Shoe or balance?

A quick learner from Minnesota says:
I just moved into a house built in 1995. There are 15 double-hung tilt-in windows. I can't find any identifying information on any of them. Most are incredibly difficult to open and close. I've tried adjusting the spiral balances, but still have a lot of trouble opening and closing bottoms and especially the tops. How do I know if the problem is with the shoes or the balances? How do I know if the spiral balances are broken of functioning properly? I'm not sure exactly how either is supposed to operate correctly.
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Tom from SWISCO responded:
If adjusting the spiral balances doesn't do anything, then disconnect them from the pivot shoe and try to manually slide the pivot shoe up and down in the track with a screwdriver. Is it getting hung up? If not, then it's probably the spiral balances.
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