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    3 Star Lounger Backspacer's Avatar
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    What's slowing me down now?

    I've got three Dell Optiplex systems in my store. They are the in the Ultra Small Form Factor, meaning that they are only minimally configurable, but are small and don't generate a lot of heat.

    One is a 7010 model with 64 bit Windows 7 Pro, an i7 processor, and 8Gb of RAM. It has our point of sale (POS) server on it - not as heavy a load as you might think - the UPS shipping database, and runs as a POS cash register. It also has Thunderbird and FireFox and backup software and other stuff that isn't used all that often. This system seems quite capable of doing all the tasks we ask of it.

    The other two are the 790 model with 64 bit Windows 7 Pro, i5 processors. One has 3Gb of RAM and one has 8Gb. Both of them run client-only POS and UPS shipping applications, Thunderbird email (always open) and the other occasional stuff.

    One of those 790s plays music constantly. This is the 8Gb RAM one. We sell music in the store (yes, dinosaurs we are, but don't forget: birds are dinosaurs and remain quite successful to this day) and we play demo tracks in the overhead speakers. Most of these tracks are MP3s.

    The other of these 790s (the "remote system") is almost always accessed through Remote Desktop. This is the 3Gb RAM one.

    OK, so that's the setup. Here's the problem: both of the 790s have become very sluggish and neither of them is that old. The music one started slowing down last winter, the remote desktop one more recently. They are always slow, but sometimes almost grind to a halt for a few seconds before grudgingly dragging on again.

    I have logged into both of them with Remote Desktop and looked at them with the Windows Resource Monitor and compared it to my desktop system. The CPUs occasionally max out, but normally run at about 70. Memory seems adequate. The Gb Ethernet rarely runs over 1 Mb/s. The only thing I see that seems to be a problem is the disk activity. Right now I'm looking at the "remote system" and the green lines keep pegging on the "disk" graph. But these graphs have variable scales, so I need to understand what is reasonable to expect. The spikes are normally about 250 Kb/s, but sometimes peg the 1Mb/s scale. Disk queue length frequently exceeds .05 seconds - about half the total time.

    Does it sound like the disks are holding me back or something else? Any help on troubleshooting this will sure be appreciated!

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    3 Star Lounger Backspacer's Avatar
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    By the way, don't suggest that I call Dell. Their tech support people don't even seem to speak English as a second language. I am already planning to build my own systems from now on. At least then I can expect that some of the suppliers will have helpful tech support. (I've already experienced it from two of them!)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Backspacer View Post
    By the way, don't suggest that I call Dell. Their tech support people don't even seem to speak English as a second language. I am already planning to build my own systems from now on. At least then I can expect that some of the suppliers will have helpful tech support. (I've already experienced it from two of them!)
    Backspacer,
    Hello... After some "Searching" i found that some of these units have "Capacitor " problems which can affect your power supply ...which can then affect your PC in all sorts of ways ... One way to check this is with a free program called HWMonitor 1.23 you would need to download and install this on each PC and have a "Look See" at all power supply voltages ... If this is a problem you would have to replace them or have a PC tech do this ...but in trying to trouble shoot this ...a good first step Regards Fred

    PS: Have a look at This
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Just Plain Fred; 2013-07-14 at 21:25.
    PlainFred

    None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free (J. W. Von Goethe)

  4. #4
    Super Moderator satrow's Avatar
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    Fred's comments are good, bad 'caps' will eventually lead to all sorts of 'random' issues; any hardware problem will trump anything you try to do in software! (Sorry Fred, your Ask link is blocked here - I won't have anything to do with that 'invasionware' company!)

    Quick tip for background/kernel/drivers issues for TaskMan's Performance tab: View > Show kernel times. This will give an indication of how efficiently the kernel and associated drivers are running, consistent red line activity over ~8-10% is likely to be detectable as a 'lag' in response and needs investigating.

    If the machines are set to auto-update Windows, it's possible that some hardware drivers will need updating; on x64, any Wi-fi, USB3 and 'utilities' from the motherboard/graphics maker would be my first choice to update or uninstall to test, followed by the motherboard chipset/SATA drivers.

    Disk activity can be the cause of such stuttering as described, you could try to reduce their I/O with some of the proven 'tweaks' for SSDs. The guide here is probably as good as any: http://thessdreview.com/ssd-guides/o...ows-8-edition/ - only invoke 2-3 changes at a time, preferably on the machine you have direct access to first to test the effect. Have drives connected to the Intel SATA controller if you can, keep free drive space to 33-25% minimum, more is better, especially if the drives are relatively small.

    'Delete' any unnecessary emails, empty the bin and then compress the mailboxes.
    Last edited by satrow; 2013-07-14 at 21:37.

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    3 Star Lounger Backspacer's Avatar
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    Thanks. I read up on that capacitor issue and it appears to be from 2005/6. My systems were purchased in late 2011 and 2012. I assume Dell would have resolved the issue by then, but I am going to download HWMonitor and see what it says. I need to wait until I can get time on the system for that. (Another hour or so.)

    The machines are setup for auto updating, so I will check on that and the kernel times thing, also when I can get on the system.

    I do not have SSDs, but am considering them if it turns out the drives are too slow for the demand.

    I'll report back if any of this shows up something. Thanks again...

  6. #6
    Super Moderator satrow's Avatar
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    Don't neglect the SSD tweaks, they'll reduce the amount of Disk I/O, writes especially, on any System drive.

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    3 Star Lounger Backspacer's Avatar
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    OK, I'm on the system right now. Quickest thing to look at was the Task Manager Performance tab. The CPU usage was lazing along at zero. Memory less than 50%. I selected View Kernel Times and then scrolled up the PO list in our POS. That would have the effect of going to the server (the 7010 system) and getting a lot of data; presumably then storing it on the local drive which I guess tests two things, not one. CPU usage soared to a whopping 2%, but one of the CPUs slowly crept up higher than that and it got a red curve below its green curve. It was obviously waiting. But I don't know if it was waiting for network or disk. I'll play with this some more ... I clicked the Resource monitor button in the task manager and the processor usage momentarily went red. That would be waiting for disk. So I set the Resource Monitor so that I could see disk activity and still see the CPU usage graph in Task Manager and did some more heavy POS database access, even heavier than before. I was able to get one of the CPUs up to about 30% with the red line about 1/3 below that, but no change in disk activity (still peaking, but did not peak more or peg during the test.) So that was probably all a red herring.

    HWMonitor: my computer apparently does not report supply voltages. CPU temps are fine, though.

    Checked Windows Update. No drivers need updating. I'm not sure what you mean about uninstalling drivers. If the implication is that a driver got installed in the past and that is slowing me down, I would have to wonder how to undo and how far back to go. (If I can even roll back to previous drivers before the last one.) I do not use these systems, myself, and have just started hearing grumbling during the last 6 months or so with vague claims that they are getting worse. I have checked and seen the problem for myself. They are definitely slower than they should be and have bad spells. Unfortunately, I cannot predict the bad spells and haven't managed to be looking at the Resource Monitor during one of them.

    Onward ...

    Hey, wait a minute! While I was in looking at Windows Update I noticed some .NET updates waiting to happen, so I told the system to install them. Now all CPUs have red waiting lines, though they are nowhere near max'd out. And the disks are manic. Queues are 5 - formerly .01 to .05. But I don't know what those units are. There is a blue line on the disk status graphs in Resource Monitor that I do not understand, but they are really high. Network is well within limits.

    There is a lot of free space on the disk, more than 60%. I just looked up the drive. It is a SATA 3Gb/s 7200 RPM drive from Seagate. I'm really tempted to get a SATA 3.0 (6Gb/s) SSD drive and see if that helps. I have another use for one in case it doesn't fix the problem. Opinions?

    Thanks, again, for the help.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Backspacer View Post
    By the way, don't suggest that I call Dell. Their tech support people don't even seem to speak English as a second language. I am already planning to build my own systems from now on. At least then I can expect that some of the suppliers will have helpful tech support. (I've already experienced it from two of them!)
    They'll likely suggest doing a factory restore. Somewhat overkill, as I think you'll agree.





    Do these system ever get booted on a regular basis?
    Are these systems continuously & only accessed via remote desktop?
    Have these systems been maintained/updated, defragmented, cleaned up, and reinitialized (booted) on a regular basis?
    Are these system on the internet?
    Do you have images of them tucked away somewhere from when they were running at their peak?

    As a minimum, and first step, I'd want to see what might be slowing them down;
    Process Explorer: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/s...rnals/bb896653
    TCPView: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/s...rnals/bb897437
    Autoruns: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/s...rnals/bb963902

    The above tools may help.
    Last edited by CLiNT; 2013-07-14 at 23:05.
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  9. #9
    3 Star Lounger Backspacer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CLiNT View Post
    They'll likely suggest doing a factory restore. Somewhat overkill, as I think you'll agree.
    Yep.

    Do these system ever get booted on a regular basis?
    Yes, every night.

    Are these systems continuously & only accessed via remote desktop?
    They are on continuously. The POS/music system is accessed remotely every morning, then locally through the rest of the day. The "remote" POS system is accessed almost completely remotely and all day, every day. It does have a local monitor, but it is turned off all but a couple of days a month.

    Have these systems been maintained/updated, defragmented, cleaned up, and reinitialized (booted) on a regular basis?
    I try to maintain them regularly. I am not a professional administrator, so probably do not do a flawless job of it. I read, in the Windows Secrets newsletter I think, that defragging is not necessary in Windows 7 as it defrags itself on an ongoing basis. I did do a manual defrag a couple of weeks ago to check this and it did seem to be true.

    Are these system on the internet?
    Yes.

    Do you have images of them tucked away somewhere from when they were running at their peak?
    No. Now you're going to tell me I should have. :-)

    As a minimum, and first step, I'd want to see what might be slowing them down;
    Process Explorer: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/s...rnals/bb896653
    TCPView: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/s...rnals/bb897437
    Autoruns: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/s...rnals/bb963902

    The above tools may help.
    Thank you. I will take a look at this tomorrow (Monday ... I guess that's actually today now.)

  10. #10
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    An image is the best way, IMO, to back up an entire system including OS, Apps and all customizations. Obviously data backup needs are different so data should be backed up more often. In my PCs, I can restore to my latest image in about 10 minutes, YMMV depending on the size of the drive being imaged. My C drives are approx. 32 Gb. This does not include data since I have a separate data partition on both PCs. In this manner data is not touched if I screw up the OS.

    I create a new Image at least once per month after patch Tuesday. In this way if I loose an entire HD, I can get it back quickly.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
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  11. #11
    Super Moderator satrow's Avatar
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    ... one of the CPUs up to about 30% with the red line about 1/3 below that ...
    That reads like it may be a driver issue somewhere, ~20% kernel time is not good. Don't use Microsoft for driver updates, they're frequently older and limited in their overall performance (often quite obvious with graphics drivers). As you have a reasonably 'standard' machine, Dell or the individual chip makers' driver should be better, in the makers' case, more recent too.

    .NET updates will trigger a big increase in activity post-install, it's normal and should reduce to close to zero by about an hour or so after a (usually required for WU) reboot.

    Drivers for 'utilities' can sometimes cause problems, uninstall them if they're not being used; zipping and attaching an Autoruns *.arn file in a reply here will allow us to check for commonly buggy drivers, auto-starting programs, scheduled tasks etc. Run Autoruns as Admin from the right-click menu, hit Esc, Options > Filter options - check only Verify ... and Windows files. Hit the Refresh button, wait for it to fully load (see Status bar) then Save as the default (*.arn) type.

  12. #12
    Super Moderator jwitalka's Avatar
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    Run MSConfig and check the Startup tab for unnecessary programs. If you don't know if they are necessary, see here for recommendations:
    http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/startups/
    Uncheck everything except for the bare minimum.

    Also, disable all security (AV and Firewall) software as a test. Some packages can affect performance. If the system runs better, look into a different vendor.

    Jerry

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    3 Star Lounger Backspacer's Avatar
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    OK, that's a lot to digest.

    Drive image: seems like a good idea, but I know myself well enough to know that it won't happen. The systems are 100 miles away from me in the summer and 1200 in the winter. Nobody on site can do it (trust me.) I'm not sure how I would even do it. And, last but not least, I tend to start out doing things like this, then I space it out. Not through laziness, I work hard, just because I'm a "new horizons" type (1990s psychojargon) and not so good at regular routines.

    A driver issue sounds interesting. Two very similar systems, the only difference being the amount of memory and that one is running a music jukebox, same manufacturer and model, etc. I'm sure most of the drivers are the same, so if one is causing the problem, it seems like it would do so on both systems. I will look into this, but it is our insanely busy season (we are in a beach resort town, if you can imagine what that is like in July and August) so my opportunities to spend time on the systems are limited.

    I keep my startup files pared down as well as I can, but there are still a number of things which startup because I'm not sure if I need for them to do so or not. Same with services. If I turn something off that blocks my RDP login, I have to jump in the car and drive 100 miles to undo it. :-) But this is something that I can look into a bit at a time as I get time on the systems, so I'll plug away at it and see if I can pare them down even more.

    These systems use the standard Windows firewall and Microsoft Security Essentials. I used to use Norton Internet Security but I read a Windows Secrets article claiming that the Microsoft offerings were as adequate as any one solution can be. They are behind a pretty good NAT router (ZyXel WSG-20w). I also run MalwareBytes on them once a week and only once or twice a year does it find anything - and even then it is usually found in the Thunderbird Junk folder. We do run Secunia PSI to monitor software status and I wonder if that might be slowing us down. I assumed that it only ran at startup, but now I realize that it's sitting there in the tray...

  14. #14
    Super Moderator satrow's Avatar
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    If you've previously had Norton or other AV/3rd party firewall products installed, ensure that you run the specialised uninstall tools created for them, many, Norton being close to top of the list, have a tendency to leave remnants behind that can lead to strange issues like this - and worse! SYMnrt is here: https://support.norton.com/sp/en/us/...home&version=1

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    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    Here's an easy thing to do to speed up your internet browsing experience -- disable Browser Helper Objects. These are programs which attach themselves to your browser and can slow things down.

    While there are some useful BHOs, my preference is to disable them all, so as to block the non-useful ones.

    In Internet Explorer, go to Tools / Internet Options / Advanced. Under the Browsing section, uncheck "Enable third-party browser extensions."

    My internet experience got noticeably faster when I did that. And some adware, which I couldn't disable any other way, stopped running.

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