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What are the technical reasons for the gradual degrade in performance of computers over time

I've always wondered about this, if this is a myth or if there's a certain explanation to it... But does a computer really get any notable slower and gets a reduce of "lifetime" when installing something on it? I just cannot see how, if someone would be so nice to explain why. Well the SSD/harddrive might get a minimal lifetime reduction, but is this something really to care about? Or should someone optimally care about not installing any programs at all, if not necessary?

Let say I use Windows 7, a new computer and install a couple of programs like Adobe Photoshop and such. Why would the computer become slower?

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marked as duplicate by Indrek, Xavierjazz, avirk, Diogo, Oliver Salzburg Aug 19 '12 at 15:00

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3 Answers

A computer should not get slower when you install a new program.

It will get slower if:

  • The new program is an update of an old program and the new program is slower (e.g. updating office 2003 to 2010 will seem to slow office use down.)
  • When running out of disk space (Windows really likes a few hundred MB free on C:
  • When the old program leaves cruft behind.

I never had problems with computers getting slow over time, but I do the following things:

  • Do not install and subsequently deinstall) a lot lot of small programs. No 'helpful toolbars' etc. If I want to test something I do that in a VM, keeping the main host clean.
  • Do reboot after a deinstallation
  • Do a disk clean after a deinstallation.
  • Do a reg clean after a deinstallation.
  • Upgrades are deinstallations (via above 3 steps) followed by installing the new version.

Following this I kept a win95 system (my parents desktop) working for 12 years, and my current laptop and desktop ever since win7 came out, without reinstalling the OS and without slowdowns.

So no: It does not need to slow down your computer.

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What slows it down is the fragmentation, and trash that programs left in the hard drive.

  • Yes, every write, your hard drive gets 0,0000[etc]1% more used until it fails. But thats not directly caused by installing programs.(Just writes(when you install a program there are not many more that one write (per-sector)))

  • When your hard drive is fragmentated, the operative system has to
    join every piece of the file before it reads totaly, so it is a huge slowdown.

  • Programs may also put loads of useless things into registry, and
    other thigs like that, what slows down the registry query's.

EDIT: Not to mention when a program daemon runs on background slowing the computer, probably doing useless things like checking for updates or events (or worst, like spying the user)

In your case, adobe programs normally are splitted in lots of different files. Everytime that you start the program it loads every single (needed) file.(That takes time) But if a file is updated or simply changes, the size of the new one, will not be exaclty the same.

If is too big, fill's the space left blank, and makes a fragment, writing the rest somewhere else.

Too small, and remains a "blank place" where a fregment from something else may fit.

Adobe also runs a background daemon and a couple of services, like bridge etc...

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In theory, no (*). In practice, yes.

The problem is that many (though far from all) programs install one form or another of "start-up hook" or add new file types to the list of those to be treated specially or otherwise add "configuration information" to your Windows installation. If/when you later remove the program, very often some of these modifications are not undone. Or when the program is updated, some of the old modifications may be left unused but still installed.

Over time, all of these modifications collect as a sort of sludge that slows the system, some only modestly, others quite severely. The worst are generally "start-up hooks" and the like that leave background tasks running.

(*) Actually, installing ANYTHING on the box will technically slow it down, since the installed thing must be placed in directories, and directories have, at best, log N performance. But this slow down is quite modest.

(And in the above, I'm ignoring disk fragmentation, et al. Fragmentation happens pretty much independently of what you install on a box and is relatively easy to control. Plus most modern file systems don't suffer much performance drag from fragmentation.)

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