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This question came to mind while reading "Why does hardware get slower with time?"

As new versions of software are released, can they cause older hardware to become slower?

If this is the case, what is it about newer software that causes this? Is it just that the software is "bigger", with more features? Do they handle memory or other I/O types differently?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Moses, Tog, Mokubai, Simon Sheehan, mpy Oct 16 '13 at 7:20

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

If you're going to downvote, please tell me how I can improve the question. It's unhelpful otherwise. – Moses Oct 14 '13 at 13:48
I downvoted it for a couple of reasons. Firstly because I am not entirely sure what you are asking - your second paragraph almost sounds like you are asking whether normal software could permanently affect hardware the way firmware does. Secondly, the question was mostly answered on the very page you linked to by various people, e.g. ChrisF; it is also covered by some other questions, e.g.… – James Oct 14 '13 at 16:18

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The new software doesn't slow down the hardware, it simply uses new technology (new APIs) which require more computing power. Now the CPU is often too slow because older GPUs don't support hardware acceleration of the newer technologies like Flash, Direct2D, this causes a 100% cpu usage and this causes the slowdown compared to older software which was released at the time there hardware was up to date.

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Hardware doesn't get slower with time, unless it's failing. i.e. disk drive access times are consistent as a drive ages, provided there is nothing wrong with the drive. And before anyone says "well, it gets slower as it gets more full over time", no, that's not really true either.

New software won't slow down hardware. HOWEVER, much new software will add another component that loads when you start your system, and it's those almost-invisible programs that can cause serious slowness on your system. Most common of these are pre-loads of the program so it will seem to start faster (i.e. acrobat speedlaunch), and those which load updaters and/or "customer experience" components (again, Acrobat which loads its updater, java, MS Office, flash, etc.) Get a whole bunch of these check-for-updates programs running every time you start Windows, and each of them nibbles away at the available resources until things get visible slower & slower.

Also, various antivirus programs may slow your system, and sometimes a new release will cause visible sluggishness.

Last, since new programs tend to presume recent and more-capable hardware, running software built on this premise may cause serious slowness if your old system has lower-performance specs. i.e. many of today's programs presume you have at least 4GB of memory installed, but 2GB was common and many systems still have it, processors were slower etc. So when you use that old system to run what might be a trivial program on a brand-new and more-powerful system, you may see slowness. It is comparable to trying to view Hulu over a dial-up modem -- resource-intensive software which is run on less-resource-providing older hardware -will- be slower than on more-capable hardware (new or not).

But the basic premise of your question is misplaced. There's nothing in newer software that is somehow making that old hardware slower; most digital components simply perform consistently over the years. If your components are healthy, performance will be consistent. If this were not the case, file servers would not be useful for their typical 5-10 year lifespan.

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Your assertion that hard drives don't get slower as they get more full over time is incorrect (and appears to be in response to my post, so I want to clear the issue). Googling "Disk defrag" will explain how fragmentation slows down a hard disk, and how defragmenting fixes this problem. As your disk exceeds (very, very roughly) 90% full, and depending on the filesystem to some extent, defragmentation problems become very significant and can have a very marked impact on disk IO. – davidgo Oct 12 '13 at 7:14
Similarly, on some hard drives data written to the outer tracks can transfer much faster then the inner tracks (I've seen as much as 50% difference in speed in sequential reads), as the surface area of the outside tracks is much greater then the inner tracks. – davidgo Oct 12 '13 at 7:15
Fragmentation is not about aging, nor is free space. It's incorrect to try to correlate them by presuming that an older disk will be more full. A month-old disk can be more fragmented than a 5-year-old disk in different use. So, again, really, disks do -not- get slower as they get "full" or older. Access will be slower if a disk's content is highly fragmented, no matter what its age. And as we posted concurrently, my comments weren't in response to your post but rather Moses' original question & assumptions. – Debra Oct 12 '13 at 7:43

This is a very ill defined question, so difficult to answer.

Hardware does not necessarily get slower with time (except things like hard drives as they get full and disks get fragmented, but thats a function of space more accurately then time).

On Windows boxes particularly, what happens is that as more software is added, more shared libraries are added to the system clogging up system resources. Often new software will add new libraries, but the old ones are still kept lying around.

Often new software expects better hardware and makes use of that hardware to do things not capable of happening on older systems, so that is a factor. They might store more things in memory, or be coded less efficiently as resources are not as tight.

Of-course, sometimes software actually gets faster with age - Android and Web browsers are 2 examples of this.

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