A client recently called us suspecting her computer was "infected with a virus, spyware, or something like that". She explained that applications were mysteriously shutting down, data was appearing and disappearing on the screen, and various other gremlin-like activity was taking place. While there was a anti-virus/anti-malware application in place, it seemed unable to update itself, and Windows updates would also quit shortly after it began.
Many clients come to us with such issues. Our first order of business is to check the amount of RAM on their machine, and the size of their hard disk. Although most machines we spec have ample RAM, a significant portion of that memory is used up by multiple open tabs in your web browser, especially Chrome. And hard drive space is easily eaten up if cloud file share drives are sync’d to a computer.
In this client's case, the problem rested not in a virus (or viruses) but rather in a very, very full hard drive. The operating system typically needs 10% free space in order to run something called virtual memory; any less and funny things start to happen. The usual hard-drive full suspects are music files, videos, pictures, a sync’d cloud-storage file, and a trash folder (recycle bin) that has not been emptied.
Think of your computer as you would a house. It needs to be periodically cleaned, and the longer you go between cleanings, the messier things get in the interim, and the more time it takes you to do the next cleaning. Develop the small habits today so your computer remains a multiplier of your productivity rather than an obstacle to it:
Quit unused tabs in your web browser
Clean out your downloads folder daily
Delete duplicate photos prior to importing them to your computer
Adjust the sync settings for your Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, or other cloud storage files so that only the ones you need are sync’d to your computer, while the rest remain in the cloud.
Restart your computer at least weekly (40% of trouble tickets we see are resolved by a simple reboot).