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Total system lag. Very little drive activity.

Last response: in Systems
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August 26, 2009 4:16:27 AM

OVERVIEW
It now takes more than an hour to boot up windows, and when it does boot up, it will take several minutes for each action to complete – like clicking the mouse. The drive light only shows sporadic activity. The taskbar does not load all of the system tray icons and the system clock will stall and then skip ahead. I want to buy a new PC for myself, but I would like to upgrade this PC for my wife.

HISTORY
• The PC is almost 5 years old, but it has worked faithfully all this time.
• Shortly after getting the PC, I moved. At this time, there was some indication that the BIOS was not updated. I do not remember the specific reason, but I believe that I had problem with the I/O port on my MB and it was diagnosed by a friend as probably needing a BIOS update. I took it to a computer shop and they said the same thing.
• The other indication that the BIOS needed to be updated is that the PC would fail to enter sleep mode. It would attempt to enter sleep mode, and then immediately it would wake up again. I was told this was a BIOS issue.
• I was, however, unable to verify the exact BIOS version needed, and my MB model had several versions available – so I never completed the BIOS update.
• I am not sure now if it was ever really needed, as the computer has had several new devices and 2 new graphics cards installed since then, all without much problem.
• Some time ago, the C drive began to fill up. I solved this problem by relocating the MY DOCUMENTS folder to another drive.
• Recently the C drive began to fill up and I was down to 1 GB of free space. I deleted some old files and removed some old software and it is up to 2.3 GB now.
• The page file was set to 1500MB for both the minimum and maximum size.

THE FULL STORY
• The PC was unplugged for about 2 weeks when we were on holidays, and upon our return, the computer failed the POST test. There was some kind of BIOS message on the screen. I ignored it and rebooted the computer. It passed POST and booted properly.
• After a few days of running, the PC seemed a bit sluggish in some actions. Delays following mouse clicks, but nothing very noticeable.
• I got into the habit of rebooting every 12 hours or so, and that seemed to fix the problems.
• Finally, I was playing a game when the game locked up. I closed it down from the process list of the task manager. It was then that I noticed that Adobe Distiller (IIRC) started up spontaneously.
• I had declined to update my Adobe product earlier that day, so I just closed that process also.
• The Adobe process started again on its own – and I closed it. This repeated 2 more times.
• Then the PC just froze. No programs were responding and I was unable to switch from window to window on the task bar. The task bar was unresponsive.
• I tried to reboot the computer from the task manager – which was still working.
• The PC seemed to not want to shut down, so I did a hard reboot.
• After the PC rebooted, it passed the POST then loaded the “Windows loading” page.
• Normally after this page displays, there is a short period of a black screen while the monitor seems to readjust the resolution before showing the login page.
• This time it took nearly 10 minutes to get from the windows loading page to the login page.
• When the login page finally appears, it takes even longer to finish loading windows.
• I click the login user button and the windows wallpaper will load – but there is no task bar, no start button, nothing.
• It can take more than 20 minutes for the task bar to appear, but you can not activate it. The hourglass symbol appears when you mouse over anything on the task bar.
• While this is happening, there is very little drive activity. There are very long periods of no activity, and then the drive light will appear for a short time.
• I can open the task manager and watch the processes as they load. It seems to stall after a few processes are loaded, and then it can take 3 minutes for each new process to load.
• This will go on for more than 45 minutes. The system tray icons never do properly load.
• Finally the computer is usable – but it does not work properly. Each action may take seconds or even minutes to register.
• Example: a mouse click may take 10 seconds or 3 minutes before it will register.
• I have also noticed that during the windows loading period, the system clock in the system tray does not seem to work properly. The time will sometimes freeze and then jump ahead to get the correct time.

THE SPECS
CPU: AMD PC3200 (I forget the exact speed and I am not in front of my PC at this time)
MB: A8V-E DELUXE
RAM: 4GB PC3200 DDR SDRAM (IIRC)
CPU cooler: big and ugly with a fan
Video Card: nvidia 3200GTS (IIRC – most recent upgrade)
Power Supply: not sure of model, but it is a 550W IIRC
Hard drive(s): ah, several. My C drive is a 20GB drive that has only 2.3GB free
Operating System: Win XP
Case: Older model Antec with lots of fans.

STEPS TAKEN TO RESOLVE CONFLICT
1. Windows defender scan
2. Virus scan – using Trend Micro’s online beta scanner
3. Adaware and Registry booster (Uniblue)
4. Updated windows to SP3
5. Disabled some start up processes – like the printer and adobe and quicktime – nothing essential.
6. Booted up in safe mode and had the same problems (problem begins right after POST and before login, or before you get to choose safe mode)
7. Performed a system rollback to 2 months ago, when there were no issues or conflicts (and before the installation of the Adobe products)
8. Cried a little.
9. Came here to seek advice.

Please note that most of the actions above were painfully slow to complete – it takes an hour before I can actually open a program, and then the programs only seem to work in fits and starts as the drive light only shows sporadic and short bursts of activity. Some of these activities took 12 hours to complete.


August 26, 2009 5:31:05 AM

My apologies if this is too long. I was following the rough guidelines posted in the HOW TO notes for this section.
a b B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2009 5:51:29 AM

To rule out possible hard drive failure i suggest running a disk check on your C drive, i suggest doing it overnight as it can take quite a while. Im not sure how long it has been since they made 20GB hard drives but i know it has been a while and your hard drive has likely exceeded its life expectancy at this point.

Do you have a case speaker installed? If so do you hear any beep codes while it is starting up? A single short beep indicates a successful post, any others indicate some issue or another.
Related resources
August 26, 2009 5:56:47 AM

hunter315 said:
To rule out possible hard drive failure i suggest running a disk check on your C drive, i suggest doing it overnight as it can take quite a while. Im not sure how long it has been since they made 20GB hard drives but i know it has been a while and your hard drive has likely exceeded its life expectancy at this point.

Do you have a case speaker installed? If so do you hear any beep codes while it is starting up? A single short beep indicates a successful post, any others indicate some issue or another.


Case speaker - yes, and I still get the single, successful POST beep when I power up.

Hmm... didn't consider the possibility it was a drive failure. The drive in question was actually recycled from an older computer... so it IS old.

Good idea about the disk check. Are there any utilities that you can suggest? I just downloaded the Ultimate Boot CD as suggested in the HOW TO thread, but I think I have to follow some complicated instructions to extract the files, right?
a b B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2009 6:05:05 AM

Use the disk checker built into windows, start>applications>system tools>disk check. Check both boxes, it will tell you that it needs full control and will do it at next reboot, hit okay, then reboot, watch it for like the first 15 or 20 minutes, if it starts throwing up bad sectors that early then your drive is basically toast.

Had a hard drive start failing on me a few years ago, did a disk check, turned out it had two dozen bad sectors so i swapped it out and all my issues went away.
a b B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2009 7:35:59 AM

That's what I was going to suggest after reading. Just finished repairing a notebook that was dropped while downloading a rather large file, and it performed exactly as you indicated. It was a rather zippy little book before, and after the "incident" it would take 10-15 minutes to boot Mozilla. Something quick you can try, open your case and boot as normal, and listen to your drive. On this notebook, it made lots of silly sounds a hard disk isnt supposed to make. I guess I really dont know how to describe it, but you know the sound when your disk is seeking and reading, well, it would just burst in little 1/2 second increments or so. I'd look there first.
August 26, 2009 8:51:01 AM

If your hard disc checks out okay I would reformat and reinstall windows. It is possible windows has been corrupted and is causing the problems. Either way, this might be a good excuse to buy a new HDD....you can get them pretty cheap these days.
a c 136 B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2009 10:52:21 AM

the hard drive is an IDE drive witgh a big flat ribbon cable . Either the drive is about to die completely , or the cable is damaged . Really slow , but still functioning is usually the IDE cable
Its also too full .

Adobe software is pretty invasive . I dont think thats a symptom
a b B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2009 11:54:52 AM

Five years old...have you ever replaced the CMOS battery? Check the hard drive parameters in your BIOS and make sure they are [still] correct. After that, I agree that your drive and cable would be other things to check. Hard drives are cheap now; buy a new one, re-install your software, and see how it runs.
While your system is slow, do you see what looks like a lot of activity on your router or cable/DSL modem? If so, your system may be busy sending out SPAM. I would not count on an online anti-virus scanner to not have been thwarted by a bad-enough infection. I think Kaspersky might have a bootable CD that can be used to scan your system; not sure, but I believe that's what my father used when he suspected that he was infected.
August 26, 2009 11:34:25 PM

Ok, I ran checkdisk on my PC. It rebooted to start it and when it finished it didn't display any errors. It was not showing me a graphical representation of the disk - did you mean to run a disk defragmenter? I will try that next.

Anyways, it said the disk was fine. Then I swapped out the cable. Same problem.

There are 2 more interesting things that I observed. First, the checkdisk seemed to have the full cooperation of the hard drive. It didn't seem to have any periods of inactivity. This was a command line program that ran in a kind of safe mode, you know, with the blue screen and white text...

The other thing is that when I opened my computer, it gave me an error message that said that MY DOCUMENTS could not be found. Remember, I moved this to another drive to solve my problems of space on C. I reset to default on C, but did not move the files over (I will deal with that later).

After all of this, the problem persists.

So, what is the consensus on this now? It does not seem to be a cable issue. It is not a faulty path to MY DOCUMENTS. It does not appear to be a bad HDD - but I will try to run a defragmenter on it..

Where does this leave us? A bad CMOS battery, BIOS problem or act of God?

Thanks for all the help so far.
August 27, 2009 2:12:43 AM

It is possible windows has been corrupted and is causing the problems. Either way, this might be a good excuse to buy a new HDD....you can get them pretty cheap these days.
August 27, 2009 1:58:24 PM

Ok, here is an update. I have run a few diagnostics from different "recover disk" compilations, including the Ultimate Boot CD mentioned in the sticky threads. Memtest and all tests so far showed no problems.

Here is where it gets strange. The problem is solved. The PC runs smoothly now.

How? On a strange hunch I decide to pull out one of the extra drives - the one that had the MY DOCUMENTS on it.

I have 3 drives in this beast. 2 older IDE drives - older than the computer - and one is the C drive. The other is the secondary slave. The 3rd drive is my NEW drive - purchased when I got the computer. It is a SATA drive. Bigger and faster, but I was too lazy to reinstall Windows on it and make it the master. So, I just plugged it in. It ended up playing host to MY DOCUMENTS and acting as a general purpose storage drive.

I unplugged it and now the PC runs normally. Plug it in and it screws up.

So why would that storage drive make my computer act like that?

Also, the BIOS seems to think the 3rd drive is a SCSI drive. Not sure why.

Last question - what are the chances of data recovery off of that drive - and how do I go about getting that data when it so obviously doesnt want to let the computer work when it is plugged in.
August 27, 2009 6:20:55 PM

manually set the drive to sata in the bios. In general it is not a good idea to mix sata and ide drives
!