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The good news is that this can be easy to fix.

For PC users running XP there’s a simple way to find out exactly what programs are running at any given time. Click "Start", then "Run", then type "perfmon" and hit the Enter key. Choose "System Monitor" and click the plus sign in the tool bar to show system performance in real time. (Tip courtesy PC World –

The "Explain" button can be used to explain the purpose of any program you’re running and with the aid of a quick Google search you can usually decide if you want to run that program in the future. You may have to delete a few programs, or reconfigure those programs so they don’t run all the time.

Providing you’re running a legitimate, registered copy of XP you can also download Microsoft’s Performance Monitor Wizard ( under Downloads).

When you’re looking into your memory performance, check the RAM counter to see how much space you have available – if you have less than 10 per cent, and you’re running all the programs you need, it may be time to expand your memory.

For CPU the mark is closer to 80 per cent, not including the short spikes you get when you’re opening programs and large files.

Also, if you’re running your hard drive 40 to 50 per cent of the time, you might need a larger disk, to defragment your existing drive, or delete a few files to free up space. Because hard drives don’t have to store information sequentially, it’s good to periodically clean out and reorganize your drive to reduce the time your CPU spends looking for data.

Apple users have it just as easy. Go to the Applications folder and look for the plain blue folder near the bottom marked "Utilities". Use the System Profiler to make sure your system has the technical specs necessary to use the programs you’re having trouble with, and the Activity Monitor to track CPU and RAM usage.

Once again, don’t shut down or erase anything without doing a Google search first. A good rule of thumb is to avoid deleting "root" files until you know what you’re dealing with.

If you want to organize your hard drive, start with the Disk Utility. You can also download or purchase third party software that can accomplish the same basic thing.

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