Why do I need a Little Reed expert?

Published May 22, 2013 by

When you buy a computer, you want it to last forever.  What most fail to consider is how their use of a computer will change over time, or how the few mechanical components within the computer will begin to fail.  You may have purchased that laptop with the intent to use it for email and word processing, but someone introduced you to a cool productivity application or you started using it for high-definition movies.  The computer requirements for those sets of tasks may be very different, and what was adequate when you bought it may be less than adequate now.  As for mechanical issues: hard drives, case fans, power supplies, and optical drives are all points of potential failures.

You may have experienced issues with your computer that you simply put up with and attribute to the downside of computer ownership, or the fault of a particular operating system, when in reality these issues can be handled with a little help and regular maintenance.  Just like you wouldn’t drive 40,000 miles without an oil change (or you shouldn’t, at least), neither should your computer go without an occasional check-up and the resulting recommended maintenance.

Proactive Maintenance

Most people call for help when they encounter problems, but many of the problems you have can be avoided with proactive maintenance:

  • Running regular scans for malware (malicious software) and viruses can reduce the majority of problems individuals may encounter on an individual computer.
  • Keeping software up-to-date is another proactive maintenance step, and can eliminate glitches with software that an individual may not even be aware existed.
  • Disk and operating system cleanup is another task that should be performed regularly.  Scheduled defragmentation may be necessary depending on how the computer is utilized, and clearing temporary files can free up precious disk space in systems with less-than-desirable hard drive capacity.
  • Periodically evaluate changes in computer usage to preemptively determine when upgrades may be necessary

Reactive Maintenance

Reactive maintenance is less desirable than proactive maintenance, as it means some problem has already occurred that the user is aware of.  Reactive maintenance should not be needed as frequently if a proactive maintenance schedule is followed, but some issues such as mechanical failure cannot be avoided by proactive maintenance alone.

  • Loud disk drives or excessively noisy fans can indicate a failure or near-failure of the mechanical components in a computer system.  If these components fail, it can lead to much more costly repairs.  An overheated processor or disk drive that has worn bearings can cost significantly more than just replacing the components as soon as the problem is noticed.  Recovering data from a failed disk is not always possible, and processor replacement may not be cost effective.
  • Performance problems or issues with saving and retrieving files may also be related to gradual disk failure without the noisy warning of failed bearings.  This is a problem that cannot be avoided with proactive maintenance, and should be checked out before it turns into a loss of data.
  • Security warnings and excessive pop-ups may be indicative of malware that has gone unchecked, or updates that have failed to download for some time.  If left alone, these problems will continue to worsen, and can leave your computer vulnerable to further malware infestation and may lead to performance degradation.  Some malware may even attempt to mislead you into purchasing software you do not need under the false pretense that it will fix the problem you are having, the problem caused by that software in the first place.  Now you’re looking at not only repair cost, but the cost that you may have been duped into spending on unnecessary and potentially harmful software.

Hardware Assessment and Upgrade Planning

The final reason to call an expert is hardware assessment and upgrade planning.  After a few years, you may be using your computer for much more than you intended and it is probably time to reevaluate how it is being used.  If your computer is more than a few years old, there is a good chance the hardware could use some upgrading to meet with the new demands you’ve placed on it.  If your computer already seems to be on the edge of what it can do, and you are thinking about adding another piece of software, or you want to start using it for something more intense like 3d rendering or video editing, you need to explore your options.

You also need to remember that when you purchase a newer computer, or you choose to upgrade the operating system on your new computer, some of your older applications may not work.  Many outdated software packages were written for a particular operating system, and unless you have since upgraded that software, it may not work on a newer version of Windows or Mac OS.  This is less likely in a home setting, but many businesses are using applications written many years ago and have chosen not to update because the application works for them.  Just be aware that the old application and its data may require special consideration when upgrading the computer on which it runs.


Proactive maintenance is good, reactive maintenance should be minimal, and periodic assessment and upgrade planning is a necessity.  Don’t hesitate to call and allow us to help with setting up your proactive maintenance and upgrade road map, and avoid reactive maintenance and unnecessary downtime.


Why does my computer feel slower than it used to?

Published May 2, 2013 by

At some point, you have probably experienced the joy of a new computer.  It zooms through start-up, the internet loads in a blink, and opening applications can be done in less time than it took to click the mouse.  But now you have had the computer for a while, and it feels like a dinosaur.  You may even have enough time to leave and grab a cup of coffee while waiting for it to turn on.  This may seem common, but it certainly is not normal or even a result of the age of your computer.  Quite the contrary, the computer itself is probably running just as quickly as it did when you bought it.

File Disorganization

As you use your computer, the programs that you utilize will put lots of files into storage such as internet history, application settings, pictures that you import from your camera, or your music collection, just to name a few. As files are created, relocated, and destroyed, related information is no longer in close physical proximity in storage.  Imagine if your assistant filed everything you handed her in the first available file, regardless of what file it should actually go with.  When you needed to find something, it would take her significantly longer to find that file again, as it is not right next to other pieces of related information.  The same thing happens with your computer, and your accounting files, for example, would take longer to load simply because it took the computer longer to get each piece of the information you wanted.  This is known as disk fragmentation, and is not typically the leading cause of computer performance degradation, but is something to keep an eye out for.

Heavier Load

When you first used your new computer, you didn’t have everything you needed.  It is likely that you had to download some applications from the web, or install productivity software from a CD. Many of these applications aren’t just using your system resources when you can see them, but may leave behind running processes to check for updates or to reduce load time when you request the application.  This bit of trickery can make the individual application appear to load quicker, but may reduce the speed of other operations on your system.  Depending on the number of extra processes on your computer, this can account for a significant portion of the performance drop through processor or memory utilization.

In addition, too high of a system load will cause your computer to spend more time using your hard drive to keep things in temporary storage instead of the much faster RAM, referred to as “memory”, that it has.  This is because the more programs utilizing your computer, the less memory is available for everything, and the information that would be stored there instead is put to the hard drive.  Imagine if you are moving out of your house and you’ve loaded everything into an ultra-fast sports car with next to nothing for trunk space (this is memory).  It will get your stuff to the new house extremely fast, but if you have too many household goods, you’ll have to have your neighbor with the slow but larger moving van assist you (the hard drive).  So now you get to the new place in your sports car in ten minutes, but you spend another ten minutes waiting for the rest of your stuff to arrive.

Just like it would benefit you to sell some stuff before moving or get a faster moving van, it may be advantageous to get rid of some unnecessary applications that run in the background if possible, or upgrade the amount of memory available.  Some of these applications you may not be able to remove, but many of them fall into the category of unwanted software.

Unwanted Software

Malware and bloatware: these words are thrown around a lot, and while the applications themselves may not cause harm to your computer, they are annoying at the least, and will take up those precious resources we just discussed.  Malware is software that has some malicious intent, typically tricking the end user into believing there is a more serious problem and getting them to pay for something they don’t need or download additional malware, compounding the problem.  Bloatware is typically harmless software that is pre-installed on your computer, a result of computer and software manufacturers agreeing to load the computer with their products as a marketing technique.  The programs individually may not represent much of a problem, but if there is an excessive amount of them running in the background they can be the sole problem causing your computer to use the hard drive for temporary storage instead of memory.

Excellent, the "Free Physical Memory" amount listed is high.  If it drops to down into the low hundreds, something needs fixing.

Excellent, the “Free Physical Memory” amount listed is high. If it drops to down into the low hundreds, something needs fixing.

So what can I do?

To fix these issues, there are a few steps you can take.  To correct disk fragmentation, run the disk defragmentation utility that came with your operating system.  This will also give you an idea before you start of whether or not this represents a significant portion of your problem.  Most of the time, the utility will indicate a low level of fragmentation (a few percent) and defragmenting may not give you a noticeable performance increase.

As for resource usage, running the task manager under Microsoft Windows and viewing the “Performance” tab will give you at-a-glance information that indicates resource usage.  This should be done with all applications closed to understand the baseline performance of your computer.  The main areas to look are the “CPU Usage” graph, and the “Physical Memory (MB)” block.  If your CPU Usage is constantly above a few percent, or your free physical memory is in the low hundreds, it is time to check background applications and see what is running that can be removed. If your computer is already running only the programs that it needs, then a processor or memory upgrade may be in order.


Like a car, your computer will slow down under heavier load or when in need of basic maintenance.  Before you run off and purchase faster hardware, try to take care of what you have.  New hardware will certainly run faster under the same load just as a stronger car will, but with time, it too will slow down if you keep putting bricks in the trunk.