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Thread: System Slowdown

  1. #1
    Uranium Lounger
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    System Slowdown

    I've been experiencing a strange slowdown in my system over the past two days and wondered if anyone could shed some light on the possible causes. The system is a 233MMX with 192Mb of RAM running Widows 98SE on a 4Gb main HD (5200), 1.25Gb free space with a 40Gb secondary HD (7200), 5.9Gb free space. The drives are run through an Intel 82371 AB/EB PCI control card and only 31Gb of the second drive is available (seen by the system).

    Two days ago I replaced what I suspected was a CPU fan gone bad. After I finished and rebooted, the system was behaving strangely, the mouse was slow or non responsive and all the windows and menus open and close in slow motion, almost like a fold-out menu or a window slowly collapsing into the taskbar. I also noticed my system clock was loosing time at a rather rapid rate and I was unable to get it to synchronize with the atomic clock in Boulder, CO. It would get to within 1 second, but no closer, and then begin to lose time right away. Tried doing some backups to save what I could, but the system is too slow and Herkey-Jerkey to get the job done (system keeps crashing or locking up). The CPU fan is running at close to normal RPM 3600 vs 4550, before the problem, but I suspect that the reading is not accurate, and the system temp is about 35. When I shut down and let it cool for an hour or so and then reboot, I get a red text warning in the post about some hardware not working properly and to hit any key to continue. Hitting the key brings the machine up and then it starts running in slow motion. The mouse is for the most part fine except when multi-tasking and the system resources run between 55 & 75% free. Subsequent reboots do not produce the hardware error. The fan speed is 1886 RPM on the cold boot when the error occurs and increases with each subsequent reboot. I'm suspecting this area may be where the problem lies, but am at a loss as to what it might be. Also noticed today that after the system was shutdown overnight as a precaution for possible overheating, the clock was accurate (after being on battery power overnight) but once the system was started it began to loose time again. I started the system this AM at about 7:35 and now, some 12 hours later, the clock reads 11:13 AM.
    Any and all thoughts on the subject would be appreciated. Excepting those concerning a jolly elf in a red suit and the 25th of the month. <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15>

    Thanks !!
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    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: System Slowdown

    <hr>about some hardware not working properly<hr>
    What hardware, specifically? Any and all error messages and their text is of extreme value in troubleshooting the problem.

    If you suspect the temperature, I'd recommend getting a small thermometer (such as an aquarium thermometer sold in any pet store) and placing it inside the case to get an accurate reading of the ambient case temperature. Also, observe the fan itself - there will be a noticeable difference in the revolution of the blades if it is not spinning at its full speed, and airflow will be extremely reduced. Heck with it, fans are cheap - consider a new one just to be safe if you suspect it. You don't need a shiny Orb or something that costs mega- <img src=/S/money.gif border=0 alt=money width=17 height=15>.

    Does the error appear ONLY on a cold boot and not on warm-boot scenarios? Go into the BIOS and disable the "quick POST" so that the system performs a thorough self-diagnostic instead of just counting memory.
    -Mark

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    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: System Slowdown

    Thanks for the quick reply Mark. <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15> Ever present, as always. <img src=/S/bow.gif border=0 alt=bow width=15 height=15>

    The error message that appears in red text as opposed to the normal white on black in the post screen before it scrolls the memory is <font color=red>"System hardware is abnormal, press any key to continue..."</font color=red>, the CPU fan RPM is 1394 and the system temp (after being shut down for 1.5 hrs) is 25. This is on a cold boot. A complete shutdown and restart 10 minutes later brings no error message and a CPU fan RPM of 3183 and a system temp of 29. On both the cold boot and the warm restart, the system clock is accurate to the minute. Truth IS stranger than fiction !!!
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    Plutonium Lounger
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    Re: System Slowdown

    Hey guys, I'm way out of my league here, but is there any possibility that the power supply is not putting out correct or steady power? You and Mark know far more about this than I, but it's just a thought.

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    Re: System Slowdown

    Hi Al,
    Thanks for jumping in on this. I had the same thought myself about the power supply being inefficient or perhaps beginning to fail. Ran the idea past a friend who is a hardware specialist for Lockheed Martin and he says that the power supply is either working or not, there is no in between.
    I have, of course, been poking at this little conundrum myself and had suspected that there might be a virus involved because of the nature of the behavior of the system. It's been so slow that all my attempts to run a system scan were taking up way to much time during waking hours, so last night I took a calculated risk that the CPU fan speed was not an issue and that the machine wouldn't overheat and die and ran a full system scan overnight. Surprise !!! A file called hohoho(1).exe was infected with W95.CIH.remnants virus. Norton AV offered to fix the file and I let it do the work and then rebooted and checked out the offender. The file's properties tells me that it's been on my system since 12/12/00. Information from Symantech indicates that this is the remains of the Chernobyl virus (something I have never been infected by) and that it is a particularly nasty little bug. The strange thing is that the trigger is April 26th or the 26th of any month and the problem began around the 13th or 14th. I don't recall being in that particular folder where the file is stored recently and am certain that I didn't execute the thing recently, despite the seasonal nature of the file (It's a cynical, profane Christmas ditty). The first payload overwrites the hard disk, crashing the system and making it non-bootable, and the overwritten data difficult or impossible to recover. The second does permanent damage to the computer, attacking the Flash BIOS and trying to corrupt the data there. My system's behavior seems to indicate that part of this payload may have executed and done some damage to the CMOS files. Things are better since the repair and reboot, but still not right. I'm not familiar enough with the BIOS to start messing around with things in there. I'll be checking with my tech expert today to see if he can fix something like this.
    I'm still at a loss to explain how this all happened, but am also resigned to the fact that I may never find that answer. If I can repair the damage, that may be the best I can hope for. Any information on this subject will be greatly appreciated.
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    Re: System Slowdown

    Doc,
    I don't entirely agree with your friend from Lockheed about a power supply either working or not, with no in between.
    Power supply components, like any other solid state components, USUALLY, but not always react this way. When a device starts to fail from over heating or whatever cause, it's characteristics or values may vary all over the lot. A diode may start to leak or short causing voltages to go high or low from the expected norm. A capacitor may develop poor power factor or leakage. Same result. All this before the device actually has a catastrophic failure and the supply completely fails.
    The loss of system clock accuracy and fan speed variation point to power problems first, not virus infection, which may also be a secondary problem. A GOOD voltmeter monitoring the supply line will usually reveal this, but if you don't wish to get that deep into the box, I would suggest a reliable repair tech. Maybe your friend will volunteer?

    Bob
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    Re: System Slowdown

    I thought I'd chime in with my <img src=/S/2cents.gif border=0 alt=2cents width=15 height=15> on this one. Since the motherboard has voltage regulation built in, or at least should, if the voltages drop below an acceptable level it should shut things down. From what you are describing, it sounds very much like the motherboard itself has problems - could be a leaked capacitor, a chip that's given up the ghost, any number of things. The only effective way to troubleshoot it is to strip out all your hardware except for the bare essentials: video, and one stick of memory. See if that brings you back to operational status. If you can get a hold of cheap video card it too would be something to look at.

    I feel fairly confident that it's hardware related. Certainly it's not the easiest thing in the world to troubleshoot, but when I had this problem, it was because a power surge did damage to the motherboard. All the add-in cards were fine, and even the CPU survived - but it was unbelievalbly slow. This may be the perfect excuse for an upgrade. <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>
    -Mark

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    Re: System Slowdown

    Thanks for the input Bob. <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15> I tend to agree with you based strictly on my limited knowledge of electrical components in general. I defer to my friend in matters related to computers because of his vast experience (25 years) with all types of systems and hardware. Electric motors and appliances often behave erratically before they fail completely, and a power supply is nothing more than an electrical appliance. I am gradually working my way through the problems 1 by 1 and have eliminated the virus as an issue. The performance is much improved since I cleared the system this afternoon, but still has some of the same issues (slow opening / closing windows & menus and the clock still isn't right). I have the system shut down now to do a cold boot and see how the fan RPMs are after it cools down (in about 3 hrs). Also have noticed on startup and shutdown, that the floppy drive is very slow when the system checks it (sounds like an old 386 with 4Mb of RAM reading it's data). I suspected a problem with the power initially (before I knew about the virus), but thought that it was related to a bad CPU fan and over-heating. After I replaced the fan it was still a bit loud, but has quieted down since the virus was cleared (go figure that one out). I'm gonna see how the cold boot turns out and if that's still a problem, take it over to my tech guy to have the voltage checked. The clock keeping time on battery power and then losing time so rapidly when the system is running screams POWER ISSUE (either supply or distribution). If that's not it, I may do some trouble shootin' with a .357 magnum !! <img src=/S/blackhole.gif border=0 alt=blackhole width=15 height=15>
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    Re: System Slowdown

    Mark,
    Thanks for the <img src=/S/2cents.gif border=0 alt=2cents width=15 height=15> !! I can use all the help I can get on this one !! <img src=/S/yep.gif border=0 alt=yep width=15 height=15> You and Bob seem to be on the same page and I'm fixin' to skip ahead to the page you're on. As I said in my reply to Bob, I'm thinking it's a power issue and the motherboard is part of the power grid. The machine is operational now, just behaving strangely and not keeping time. I haven't tried the floppy drive since this issue began, but will check it out when I reboot the system.
    Perfect excuse for an upgrade ??? This is a 233MMX we're talkin' about....... It's it's own excuse for an upgrade !!! I don't need an excuse.... I need <img src=/S/money.gif border=0 alt=money width=17 height=15> !!!!!
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