Knowledge Base

Troubleshoot Slow Performance Issues on a Dell PC




If your Dell PC is running slow, stops responding or takes longer than expected to respond, you may be experiencing a system performance issue. Whether your PC has gradually become slower or suddenly stopped working, there could be a variety of reasons for performance related problems. Slow performance and other problems can be a result of fragmented data on the hard disk drive, outdated device drivers, outdated operating system files, disk errors, corrupted operating system files, not enough memory (RAM), hardware failure, etc,.

Here are some troubleshooting steps that can help resolve slow performance issue on your Dell PC, follow the steps in a sequence. You can also find some additional troubleshooting steps and informational videos below.


Troubleshooting

Expand the sections below for more information.

Running a hardware diagnostic test can help you identify hardware related problems and provide you troubleshooting steps to help resolve the issue. To determine if your Dell PC is experiencing a hardware problem, it is recommended that you first run a hardware diagnostic test on your PC. Dell offers both built-in and online diagnostics. Dell ePSA hardware diagnostic test will help check if the hardware devices are working correctly.

Running Dell Pre-boot System Assessment or enhanced Pre-boot System Assessment (Dell PSA or ePSA)
  1. Restart your Dell PC.
  2. When the Dell logo appears, press F12 key to enter One-time Boot Menu.
  3. Use the arrow keys to select Diagnostics and press Enter key on the keyboard.
  4. Follow the on-screen prompts and respond appropriately to complete the diagnostics.
    If the test fails, ensure to write down the error code and validation code.

Use the Dell Interactive Support Agent (English only) to get information about ePSA or PSA diagnostic error codes.
Alternatively, you can visit the SupportAssist Pre-Boot System Performance Check page to get more information about ePSA or PSA diagnostic error codes.

To learn more about Dell ePSA or PSA diagnostics, visit the Dell knowledge-base article Resolve Hardware Issues With Built-in and Online Diagnostics (ePSA or PSA Error Codes).

If the built-in diagnostics and other troubleshooting steps has not identified the cause of slow performance, we recommend that you consider running the Dell online diagnostics. Dell's online diagnostic test helps you troubleshoot a problem, get automated fixes and order replacement parts. Online diagnostics installs Dell SupportAssist to help you troubleshoot your Dell PC.

Running an Online Diagnostics on a Dell PC
  1. Browse to the Dell Support website.
  2. Click Detect Product or enter the Service Tag and click Submit.
  3. Click the Diagnostics tab.
  4. Choose one of the diagnostic tests available:
    • To run a Quick Test - Click Quick Test
    • To run a Full Test - Click Full Test
    • To run a Custom Test - Select the devices you want to test and click Test Selected Devices.
    • To run a Stress Test - Click Stress Test
Note: Dell System Detect and Dell SupportAssist are required to identify your Dell device and run a diagnostic check. Follow the on-screen instructions to download and install Dell System Detect and Dell SupportAssist.
Note: Some diagnostic tests may display graphical patterns to test the video or display and some status dialog box that may require your response. The diagnostic test results may show incorrectly if there is no response provided when required.

Diagnose Hardware Issues on Your Dell Notebook or Desktop using Dell ePSA Diagnostic Test - (1:34)


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In many cases, slow performance can be caused by outdated device drivers or Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) settings. Be sure to regularly update your drivers to take full advantage of your hardware and software. It is recommended that you update the BIOS and device drivers for not just the PC, but update the device drivers for any connected peripherals like printers, scanners, etc,.

To learn how to download and update the BIOS and device drivers for your Dell PC, refer to the Dell knowledge-base articles below.

To learn more about how to install the device drivers in the correct order, visit the Dell knowledge-base article How to reinstall drivers in the correct order?

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Blocked air vents can cause serious performance issues by restricting air flow, this can cause the processor, memory (RAM) and other hardware to overheat which may lead to a potential hardware failure. Excessive heat can also cause a significant decrease in performance as most processors automatically reduce the speed of the processor to help compensate for heat-related problems. If you notice the system fan running constantly, this might indicate the PC is not running as efficiently as possible, and/or clogged air vents.

It is important to keep dust from accumulating in your PC and ensure adequate ventilation to help reduce heat. Lint and dust accumulation prevents air from flowing around the cooling fins and causes the fan to work harder.

Caution: Turn off your PC and disconnect the power cable or AC adapter before using compressed air to clean your PC. Follow the instructions on the side of the compressed air can, using compressed air incorrectly can damage your PC.
Caution: Do not try to blow the dust using your mouth. Moisture can cause irreparable damage to electronic or electrical components.
Cleaning the air vents on your Dell PC
  • Turn off the PC.
  • Check the air vents on the PC for dust or debris.
    Vents maybe located in various places depending on the PC model. Refer to the User Manual of your Dell PC.
  • Use a can of compressed air to remove dust or debris from the air vents.
    Caution: It is recommended to use a can of compressed air only. Do not use vacuum cleaners or blowers. Vacuum cleaners and blowers cause static and may damage electronic or electrical components inside your PC.
  • To prevent overheating problems, keep the PC in upright position and on a hard or sturdy surface, and provide enough clearance around the air vents.

Cleaning System Fans - (2:01)


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While free hard disk space is usually used for storing files and data on your PC, Microsoft Windows uses unused space for different functions such as caching and virtual memory. If the hard disk is running out of free space, your PC may run noticeably slower. It is recommended that there is at least 15% to 20% of free hard disk space at all times.

Run Disk Cleanup

Microsoft Windows includes a built-in tool that deletes temporary files and other unimportant files in an effortless way.

  1. Click Start button. In the search box, type Disk Cleanup, and in the list of results, select Disk Cleanup.
  2. If prompted, select the drive that you want to clean up and click OK.
    This is usually C: drive.
  3. Once the scan is complete, select the check boxes for the file types that you want to delete and click OK.
  4. Click Delete Files in the confirmation window.

Delete Files using Disk Cleanup - (1:13)

Uninstall application you no longer need

Uninstall application you no longer need using Programs and Features (previously called Add/Remove Programs). Unnecessary applications occupy space on your hard disk drive.

Note: You need to be logged as user with administrator rights on your PC to uninstall or install applications.
  1. Press the Windows logo key + R on the keyboard.
  2. In the Run dialog box, type appwiz.cpl and press the Enter key.
  3. In the list, select a program and click Uninstall.
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SupportAssist helps you optimize your PC by running a series of diagnostics to identify modifications to files and settings of your PC. Optimizing your PC improves your system speed, storage space availability, and stability by cleaning temporary files, tuning system performance and optimizing network.

Cleaning files

Cleaning your files helps you remove redundant files, temporary folders, and other unnecessary clutter from your PC

  1. Open SupportAssist and click the Optimize My System tile.
  2. On the Home tab, under Clean Files, click Run Now.
    After the optimization is complete, a 'Check' icon and the last optimized date are displayed on the tile.
    Note: During optimization, the name of the task that is performed is displayed below the menu bar. The percentage of optimization that is complete is also displayed on the tile.
    If you want to stop the optimization, click Cancel.
Note: If you cancel the optimization, the changes that were performed are not reversed.
Tuning your system performance

Tuning your PC performance helps you adjust the power settings, registry, and memory allocation to maximize the processing speed of your PC.

  1. Open SupportAssist and click the Optimize My System tile.
  2. On the Home tab, under Tune Performance, click Run Now.
    After the optimization is complete, a 'Check' icon and the last optimized date are displayed on the tile.
    Note: During optimization, the name of the task that is performed is displayed below the menu bar. The percentage of optimization that is complete is also displayed on the tile.
    If you want to stop the optimization, click Cancel.
Note: If you cancel the optimization, the changes that were performed are not reversed.
Optimizing network

Optimizing your network helps you ensure network connectivity and updates your PC settings to maintain an efficient and reliable network.

  1. Open SupportAssist and click the Optimize My System tile.
  2. On the Home tab, under Optimize Network, click Run Now.
    After the optimization is complete, a 'Check' icon and the last optimized date are displayed on the tile.
    Note: During optimization, the name of the task that is performed is displayed below the menu bar. The percentage of optimization that is complete is also displayed on the tile.
    If you want to stop the optimization, click Cancel.
Note: If you cancel the optimization, the changes that were performed are not reversed.

Optimize My System Using SupportAssist - (1:39)


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Microsoft Windows uses subtle animations or visual effects with certain tasks like fade or slide menu options, animate windows when minimizing or maximizing, translucent selection rectangle, etc,. These animations or visual effects can make your PC seem a bit slower than usual. You can speed up your PC by disabling some of the visual effects. For example, Windows can minimize and maximize windows instantly if you disable the associated animations.

Note: Changing the Performance Options will increase system performance but also affect the appearance of your Windows experience.
  1. Press the Windows logo key + R on the keyboard.
  2. In the Run dialog box, type sysdm.cpl and press the Enter key.
  3. On the Advanced tab, under Performance section, click Settings.
  4. On the Visual Effects tab, select Adjust for best performance.
Note: Selecting Adjust for best performance will disable all visual effects. You can choose Custom and manually check or uncheck the visual effects based on your preferences.

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Microsoft Windows utilizes virtual memory, also known as swap file or page file when all the available memory (RAM) is being used by the PC. Virtual memory provides a temporary expansion or extension of the system memory (RAM) on the hard disk drive. This allows the PC to handle more applications than previously available. When the system memory (RAM) runs low, the data stored on the system memory (RAM) is moved over to the swap file or page file, providing additional space for memory-intensive functions.

While Microsoft Windows automatically manages the space available for virtual memory, increasing the virtual memory allocation can help improve the performance of your PC. Windows sets the initial minimum size of the paging file equal to the amount of random access memory (RAM) installed on your computer, and the maximum size equal to three times the amount of RAM installed on your computer.

  1. Press the Windows logo key + R on the keyboard.
  2. In the Run dialog box, type sysdm.cpl and press the Enter key.
  3. On the Advanced tab, under Performance section, click Settings.
  4. On the Advanced tab, under Virtual memory section, click Change.
  5. Uncheck Automatically manage paging file size for all drives option.
  6. Select the drive that contains the paging file you want to change.
  7. Click Custom size, type the new size in megabytes in the Initial size (MB) and Maximum size (MB) box.
  8. Click Set and click OK.
Note: Initial size (MB) should be equal to the amount of memory (RAM) on your PC. Example: 4GB of RAM equals 4092 megabytes (MB).
Maximum size (MB) should be 3 times the amount of memory (RAM) on your PC. Example: 4GB x 3 equals 12GB of RAM. 12GB x 1024 equals 12,288 megabytes (MB). Do not enter more than three times the amount of RAM installed in your system.
1GB equals 1024 megabytes (MB).

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Malware (virus, spyware, trojans, etc.,) can cause a PC to lock up, perform slowly, etc. Spyware and other types of malware are a big cause of many PC problems including a slow PC. If you suspect your PC has been infected, there is a chance that malicious software may be running in the background and slowing down your PC. This could be software that interferes with your web browsing to track and add additional advertisements.

It is recommended that you scan your PC with an anti-virus or anti-malware program. Windows 10 PC comes built-in with Windows Defender which provides basic protection against malware. Most Dell PCs also come with a basic anti-virus software pre-installed like McAfee but may require a subscription. There are many other anti-virus or anti-malware programs (free to use and subscription based) that you may use like McAfee, Norton, Kaspersky, Trend Micro, etc., use the one installed on your PC to run a thorough or deep scan.

Note: Installing more than one anti-virus or anti-malware software on the PC does not give you better protection, instead it will only slow down your PC further. It is recommended to install one anti-virus or anti-malware software and update it regularly for active protection against malware.

To learn more, refer to the Dell knowledge base article Protect Your Computer or Remove Malware in Microsoft Windows.

What is Malware (Official Dell Tech Support) on YouTube - (2:03) English Only

5 Ways to Check for Viruses (Official Dell Tech Support) on YouTube - (2:33) English Only

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If Windows operating system files are corrupt, it can cause slow performance and other problems on your Dell. Microsoft Windows has built-in utilities that can help you scan the PC for corrupt operating system files and replace them from a cached version on your PC or through Windows Update.

Run System File Checker
  1. Restart your PC.
  2. Click Windows Start button and search for CMD or Command Prompt.
  3. Right-click Command Prompt and select Run as administrator.
    Click Yes in the User Account Control window.
  4. In Command Prompt, type sfc /scannow and press Enter key on the keyboard.
    This will take several minutes to complete.
  5. Once the scan is complete, restart your PC.
Note: Ensure to include a space between sfc and /.

System File Checker (SFC) will scan your PC for corrupt Microsoft Windows operating system files. Once the scan is complete, the results are displayed on the screen. If System File Checker (SFC) found corrupt files and replaced them, restart your PC. If System File Checker (SFC) did not find any corrupt files, try running the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool.

Run Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool in Windows 10, Windows 8.1 or 8 only

DISM tool, checks for corrupt Microsoft Windows operating systems and then downloads and replaces them using Windows Update.

  1. Restart your PC.
  2. Click Windows Start button and search for CMD or Command Prompt.
  3. Right-click Command Prompt and select Run as administrator.
    Click Yes in the User Account Control window.
  4. In Command Prompt, type dism.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth and press Enter key on the keyboard.
    This will take several minutes to complete.
  5. Once the scan is complete, restart your PC.
Note: Your PC needs to be connected to the internet to run DISM utility successfully. Ensure to include a space between each / in the command line.

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A simple reboot can resolve many issues almost immediately. Restarting your PC is an effective way to clear the memory (RAM) and ensure that any errant processes and services that started is shut down.

Restarting your PC closes all the applications or software running on your PC, applications running on the taskbar and dozens of other services that may be running in the background which were started by various applications. The more things you have open and the longer you keep them running, the greater the chances your PC will slow down and eventually run out of memory (RAM). Ideally, it is a good practice to shut down the PC when not in use. However, most times it is recommended that you restart your PC at least once a week, if you use the PC a lot.

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Here are some additional troubleshooting steps that you can take to diagnose and resolve slow performance issues on your Dell PC.

Additional troubleshooting

Microsoft Windows 10, Windows 8 or 8.1 and Windows 7 has a built-in performance troubleshooter that can help you automatically find and fix any problems that might be affecting your PC's speed. The Performance troubleshooter checks issues that might slow down your PC's performance, such as how many users are currently logged on to the PC and whether multiple programs are running at the same time.

How to disable startup programs in Microsoft Windows 10, Windows 8.1 or 8
  1. Close all open windows.
  2. Press the Windows logo key + X key on the keyboard.
  3. Click Control Panel.
  4. Click System and Security.
  5. Under Security and Maintenance, select Troubleshoot common problems.
    In Windows 8 or 8.1, you may find this under Action Center.
  6. Under System and Security, click Run maintenance tasks.
  7. Follow the on-screen instructions and prompts to complete the process.
  8. Restart the PC.
How to disable startup programs in Microsoft Windows 7
  1. Close all open windows.
  2. Click Start button and select Control Panel.
  3. Click System and Security.
  4. Under Action Center, click Troubleshoot common problems.
  5. Under System and Security, click Check for performance issues.
  6. Follow the on-screen instructions and prompts to complete the process.
  7. Restart the PC.

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Safe mode prevents non-crucial applications and device drivers from loading, which helps eliminate software as a cause of slow performance.

Note: Video resolution in Safe Mode is automatically set to 800 x 600 and the icons and text appear larger than normal.
The desktop background wallpaper is disabled in Safe Mode. This is a normal behavior and does not require troubleshooting.
All the visual settings will return to normal when the PC is rebooted into regular mode.
Warning: When you log into Safe Mode (in this case, Safe Mode with Networking), your anti-virus or anti-malware program will be disabled. Please use caution when connected to a network or the internet while your anti-virus is disabled.

To learn how to boot your PC into Safe Mode, refer to the links below based on the operating system installed on your PC.

If the issue does not exist in Safe Mode, the issue is likely related to a device driver or software. Ensure to update the device drivers and install any software updates that may be available for your PC including Microsoft Windows Updates.

However, if the issue still exists in Safe Mode, proceed to the next step.

Perform a Clean Boot to detect Software Problems - (00:40)


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Uninstalling or removing software or applications that you do not use or do not need from you PC can help speed up your PC. Applications may include background processes, system services, context menu entries and other things that can slow down your PC.

Uninstall application you no longer need using Programs and Features (previously called Add/Remove Programs). Unnecessary applications occupy space on your hard disk drive.

Note: You need to be logged as user with administrator rights on your PC to uninstall or install applications.
  1. Press the Windows logo key + R on the keyboard.
  2. In the Run dialog box, type appwiz.cpl and press the Enter key.
  3. In the list, select a program and click Uninstall.

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Many applications or software run in the system tray, or also called notification area. These applications usually launch during startup and stay running in the background but remain hidden. Preventing these applications from launching during startup will not only speed up the login process but also save a lot of memory (RAM) and processing power to improve the performance of your PC.

Warning: It is recommended that you do not disable the anti-virus or anti-malware program or application from loading during startup. Disabling the anti-virus or anti-malware program may make your PC vulnerable to malware infection.
Note: You need to be logged as user with administrator rights on your PC to disable startup programs.
How to disable startup programs in Microsoft Windows 10, Windows 8.1 or 8
  1. Close all open windows.
  2. Press CTRL + Shift + ESC key together on the keyboard.
  3. In the Task Manager window, click Startup tab.
  4. Select the program or application that you want to disable from loading during startup.
  5. Right-click and select Disable.
  6. Repeat Step 4 & 5 for all the programs or applications that you want to disable from loading during startup.
  7. Restart your PC.
How to disable startup programs in Microsoft Windows 7
  1. Close all open windows.
  2. Click Start button. In the search box, type msconfig, and in the list of results, right-click msconfig and select Run as administrator.
  3. In the System Configuration window, click Startup tab.
  4. Uncheck the programs or applications that you want to disable from loading during startup and click OK.
  5. In the confirmation window, check Don't show this message again and click Restart.

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System Restore is a Microsoft Windows operating system feature that can help fix certain types of crashes and other PC problems. System Restore can help you revert your PC's state (including system files, installed applications, Windows Registry, and system settings) to that of a previous point in time, which can be used to recover from PC malfunctions or other problems.

Microsoft Windows automatically creates a "restore point" every time an application or software is installed, when Windows Update installs latest updates, when a device driver is installed or you can manually create a "restore point".

Note: System Restore does not save old copies of any personal files, hence it will not delete or replace any personal files or personal data when you perform a restoration. System restore is also not an effective solution to remove virus, spyware or any type of malware on your PC.
Note: You need to be logged as user with administrator rights on your PC to run Windows System Restore.

To learn how to restore your Dell PC to a previous point in time using Windows System Restore, refer to the links below based on the operating system installed on your PC.


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If your Dell PC is still locking up or running slowly and the troubleshooting steps above have not resolved the issue, there may be an underlying issue with the operating system.

Warning: Reinstalling the operating system will result in loss of all data on the computer. Dell recommends that you back up all personal data including but not limited to pictures, spreadsheets, word documents, emails, contacts, browser bookmarks (favorites), music, videos, etc. to an external storage device prior to reinstalling the operating system.

To learn more about reinstalling Microsoft Windows on your Dell PC, refer to the Dell knowledge-base article Factory reset, restore, or reinstall Microsoft Windows on a Dell PC.


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Generally, most PCs are capable of memory (RAM) upgrades and can accept large amounts of memory than what maybe installed in the PC. Before you consider upgrading the memory (RAM) on your Dell PC, we recommend that you verify how much memory (RAM) is currently installed on your Dell PC and what is the maximum amount of memory (RAM) that your Dell PC can support. To learn more about system configuration and memory specifications of your Dell PC, refer to the User Manual on the Dell Support website.

Note: Some Dell Ultra-book laptop PCs have built-in memory (RAM) and hence cannot be replaced or upgraded.
Note: Before purchasing memory (RAM) modules, verify the type of memory that can be used with your Dell PC, the maximum amount of memory (RAM) and the number of memory modules that your Dell PC can support.

To purchase upgrade components for your Dell PC, visit the Dell website.

To learn more, refer to the Dell knowledge-base article How to Upgrade Memory in Your Computer.

The following table specifies the limits on memory (RAM) and address space for supported releases of Microsoft Windows 10, Windows 8 or 8.1 and Windows 7. It is important to consider the maximum amount of memory (RAM) supported by your Dell PC and the amount of memory supported by the version of Microsoft Windows installed on your Dell PC.

Version Limit on 32-bit version (X86) Limit on 64-bit version (X64)
Windows 10 Enterprise 4 GB 2 TB
Windows 10 Education 4 GB 2 TB
Windows 10 Pro 4 GB 2 TB
Windows 10 Home 4 GB 128 GB
Windows 8 or 8.1 Enterprise 4 GB 512 GB
Windows 8 or 8.1 Professional 4 GB 512 GB
Windows 8 or 8.1 4 GB 128 GB
Windows 7 Ultimate 4 GB 192 GB
Windows 7 Enterprise 4 GB 192 GB
Windows 7 Professional 4 GB 192 GB
Windows 7 Home Premium 4 GB 16 GB
Windows 7 Home Basic 4 GB 8 GB
Windows 7 Starter 2 GB
Windows Vista Ultimate 4 GB 128 GB
Windows Vista Enterprise 4 GB 128 GB
Windows Vista Business 4 GB 128 GB
Windows Vista Home Premium 4 GB 16 GB
Windows Vista Home Basic 4 GB 8 GB
Windows Vista Starter 1 GB

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Conventional hard disk drives have moving components and hence have lower read or write speeds compared to solid state drives (SSD). A solid-state drive uses flash memory and can read or write data much faster and uses less power in turn extends laptop battery life. Upgrading to a solid-state drive can provide significant improvement in performance.

Things to consider before upgrading the hard disk drive on your Dell PC:

  • Form factor - Hard disk drives come in two form factors: 3.5-inch drive - used on desktop PCs and 2.5-inch drive - used on laptop PCs.
  • Connector - What type of connector is available on your PC? IDE or S-ATA (Serial ATA) connector (SATA-I, SATA-II or SATA-III connector).
  • Capacity - What is the maximum hard disk drive capacity that is supported by your PC?

To purchase upgrade components for your Dell PC, visit the Dell website.


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Informational Videos

System Slowing Down? Troubleshoot Slow Performance in Windows 8 - (2:56)


Troubleshooting Slow Internet and Network Connections - (1:51)

How to Improve Computer Performance (Official Dell Tech Support) on YouTube - (2:55) English Only


Article ID: SLN171944

Last Date Modified: 10/26/2017 07:56 AM


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