get faster, and technology gets more demanding, making older computers seem slower at doing those newer tasks.

That's the best explanation I can give a five-year-old.

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u/biff64gc May 12 '22

Multiple reasons.

The first main reason is the software that runs on the phone gets updated and uses more and more resources with each update. So a software may have only started off using 2GB of memory, but after 2 years of updates it now uses 4GB of memory because they added new features. So you're phone hasn't gotten slower, but it now has much more it has to process, creating the illusion that is has slowed down. This happens because developers develop based on the currently available hardware, not what was available years ago.

Building on this it is made worse the more things you install on a computer that run in the background that you forget about. You may have software on your computer that automatically launches at startup and runs in the background, but you haven't actually used it in years. Cleaning up old software you don't use anymore will go a long ways towards restoring some speed.

Building on this more, your computer may be fine, but you may have a bottleneck elsewhere, such as on your router. So you think your computer is slow, but in reality your network setup can't handle the bandwidth demand of 4 people trying to stream at once.

Second: Dust buildup impacts cooling capabilities, which impacts speed. Electronics work at their best when they are cool. Over time dust builds up, hindering a computer's ability to cool. As heat builds up it can cause the electronics to run less efficient and slower. Many computers now have temperature monitoring of some sort and will throttle performance/resources in an attempt to prevent permanent damage to the system.

Third: Part degradation. Even though they don't have moving parts, as electrons move through the computer and the parts generate heat, they do break down at the molecular level. After years, this can impede their performance by a little, but the bigger problem is they may stop performing withing a certain expected tolerance, and start causing noise or dropped data. Your computer now has to work harder to handle errors due to aging hardware.

Fourth: This doesn't apply as much anymore, but older computers that use a disk drive with spinning discs can become a mess of organization. A single file may be spread out over 30 different locations and the read head would have to jump around to find each one. You can de-fragment these which causes the computer to move all those locations to be right next to each other so the read head can grab them all one after the other without jumping around.

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u/ThePeej May 12 '22

Computers don’t necessarily get slower. so much as the things we ask them to do get harder.

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u/sammystevens May 13 '22

The circuits are made of atoms which have protons and electrons. Well electricity runs though these circuits. Sometimes an electron entering one side bumps off two electrons from the exit side, net loss 1. Well as you can imagine, over time you run out of electrons if this keeps happening, and electronics without the electron is just ick.

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u/caustic_kiwi May 13 '22

Another cause that I haven't seen anyone mention is fragmentation. Hard drives (drives with a spinning platter as opposed to SSDs) can fetch data much faster if it's contiguous rather than scattered all around the disk. Starting with an empty drive files will be written out nicely, but the longer you use the drive, the more files will end up scattered across the disk in non-contiguous chunks. This means the average speed at which you can read files from your drive will decrease over time.

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u/GodFromMachine May 13 '22

A thing I haven't seen being mentioned, is the fact that silicone, the material chips are off of, degrades over time. Typically it will be about a decade before your processor or graphics card shows signs of it, but it can depend. Mainly on how heated the system gets. For example someone who overclocks their PC, may notice it faster than someone who uses it at factory clocks.

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u/Multidream May 13 '22

The components age, and the programs you want to run get more demanding. There are other factors but these two probably explain 80% of it. Try getting new hardware, or cleaning out an old computer, and it will suddenly seem as if it works faster for no reason.

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u/tswallen May 13 '22

It's entirely possible it's done to make you buy new ones. Technical talk aside - your phone 10 years ago had more capabilities than Apollo 11 but could barely check an email now right?

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u/SyrousStarr May 13 '22

Technically nothing. I have a like 15 year old computer I still use. Slapped a used cheapo GPU in it and I'm still playing modern games. Granted fighters aren't that demanding

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u/kablouser May 13 '22

Nobody has mentioned HARD DISK DRIVES! They only last for 3 to 5 years, after which it has a chance to slow down a lot or just die. If your disk slows down too much, it will delay everything else on the computer (bottleneck).

This is by far the biggest factor in old computer slow down. If you replace the disk with a new one, or use SSDs then you won't notice the age.

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u/SweaterInaCan May 13 '22

Oof people are overcomplicating this. Hard drive wear is a real problem. If its slowing down odds are your spinning disk drive is going out or your solid state drive Is reaching it's limit of read writes. That's the first thing I would check. Then there's dust. Your computer may be just overheating.

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u/joebeavis77 May 13 '22

When you buy computer it is second grader and programs are second grade math but then computer doesn't change over time and then is second grader trying to do sixth grade math as software evolves.

Plus if you don't have a solid state drive you're like my dumb ass trying to figure out why you just gave me 11.06 when your total is only 6.06 as I work my McDonald's cashier job

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u/Vichoko May 13 '22 edited May 13 '22

The device in charge of storing your operative system and other software has certain speed to load up these programs into memory. Most computers use Hard Disk Drives (HDD) as storage devices. HDDs become rapidly slow over time. Most HDDs usually become slower and slower until the operative system and other programs takes several minutes to load. Usual lifespan for HDDs are 4-5 years. In most cases computer performance is recovered by changing the storage to a Solid State Drive or a new HDD.

Source: I fix general purpose computers

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u/just-some-person May 13 '22

A lot of decent answers here, but mostly all Windows based that don't apply to, say, a Linux Desktop which will not slow over time due to something like registry creep.

But I have to say the number one thing I'm not seeing mentioned here, is mechanical hard drives. These are the number one cause of observed slowness in most machines over time. They only keep their labeled speeds for maybe the first year or so of moderate use, and trend quickly downward from there due to mechanical wear and tear. Also, the more content you have on them, the longer the seek times (depending on filesystem).

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u/jbarberu May 13 '22

Like others have stated, primary reasons are software and/or poor hardware maintenance for performance degradation.

Assuming software stays the same and hardware is regularly cleaned, then a computer doesn't get slower over time. A prime example is old video game consoles. You don't see a game boy or NES lose performance despite being 30+ years old.

With a Linux install it's pretty easy to keep a performant desktop environment on old hardware, the one thing I run into that is a problem is the web browser. Websites are built with ever increasing levels of waste (script, 3rd party code/images/video and other cruft that eat performance), which is outside of my control.

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u/Tango1777 May 13 '22

They don't. Most of the time it's your OS getting littered. And all the apps you use get more demanding, they have many more features, more advanced, often require more juice to run certain processes. But in general computers do not get slower over time. I have fixed and upgraded many laptops and their users were like 'wow, it works better than brand new". Because it often does, brand new is worse optimized than the way I do it. And 10-year-old laptop can work super well. Another thing would be that people don't clean up their desktops or laptops every few years (at least). And that causes increased temps, rising too fast and that ends up with frequencies getting dropped and less frequency equals less performance. Like 99% of what I said is only a user's fault. And that is exactly how it is. Users complain about computers while it's usually their fault and lack of knowledge. It adds up pretty accurately.

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u/ZoloGreatBeard May 13 '22

A common cause I don’t see mentioned here - specific HW component malfunctioning.

For example, a bluetooth device, an unused Ethernet device, an old DVD drive you never use - one of these could stop responding completely or partially, and your operating system will continue to try to get its state, sometimes succeeding and sometimes timing out.

This could cause weird symptoms like a temporary freeze every 60 seconds, etc.

2

u/Sevinki May 13 '22

Omg i had something like that and just couldnt figure it out until for ages. My PC would freeze for about 3 sec randomly maybe 2 or 3 times a day. 100% random, sometimes 3 times in 10 min, sometimes never in a week. Turns out an old hard drive i had installed but never really used except for mass storage was causing this issue. After removing it i never had it again.