Word Slowdowns

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 20, 2011)

It seems that every new version of Word gets a bit slower than the version before. (This is typically only noticeable if you don't buy a newer, faster computer whenever you upgrade your version of word--grin!) This is to be expected as new features are added and the program becomes larger. There are times, however, when Word may become excruciatingly slow. In these instances, there could be other factors coming into play. In fact, there are many other possible culprits, and you will need to check them all out to determine what could be causing the problem on your system.

The first most likely cause is Find Fast. In Word 97, when you do a default installation of Word, there is a utility program installed in your Startup folder called Find Fast. This program allows Word to find files a bit faster, but it does this by performing background indexing of the files on your hard drive. The downside is that there are times that the background work done by Find Fast can bring your system to its knees. The only solution for this is to remove Find Fast completely. (Most people never need the program anyway.) To make sure it is removed from your system, perform the following general tasks:

  1. Make sure you delete the Find Fast shortcut from the Startup folder.
  2. Double-click on the Find Fast icon in the Control Panel and delete any indexes listed there.

Another possible cause could be related to Outlook. Both Word and Outlook (particularly the latter) are resource hogs that demand tons of resources. If those resources are not available, then your entire system slows down as information is swapped to and from the hard drive. Some readers report that they have 32 MB systems and still won't use Word and Outlook together. (They suggest having at least 48 to 64 MB of RAM.)

Still another problem could be related to your video drivers. You can test this by booting your system in safe mode to see if the problem goes away. If it does, a quick trip to the video card maker's Web site should yield the latest and greatest drivers for their board.

One reader indicated that he had seen this problem in relation to printer drivers. His problem was caused by having an old version of the printer file LPT.VXD on the PC. This not only caused erratic printing on HP DeskJet 500 printers, but also caused the screen refresh rates to drop drastically. To fix this, he downloaded a service pack from Compaq called printupd4.exe. This replaced the old version of LPT.VXD with a newer version and fixed the problem. This fix will work for other systems besides those from Compaq, as well.

If your machine is connected to a network, then you need to examine what network resources you are providing. If your system is open to others, then they can affect the speed at which you do work. For instance, if they access files on your system, then while those files are being accessed, there is less CPU time for your tasks. Also, if your system is doing double-duty as the network print server, then you can see drastic slowdowns as the print jobs are serviced.

If the slowdowns occur when you are working with large (huge) documents, it could be because of Word doing periodic AutoSaves. In these instances, you can decrease the frequency at which AutoSave kicks in, or you can turn it off entirely.

You can also check your system to see if there are silent "memory hogs" running around. These include large wallpaper screens, many fonts, and lots of add-ins in the system tray. Each of these consume memory and can have a negative impact on overall performance.

Finally, there are hardware solutions. As you might have guessed, you can always get more RAM or a faster hard drive. You can tell if either of these will help by noticing if there is a lot of disk activity occurring during the slowdowns. In these cases, make sure you increase the size of your swap file before spending the money on more RAM and a new disk drive. Defragmenting your hard drive can help, too. Faster video cards can also speed up response of Word, and Windows in general.

Of course, the suggestions listed here assume you are using Word under Windows 95 or Windows NT. If you are using an older version of Windows, then you can speed up your programs by following the regular DOS memory tricks. You can find information on these in any competent DOS manual, and in the on-line help provided with later versions of DOS.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1269) applies to Microsoft Word 97.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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