Why do computers become slow over time?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by iBreatheApple, Jan 14, 2015.

  1. iBreatheApple, Jan 14, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2015

    iBreatheApple macrumors 68020

    iBreatheApple

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2011
    Location:
    Florida
    #1
    If there is a more appropriate sub-forum, apologies...

    This question probably sounds silly. And although my tech knowledge is much less elementary than the question is probably perceived, at the core, it's what I want to know. Over time, there are application updates, operating system updates, et cetera. Generally, newer software is going to require more resources. And while some releases (apps, or whatever it may be) aim for a smaller footprint, increased resource hunger seems to be the general trend. I am posting my specs and my situation, but I am not just seeking responses directly pertinent to my situation, just in general.

    That said, I have an 'older' Mac (reference the attachment). I'm constantly downloading new music, but other than that, I really don't have much on my computer. I back up my camera roll every once in a while but I have <5000 pictures (not much more than iPhone quality so the files are not exceptionally large). I don't have a ton of videos, but some of the files are moderate in size (no single file > 1GB) as I tend to record extended clips at music festivals at such. Lots of internet surfing/streaming but clear the browsing files every so often. The ol' Mac has been running pretty slow lately; this seems to be an annual thing. I usually end up wiping the my system one a year or so. It's true that it will never run 'day one smooth' as there is newer software on older hardware so I guess this is normal to an extent, but why? As previously mentioned I really don't have many programs installed and my HDD is at approximately +/- 55% capacity.

    I'm sure there are those of you that have had my computer for 5+ years and it's running just as good as ever, but I hope you see what I'm getting at.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. kds1 Suspended

    kds1

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2013
    Location:
    New York, New York
    #2
    Computers slow down because the software that runs on it advances and demands more processing power and becomes more resource intensive.

    That's your answer, succinctly.
     
  3. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    #3
    OS updates and app updates use more resources with each iteration. Also most people don't keep their computer clean. By clean I don't mean junk data taking up space. Unless you are really low on space that won't affect anything appreciably.

    By keeping it clean it means junk startup items. There are several hidden folders beyond that in System Preferences (Windows also has hidden items not covered under MSCONFIG). These contain 3rd party processes that start up and drain resources. This is what you want to kill.

    http://www.macworld.com/article/2047747/take-control-of-startup-and-login-items.html

    There is also the tendency to add more tasks. All the cloud syncing services drain resources.

    Edit: If you want your computer to feel snappy for a real long time switch to SSD. My 2006 Macbook still feels as fast as current Windows laptops that have hard drives.
     
  4. Melrose Suspended

    Melrose

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    #4
    Electronics inevitably age. Windows and Android fanboys have told me "but Macs don't break! Haha! Look at you now!"

    ...well, guess what, electronics have a lifespan nerd-boy, same as your car's brakes.

    In my experience, though, Windows machines just get dog slow after 6 or 8 months, despite all the mandatory stupid defragmenting and disk cleanup crap you have to do.

    I've had Macs throw browser crashes once in a while on older machines, and my old Performa was treated horribly but started up like a champ every single time and never lost it's momentum. I don't think Mac software is quite where it was at 10.6 - I'd really like to see a no-new-features-simply-streamlining release to bring the old stability back, but I have to laugh at what I whine about now when I remember with what I used to put up with under Windows.

    Windows 98, Me, XP, Vista, and 7 have all been trouble for me. I haven't owned Windows 8 so while I reserve judgment for how dumb it looks I can't pass personal opinion on it.
     
  5. iBreatheApple thread starter macrumors 68020

    iBreatheApple

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2011
    Location:
    Florida
    #5
    I'm wiping my computer tonight. I didn't feel like digging my external HDD out to back up my files so I just created a temporary partition; It got me thinking. Would it be advantageous to store my music, pictures, and video files (pretty much all I load onto the computer other than documents) on a separate partition than the OS files? It seems as if the system wouldn't have to do as much work if it didn't have any files other than it's own on it's own partition.
     
  6. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #6
    I believe a mixture of things.

    First and foremost is software and an OS are increasingly bloated, so they appear to perform slower on older computers. So when you buy a new computer today, everything appears to be quite fast, but then a new version of the operating system, or a popular app is rolled out and its a bit more sluggish, because it more bloated then prior version.

    I also think mostly in windows case but I wonder if it does affect OS X to a smaller extent, is the added cruft and crap that keeps getting loaded on. This is why its nice to start off with a clean slate with windows. Just reformat and reload the OS and apps.
     
  7. samiwas macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2006
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    #7
    My 2009 MacBook Pro has become interminably annoying. Freezes all the time. immediately shuts down (like screen just dies) after waking from sleep, won't start up unless on power (but will last forever after). Even a full zero-out erase and reinstall did not fix it.

    My 2011 iMac and 2009 MacMini, on the other hand, are champs. The Mini sits in with my home theater stuff, and I don't think it's been updated since the day I bought it. And it's been running since that day as well (barely ever used though). iMac is still doing very well, just a few small hiccups.

    But yeah, it's just all the "behind the scenes" crap that builds and builds on computers.
     
  8. obeygiant macrumors 68040

    obeygiant

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2002
    Location:
    totally cool
    #8
    Yeah me too!
     
  9. zorinlynx macrumors 601

    zorinlynx

    Joined:
    May 31, 2007
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    #9
    Digital electronics do not "slow down" with age. They stay the same speed, and just seem slower since newer, faster stuff comes out.

    A Model T Ford probably seemed very fast when it came out, but I'm sure if you were stuck behind one on the interstate today you'd complain. Same deal with computers.
     
  10. iBreatheApple, Jan 16, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2015

    iBreatheApple thread starter macrumors 68020

    iBreatheApple

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2011
    Location:
    Florida
    #10
    That's an LCD, not a computer, though. :cool:

    Not necessarily; There's more to it. I partitioned the drive, saved all of my files to the new partition, erased my hard drive (sans new partition), erased free space, and installed the operating system as new. Then loaded all of my media/documents back and it is seemingly as fast as it was when I bought it three years ago. I guess it just gets bogged down with files left behind here and there from applications and such... I don't know. But it's not the fact that there are faster computers and it's not the new OS because there is no noticeable delay opening or executing anything with Mavericks (two generations newer than what this system launched with). Before the wipe last night, system preferences would take four to six bounces, safari could take up to ten, et cetera. Now I'm at zero and one bounce respectively. I've also installed the few applications I use back. I think computers (in general, including Windows) just leave behind much more waste than we realize, even when using apps like AppCleaner.

    Another observation, even before I wiped it I noticed that when my desktop began to get cluttered things in general seemed to lag more. A mere organizing into their destined folders (pics, music, et cetera) and off the desktop and it seemed to respond better. Not a ton, but noticeable. Don't know if that sounds inane or not but, in my situation, it seemed to be so.
     
  11. grandM macrumors 6502a

    grandM

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2013
    #11
    A former colleague of me, an IT specialist, said windows OS ought to be formatted each year. Another colleague was specialized at law. She never deleted a mail. Lol her pc got jammed all the time. I guess now she even has an even nicer outlook mail collection.
     
  12. iBreatheApple thread starter macrumors 68020

    iBreatheApple

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2011
    Location:
    Florida
    #12
    Interesting. Are you still in contact with this colleague? I'm curious to know what it is that causes this. It's not solely a bigger footprint in software and resource hunger... there's no way.
     
  13. smithrh macrumors 68020

    smithrh

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2009
    #13
    Expectations grow over time as well.

    (This question gets answered in an entirely different way if it was about Windows PCs. Bloatware, cramware, malware, commercialware, virus "protection" all get layered on over time and it becomes a slag of hurt. I know people that buy cheap $600 PCs from Best Buy, use them for 18 months, and throw them out in frustration... and buy another $600 PC from Best Buy.)
     
  14. grandM, Jan 16, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2015

    grandM macrumors 6502a

    grandM

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2013
    #14
    We only have occasional contact. I will not bother him with the exact why. In my opinion, and I am no IT noob, it has to do with several things. Let me put it this way. If you would not surf the web, did not install new software, did not go into upgrades, did sufficient defragmenting it would not slow down. Windows allows programs to affect existing .dll files which are a part of the OS. Over time this causes conflicts too. In general macOS does not hence keeping its OS cleaner. Rest assured: put your data on a separate partition and do a clean install of your original OS. A newer version is most likely more demanding. Things will get much faster. Having your data on a separate partition has the advantage you are less likely to loose the data and allows to easily reinstalling the OS. As for software: if you do not need it, don't install it. Oh and use a separate user account to surf the net.
     
  15. Melrose Suspended

    Melrose

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    #15
    Components age, and this effects performance.

    Yes, I perceive in retrospect that my first computer was slow, but during the time I was using it that machine was sole point of reference, and it got slower. Was this solely due to hardware degradation or was the problem software driven? Was it a share of both? Who knows. But components age, and operating systems do vary in quality.
     
  16. mooblie macrumors 6502

    mooblie

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2009
    Location:
    The Highlands, Scotland
    #16
    I don't think "this effects performance" is true.

    The vast majority of the computer's electronics run synchronously, driven from a quartz-crystal-controlled oscillator and its derivative frequencies, that do NOT slow down with age.

    True, there may be more instructions to wade through, but the components are in no sense running more slowly.
     
  17. Melrose Suspended

    Melrose

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    #17
    The processor itself might not age, but the HDD ages and this does impact performance, and bottlenecks the whole system. It doesn't matter whether the silicon is degrading (which it does) and throwing more errors or whether some other component is aging and showing the signs - the result is the same for the user. :)
     
  18. D.T. macrumors 603

    D.T.

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Location:
    Vilano Beach, FL
    #18
    Even if you consider things like electromigration, there won’t be any perceived performance degradation to the solid state components within a typical lifecycle of a component.

    However, electro-mechanical components like HDDs experience incremental failures that reduce their response time (overhead for error correction, etc.). Also, there’s the potential for thermal throttling as cooling components like fans lose efficiency.

    So sure, a computer as an integrated system can potentially experience slow down over time, but no, not all components are subject to a “wear and tear” performance hit.

    :)
     
  19. D.T. macrumors 603

    D.T.

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Location:
    Vilano Beach, FL
    #19
    I’d say most of what users experience as slow down outside of gradual component failures (like an HDD, see above!) is a combination of:

    1) OS inefficiency/overhead from additional services, libraries, larger memory footprint, file/data de-optimization in terms of layout/organization, etc. One reason why a fresh re-install tends to “speed things up” is you get back to an optimized install (that may still be a net slower environment from a previous version, but faster vs. a bloated configuration).

    2) Increasing demands from application software, not that much different than above, though less “global” performance degradation. Especially for people who use large, complex apps that receive constant feature bloat.

    3) User performance acclimation, where their expectations increase vs. a steady state (or even loss) of response time of their equipment, which I think is even worse now as people are exposed to different user experiences in PCs vs. mobile devices.

    Just my $0.02 :)
     
  20. Melrose Suspended

    Melrose

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    #20
    Exactly - from a geek standpoint, the computer doesn't "slow down" in every single corner of the system - but for the end user, it most certainly does.
     

Share This Page