Spyware may be reason for computer slowdown

The Baltimore Sun

At times, when I am working at my com- puter something begins to run in the background that slows everything down. Nothing appears on the screen to indicate what it might be. The slowdown will last for a brief period, then all is back to normal for a short time, then the slowdown will begin again. Do you have any suggestions as to what is causing this or what I can do?

- Donald W. Titus, Boerne, Texas

My first guess is that you have a spyware problem. These tiny programs report back to their owners - they're spying on you. Some computers can have 200 or more of these programs on the hard disk, a lot for a computer to handle.

I edited Donald's note for length, and he does use a good anti-spyware program. However, many people fail to update these programs. Over time, they get less effective.

Another possibility is that nothing is wrong. There are all sorts of legitimate operations taking place on a PC in the background at any time. Many programs get automatic updates. Spyware and anti-virus programs automatically scan files. Windows keeps track of changes and records them. So, depending on how severe the slowdown and how often it takes place, it could just be business as usual.

Keep in mind that diagnosing a computer problem by e-mail is a little like trying to find the trouble with a Toyota by using that method. These are simply logical guesses, but other readers with similar problems may profit.

In the past, you've mentioned a free download that will give a quick report on one's computer system: memory, chip speed, etc. I used to have it but lost it when I had to reformat my hard drive. What is the name and site for this program?

- Eric Huguelet, Peachtree City, Ga.

Yes, Eric, that program is one of my favorites. You'll find the Belarc Advisor at www.belarc.com.

For those who haven't tried it, I strongly recommend downloading this program. It has a lot of uses. For instance, if you need technical assistance from your Internet provider or a software manufacturer, you are often asked a lot of questions about the specifications of your computer. This program will give you the answers. It also shows the authentication numbers for many of your programs. And it will keep track of all the updates you've received from Microsoft.

Bill Husted writes for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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