Industry Insights and the EAI Blog

Jul 12, 2018

4 Signs Your computer is in Trouble and What to Do About It

By EAI Contributor

When your computer is in trouble, there are typically a few warning signs. A change in performance, spontaneous alteration of your security settings, or funny noises all indicate a problem, and some of them may be serious.

If you notice a change in how your computer is functioning, you can potentially fix the issue if you act quickly. Here are 4 common signs that your computer is in trouble and what you need to do about it.

1. Sluggish Performance

When your computer gets sluggish, there can be a number of causes. Malware, including those that secretly send spam or mine for cryptocurrencies, can severely slow down your performance. Additionally, older systems may not provide enough processing power to handle the demands of today’s work, causing your computer to struggle.

Begin by running antivirus and antimalware scans. These will help you determine if an infection is to blame and what you need to do to remove the offending programs.

You can also open up Task Manager (for Windows) or Activity Monitor (on macOS) to see if certain software or activities are bogging down your system. Once open, you can view the amount of resources programs are using. Close each of your open programs down, one by one, and see if the issue resolves.

Upgrading outdated components can also be beneficial. Everything from your processor to your hard drive to your RAM impact performance, so getting modern components might solve the problem.

2. Frequent Error Messages

Every computer will have errors on occasion. However, if the same messages are popping up frequently, or you're inundated with multiple messages in a short period, there could be a problem.

Malware can harm your system by corrupting programs and using resources, so running your antivirus is where you should start. If malware is found and removed, you may need to uninstall the corrupted program and reinstall it to restore functionality.

If the errors only relate to a single program, an uninstall/reinstall may solve the issue. Files can corrupt somewhat spontaneously, so even if the antivirus doesn’t find anything, this is worth a try.

You can also record the error messages and codes to use in a search. Plug the information into a search engine to research the nature of the error and see if you can find tips for resolving your specific problem.

If you don’t find much information, then you may need some detective skills to locate the problem. Monitor what actions lead to the message as a starting point. If the message popups when you connect a peripheral, then outdated drivers may be to blame. If it happens when you try to open specific files, then they may be corrupt or infected. If a recent system update went through, then it may be the source of the issue and a rollback may solve the problem.

As a worst case scenario, you can backup your files and completely reinstall your OS, effectively reverting your computer to factory settings. This should remove most software issue, but won’t fix problems with hardware failures.

3. Random Settings Changes

Reconfigured settings that don’t relate to a software or system update are a red flag that your machine is probably infected. Some viruses alter settings to allow the program to do what it wants, including preventing you from removing it or securing your computer.

Anything from a new icon, a new homepage on your browser, an unfamiliar extension, or the inability to change certain settings can be warning that something is wrong. You’ll want to run your antivirus immediately to see if malware is to blame. If you recently performed updates to your system or software or installed a new program or extension, a rollback or removal of the offending program may be required, even if it isn’t technically malware.

4. Weird Noises

If your computer starts making sounds that you’ve never heard before, backup your files immediately to an external hard drive or cloud storage service. Many components make noise when they begin to fail.

Once that is complete, you can start to assess the problem. Begin by using compressed air to clean ports, components, and fans. Dust buildup can reduce heat dissipation, causing fans to work harder and increasing the chance of failure. If that doesn’t solve the problem, then a full system diagnostic may be necessary to identify which component is responsible, particularly if you aren’t receiving error messages that indicate the nature of the problem.

If your hardware is failing, replacing the component is typically the only option. Just make sure you find out what is causing the problem first. Otherwise, you may spend money replacing the wrong part, just to have to handle the actual source of the issue after you’ve made an investment.

Ultimately, if your computer’s performance changes, you start getting overrun with error messages, settings keep randomly doing their own thing, or strange noises emanate from your machines, you need to take the time to find the cause, so you can remove malware or make repairs before it’s too late.