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Slow computer, suddenly; all standard BC solutions tried w/o fixing it


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#1 anonanon

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 09:15 PM

My PC suddenly became much slower to boot up, open programs, execute Windows functions, or run a scan. The above activities are about five times slower than they were before. For example, startup takes about 15 mins. instead of 3 mins.; a complete scan with MSSE takes 3 hours instead of less than an hour. The Task Manager shows no problems: usually CPU usage is below 10%, PF usage below 10%, the Commit Charge is around 500-1000M/14800M.

It is running Windows XP Professional (SP3). The processor is 2.5 GHz; the RAM is 2.98 GB; the hard drive is 465 GB and about 90% free. The computer is used mainly for email, Skype, and some online games. Only a handful of programs get used much -- Opera, Firefox, Chrome, Adobe Reader, MS Word97, WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. I use these same programs on two other PCs, configured identically, without problems. They worked fine here for about three years before the slowdown.

The slowness problem started suddenly a couple of months ago, not after installing any new programs or making any other changes to software or hardware. It has continued despite my trying everything on the BC checklist:

- antivirus scans (complete scans with MSSE and Avira in Safe Mode with Networking); found nothing at all.
- spyware scans; complete scans with Malwarebytes, Spybot, and Super Antispyware, in Safe Mode with Networking; only turned up the usual cookies, nothing major
- uninstalling any recently added programs -- not relevant; the slowdown did not occur after installing anything. I did do a System Restore, which I think (but can't remember exactly) brought the PC from extremely slow to the current slowness described above.
- Startup items: there weren't many, and I unchecked several unnecessary ones in Spybot's Startup tool; didn't help
- the hard drive is only 10% full
- checkdisk with error correcting done twice, the second time in Safe Mode -- found nothing
- disk was defragmented

I've also tried changing the desktop background to one of the standard images that Windows supplies, in case the photo we had took up too much space to load. No change in performance..

What else could be causing the problem? What else could I try?

Thanks,
Roger

Edited by hamluis, 21 January 2013 - 08:08 AM.
Moved from XP to Internal Hardware - Hamluis.


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#2 caperjac

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 10:03 PM

sounds like a hard drive going bad ,run chkdsk on the drive,see link

My link

My answers are my opinion only,usually


#3 hamluis

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 11:00 AM

FWIW: Slow Computer-browser Check Here First; It May Not Be Malware - http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/topic87058.html .

Rather than running chkdsk /r again (chkdsk /r is a file system tool)...I would run the appropriate hard drive diagnostic in order to verify the presence/absence of hard drive problems.

Louis

#4 anonanon

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 01:39 PM

Thanks. I'm late replying b/c for some reason I didn't get email notifications about your replies.

hamluis -- how do I find the appropriate hard drive diagnostic? Do I look up the model number and go to the manufacturer's website, or are there more generic tools that Bleeping Computer recommends?

#5 hamluis

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 03:40 PM

For simplicity...I prefer using the diagnostics supplied by the hard drive manufacturer.

You can look at the information provided in Device Manager...or you can visually examine the drive...to see who the manufacturer is.

Two of the more common diagnostics today:

http://support.wdc.com/product/download.asp?groupid=612&sid=3

http://www.seagate.com/support/internal-hard-drives/consumer-electronics/ld25-series/seatools-win-master/

Louis

#6 anonanon

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 09:56 PM

It's a Western Digital so I ran the Data Lifeguard Diagnostic for Windows. It passed the quick test. I tried to run the extended test, but it would have taken about 96 hours (4 daya and nights) so I had to abort it b/c I needed the computer.

I looked in the WinXP Event Viewer and there were no reports of bad sectors, which I thought odd.

I'm not sure how good either of these diagnostic tools is, because of the results I got on a different PC, which is showing no problems. On that WD diagnostic tool couldn't run the quick test (reporting this was due to a particular bad sector), ran the extended test in an hour, and then couldn't do a repair (again because of that bad sector). The Event Viewer shows that PC as having a bad sector being accessed about once a day (in fairly heavy use).

The WD diagnostic tool is not specific to this particular model of hard drive, which in the Device Manager shows up as a WD5000AAKS-....

Before replacing the hard drive, I'd rather have a clearer picture of whether it's failing.

What would you suggest:

Should I run the WD tool in extended mode for the 4 days and nights, and then try a repair using that tool?

Or is there a better/equally good diagnostic tool that I could try?

Or, if there isn't, should I assume that the fact that the WD tool needs 96 hours means the hard drive is beyond repair and just go ahead and replace it?

In the meantime, I have all the data backed up.

Thanks,
Roger

#7 hamluis

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 08:28 AM

The short diagnostics are not as reliable as the extended/long ones, please run the long/extended diagnostic on the hard drive.

You can have no "clear picture" of the drive's functionality without running the extended diagnostic.

The WD tool is used by WD for verification of hard drive problems and is a prerequisite for those wishing to return drives under warranty provisions, I believe. It was the last time that I RMA'd a hard drive.

Louis

#8 anonanon

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 09:03 AM

Louis,

Thanks, I'll run the extended diagnostics.

Are you saying that the WinXP Event Viewer's reports don't necessarily provide information about the functionality of the hard drive, i.e., it's possible that the drive is in bad shape but there are no reports of bad sectors in Event Viewer

The drive is 3.5 years old, no longer in warranty.

Roger

#9 hamluis

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 09:54 AM

Event Viewer...is a tool designed to monitor/record known problems with Windows...not with hardware.

If a hardware event results in something that is detectable/recorded by Windows as something to be concerned about...it is because such impairs Windows, not because Windows is set up to detect/report hardware problems.

Example: A hard drive problem which results in an input/output error of some sort in Windows...will be flagged because it is an input/output error adversely impacting Windows. Such will normally point to the hard drive as the suspect, but the drive could be fine...but, if the connections are loose, data may not be properly passed between the drive and Windows.

You will never see an error message in Event Viewer re PSUs...because it cannot detect/report the PSU as the suspect. You will see error messages re RAM but those are often misdirected because the impact may appear in RAM, while the cause is something else.

A system is a very complicated thing...with millions (my system here) of files and various hardware components needing to work in consonance with Windows...to produce a working system. That leaves a ton of room for things to go awry. Troubleshooting problems is not as easy and definitive...as many users would like to believe.

Bad sectors...are only one of the more minor hard drive items which can adversely impact Windows. Bad sectors just happen to be something that is detectable by various methods...and compensated for (at times) by Windows. The real problem with bad sectors is that they can be an indication of a physical problem with the drive...but bad sectors is not the only problem which can arise functionally with a hard drive. I don't believe it wise to key on "bad sectors" when trying to assess hard drive health...drive manufacturers use that as only one of a number of different criteria examined via a diagnostic.

See http://www.wdc.com/wdproducts/library/other/2779-701022.pdf , Error/Status Codes for some idea of how un-simple diagnosing is.

If you are really interested in how complex the process is, you can read up on How Hard Disk S.M.A.R.T. Works - http://www.hdsentinel.com/smart/index.php If you come out understanding more, good for you :).

Louis

#10 anonanon

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 11:06 AM

Dear Louis,

Thanks for the explanation. Re. bad sectors, I was trying to understand the implications of them since someone on BC had responded to a problem I was having with PC # 2 (which turned out to be a bad cable, it seems) by directing me to Event Viewer and then warning about a bad sector that was reported there. I'm glad to hear (if I understand you correctly) that bad sectors are not *necessarily* signs of big looming trouble. And it helps to know what Event Viewer is and is not good for.

Re. PC # 2, where the WD diagnostic tool could not run in quick mode nor repair what it found in extended mode -- is there anything else I can/should do to diagnose whether its hard drive has major problems? The WD extended test completed in about an hour (which I took as a good sign compared with the time it's taking on computer # 1) and produced this report:

Test Option: EXTENDED TEST
Model Number: WDC WD5001AALS-00E3A0
Unit Serial Number: WD-WCATR2850613
Firmware Number: 05.01D05
Capacity: 500.11 GB
SMART Status: PASS
Test Result: FAIL
Test Error Code: 08-Error was detected while repairing bad sectors.
Test Time: 08:52:01, January 07, 2013


By the way, I have always understood that computer systems are too complex to be understood comprehensively (cf. Joseph Weizenbaum, *Computer Power and Human Reason*, 1978 book; I took a course from him at MIT in '84). So I am never surprised to see that diagnose is partly an art and not a purely logical exercise. I appreciate your judgement like I would that of a doctor with clinical experience.

I'll let you know what the WD diagnostics show on PC # 1, after it's run for those 96 hours.

Roger

#11 hamluis

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 11:29 AM

:whistle: , no doctor am I :), just a user for several years with ideas and limited personal experience :).

I tend to think/speak in generalities, so...that's what I can offer.

If a diagnostic test takes an inordinate amount of time or fails to complete...I take that as a failure of the hardware.

Whether it's testing RAM or testing a hard drive, that's been my experience.

I don't know where/how you got your figure for the time it will take...but it takes what it takes. I generally ignore the estimated times to complete for any diagnostic, I see no point in paying attention to them.

Ditto for Windows and running chkdsk /r or defragging...it takes what it takes, I'm not interested in prelim guesses.

The two factors which I find normally impact the time that such checks/diagnoses take...are the condition of the device and the size of the hard drive. If I run a diagnostic on my 2TB drive, it will take somewhere around 90-120 min...I just leave it and do something else. I take decent care of my drives so lack of proper maintenance is no issue and does not impact the time a check/diagnostic takes.

I generally regard a FAIL status as something to be respected and taken seriously. Just last week, I had a problem with one of my 1.5TB drives, a given partition. The SMART status was good, but the diagnostic failed. I used recovery software to get some files I wanted...then used the diagnostic to attempt writing zeros over the drive. Failed, error message of "too many bad sectors". I tossed the drive and replaced it with a newer one. There was no previous warning that problems were imminent until it happened.

The only protection against such, IMO...is backing up routinely, possibly having a reliable data-recovery program that you can use with ease...and having spare hard drives. That's been my outlook for several years as a slightly-more-than-novice user :).

FWIW: I suspect that hard drives and PSUs are the two system components that fail the most, with my experience being hard drives rank first.

Louis

#12 anonanon

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 04:11 PM

Louis,

Did you see my question about PC # 2 in the previous post? Is there anything else I could try to try to diagnose why it failed the WD repair process?

I know that estimates of time remaining for a test are often inaccurate. But in the case of the WD test, it converged on a value and stayed with that for the next 12 hours (that is, exactly the same amount of time came off the estimate as passed on my clock), so I think it's an accurage estimate. And it's useful to know because 1) that's the amount of time the PC would be out of commission (because there is a warning about possibly losing data if one tries to use the PC while it's testing -- do you think that's a real problem?) and 2) the length of test is an indicator of how badly damaged the drive might be.

Thanks for the reminder about backing up. I do back up regularly, using Karen's Replicator.

Roger

#13 hamluis

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 05:35 PM

I try to concentrate...on issues with a single computer.

Trying anything else in a forum format or one where hands-on is not feasible...just leads to confusion, IMO.

If you wish to pursue the whys and wherefores of hard drive testing, the Internal Hardware forum would be the place to raise such questions. While the members of the XP forum obviously have some familiarity with certain aspects of hardware...that is not the primary thrust of this forum or its memberx.

Raise your question about the "other system" in the IH forum, where the members are certainly more knowledgeable about varyig aspects of hardware situtions...and you'll probably have better results, IMO.

Louis

#14 anonanon

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Posted 20 January 2013 - 08:55 PM

I was finally able to complete the WD extended diagnostic test on the hard drive. It took 91 hours, but the drive "passed". There was no report of any bad sectors.

It also passed the quick test. The SMART status is fine on all parameters.

So it seems to me that the hard drive is fine, unless you think I should test it in some other way.

The slowdown problem is still there. It is an intermittent problem that crops up unexpectedly in a variety of situations. Sometimes in browsers, sometimes when trying to pull up a Windows menu or the task manager. Startup takes 10-15 minutes to complete instead of the usual 2-3 minutes. An antivirus scan takes 3.5 hours instead of 1 hour before. This WD diagnostic scan took 91 hours, compared with 1 hour on a similarly configured PC.

Any other ideas about what might be causing the slowdown?

Thanks,
Roger

#15 anonanon

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Posted 20 January 2013 - 08:57 PM

P.S. I already ran checkdisk and all the other standard solutions recommended by bleepingcomputer.




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