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    Hard drive thrashing makes computer slow

    I am trying to resurrect an old Acer Travelmate 2450 with XP Home for use on an upcoming trip. This install is fully patched. On some days, the disk thrashes for several tens of minutes (the drive led stays on, occulting not blinking) and response to keys or mouse-clicks is painfully slow. This makes the computer practically useless.

    I use Firefox as my browser. When I run CCleaner, I find (for example) 30 Meg of Firefox temporary internet files but three-times as much junk generated by IE (not used by me). I run Vipre internet suite, scan regularly and it has quarantined one trojan. I just ran Malwarebytes and it found nothing.

    Any ideas on what should cause so much thrashing? It was never a problem on my big machine before I switched from XP to Win 7.
    Dan Lynch
    The stonecherub

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    Quote Originally Posted by stonecherub View Post
    I am trying to resurrect an old Acer Travelmate 2450 with XP Home for use on an upcoming trip. This install is fully patched. On some days, the disk thrashes for several tens of minutes (the drive led stays on, occulting not blinking) and response to keys or mouse-clicks is painfully slow. This makes the computer practically useless.

    Any ideas on what should cause so much thrashing?
    Dan,

    Hello... Could be the hard disk is having some problems you can run "chkdsk /r" from an elevated command prompt... ( no quotes and a space after chkdsk) ..This would be a good start ...there are others , post back with results ...The "r" will attempt to repair any "bad's" on the disk.... Regards Fred
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    PlainFred

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  3. #3
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    I started the computer, invoked chkdsk /r in the cmd window and was required to have it run on next start up. When I shut down the computer, I get a pop-up window telling me "dot net broadcast event window 2.0.0" is being shut down. Eventually chkdsk ran but took an inordinately long time, nearly an hour for a 25 Gb disk.

    It seems to be better but will wait until tomorrow morning to evaluate. Thanks for the advice.
    Dan Lynch
    The stonecherub

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    My does the same thing even at times momentarily "freezing" any clicks or key-presses. I have a lot of background programs running and several programs running in the foreground. I chalk it up to Windows doing some "house cleaning": recovering parts physical memory no longer being used by a previous process, the swap/pagefile being cleaned up also.

    Run the program "What's my computer doing?" from this web site: http://www.itsth.com/en/produkte/Wha...g.php?fromwmcd

    It may give you some clues.

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    "What's my computer doing?" may give you a clue, but I would be running Process Explorer - download from http://technet.microsoft.com/en-au/s.../bb896653.aspx

    It will show you at a glance which programs are using the most CPU and disk activity.

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    4 Star Lounger SpywareDr's Avatar
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    1. Make sure it has at least 2 GB of RAM.

    2. Run the appropriate hard drive manufacturer's hard drive diagnostics to see if the drive is failing:


      Note: If you don't know which make hard drive is in it, Seagate's diags work with most.

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    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    The check disk scan did take a long time to go through such a small drive. I would want very much to follow up on that
    by looking at the logfiles for the scan, and then REPEATING the exact same scan again, followed by a thorough defrag.



    You should also try to get an idea of what is actually running in the background and on startup.
    There are several free applications that can help with this;
    Process Explorer v15.3 will give you a fairly good idea of what is running realtime on your system. Even the default Windows XP task manager will be of some use.
    Autoruns in the "Logon" tab will show you what is starting when you logon to your system.
    You should also become familiar with what services are active on your system, but be very careful if/when you disable any.

    I would also want to know if the exact same behaviors are replicated while in safemode.
    DRIVE IMAGING
    Invest a little time and energy in a well thought out BACKUP regimen and you will have minimal down time, and headache.

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    How full is the disk? If you don't have at least 10% free space, Nothing is going to run very well, if at all. You might want to disable 'hibernate', temporarily or permanently, to free up the space taken by the hibernate file in the root of C: drive. I would also defrag the drive. Then the other advice you have received will be more effective.

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    4 Star Lounger SpywareDr's Avatar
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    Since there is no software that 'fix' flaky/failing hardware, run the HD Diags (mentioned above) first, and then run Memtest86+ overnight second:

    Version 4.20 for Windows direct download links:

    If they both pass with flying colors, the next step would be the "chkdsk /r" command.

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    Star Lounger Wiley's Avatar
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    it might also have something to do with the size of the pagefile. pagefiles resize themselves based on usage. unloading programs, to reduce the size when the system is idle. to stop it from constantly resizing you set the min and max size to the same level. the old rule of thumb used to be to set it at 150% of your physical ram.
    updated procedures claim that controlling the size of the pagefile is old school and no longer needed.
    old school tricks still works, that why i still use them

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    increase swap file and installed memory, check for failing memory, autoruns

    Initial comments based upon 32 bit Vista and prior Windows versions. Some notes applicable to 64 bit versions follow.

    Sometimes the disk thrashing is caused by not enough memory, and/or a swap file (virtual memory) that is too small. If you have a tendency to leave tasks open and switch from one to another (like I do), the usual swap file recommendation to use a swap file 1.5x installed memory never seemed to apply. I find that specifying a user managed swap file just under 4G for a 32 bit OS may help with the thrasing, and increasing installed memory to 4GB (no less than 2GB) will greatly improve performance.

    You can use the system monitoring, task manager, or other functions to observe system activity. The easiest to start with might be task manager or the Windows Reliability and Performance Monitor. Look for lots of hard page faults, indicating that the system had to load data that had been swapped to disk. On a quiet system the hard page faults should be very low. If a fully loaded system has high page faulting, especially if the only thing you are doing is looking at the monitor page, then either your swap file or available memory, or both, are too small for the load, and you will probably hear the disk thrashing, i.e. the sound of many head seeks (unless you are using an SSD system disk).

    I would recommend running autoruns from the Microsoft Sysinternals.com collection. It will show you everything that runs on startup. Look for add on utilities that have entries that load things that you do not use. Some of the entries may be for "pre loaders" that load code so that the applications starts up quicker - but if the application is not being used, the code is still loaded. You can turn off the preloading for many aftermarket utilities with out affecting the utility performance. One example is ITunes. Others might be for utilities that you tried, and decided not to use, but never uninstalled. Note that there are many services that are required for system operation listed here and I do not recommend tinkering with those.

    To set up your swap file (and hopefully as one contiguous file), first set swap file to none, reboot, defrag, set swap file parms for user managed swap file to just under 4GB, reboot, and see if that helps. A system managed swap file allocates and frees disk space as necessary, leading to sluggish performance and more disk fragmentation.

    If you have less than 4GB installed, see if you can increase memory to 4GB. There are plenty of deals available on the internet.

    You may have a failing memory module. I suspected one at one time as the system sometimes stalled for unknown reasons, but none of the memory diagnostics found anything, then one day I enabled the full post in the BIOS boot and lo and behold, POST found failing memory in one of the original OEM modules. I pulled that associated module and no more problems for a while, before the other original OEM memory failed. Pulled that one bringing me down to 2GB of aftermarker memory, making the system run sluggish. Got 2 GB more memory installed (cheaper on the net) and things were back to normal. Note that after pulling defective memory I decided that I might not want to trust the system files so I saved current files and went back almost a year in my system backups to restore something that hopefully was before the memory defects, copied newer user files from the current backup copy and installed updates, and backed up again.

    With regards to 64 bit Windows, you are not limited to 4 GB, so a larger swap file and additional memory might speed things up for those that tend to leave various windows open. Again, if pages are hard faulting, increase physical memory.

  12. #12
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    On Windows XP, repeated disk thrashing could be caused by numerous things.

    Feel free to ignore my questions- just my train of thought being shared.


    Approaching from the angle too many things are running in the first place- not likely
    My first question is how much RAM is installed?

    How many icons next to your clock after machine is fully booted? But before you run anything by choice? And after you open your applications, how many icons there? If you hit ctrl-alt-del and look at running applications, how many are listed? How many appear to not have a window you can see associated with them?


    Approaching from the angle this machine was in daily use before being stored and pulled out recently- ?likely?
    Do you have an email program that auto-loads on bootup? If so, it could be checking for email too frequently, or since you stated this is an older machine, it may be attempting to download gigabytes of old mail you don't know about yet.

    On XP, I tend to steer clear of dotNET applications; nothing against them personally, I just don't like the hanging messages I used to get upon shutdown (like the one you mention). I do not have any evidence to support disliking dotNET, just a preference.

    Your hard drive could also be failing. I haven't seen a drive under 80Gigs made in over 5 years. Similar vintage (to your 25Gig) drives in my possession are also failing currently... could be what you are experiencing to be honest.

    Approaching from the angle you pulled this out of storage and reinstalled Windows from a M$ Windows XP Home CD
    Your hard drive itself may not be configured for fastest access possible. Sounds like you machine just might have SATA drives configured in IDE mode. While this shouldn't cause thrashing all by itself, I wouldn't completely rule it out. As I am not knowledgable at this type of issue, I shouldn't attempt to assist.


    Observations shared between all approaches
    RAM is vital to test.
    Hard drive is vital to test.

    The RAM tests will take over the machine much like checkdisk does; the difference is the RAM test is repeated over and over (user selectable), as RAM errors can be extremely difficult to re-produce. The longer you loop the RAM tests, the more accurate the testing as a whole is. Do not assume a single 1 hour test will mean you are clear of RAM errors. A full 24hours may not even be enough time.

    The hard drive tests will take longer if you have bad sectors. In my circle of friends, we call bad sectors cancer. Bad sectors will only ever get worse, and nothing an end-user can do will fix them. During the checkdisk, you may actually be able to see the bad sectors shown (it has been years since I use XP and ran checkdisk, I don't remember the screen).

    I sincerely hope this post has contributed to the conversation.

    Benjamin

  13. #13
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    Thank-you, everybody, I am getting a hand on this. I call this computer Old-Acer and it is. I just looked at the on-board memory to find a 512 and 256 K chips. Just ordered a couple of one G chips. That surely should help.

    Chkdsk /f took nearly an hour to run a couple of days ago because it hasn't been done in years. Another run yesterday took a few minutes - less than 10 (I got distracted).

    The disk is a 40 G antique which is adequate for what I need, Hitachi doesn't remember they ever shipped something so small and the seagate utilities found no problems.

    Yesterday morning, it just hung and had to be shut down. This morning, it's slow but it runs. Let's see what more memory will do.

    Thanks again for the suggestions.
    Dan Lynch
    The stonecherub

  14. #14
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    You might also consider going through the "add/remove" section of the control panel and do a little program cleaning-up.
    Meaning, ...remove the things that you don't regularly use.
    As others have said previously, make certain you have a certain percentage of free space available on the drive.
    Adding more memory can definitely help, but it isn't everything.
    Don't over install the system with programs, and don't have everything running at once.
    DRIVE IMAGING
    Invest a little time and energy in a well thought out BACKUP regimen and you will have minimal down time, and headache.

    Windows 8.1, 64 bit
    Motherboard: DX58SO2*Chipset: X58 Express/Intel ICH10*BIOS: SOX5820J.86A.0888.2012.0129.2203*Processor: Intel Core i7 CPU X 990
    GPU: Nvidia GTX 580*Memory: Corsair 12 GB, 4x3@1600*PSU: Corsair HX1000*Hard drives: REVO X2 160GB*OCZ VERT X3 120GB*5 mechanical storage drives (12 TB) total.

  15. #15
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    With new memory on order (2 G which is all the mobo will take), I am going to go through all of the installed software and remove anything I won't need on the road. What I intend to use the computer for is e-mail and handbooks for cameras, etc., where the manufacturer no longer prints manuals.

    I had XP pro from my last job on it but moved out of the region where the license was valid and a friend gave me XP home (the box fails the "ready for Win 7" test). I always record the license keys but somehow lost the install disk. Some third party provides patched disks for win 7 which I have used for re-installs but apparently not for XP.

    I soldier on.
    Dan Lynch
    The stonecherub

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