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How fast a computer runs is determined by these factors:
The processing speed of the main chip, the CPU.
CPU speed is measured in Mhz, (megahertz).

A 2MHz CPU is faster than, but NOT twice as fast as, a 1Mhz CPU.
< This is a CPU.
It plugs into the motherboard and has a cooling fan fitted.
How much memory is available.  
The amount of memory required to run programs has steadily increased.
Today, minimum memory requirements are c 1 to 2 Gb, (Gigabytes).
Older computers will not have this much.
Programs will therefore run slower than they would on more modern computers.
< This is memory.
Memory modules are pushed into slots in the motherboard.
The state of the hard drive or disk.  
Copyright  FreeFoto.com As with memory, hard disk sizes have increased with time.
When Windows need for memory exceeds that which is available, it tends to temporarily store data on the hard drive.
Here, a large hard drive helps.
< This is a hard drive.
Pic is Copyright © FreeFoto.com

There appears to be some confusion, with new users, about hard drive and memory.
This is a hard disk
The hard drive or hard disk, is where programs, information, data, etc., is stored.

Peel the top back, and you would see a disk upon which your data is stored.

It is permanent storage.
Rather like a larder fridge >>
 
 
And memory, (again).    
What memory contains is lost when the computer is switched off.

So, you may be writing a letter, or similar.
If your computer is accidentally switched off, before you save it, you loose the letter.

If you try to end a program, without saving your work, you will be prompted to save, (or not save).
Saving stores it on your hard drive.
Memory is temporary storage and a work area.
Rather like a kitchen table >>
Keep it clean!  
With computers, particularly the older ones, it helps to keep the hard disk clean of temporary Internet files and other dross.
Windows provides tools for this:
 
 

Delete all the files that you are sure you won't need anymore.
Check the Recycle Bin for stuff you may not wish deleted.
Empty the Recycle Bin.

In Windows use:
Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup
Select the drive you want to clean, usually C:. if you have more than one.
It will then analyse the drive.
Wait.
Select all boxes, then click on 'OK'

 
  Defrag' your hard drive  
  Having cleaned the drive up, you can further improve things by tidying the files up on your hard drive.
Many files will be spread over the disk. These are fragmented files.
De-fragmentation brings these fragments together.
And reduces the time needed to access that file.

In Windows use:
Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter
This will allow you to analyse each drive and will tell you if that drive needs defrag'.
Warning: Actual defrag process can take hours.
 

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