Many is the letter or email I've read from a PC Advisor reader in despair over how to fix a PC that used to run like (very fast) clockwork and now chugs along like an old banger on its last legs. The crucial line has often been 'even after I reinstalled Windows'.
This article appears in the December 06 issue of PC Advisor. Available now in all good newsagents.
Wiping the disk clean can certainly make all the difference to how your PC runs. It's just that, unless you truly know what you're doing and take suitable precautions beforehand, it can make things far worse. You absolutely must make comprehensive backups and get hold of essentials such as the recovery disc.
Most times, it's better to address the cause rather than the symptoms.
A sluggish system is being hindered by something, whether it's simply laden down with far too heavy a burden of assorted files, held back by the onslaught of multiple autostarting applications or having to chase files and applications from pillar to post across a multitude of drives. If Windows is juddering along but continues to operate, it probably needs an overhaul rather than a full operating system makeover.
Finding out what's at the root of the problem can be a lengthy process, but it's worth going through and tracking down the cause. Some things are easily fixed, such as adding a touch more RAM or archiving old files to DVD. In other cases, rogue files may be clogging up the system or conflicting with different programs. At this point, a deep breath may be required before you start a systematic inventory process in which anything that can't be readily accounted for gets the old heave-ho.
It may sound like a less efficient way of fixing an uncooperative PC, but it will give you a much better idea of what's actually going on inside and should make you aware much sooner the next time things start to slide.