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Author Topic: Really weird, extremely slow PC (XP)  (Read 6200 times)

HPsauce

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Really weird, extremely slow PC (XP)
« on: May 19, 2012, 04:52:18 PM »

Well this is a weird one and I'm looking for inspiration before this PC is scrapped (it's not mine).
Apparently getting slower and slower over a few days before I got it.

It takes FOR EVER to boot, if it gets there at all. Even in Safe Mode! (about 2 hours from turning on to vaguely useable).
And it's not even vaguely useable TBH. Yes the mouse moves (most of the time) but click and wait 10 or 15 minutes for a response to any significant request!

It's a reasonably fast HP Pavilion t3560 with 2GB ram and a 300GB SATA disk.
I've ran the onboard hardware diagnostics and it's all fine, but get ANYWHERE near Windows and it runs at under 1% speed.
The user never created any recovery disks, but I can get into the Recovery partition and that performs "normally" though a system recovery isn't an option as there's user data to get off first.

I've managed to install Process Explorer (took ages) and it shows nothing. System is basically idling, doing nothing.
But the hard disk is busy chattering away, I can hear it and the light is on nearly all the time....  :'(
I've also had the disk out, connected to a known clean system and scanned it with multiple anti-malware tools - clean!

System Restore refuses to run from Safe Mode - just says it "can't" and to restart and try again (and again......)

At some point I'll probably stick a spare hard disk in and install a clean copy of Windows something-or-other to see if it's OK, which I expect it to be!

I really don't have a clue what's causing it. Though I suspect it's something very low-level in windows disk drivers (or BIOS?).
Any thoughts anyone? I'm stumped!  >:(
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roseway

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Re: Really weird, extremely slow PC (XP)
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2012, 06:45:32 PM »

I recently encountered a Windows XP machine which was taking forever to boot, and the problem turned out to be a failing hard disk. While it was still working (just) I cloned it to a new disk and the machine regained its normal performance. But that wouldn't seem to explain the other symptoms, so I'm probably just waffling.
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silversurfer44

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Re: Really weird, extremely slow PC (XP)
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2012, 07:30:04 PM »

Hi HPsauce, it sounds as though you have something cataloguing the disk contents hence the slow response. The cycles are being taken up by whatever is doing the job.
It's a long time since I played with Windows but I seem to recall that in safe mode you can disable quite a number of start up functions temporarily. I know you said it was slow getting into safe mode but that may be your route in.#Just a thought for you.
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HPsauce

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Re: Really weird, extremely slow PC (XP)
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2012, 07:54:15 PM »

Well sometimes I see it pause for several minutes when booting safe mode on hotcore3.sys which is something to do with Paragon backup software.
With Process Explorer running I can't see anything unusual running (or additional I/O either) so whatever it is it's well hidden or very low level. And HP diagnostics found nothing - I even ran the most thorough disk check.

The disk performed normally via a USB/SATA adapter to another system, and I've moved it to a different SATA port (and cable) as well in case that was a factor.

Never seen anything like it before.  :no:
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asbokid

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Re: Really weird, extremely slow PC (XP)
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2012, 08:26:12 PM »

Boot the box from a live Linux CD, like Ubuntu or Knoppix.

That should isolate whether it's a windows fault or the hard drive.

At least by booting Linux from CD, you could run various low-level tests on the unmounted hard drive

I had a virtually new laptop hard drive develop a read fault with just one sector.  The sector was used by a file in the boot sequence, and so the laptop was crashing on boot. This made it difficult to discover the fault.

Strangely, it was just that one sector that turned out to be bad!

Everyone said throw the drive in the garbage before more sectors go bad, and some really important data is lost. But being as tight as George Osborne's waistcoat, I mapped out the solitary bad sector and, touch wood, the drive hasn't developed another error.

cheers, a
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HPsauce

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Re: Really weird, extremely slow PC (XP)
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2012, 08:50:18 PM »

It boots OK into the Recovery/Diagnostics partition...........
And the diagnostics say no problems.
And the disk is accessed fine on another system.
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silversurfer44

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Re: Really weird, extremely slow PC (XP)
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2012, 09:07:48 PM »

If it was on a Linux I would say something in the users home directory.
So maybe there is something in the users personal files? Can you make a new user and see if that works.?
When you access it on another system you will not be using the users files maybe?
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HPsauce

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Re: Really weird, extremely slow PC (XP)
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2012, 09:42:28 PM »

Can you make a new user and see if that works.?
Done that already, so I had a "clean" logon - exactly the same.  >:D
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exo

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Re: Really weird, extremely slow PC (XP)
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2012, 12:20:05 AM »

I can't think of any quick fix or what the cause maybe.........apart from Windows being corrupted in some way.
I assume there was plenty of free space on the hard drive?

My first thoughts would be towards the hard drive but your other tests seem to be ruling out a fault there.
As safe mode is just as bad, that seems to rule out driver issues.

As Windows is performing so slow when you do get there, then running any form of diagnostic is going to be time consuming and frustrating.
I would just bite the bullet by backing up the required data and then induce the recovery partition to reinstall.

It may be worth running a Linux distro disc first, just to rule out some other hardware issue as a possible cause.

Let us know how you get on.

exo
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Browni

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Re: Really weird, extremely slow PC (XP)
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2012, 06:05:52 AM »

Do you have an XP installation disk that will get you to the recovery console?

If so, this thread may help

http://www.wilderssecurity.com/showthread.php?t=297593
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HPsauce

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Re: Really weird, extremely slow PC (XP)
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2012, 09:18:08 AM »

get you to the recovery console?
I can get into editing the registry in many ways, so no problem at all.
That thread is VERY interesting - thanks!  :graduate:

I'm currently part-way into creating a full set of recovery CD's (12 of them!) from the hidden partition in safe mode. It will take 2 or 3 days but I'm not going to interrupt it! The DVD route doesn't work for some unknown reason.

Once that's done I'll go Registry-dipping!  :lol:
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sheddyian

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Re: Really weird, extremely slow PC (XP)
« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2012, 12:43:50 PM »

It does sound like it could be a failing hard disk, or something else wrong on the hard disk controller side of things.  I know that a faulty DVD drive on PATA can cause havoc with a hard disk on the same cable, don't know if the same is true with SATA configurations.  I've seen the former happen a few times, but not yet seen the latter.

For testing disks, I find MHDD to be excellent.

http://hddguru.com/software/2005.10.02-MHDD/  It's quite old now, so there's a chance it won't support modern controllers.  That said, I've only had one occasion when I couldn't get it to see disks on a PC, and I've used it many times.  If you download the ISO image, you can burn a bootable CD (even a floppy!  :lol: It's really small!).

Using it you can scan the hard disk surface, and it times how long it takes to read each cluster, and makes you a table of timings.  You can spot failing clusters because they take longer to read.  It can move data from those clusters, or erase them (though you'll lose data that way!)

If I'm recycling an old disk, I run the scan, note the performance stats that it produces, then use MHDD to erase the entire disk, and re-run the scan.  This usually results in improved performance in disk speed! 

You can then use it to make a basic partition on the disk, at which point you're ready to install the O/S of your choice.

There's lots of other options too, for measuring average seek time, adjusting the noise vs performance setting that many disks have... it's great.  It's only a shame that there's been no further development of it, though it's still powerful in it's current form.

For those interested in the program, I've attached a screenshot I took a while back of a disk I was testing that I'd just bought off ebay.

Looking at the right hand side, you'll see that there were no clusters that took <3ms to read (it's not the quickest of disks!), there were 228246 clsuters that took between 3 and 9 ms to read, and 1578 that took between 10 and 49 ms to read.  So it's not too bad, considering it's age.  A failing disk would show some speedy clusters, and a few taking 150 or 500ms to read as well.  Of course, some might be damaged, and they'll show as bad.

After erasing this disk with MHDD, I had an increase in clusters taking <10ms to read, and a decrease in those taking <50ms, although not by a great amount.  But was worthwhile to test the disk was working OK.

Ian
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