Major Slowdown (Dreaded Beach Ball)


Any help much appreciated. I’m maybe slightly a notch above a novice, as I’ve had my Powerbook for a year and never had any major problems till now.

First off, I have a Powerbook G4, 1.5 GHz, 512 RAM, 80 GB with 60 GB left on the hard drive, running Panther 10.3.9 or whatever the latest version was that I downloaded a couple of months ago.

This is insanely frustrating. I just arrived at my destination after a short road trip, unpacked and turned on my Powerbook and immediately noticed that it took longer to turn on than usual. Normally, it takes about 30 seconds or so. Now, it’s taking several minutes, even after re-booting. Now, when I try to open the hard drive or a document or even anything from the pulldown menu, it freezes up and gives me the swirling beach ball for at least a minute or so. I also noticed a couple of things on the toolbar -- it no longer gives the phone icon for internet connect and it no longer tells the percentage of battery power left.

I should also mention that I first started experiencing slight but not paralyzing slowdowns about three or four weeks ago. I first noticed something strange when I tried to connect to the internet. My Yahoo homepage started loading, then froze up, and suddenly a gray screen rolled up over it and announced that I needed to restart my computer again. I experienced this maybe two or three more times, and a simple reboot was all that was needed to fix this, so I guess I'm guilty of ignoring an incipient problem and hoping for the best.

But now, what's been happening tonight is totally different. I’ve read some of the earlier postings on slowdowns where people have recommended to empty the Safari cache, which I’ve done. I don’t know what defrag means but have read enough posts to know I’m scared of it. I’ve also read where people say that there are no viruses for OS X. Could it be a spyware thing? I’m right now trying to open the pulldown menu in the Finder option, but the beach ball has been swirling for ten minutes at a time, even after three re-boots. Please stop me form hurling my poor Powerbook against a wall and offer some suggestions. Thanks.