Home » Questions » Computers [ Ask a new question ]

Why does hardware get slower with time?

Why does hardware get slower with time?

Why does hardware get slower with time? I have been a PC owner since 1990 and every computer I have had in my life became really, really slow after 3-4 years (even with a full system-reinstall). It is the case with Windows PCs. It is also the case with Apple Hardware. Why is this happening? Can this be avoided?

Asked by: Guest | Views: 47
Total answers/comments: 5
Guest [Entry]

"Sometimes it IS the hardware, especially with laptops. Modern processors have circuitry to protect them from overheating, and will deliberately reduce the CPU speed if the core temperature gets too hot (or also to save power when demand is low and you're running on batteries - Intel calls the feature ""SpeedStep"" on their processors). If you notice your fan running all the time or the machine getting excessively hot around the cooling fan outlet, your computer's ""airways"" may have become clogged with dust.

I had a Dell Latitude that ran like new after I opened it up and removed about a quarter inch thick ""sponge"" of dust from between the fan and the heat sink. Dell actually has downloadable service instructions on their website that explain all the steps to open up the machine and get inside for this kind of service. If you're not comfortable with this, you probably have a techie friend who'll help you out. It's definitely worth the risk if you're planning to get rid of the machine otherwise!

If you think this might be what's happening on your machine, try downloading a utility like ""SpeedFan"" that allows you to check the temperature of your CPU as well as other components. With this app, you can graph the temperatures when you first start the machine. If they start climbing quickly and never seem to decrease, you can bet cooling is an issue. In my case, I also used a free app called ""CS Fire Monitor"" to show me the actual speed of my processor and I found that once it got hot, it was dropping to less than half speed. There's lots of good freeware out there that will show you this kind of information; just Google ""CPU Temp Freeware"" or ""CPU Speed Freeware"" or something along those lines and you'll find all sorts of options.

Hopefully, this will save a few people from replacing or throwing away decent hardware that just needs some respiratory therapy!"
Guest [Entry]

"When I have run benchmarks (both trivial ones like bogomips, and more serious one like Dhrystone and Whetstone) on five to eight year old hardware, I have always found that it turned in the same results as when it was new. (Always on Linux and Mac OS boxen, BTW.)

I have less experience with hard drives, but I did test one fast and wide SCSI2 drive about five years on (with hdparm) and got answers comparable to the original spec.

So, I think it is mostly, as others have said, a combination of new expectations and heavier software.

That said, I do currently have a powerbook G4 which could use testing, as it sure feels slower now than it used to. The suggestion above that clock throttling may come into play if the cooling system gets fouled is a good one."
Guest [Entry]

"You get used to the speed and it now longer feels fast.

For example, I had a customer who had a routine (which they regarded as down-time) that took over an hour on an old computer and when they upgraded their computer the process took five minutes which made them very happy for a while.

Fast forward a few years and they now complain about this routine taking five minutes. And every time they complain, they genuinely seem to have forgotten about the time it took an hour."
Guest [Entry]

"There's a certain amount of perception issue, but if you're actually measuring a reduction in performance, I'd look to moving parts in the system.

""Moving parts,"" you ask, ""what moving parts?""

Two easy categories to check: fans and disk drives. Fans are obvious, but in addition to the fan itself, make sure the airflow and cooling are unobstructed to ensure that interior component temperatures are also where they were when the box was new. Disks are a little more subtle, but a deteriorating disk can cut down dramatically on performance while appearing to work. See if the disk benchmarks match new performance, or if the error count is up dramatically.

While they don't really move, they're the moral equivalent: cable connectors. Any detachable end of each cable. Unplug, ensure clean, replug and ensure tight."
Guest [Entry]

"Perhaps it's purely down to your perception.

3-4 years ago, it was sparkling new hardware which was faster than the previous generation of hardware, therefore it felt very fast.

In 3-4 year since then, no doubt you have used computers with better hardware, so even if you do a clean install on the old machine, your experiences on newer hardware will leave with a lackluster impression of the old machine.

Or do you have empirical evidence that the machine actually performs slower?"