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  1. #1
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    Multiple issues on XP/CE computers

    A friend of mine owns a small restaurant and he uses 2 computers
    One of them is a HP Compaq dx2200 MT desktop XP SP3 CPU: Atom 2300 1.6 GHz with 1 GB RAM
    The other one is a Windows CE (I donít know the specs) and he uses it to input customers orders and tally the bill

    On the HP computer he has very slow access to the Internet and occasionally the Internet just disconnects which means he cannot use the Windows CE until the Internet connection is ok. His ISP is Comcast
    --- I believe the system is about 4-5 years old and he had it installed & set up by a professional company but always has had trouble with it so much so that he discontinued their service & support and just trudges along using what he has

    The Windows CE is on the first floor & the HP computer is on the 2nd floor
    --- Since these computers have to communicate with each other, I wonder if distance and/or length of cabling is an issue. I would imagine that there could be 200 feet of cabling for the computers to be hooked up to each other
    --- I suppose there is a central point for the cables to be routed through but I donít really know how they are connected

    Iím hoping I can help him but I need advice & opinions on what Iíve observed and what Iíve done so far

    On the HP, Windows Updates werenít being done and didnít even have SP3 on it & I got him up date doing umpteen updates
    --- This is the computer that is very slow to boot up and takes at least 10 minutes to connect to the Internet and the Internet occasionally disconnects on
    He did have many items at startup and I minimized them as much as possible but there isnít any startup improvement
    --- This computer only has 1 GB RAM and is upgradeable to 2 GB and I recommended he do so if heís going to still use this same computer
    --- I recommended he upgrades to a modern computer. It appears to me he has a weak computer in the first place for the job that needs to be done

    On the Windows CE computer, is it also supposed to be receiving Windows Updates and or maintenance?
    --- I donít know how to check out this computer yet but if it needs maintenance & updates I doubt it has either and I need to know how to do so if applicable

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    If he is going to keep the HP desktop upgrading to 2GB is a must. From what I can find about the desktop PC it is a Celeron D processor not an Atom. A Celeron is an I/O crippled processor so the slow load time is not a surprise.

    The Windows CE machine sounds like a point-of-sale (POS) specialized configuration that is likely to be underpowered too. I don't know that you can do much of anything about it.

    Is there a router installed? That would be the best way to network the devices. If each machine has an ethernet connection then cable length should not be an issue to connect to a router.

    The best bet is to budget for new hardware. It seems as though there is not a big demand for computing power so the desktop could be replaced relatively cheaply and would be a great improvement. For longest use do NOT get a Celeron processor. I'm not sure of the cost of a POS replacement. I fear that a company that specializes in that sort of equipment would be required. That usually means a fairly high cost as I'm sure that there is quite a bit of customization involved.

    Joe

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    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    Also, make sure that a full malware scan-and-clean is done on the slow machine, and then install current anti-malware software on it. Malware is probably slowing down the machine, as it does on lots of machines.

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    Thank you both for your input
    The reason I reported that the HP computer has an Atom 2300 1.6 GHz is because that's what Belarc reports
    I agree that upgrading the HP computer to 2 GB is a must and that there really isn't much I can do other than keep up the HP maintenance. The owner is hesitant to spend the money to upgrade his system especially since he's had so much trouble already & he doesn't have much confidence in upgrading. However I have informed him that XP will not be supported by Microsoft after next April in 2014 and I believe it's just a matter of time before he will have to upgrade anyway. Unfortunately I don't have the qualifications to provide professional support but he's glad that I can at least provide the basic support I have done.

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    To verify the processor you can hold down the Windows key and tap the Pause/Break key, which will open a window showing the processor speed and other info. Also check the same window that it's running at it's top speed, some processors put themselves into power saving mode and run much slower. I.E., is may show a 2.8Ghz processor running at 2.79Ghz, which is good, or 2.8Ghz processor running at 1.2Ghz - not so good.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrjimphelps View Post
    Also, make sure that a full malware scan-and-clean is done on the slow machine, and then install current anti-malware software on it. Malware is probably slowing down the machine, as it does on lots of machines.
    This should actually be done on BOTH machines.

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    Here's my update. After reviewing Joe's input I asked the owner to rerun Belarc on the computer in question and it's really a Compaq Presario CQ2009F 1.60 GHz Intel Atom 230
    --- I had him print out the first 2 pages so I could finally check the make/model and the computers specs
    Then I told him he MUST upgrade to 2 GB and he finally agreed and a 2GB chip is on its way from crucial
    --- Unfortunately originally I got a Belarc report mixed up between another computer I had looked at and this one
    --- I'll make sure this doesn't happen again

    Originally I had run security & maintenance programs on the first computer as well as update multiple windows updates
    --- There were so many of them I lost count but since SP3 hadn't been installed that's quite a ways back
    --- So it seems as MrJimHelps recommended it's what was needed
    --- He had an expired Norton program that wasn't doing him any good and he asked me to uninstall it
    --- Then I installed Malwarebytes Free and it found many infections including some Trojans
    --- After that he asked me to install Microsoft Security Essentials which is what he uses on three other computers he has

    I won't be able to get the CE up to date or anything because he doesn't want to do anything but run it as is

    Anyway, I stopped in yesterday to personally check the 1st computer since the time I got it up to date and Java is "begging to be updated as well as the newest windows updates" but he just wants the machine to run as is
    --- I did go on multiple internet websites and the access & use time was much improved so at least what I did is looking good but who knows how long that will last if the computer isn't properly maintained
    --- So now the only support I can provide right now is to wait until he realizes his computer needs to be kept "ship-shape"
    BigMac thanks for your instructions for checking the processor speed & other info: I'll check it out

    BTY I have had many friends who run their computers run as is and don't want to change anything because their computer "runs good"
    --- But when it's time to finally address computer issues they do complain a lot and I generraly see it as they don't understand what ir means to keep a computer up to date & secure and in many cases don't even want to bother but that's life I guess
    --- I've been told many times "Why doesn't the computer run like a car? Turn the key' the car starts and your off and running"

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    Quote Originally Posted by cmptrgy View Post
    what I did is looking good but who knows how long that will last if the computer isn't properly maintained
    Don't worry, it won't last long.

    Quote Originally Posted by cmptrgy View Post
    I've been told many times "Why doesn't the computer run like a car? Turn the key' the car starts and your off and running"
    The car will last a bit longer without maintenance; but imagine if they never do oil changes, they never check their tires, they never change their air filter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cmptrgy View Post
    I've been told many times "Why doesn't the computer run like a car? Turn the key' the car starts and your off and running"
    Cars are a good analogy here. Most people just get in the car and go. The only thing they ever do is fill it with gas when they need to, and wash it when it gets dirty. But they don't have a clue about anything else that needs to be done, except maybe oil changes. They don't know what kind of oil to put in, how to check the oil, etc etc. And with computers, they have absolutely no clue about the dangers out there; they have no adequate anti-malware protection, what they have is way out of date and off, they click on anything and everything, they put their credit card number in anywhere and everywhere, etc.

    In both cases (cars and computers), it pays to spend a little bit of time informing yourself of the issues you need to stay on top of and be aware of.

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    Thanks for your summaries mrjimhelps.

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    1. XP's minimum RAM requirement is - ready? - 64 MB. 128 MB is a more reasonable minimum, 256 MB gives you a moderately comfortable system, 512 MB is relatively generous, and 1 GB is VERY generous unless you're running a bunch of RAM-hogging applications simultaneously rather than just a pre-canned business application (plus perhaps some ancillary activity). Saying that your friend MUST upgrade to 2 GB when you have no idea whether it's RAM that's limiting system performance (and my guess would be that it isn't) seems irresponsible.

    2. Yeah, a Celeron (edit: whoops, Atom - and it must have been one of the earliest) is kind of pokey, but, again, until you've confirmed that IT is the bottleneck in performance (and, again, my guess is that it isn't: processor speed typically has no significant impact upon Internet access) urging your friend to upgrade that portion of the hardware seems irresponsible.

    3. XP support will indeed end in a bit over a year, but it sounds as if your friend has been getting along without any for close to 5 years already (otherwise, SP3 would have been present). So while keeping Windows Updates up to date through April, 2014, is a good idea he shouldn't have any worse problem continuing to use XP after that date for years as long as he continues to use up-to-date malware protection, keeps his browser somewhat up to date, exercises a bit of caution on the Internet, and is sitting behind a router that makes the computer invisible to random external probes. On the plus side, sticking with his XP system means that whatever his business application is will continue to run, which it might not do on a later system (or at least not without professional customization). For that matter, does he even have the ability to reinstall his business application at all if he moved to a different version of Windows? Can his existing XP system even be transferred to different hardware (a complex process of driver-updating even if his XP license is transferrable)?

    4. Malware could indeed be behind many of his problems. Was it after you removed it (or some of it) that system response times improved? Getting rid of unnecessary services was a good idea (as long as you didn't get rid of anything that turns out to be necessary).

    5. Before doing anything more, make sure you have a verified backup of the system (he does do backups, right? I mean, his business runs on this machine, so...).

    6. Java opens significant attack vectors, and out-of-date Java even more. Removing it entirely is the best option IF nothing the machine uses depends upon it; otherwise, removing all old versions and installing the newest is likely the best choice (and if none of his Internet browsing depends on it it can still be disabled in the browser while remaining available, e.g., to his business application).

    7. See the lead article in https://windowssecrets.com/newslette...ew-year-right/ - it describes cleaning up and defragmenting the disk (which can help performance), checking the disk's health (a good idea with a system this old, though it won't necessarily catch ALL potential problems and if the disk really is 5 years old and has been running all that time it might be a good idea to replace it), and cleaning out the inside of the machine (e.g., dust buildup can cause the processor to overheat and run slowly).

    8. Is the disk running out of free space? Does the guy ever empty his Recycle Bin? Are there gigabytes of data in his browser caches (beyond some point the lookups may take more time than re-accessing data would)? Does he have more cookies than Mrs. Fields? Checking with something like CCleaner for various forms of system debris and seeing how much good cleaning it up would do (followed by another defragmentation run) would be appropriate if the system still seems slow after all the above (again, you've got an up-to-date backup to restore if you clean up something you shouldn't have, right?).

    That's a start, anyway. Hope it helps.
    Last edited by - bill; 2013-02-14 at 04:10.

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  15. #12
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    I would echo most of Bill's recommendations, except to prioritize:

    SP3 is first. Without it you are not getting all the security updates that your anti-malware programs are assuming are there. Plus, the last time I checked, you couldn't even load Microsoft Security Essentials until it is installed.

    My rule today on RAM in a Windows XP system is this: With SP3 and an antivirus installed, 512M is pokey. Used to be sufficient a few years back, but no more. 768-1024 is ideal. But the rule beyond that iffy. I haven't seen a machine hurt by more memory (as long as the sticks match), and I have seen some XP machines that seem to load faster with 2G or more (usually ones that have a lot to load), but I'd say less than half of the machines I've worked with show any noticeable improvement in regular operation with more than 1G. With the kind of processor you have, I am much less confident it would be an improvement, and I would check to make sure the system isn't already maxed in memory. One way you might guess at this is by cleaning out the junk startup programs and looking at the task manager. If it is running over 500M in its idle state, it probably would benefit to add more, but I would first try to see if I can trim that down a bit, after installing SP3 and a working antivirus.

    A note on Microsoft Security Essentials: it is my choice for Vista and Windows 7 systems (and I've fixed many a Windows 8 system by uninstalling the third-party security and re-enabling the Windows Defender), but I have seen XP systems where it doesn't run well (at various times uses 100% of the CPU for a few minutes, stalling everything else). I would install it cautiously, knowing that I might have to pull it out and go with one of the A's (Avast, Avira, AVG), though these will nag and confuse some people.

    Java is the issue in 90% of the infected computers I fix (about half of them require me removing the hard drive and scanning it on another computer). But it is used in a lot of HP printer software and online games (and I will get calls specifically to fix facebook games, among other things). So in most cases, I remove all installations (including anything that says JRE or JSE) and then install the latest version, telling people to always upgrade when it asks.

    Finally, your primary business software is the driving force, not the hardware (or operating system). It matters little how long XP is supported; just a few months ago I walked in a shop that was running Lantastic and a DOS-based program, that, quite frankly, appears to be as good or better than the expensive stuff out now. I was called in once to help a daycare upgrade their computers: four new computers they purchased, with Vista 64-bit. The first thing we did was call the company that supplied their primary software and found that upgrading to the newest version was going to cost considerably more than the 4 computers, and after pushing them a bit, they eventually told us that they were not 64-bit compatible (yet). Fortunately, the computer boxes were not yet opened, and made their return to the store.

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    Bill & KevinChambers, thank you for your excellent responses
    I would like to add a couple of notes since I'm always open to new & improved ideas
    Irresponsibility is the first one I'd like to pick on
    On the 2 GB RAM
    --- Saying that my friend MUST upgrade to 2 GB does appear to have an ominous tone but I've upgraded quite a few (not all) outdated well maintained XP computers to 2 GB that had 1 GB with excellent improved performance. I'm not a rocket scientist but when problems persist I do resort to that and my friends never complained afterward about a pokey computer
    --- On the task manager 500 M in its idle state, it was originally at 668 MB, now it's at 420 MB

    On the "Yeah, a Celeron (edit: whoops, Atom"
    --- Well yes I made a mistake in reporting a wrong processor originally. I considered that maybe I'm human after all plus I admitted my mistake - I doubt that I'm the only person who has made a mistake. How was I supposed to know the Belarc report was printed off the wrong computer? Anyway after Joe's comment about about the Celeron processor, I sensed something was wrong and so I went back to double-check.

    Onto maintenace & upkeep
    --- He had a professional company try to fix his problems multiple times over a 2 1/2 year period without any success
    --- Last time I saw my friend I gave him a business card from a local computer shop owner and that didn't go well because my friend had already tried him without any success after he got rid of the original professional
    --- As for me I've done his updates and maintenance items to get the Atom computer up to date & secure.
    --- After my original Malwarebytes & MSE scans, no infections have been found
    --- I'm not a professional but at least his computer is running much more efficiently and quickly now

    On the Java, that's really a good one. I had updated it.
    I did recommend he back up his entire system by a professional as I'm not experienced enough to do so
    Bottom line, the owner needs to keep up the maintenance & security on his computer
    I can help him with his basic needs but I'm not a professional and unfortunately he doesn't have much confidence in professional help due to past experience

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    Quote Originally Posted by cmptrgy View Post
    He had a professional company try to fix his problems multiple times over a 2 1/2 year period without any success
    Not all "professionals" know what they are doing. Years ago, a friend of mine hired a "professional" to fix his computer. It still wasn't working afterward, so he called me. I opened the case and found that the hard drive cable was loose. I plugged it in securely, and all problems disappeared.

    No true professional would walk away without first testing the computer. If he didn't test it, or if he did but didn't find any problem, he was no professional in my book.

    Being careful and thorough, and checking your work afterward, is most of what is required to be able to do a good job.

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    XP

    I've worked on several XP machines, doing what you are doing. Mainly helping people with little computer knowledge and/or little money and attempting to get a machine running decently and extend its use for a few years. From my experience, here are my opinions.

    1) A Celeron (sp) is always going to be pokey, CPU wise. This is a terrible chip Intel should never have sold.

    2) XP will run just fine on 1gig memory. It does OK on 512meg. Since I can find used memory on eBay very cheep, I recommend upgrading to 1gig if people have any money at all to spend. (I don't charge for my time, which is usually a significant amount. But I usually won't spend my money on a machine.)

    3)Run Malawarebytes and Spybot multiple times, letting them 'fix' 'issues' until none are found. Reboot at least once in this process and scan again. Run CCLEANER disk cleaner and registry cleaners. Defrag the drive. When you get the machine clean and updated and new software installed, run Ccleaner disk and registry cleaner and Defrag again. Turn Windows Autoupdate on, letting it auto download and install. Explain what is meant when at shutdown the machine tells him 'Don't power the machine down'. This gives the machine a better chance of surviving in the future.

    4)I've used Avast, AVG, and Microsoft Security Essentials on several machines, where there was nothing installed and no money to buy something. AVG (free), in the past, would not auto-update when a new version came out. You had to be knowledgable enough to go to their site and download and install the new version. Avast interface isn't very user friendly. If MSE does require a lot of cpu cycles, a Celeron doesn't have many to spare. BUT - INSTALL ONE OF THESE!!!!!! And be sure its autoupdate and autoscan about weekly is turned on. Use Cclean's Startup update to inactive as much from boot time start as you can.

    5)If anyone does work like this, you should download and save the XP SP3 update. If I remember, it's like 325meg. So, save a copy on some kind of drive (flash, CD, etc) that you can carry to an old, un-updated XP machine. And yes, after this update there will still be multiple updates needed, with dozens of modules being updated. It will take multiple update passes, while updates will be required on top of updates. Just one update will not get it. I keep a 4gig mini harddrive I bought on Woot loaded with these various utilities. If I start to work on a machine, I download fresh copies of these utilities on my machine to this drive, then install them on the machine I'm working on.

    6) I agree about putting a router on this system. This would help to stop lots of baddies coming after a machine. With a router and one of the free antivirus softwares, it should be protected pretty well. If someone browses the internet going to questionable sites, or downloading 'free' games or music, the machine could (probably 'will') still be infected.

    7)When doing this, I almost always now carry the CPU box to my house. The above work takes hour and hours of elapsed time. I don't like to sit in people house while attempting to do this, while at my house I can start these utilities/updates and do other things. Since what the OP was talking about was a business support machine, this might not have been possible to do. But if a machine is essentially inoperatible, which many spyware infestions will do, the owner is losing nothing when you carry it home.

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