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CPU Bottlenecking my system?

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  • Homebuilt
  • Hard Drives
  • Systems
Last response: in Systems
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November 27, 2009 8:41:26 AM

Hi there,

I thought I'd ask for a second opinion on my current PC. Recently it's been acting a little slow in more places than it used to do. It's an Intel Atom 230 @ 1.6Ghz so I'm not expecting HD performance but even day to day office tasks (which I bought it for) are slowing the machine down to crawl. I've notcied it most when the hard drive is going (try copying 2.2Gb of music from one folder to another and it almost crashed on me!) It's running Windows 7 32 bit (and ran the RC fine).

I know the hard drive is very slow - it's a 4,200 RPM Fujitsu drive that gives the following graph in HDTune.


I've been told that very slow, even for a 4,200 drive and could be a sign it's on it's way out and dying (though I've no indication of such in any tests I can see or in the SMART data). However I ran perfmon earlier in the following scenarios and it doesn't appear the drive is a bottlebneck...


Idle - Everything left as idle as possible


Running Syncback to copy new files to USB drive


Opening Chrome, HSBC website, GNUCash


I'm after some advice to the following:-

Is the CPU throttling my performance? I was deliberately after a low power draw machine as I only browse the web, watch BBC iPlayer, watch DVD's and office tasks (of which the hardest is probably using the GIMP to touch up photos occasionally or run LaTex to "compile" tex documents)

Is my hard drive the bottleneck? Or is it on the way out? I'd happily buy a new hard drive if it would make the PC more responsive especially if it alleviated some of my issues. However I have no wish to buy a new drive if it'll make no difference what so ever :( 

Any advice is most welcome :) 

More about : cpu bottlenecking system

November 27, 2009 9:00:10 AM

A faster HDD will help, maybe a samsung spinpoint F3

What memory are you using?

To be honest i dnt think it will ever be fast, i mean its a 1.6ghz CPU, but i do think changing the harddrive will help.

Please post the full sysytem specs.
November 27, 2009 9:07:38 AM

At work currently but from memory it's the following..

Gigabyte GA-GC230D
2Gb RAM - Generic make (possibly Kingston from memory). I believe it's 533MHz, the fastest the board supports
Fujitsu IDE 100Gb Hard Drive - About 75% full (which I believe can also affect speed)
Rest of the stuff is onboard on the mobo

I don't need it to be fast, I would just like to prevent some of the slow downs. I mean I expect it to be slow to respond when watching iPlayer as flash video demends a lot of the CPU on the Atom. As long as I can open documents, type in word and open webpages, without massive slow down, I'm happy!
Related resources
November 27, 2009 9:46:17 AM

Is it possible that the hard drive is in PIO mode?

Can't quite remember the exact location but I think it is in the Device Manager, look for the Controller for the hard drive and look at it's Properties. On one of the tabs it would indicate the devices connected to it and show if it is Ultra DMA mode or PIO mode.

Though a 4200 drive also isn't really fast, though I'm not sure about the slow down issues.
November 27, 2009 9:50:21 AM

It's in UDMA Mode 2. HD Tune says it'll support UDMA Mode 5 but I cant seem to increase this in any way. I used Google to look at getting drives back to UDMA from PIO and followed those but it sticks at 2.
a b B Homebuilt system
November 27, 2009 10:38:04 AM

I dun like shooting peeps machines down but in reality

This shows how Atoms struggle to keep up against the lesser lights like a socket 478 CPU and a socket 754 Sempron! Outside just surfing the net on netbooks i would advise clients to keep a distance of approximately 10 feet from Atoms to be honest as any form of multi tasking would reveal its slack processing power @@
a b B Homebuilt system
November 27, 2009 10:53:44 AM

the atom should be shot
November 27, 2009 11:11:24 AM

I'd rather lick 60 grit sand paper than have an atom, I would re-install windows (or whatever OS your using) and see if the problem continues, if so then your only option is hardware upgrades.

Like batuchka pointed out, the atom is terrible (sorry but it is) so i'd advise you to chuck the atom in the skip(with the rest of the PC), do some research on some good components and build your own beast
November 27, 2009 11:21:00 AM

Beast is what I'm avoiding ;)  I just don't need a power guzzling quad core for some browsing etc hence why I was thinking thr Atom would be good, especially as I was quite happy with the Eee. However as I saw on a review somewhere, the Eee small screen kind of prevents/discourages multi tasking which is, I think, where I'm fiding my PC lacking.

Time to go away and look for a desktop replacement laptop me thinks... Low power, reasonable performance and included screen so I can drop my 19" widescreen.
a b B Homebuilt system
November 27, 2009 11:45:45 AM

well what could work is removing all bloatware
November 27, 2009 11:49:45 AM

It's running a fresh Windows install - it's pretty minimal as I know the Atom isn't great.

Processes in the background are Samurize (with a minmal desktop config that just displays a To Do list), Avast, Syncback, Dropbox and the usual Windows threads. I'm trying to keep it minimal.
November 27, 2009 11:53:43 AM

You can build a low power desktop with good performance, say for example a Core 2 Duo E8400 will use a very small amount of power and will be much faster that an atom and most laptops out there.

Just my 2 pence.
November 27, 2009 12:01:59 PM

Well take the entire system into perspective. My old Fujitsu Siemens work laptop took 45W at load with the screen on - that was a Core2 (one of the older ones I might add)


I'm not sure I can create a system that uses less power than 45W with a screen included especially as some screens can take about 30W!

I'm not a hippy but if I can save money on bills whilst saving the environment, I'm all for it. If I didn't care about power, I'd still have my Q6600 gaming rig (but sold that to fund a 360!).

However I would consider a small form factor machine instead of a laptop (ala Dell Studio) but I'll pay a premium for these so I'm kind of torn - I want something reasonably low power consumption, something reasonably quick and quite small. However I could just as easily settle for this due to the price!
a b B Homebuilt system
November 27, 2009 12:02:57 PM

even an e6500 will suffice
November 27, 2009 12:20:22 PM

That comp you linked to isnt to bad for the price and certainly better (IMO) than a laptop and that Atom.
The power supply is probably w**k, but will do i guess. ( i hate generic PSU's).It has a 1 year warrenty so if it blows up your covered. Happy days. (you'll have to get a copy of windows, as it doesnt come with a OS)
I say go for it!
November 27, 2009 12:27:34 PM

drezha said:
It's in UDMA Mode 2. HD Tune says it'll support UDMA Mode 5 but I cant seem to increase this in any way. I used Google to look at getting drives back to UDMA from PIO and followed those but it sticks at 2.


UDMA 2 is really really really slow for a hard drive. You should consider changing it to a 7200rpm or 5400rpm drive. This is probably a limitation on the drive itself, that is why it sticks to UDMA 2.

To give you an idea (max transfer rates):
UDMA 2 - 33.3MB/s
UDMA-5 - 100MB/s <-- This is old ATA connectors on desktops
SATA - 150MB/s <-- The new SATA connectors on desktops

Even DVD or CD Writers stick to UDMA 3 or 4.


November 27, 2009 12:30:02 PM

It's very sorely tempting. I've seen net book's more expensive!

The only killer is that power consumption. However, I guess due to the low price, I can also stick this lovely little toy in as the boot device :love:  and have a faster and more responsive system than any laptop I could get for £335!

@ amnotanoobie - I thought it was slow. :( 
November 27, 2009 12:45:03 PM

drezha said:
The only killer is that power consumption. However, I guess due to the low price, I can also stick this lovely little toy in as the boot device :love:  and have a faster and more responsive system than any laptop I could get for £335!


I think the 40GB version is much much better (since it's an Intel one). Not sure if the 64 and 128 SSDNow have problems, as they were released first and different from the 40gb version.
!