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Super Slow HDD

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September 24, 2011 5:34:23 PM

I have know idea why, but my 500GB HD's performance is getting very bad. I'm using an ASUS G73JW that is about 8 months old and it has a 7200rpm ST9500420S hard drive. My most recent test (using performance test 7.0) shows that it's reading and writing at about 20 MB/s and random read/write at about 4MB/s. From what I've read on the web, I should be getting around 80-100 MB/s for reading and writing.

This is what I have done so far:
Defragged
Ran Checkdisk (no errors)
Did some disk cleanup
Currently running HDTune's error scan (so far no errors)

Here is the results of a recent scan from HDTune



I see huge spikes in the transfer rate graph and i see a lot of outlying points for the access time graph. What could possibly cause these problems. The only thing that i see that is wrong with my HD is that it is just under halfway full which isnt that bad. This problem really makes my games load slow and its creating frequent lag spikes in certain programs. I'm using Windows 7 btw. Any help is appreciated, I really want to get to the bottom of this. Thanks in advance.

More about : super slow hdd

September 24, 2011 5:42:04 PM

Tried changing your sata controller driver from the standard win 7 one to the mobo manufacturer one or vice versa?
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a c 353 G Storage
September 24, 2011 5:45:44 PM

I noticed that your access time is very high, I though it should be around 12 mSec.

How full is the drive?? if you are approacing 60->80 full you will start to see a slow down.

If your system is using the Intel chipset, have you updated to the latest RST drivers, Last check they were at 10.6.
Driver should be aSTRor (Unsure, down load AS SSD open it and look upper left and it will identify the driver being used.

Have you looked at background programs running?

PS the displayed cpu utilization is garbage, or real, sell system for 1 Billion dollars. LOL
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September 24, 2011 6:17:24 PM

@plasmastorm I have not done anything with drivers, after a quick look at the device Windows told me that an update wasn't necessary. Where would i get the other driver to install it? I have no idea which one I have right now, I have done driver updates automatically to this point. I'm pretty sure I know how to update manually I just don't know where to get the files.

@RetiredChief The drive has two partitions one for the operating system and one for data and whatnot. On C:\ there is 62GB / 118GB free and on D:\ there is 204GB / 329GB free. So its only about 40-50% full. The significant programs I am running in the background are NetLimiter, Kaspersky, and BitMeter2, but when i ended these processes I still had the same problems with games and the tests turned out the same. And as you can probably tell by my above response, I am kind of a driver noob. I know that I have an Intel chipset family but in windows device manager there is like 30 different things to do with Intel. I am thinking that "Intel(R) 5 Series/3400 Series Chipset Family PCI Express Root Port 1 - 3B42" is what you are referring to but windows says its drivers from 2006 are the best (its version number was 6.1.7). What is AS SSD? I only saw things to do with solid state drives on Google.
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a c 353 G Storage
September 24, 2011 7:02:30 PM

Yes AS ssd is primarilly for SSDs, however it does work with HDDs. What you are primarily interested in is the driver and that is shown in upper left when you open the program - Do not need to run the bench mark.
http://downloads.guru3d.com/AS-SSD-Benchmark-download-2...
Ex: for my WD640 it shows "iaSTor - OK"

Intel RST driver http://downloadcenter.intel.com/SearchResult.aspx?lang=...
Link takes you to the page where you select operating sstem (Me Windows 7 64 Bit) then it will show 5 drivers availble You want the top one - Ver 10.6.0.1022 (6/8/2011).

This is what I'm using on my Samsung RF711-S01 Sandybridge laptop ( 3 Mon old and drivers were out of date)

From My I5-750 (currently using)
In control panel, device manager, IDE ATA ....., Intel(R) 5 series/3400 Series..... (My entry). is the one you want to update.

I simply downloaded it and ran it.

Added PS. I don't think the new driover will help as you indicated that it use to run fine and just started to slow down - still would install the latest drive. Maake shre your Drive is in Ahci mode and is not ide. If IDE mode, verify that it is in DMA and NOT PIO mode. (Google change PIO mode to DMA if you have this problem, more common with DVD drives)

2nd added: Download and run CCleaner. On left side select your registry and run it to clean up your win7 registry.

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September 24, 2011 8:53:31 PM

Okay, so I installed the drivers from 9.6 to the one you gave me and I see a notable improvement in the access rate. The thick line is still in the same spot but there is about 2/3 less randomly scattered dots, in the end the result went 23ms to 18ms. However, the average transfer rate dropped by about 5MB/s too.

When I ran AS SSD, I saw something peculiar. When viewing my C:\ partition, it showed iaStor, but on the next line it said 20482875 K - BAD. When I did the same with the D:\ partition selected it showed "iaStor *newline* 142576640 K - OK" Do you know what this could mean.

I ran CCleaner and it doesn't look like it did much but delete registries for things I had uninstalled. I did have to repeat the process 3 times until there was no errors found.

Lastly, I don't know how to figure out what mode my drive is in. I know the difference between a SATA connector and an IDE connector but AHCI is a term I have never heard before. After small Googling efforts someone in another forum said that something under IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers should verify whether my drive is in AHCI mode. The name of the only controller there is "Intel(R) 5 Series 4 Port SATA AHCI Controller", does that mean my drive is in AHCI mode?

One last note, my laptop came with a second hard drive that is identical to the one that I have been using/having problems with. Running the performance test on this hard drive says that read and write were ~85MB/s and HDTune showed a smooth transfer rate line without any spikes and the access time graph didn't even show a single yellow dot in a random spot. The difference with this hard drive is that it is empty and I have barely used it.

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a c 353 G Storage
September 24, 2011 9:44:20 PM

(1) iaSTor is intel's equivalnt of msahci (microsofts default ahci driver). If you have the iastor driver then you should be OK (indicates the bios is set to either Raid or ahci mode.

(2) the "BAD" on C-drive is inreguards to the partition alignment. For SSDs this is a big item, not sure how important it is for a mechanical HDD. When windows 7 installs it nornally installs a small 100 mb system partition and aligns the partition boundries.

(3) on DMA mode, forget, I think this only shows up for DVD drives hich normally run under iDE. I clicked in the ATA channel Nr 0 and 1. only found my 2 dvd drives, HDDs and SSDs where not listed.

This is what I would do. It's time consumming and not sure of your comfort level, but will explain, and most do as a last resort. Many also do a re-install once every so often.
(1) This step whould have helped if you had done it early on before problem showed up.
Go to control Panel -> backup, create a backup image of your "C" drive. You can place this on the 2nd HDD, or an external USB HDD, or on 3 -> 5 DVDs. When this is complete windows will ask you to create a bootable restore disk. If you do not have a windows installation disk, do it. If you have a windows 7 Installation disk then you can use that to restore this image. THIS STEP is if you have a problem with the remaining steps - You can ALWAYS at least get back to where you were!!
.. Back up all your data from the primary HDD. again your choice where to put it.

Ready set, here goes.
Before you procede. Is the HDD the origninal HDD and does it have a recovery partition.

This next step will wipe your primary HDD so make sure you back up. Did your laptop come with a recovery disk? Does it Have a recovery partition on the primary HDD?
Re-install windows. BEFORE DOING THIS DISCONNECT YOUR 2nd HDD until done!!! Delete all partitions. if you select custom you will see a page with the partitons on it and it will ask where to install. Before install select advance and delete all partitions. Then create a new partition200 gigs should be enough, which will be just for your programs and operating system. Do not bother with partitioning the remainder of the HDD as you can do this later under windows disk management. Select this 200 gig partition to install windows to and complete the installation. You will have to then use a supplied disk, or go to the manuf web site and down load all the latest drivers/ software.
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September 24, 2011 10:52:13 PM

Hmm, so you're proposing that I use recovery disks/a recovery partition to restore my laptop to the state that I got it in and then restore all of the data afterwards? If this is the case I have a few questions:

1) Are you suggesting this because wiping my HDD will likely fix the problem?

2) If I do go through with this, how can I prevent this from recurring?

3) I am fairly certain that my laptop is still covered by a warranty. Should I take it in before proceeding with this?

And just a quick question of clarification. By downloading the latest drivers (in the last step), you want me to reinstall all of those system updates and drivers that I have gotten since I first got my laptop?
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a c 353 G Storage
September 24, 2011 11:07:48 PM

(1) If you can not find a problem with the HDD, then most likely it is (a) a driver issue. (B) software, ie a program bogging down the system. Returning the Laptop configuration to LIKE new normally fixes these types of problems.

(2) Keep/make a image copy of your "C" drive. You do this after a fresh install and you have loaded the required drivers and your software programs. You only need to redo this periodically, say after you have installed additional programs and determined that the the new program has not caused any problems. Know lets say 3 monthes/6 months later you have a problem, or (heaven forbid) your HDD dies. You can reload this image and within 20 Minutes you are back up and running, No reinstalling OS, NO realoading Drivers, No reinstalling all the programs.

(3) That might be a good option if you are leery of doing a re-install. PS If you go this route, STILL make that image copy before taking in incase they mess you up - They should not but better safe than sorry.

(4) Windows will take care of reinstalling all of the windows updates. After the re-install you just let the computer set idle for about an hour (Depends on speed of your internet). And Yes on Manuf drivers. Windows installs many generic drivers, but tne manuf drives often improve the performance - The hard part is not installing them - its Knowing which ones!!
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September 25, 2011 12:29:54 AM

So after returning my laptop to its original configuration, I am not just restoring all of my data and getting the exact same things that I have right now? I have to reinstall everything one at a time and make sure it doesn't create any HDD problems?

And I believe I was ignorant in the past and did not take the time to create system recovery disks. Would creating recovery disks from the current machine state work?
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a c 353 G Storage
September 25, 2011 12:55:08 AM

+No. The only reason to create one from your current state is if something goes wrong you can get back to at least your current configuration. This image will have the same problem

However once you re-install everything back to orginal configuration THEN create a new image (with no Problems) this image can then be used to restore you to a "problem" free configuration.
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September 25, 2011 1:32:26 AM

Alright, thank you for all of your time and information. It was greatly appreciated. I'll definitely need some time to make a decision but when I do, I'll post back with the results. Once again, thanks, and I will be back.
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a c 311 G Storage
September 26, 2011 9:00:10 PM

PeteyPii, your drive is not running in PIO mode. If it were, then its read performance "curve" would be a flat line at around 5MB/s or less.

IMHO, your drive may have a weak head or bad media. That's a common problem with Seagate and WD drives nowadays.

Can you see any reallocated, pending, or uncorrectable sectors under HD Tune's Health tab?
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September 29, 2011 2:59:08 AM

Thank you for the information, this is good to know.

What does a weak head mean?

The health tab is blank is blank when my primary HDD is selected, but when my secondary empty HDD is selected, HDTune shows a list of stuff with everything being okay. It just says "health status: ok" at the very bottom (for the primary). I checked for errors with whatever is built into windows, I think it is called chckdsk, with Windows telling me that there were no problems.

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a c 311 G Storage
September 29, 2011 4:25:42 AM

A hard drive's heads sometimes encounter "thermal asperities". When this happens, the head's temperature skyrockets. This causes permanent degradation of it's magnetoreresistive properties, resulting in a reduced read amplitude, ie the head becomes "weak".

The scatter in your access time graph, and the dips in your read performance curve, probably reflect difficulties with marginal sectors that require several read retries. If a sector can be read successfully, even after numerous retries, then it won't show up in the SMART report. However, you will experience stuttering and pausing.
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September 29, 2011 8:38:41 PM

Alright this all makes sense.

Is there any test/fix for a weak head? (EDIT: I see now that you said permanent)

So, what tests, other than HDTune, provide information about read retries? Or even better, how do I get the health tab to show information for my primary hard drive? Does a weak head cause read retries?
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a c 311 G Storage
September 29, 2011 9:21:32 PM

HDDSCan and MHDD are two other utilities that perform surface scans. They identify "slow" sectors. MHDD runs in DOS mode and can access the drive without going through BIOS. Windows based tests can be affected by interference from background tasks.

HD Sentinel is another utility that can provide SMART information. There is also CrystalDiskMark and CrystalDiskInfo.

http://www.hdsentinel.com/
http://hddscan.com/
http://hddguru.com/software/2005.10.02-MHDD/
http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskInfo/index-...
http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-...
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September 30, 2011 9:56:20 PM

So I did a surface test - read on my hard drive with HDDScan and this is what I got. The graph shows smaller spikes in comparison to HDTune, but also more frequently. I'm guessing this has to do with being a more precise test as it took around ~10x longer than HDTune. The block read times also seem to make out that my hard drive is performing poorly as there are many blocks that took more than 150ms to read. The only thing good is that there are no bad blocks. What sense can you make out of this. It seems like the same kind of results I got with HDTune. Did I run the right type of surface test? In addition to read, there is verify, erase, and butterfly read.


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a c 311 G Storage
September 30, 2011 10:08:54 PM

HDDScan's results look OK to me. There is a big dip at the start of the curve, but I don't know if that's some artifact due to Windows.

Sorry, I don't know what else to suggest other than to try a DOS based test such as MHDD.
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October 1, 2011 12:20:42 AM

Alright thank you for the help. One thing though, the test on my secondary drive is quite different. The test for my primary hard drive shows quite a bit of jitter whereas for my secondary HD, there is only small bumps, at worst.
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