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Issue #767: April 3-9, 2022

Q: I have a 2021 Gateway solid state drive laptop. I was using it to stream to my TV with a HDMI cable. Somehow my computer became really slow and then unresponsive. I disconnected the cable, but that didn’t help. I had to perform a recovery using my external backup drive. Which brings up another question of how to backup, because I couldn’t figure which file to use in the external drive. I did a windows recovery and had to reinstall a couple programs. Now I am afraid to stream again. Please help.

– Jim F.
Destin, Florida

A: It probably goes without saying that what you’re describing about your computer becoming really slow is not normal.  That is to say, I can’t simply say “Oh, you have so-and-so set wrong.  Uncheck that box, and everything will be fine.”  In fact, I can honestly say that I don’t fully understand your description, since while you’re streaming, you generally aren’t interacting with the computer, and so I’m wondering exactly what it is that’s “slow and then unresponsive”.  My only guess is that you mean that this happens when you’re through streaming and try to do something else, and then when you click things or try to run other programs, everything takes longer than expect.

The specs you provided for the laptop sound like it should be a solid performer.  Not great, but certainly adequate to perform the tasks we’re talking about without leaving you frustrated over performance issues.  My first thought was inadequate RAM, but you said your system has 8 gigs, which should be plenty.  I would suggest, however, that you check to see if the system is actually reporting the full 8 gigs, and that something else isn’t going on to make part of your RAM unusable.

You should also check the Windows Task Manager when your system is underperforming to see where all of its capacity is being used, and by what.  The key combination [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Esc] is the fastest and easiest way into Task Manager.  Depending on how it’s set-up, you might need to click “More Details” at the bottom of the window.  I recommend the “Performance” tab to see system utilization of CPU, memory, hard disk, and Wi-Fi, and the “Process” tab to see what is actually consuming the resources.  When you’re not actively running something, your CPU usage should be sporadic spikes, and your disk usage should be near zero.  The performance tab can tell you a lot about how your system is doing, since it has graphs that show usage over the last 60 seconds.  If you have more information to offer to me after giving your system a good look-see, either comment on this article on my website, or submit another question.

As for back-ups, I last discussed this topic in January (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. #754, January 2-8, 2022) in which reader Doug F. had a setup similar to yours, in which he was backing up to an external drive.  In Doug’s case, he had amassed a library of files, and wanted to know how to use them to perform restore operations.  I’ll give you the same advice as I gave Doug, which is to use the built-in backup facility built right-in to Windows. It’s available on the Control Panel, and it’s labeled “Backup and Restore (Windows 7)”.  Don’t ask me why they felt it necessary to throw that Win7 reference into the name.  This tool will do everything you need to do all sorts of backups, from full system backups to incremental backups that contain only the files that have changed since the last backup.  You can also choose for yourself which drives, folders, or even specific files are backed up.

I’m a little unclear on what you mean by “I couldn’t figure which file to use in the external drive”.  In the context of performing a backup, you don’t really “use” any file. Microsoft has really dumbed down what you need to know to perform a backup.  In the backup utility, you tell it where you want to save the backup (in your case, the external drive), then you tell it what to back up, and Windows is perfectly happy to select for you, which works better than you might think, since it is well aware of what on the drive is Windows itself, what are programs, and what are your data files.  Or, as I said, you can choose all on your own what you want to backup. 

That’s it.  You don’t need to supply any file names for it to use to store the backup – it does it all on its own.  If the time ever comes when you need to perform a restore, it identifies the backups not by some obscure forgettable filename, but by the date and time the backups were performed – a far more useful piece of data.

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