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Slow computer: Time for a new hard drive, or is something else the problem?

Four years ago, I built a computer, and put in a refurbished 1TB Blue WD HDD. My computer worked great.

It's slow now, particularly when I have large context switch (For example, if I leave Civ 5 up in the background and alt-tab to photoshop CS 2, it can be unresponsive for up to a minute before working at a low frame rate for 2-3 minutes before working perfectly. It happens again when I switch back. It didn't do this before.) Accessing files from disk in a game produces noticeable lag (using a skill with an animation not yet cached by the game can freeze the game for a half-second or so as the animation loads)

I suspect the problem is the hard drive wearing out, but I'm not 100% sure. I think it's the hard drive at fault because when I first load a program, or when I switch between program, the response time and active time as reported by Windows' resource monitor skyrockets (http://i.imgur.com/1eF1Ijg.png) I've heard response times of 10 ms are average, 50 are bad, and over 500 represent a serious problem with the drive. When my computer is idle, the resource monitor reports a 30 ms response rate. When it's doing something (loading a game, running CrystalDiskMark, etc) response times are generally in the 300-400 range, sometimes in the thousands.

I've run CrystalDiskMark, and I *think* my scores are low compared to other benchmarks I've seen: http://i.imgur.com/6IixRuo.png

I worry my hard drive is wearing out, and I'm considering replacing it. Are there any other explanations for my symptoms?

More info on my system available upon request. Also willing to download and run other benchmarking or troubleshooting software.
12 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about slow computer time hard drive problem
  1. WD provide "Lifeguard" for health checking their HDDs. I'd back up anything you can't afford to lose (incase your HDD is failing) and run that:
    https://support.wdc.com/downloads.aspx?lang=en

    It does sound like a failing HDD to me - and given it was refurbished prior to your ownership 4 years ago, that's not really surprising.

    Do you make regular backups of anything you cannot afford to lose?

    Please post your full system spec.
  2. All data seems fine for now, my backup schedule is irregular and could definitely use work. (Last backup about two years ago)

    By full system spec do you mean the components that went into the build?

    If so:

    MOTHERBOARD: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128562
    GRAPHICS: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127745
    POWER SUPPLY: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817151094
    MEMORY: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231325
    HARD DRIVE: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822236339
    PROCESSOR: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115229
    CPU FAN: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835103099

    OS: Windows 7 home premium.

    With an expert saying it's probably a failing HDD, I'll buy a new HDD ASAP. Probably a new WD 1 or 2 TB Black.
  3. I would definitely back up now, as an HDD can go at any time. (if there's anything you can't afford to lose, that is).

    The HDD failing isn't necessarily definitive - unless you can post results of the Lifeguard software and it's test?

    While replacing the HDD, if you don't already have one, you might want to consider adding an SSD as a boot drive (min 240GB IMO).
  4. Talonos said:
    More info on my system available upon request.

    Can you post screenshot from Hdtune health?
  5. The result of the Lifeguard Quick test was "Pass", which was... less specific than I was hoping. (http://i.imgur.com/7DrBSLs.png) Did I do it right?

    I closed all visible programs on my computer and rand HDTune Benchmark, getting a strange looking result: http://i.imgur.com/RgQ7v2M.png

    HD-Tune Error Scan with "Quick Scan" box checked looks good: http://i.imgur.com/xfYkFeW.png

    HD-Tune Health seems to have absolutely nothing in it...? http://i.imgur.com/Ax7v1zQ.png

    Thanks for the troubleshooting resources. You're asking about programs I didn't even know existed.
  6. Talonos said:
    HD-Tune Health seems to have absolutely nothing in it...? http://i.imgur.com/Ax7v1zQ.png

    That's probably because your HDD is connected to Marvel sata controller (grey ports on motherboard).
    Can you move your hdd sata connection to another sata port (white or black)?
    Just make sure bios boot priorities don't change after that.

    Edit: Another possibility, that SMART has been disabled on sata controller, where hdd is connected.
  7. Sure. That'll take a bit longer to do due to my desk configuration. One moment...
  8. Best answer
    SMART says - the drive is in perfect health.

    How much ram does your system have? If it's 8GB or less, then that might be a problem, when running multiple memory hungry applications.
  9. Honestly...the answer to your dilemma is an SSD boot drive. Your system practically cries out for it. If you can possibly swing for a SSD (preferably not less than 250 - 256 GB of disk-space), go for it. It will make a world of difference in your day-to-day PC operations. And it's the one component that you can transfer over to a new system if & when that time arrives.
  10. 8 GB. That would have been my next guess after the HDD, too.

    It wouldn't explain why the hard drive is at 100% active time when I alt-tab, unless virtual memory or swap space is still a thing an OS does these days. If it is, then I guess lack of ram could stress the hard drive, too.

    I also doesn't explain the 600ms+ response time reported in the task manager, back in this screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/1eF1Ijg.png But then, the HDTune Benchmark isn't reporting such a high response time, so I'm all sorts of confused.

    EDIT Re. SSD: If my hard drive isn't actively dying, I'll hold off and get an SSD boot drive for sure. I get a new job next month, and if I can hold off for a couple of paychecks I'll be in a position to put much more money into this thing. If my hard drive IS dying soon, I'll go with the cheap, immediate option to make sure my data is safe.
  11. Talonos said:
    It wouldn't explain why the hard drive is at 100% active time when I alt-tab, unless virtual memory or swap space is still a thing an OS does these days. If it is, then I guess lack of ram could stress the hard drive, too.

    Virtual memory is still a thing and swapping data in and out of pagefile becomes problematic, when system is low on physical memory.

    For disk sub-system improvement, you could try:
    defragmenting your HDD;
    moving your game to a different physical drive.

    Getting SSD actually would be even better.
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