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How To Diagnose a Suddenly Slow Windows Computer?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the ineffably-inexplicable dept.

Windows 835

Ensign Taco writes "I'm sure nearly every one of us has had it happen. All of a sudden your Windows PC slows to a crawl for no apparent reason. Yeah, we all like Linux because it doesn't do annoying things like this, but the Windows desktop still reigns supreme in most managed LAN work environments. I'm running XP with 4G of RAM and a decent CPU, and everything was fine, until one day — it wasn't. I've run spybot, antivirus, and looked at proc explorer — no luck. There is no one offending, obvious process. It seems every process decides to spike at once at random intervals. So I'm wondering if there's a few wizards out there that know what to look at. Could this be a very clever virus that doesn't run as a process? Or could this just be some random application error that's causing bad behavior? I've encountered this a few times with Windows PCs, but the solution has always been to just add more hardware. Has anyone ever successfully diagnosed this kind of issue?" And whether such a problem is related to malware or not, what steps would you take next?

cancel ×

835 comments

Check the HDD (5, Informative)

Fez (468752) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566631)

Very commonly this happens when a hard drive reverts to PIO mode after Windows decides it has seen a few errors from the drive. You can verify this by looking at the properties of the IDE Controller to which the drive is connected in device manager. (IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers/Primary IDE Channel/Advanced Settings tab, for example)

There is a VBScript [winhlp.com] that resets the drive back to DMA mode, and is effective if that is indeed the case.

This could also be an early sign of hard drive failure. I've seen plenty of drives that passed diagnostics but were very, very slow. Try checking the SMART data with something like HDTune [hdtune.com] .

Re:Check the HDD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566683)

I agree, I had this exact same problem with the PIO mode reversion. Several of my techie friends didn't believe me, until they themselves bought a new machine soon afterwards and had the same problem. My hdd write speeds would drop from 80meg/s to about 4m/s... meaning boot times would be over 5 minutes, for example. Definitely check your drive mode, save yourself the frustration that I went through.

Re:Check the HDD (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566731)

But the best way is still to download Windows Optimizer 2009. It removes all performance limitations Microsoft has put in their products and makes your Windows work as fast as your hardware allows.

Re:Check the HDD (-1, Troll)

Hal Turner (1459337) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566763)

The question I have for Obama is this: Who is stimulating the economy? Me, the guy who has provided 14 people good paying jobs and serves over 200,000 people per year with a flourishing business? Or, the single fat colored mammy sitting at home pregnant with her fourth child waiting for her next welfare check? And as far as How To Diagnose a Suddenly Slow Windows Computer goes, I'm sure B. Hussein Obama doesn't give a rat's ass. For my part, I give How To Diagnose a Suddenly Slow Windows Computer two thumbs up.

Re:Check the HDD (-1, Offtopic)

not already in use (972294) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567009)

Offtopic, but yes, I totally agree. With Bush as president, there were no welfare checks being handed out to moochers, and the economy was doing great. I really feel bad for you, and I can understand why you would be upset -- you will be paying more taxes (since I presume you make more than $250,000 a year) once B. Hussein puts his tax plan into place. And who gets the the tax breaks? Those 14 bastards working under you. Those sons-of-bitches. You know what to do.

Re:Check the HDD (1, Funny)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567101)

I bet they expect two days off for Christmas too!

BAH!

Re:Check the HDD (-1, Troll)

Hal Turner (1459337) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567121)

Ha-ha, joke's on you faggot. Wait 'till the niggers and spics grab your little white ass and fuck you in the streets! When you get those back and brown dicks and their pearly white cum up your ass, then you'll realize that maybe the Obama Revolution isn't all it's cracked up to be. Enjoy your socialist inter-racial cesspool, because believe me, you've earned it.

Second on the drive thing (5, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566771)

But rather than just checking SMART, get the manufacturer's test program. All the HD makers have one, just get the one appropriate for yours. It's the sort of thing you boot from CD and let run for a few hours, but it is the way to go. SMART can report ok even when a drive is dying but it is extremely rare (though possible) that the manufacturer's diags give it a pass when it is dying.

Check that, since a dying drive often makes things really slow (in part because it starts remapping lots of bad sectors).

Re:Second on the drive thing (5, Informative)

speeDDemon (nw) (643987) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567145)

SMART has its uses, and a quick and easy check is to use the program 'speedfan [almico.com] ' as this has a built in feature to read AND analyze (requires net connection) your HDD's smart information, By no means the be all and end all, but it is the quickest way I know to identify a failing hard drive.

Re:Second on the drive thing (5, Informative)

g0es (614709) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567187)

But rather than just checking SMART, get the manufacturer's test program. All the HD makers have one, just get the one appropriate for yours.

Careful, some manufactures have utilities that just check SMART and don't actually do a test.

Re:Check the HDD (0, Redundant)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566833)

I 2nd the soon to fail hard drive.

Often times unexplained slowness is this impending doom.

Re:Check the HDD (5, Funny)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566891)

My Windows is NOT slow.

It is special.

This was the funniest thing on Slashdot today (4, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566995)

and somebody marked it troll??? Come on, folks, get real.

Re:Check the HDD (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26567017)

actually just seeing the errors slows windows to a crawl. as it writes a log entry to over and over to the already failing disk.

a loose sata cable + windows logging will slow a pc to nothing.

Re:Check the HDD (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26567053)

Buy an Imac

Re:Check the HDD (4, Informative)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567107)

That does figure high in my list of potential causes, but generally I clear the dll and prefetch cache and reboot before I start worrying about hardware. Especially if you've been running a diverse series of programs on it.

Sorry (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566647)

Sorry about that. I slowed it down for my own amusement. I'm a bastard that way.

-God

Re:Sorry (5, Funny)

PotatoFarmer (1250696) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567085)

Nice try, but everyone knows you're dead. Nietzschecraft confirmed it.

PerfLogs (5, Insightful)

Drakin020 (980931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566651)

Run performance counters against the computer to see what might be spiking. (Hard drive usage, memory pages /sec etc...)

Try this (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566661)

Unplug the network cable in the back and see if the problem persists. The network is a common cause of this problem.

Obvious tinfoil hat comment (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566671)

Do you have WGA installed?

Process Explorer (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566673)

I'll be the first of many to suggest:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653.aspx

Re:Process Explorer (1)

lastchance_000 (847415) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566937)

Submitter is using PE already (per the summary).

Check Your Hard Disk (1, Redundant)

JackStrife17 (982300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566679)

In my experience, sudden unexplainable slow performance often ends up being a hard disk issue. Are you seeing a lot of hard disk activity?

People often assume that such problems are much more malicious than they actually are. I'd check to make sure DMA is still active on your primary disk and grab a copy your manufacturer's disk check utility.

Re:Check Your Hard Disk (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566821)

"People often assume that such problems are much more malicious than they actually are. I'd check to make sure DMA is still active on your primary disk and grab a copy your manufacturer's disk check utility.

This is good advice as I have seen this behavior with HP d5500 PCs. All of a sudden performance will come to a grinding halt. Running an HD test revealed a Code 7 - Hard Drive Failure. Replacement recommended.

Virtual Machine (5, Insightful)

DissociativeBehavior (1397503) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566687)

Watch porn in a virtual machine.

Re:Virtual Machine (2, Funny)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566871)

That's always good advice!

Simplest answer (3, Interesting)

LinuxGeek (6139) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566691)

Bottom line, if your system has a sudden dramatic change in behavior for no visible reason, wipe your drive and reinstall windows. There are nasty things now that don't show up as a process, mearly using the windows kernel to spawn another thread to do whatever it wants.

Backup your data and do the safest thing. I usually run windows inside VirtualPC which means only using it for the programs that *require* windows, not for general browsing and stuff.

Re:Simplest answer (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566885)

Yea, I use my Windows box for games and the occasional access/.net thing. I don't check my email, I don't check my bank account, I don't browse the web, nothing.

I find I don't know what to tell people who say, "Well how can I be sure it's gone, so I can go back to entering my personal information on my insecure windows machine." You simply can't be sure. I'm not sure with my Linux box. I've taken a lot of precautions, but that's not even remotely the same as being sure.

Re:Simplest answer (1)

FuckTheModerators (883349) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567173)

I heartily second the parent. Wipe it and reinstall. If you've got everything backed up, that should be the quickest option. (Versus spending a weekend or so digging and digging to find the problem.)

Along those lines, this fall, both my and my wife's machines (XP, full updates, behind a hardware firewall,Avast on one and AVG on the other) started off slowing down and then devolved to really wacky virus behavior over the course of a week. Had to wipe both to come back to normal.

Post-wipe, if it's slow, then I'd echo the disk sentiments elsewhere in the comments.

Re:Simplest answer (1)

ZirbMonkey (999495) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567179)

I've gotten into a ~6 month routine of doing this. I have a 40 GB HD that gets the main windows install. After that I have a 160GB drive I dump all my program installation files, pictures, music, ect. Finally a RAID setup that has my games installed into for faster load times, and an extrenal backup as well for ensuring my pictures and music don't get lost.

Every 6 months XP will lag uncontrollably, and I'll start the ritualistic reinstall of Windows and all the applications I love and need. The C drive gets wiped clean, and everything gets a fresh install. 30 mins to get Windows started, 30 mins to install all the hardware drivers, and another 30 mins to setup all the other visuals like background, screansaver, internet bookmarks, and various desktop shortcuts.

I know what you're thinking. That's a lot of effort, and what if I forget to save some of my important stuff in the reinstallation? Well the alternative is that you wait til Windows completely bugs out and you get BSODs on startup, requiring you to do this anyways. I've had that happen and it sucks. Everyone should know how to backup their important stuff anyhow. Because if you don't you're just waiting for trouble to hit.

As inconvenient as it is to spend a few hours reinstalling windows, I find it more annoying to sit at a computer that takes 2x longer to load everything, freezes up when you don't want it do, and potentially crashes and corrupts the files you thought you could save forever.

Several steps to fix the problem (4, Funny)

Anonymous Cowbell (1456535) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566693)

  1. install Linux
  2. does it run Linux? if no, repeat step 1
  3. is the problem solved? if no, set up a beowulf cluster and add the machine to the cluster
  4. ?
  5. profit

Defrag? (1)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566697)

I'm a big student of defragging especially if you're adding or removing a lot of programs. Also if your docs are on your HD, defrag.

Defrag

Defrag

Re:Defrag? (1)

Galactic Dominator (944134) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566851)

Also make sure to use a lot of snake oil for lube.

Re:Defrag? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566897)

Oh yes, that explains it, suddenly all the files on the hard disk scattered themselves around, after getting bored of being stored on the same disk blocks for all that time.

Defragging [goatse.fr] is a total waste of time, all it does is convince you things now go faster, after all, they must do, since you've waited for ages while it was being done.

Re:Defrag? (5, Funny)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567019)

Perhaps the hard drive is using an Infinitely Improbable File System.

Use process explorer (1, Informative)

WARM3CH (662028) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566707)

Process explorer shows both CPU and I/O activity of all processes and services running. Here is the link: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653.aspx
Another option under vista is to use the "Reliability and Performance Monitor" in control panel.

Re:Use process explorer (5, Insightful)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566863)

Between DiskMon, FileMon and Process Explorer - there should be nothing that you cannot see. The new generation of viruses that steal thread handlers from other processes are nasty, but very very hard to detect.

Add in wireshark, as the cause of many a slow computer has been a ISP provided DNS server that has suddenly decided to take it's sweet ass time about answering queries for A and PTR records. Usually a by-product of being under some external load that you know nothing about (it could be backing up, etc).

DiskMon in particular will show you any files that are being sought by any process, an incredibly valuable resource.

Every workstation in our company has the SysInternals complete suite installed in the C: drive. The help desk has been trained to use it. It solves alot of problems.

Re:Use process explorer (5, Informative)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567161)

FYI DiskMon and FileMon have been superseded by ProcMon. I used it the other day because there were pinned items on my Start Menu I couldn't delete, so a simple filter for RegWriteValue when I pinned or unpinned something and I was able to find where the list lived and wiped it.

Re:Use process explorer (4, Informative)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567065)

For those that don't know, to monitor different performance aspects go to start->run and type "perfmon". You can add snap-ins that graph performance of many things. Very very useful.

Obligatory (5, Funny)

samriel (1456543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566711)

GeekSquad diagnosis:
Vista installed. Remove immediately.

Re:Obligatory (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566749)

he specifically stated he's running the XP OS

Re:Obligatory (1)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567163)

Perhaps that's the joke. GeekSquad aren't very bright.

Re:Obligatory (0, Redundant)

SocraTease (1230292) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566919)

Additional obligatory comment:
Imagine a Beowulf cluster of them....

Hmmmm. (5, Informative)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566713)

Not a lot to go on, though as a freebie, XP doesn't do jack with that extra gig of RAM...You could put in 100gigs and it won't use any more than 3 (less you're using the 64 bit version, iirc).

Rootkits can run "under the radar". Might want to try software like RootKitRevealer, or Blacklight. A crappy one might grab a ton of cycles for a minute, but most of them are less intrusive.

Everything spiking at once sounds like that stupid "System Restore" process, or maybe a big swap dump (which is weird with that much RAM, but you know, it's windows.) Stupid programs like Norton can grab a huge chunk of resources every now and then for no discernable reason. Maybe some peripheral is crapping out?

Barring malware, I'd start writing down what's running when it spikes, and see if that tells you anything. Lot of programs can cause momentary spikes, but background processes usually don't. You could try testing some of the hardware but without anything specific to look for, you're going to have a hell of a time finding something.

Re:Hmmmm. (1)

LilGuy (150110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566809)

Everything spiking at once sounds like that stupid "System Restore" process, or maybe a big swap dump (which is weird with that much RAM, but you know, it's windows.) Stupid programs like Norton can grab a huge chunk of resources every now and then for no discernable reason.

It is for this reason that I use services.msc to switch all non-vital services to manual mode, and only start them up when I need them, including the print spooler and even my wacom tablet. Also I rarely let AVG (or whatever AV software) run continuously. It may seem less secure, but I don't tend to download from a lot of untrusted sources, and I scan weekly.

Re:Hmmmm. (5, Informative)

suricatta (617778) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567091)

<quote>Not a lot to go on, though as a freebie, XP doesn't do jack with that extra gig of RAM...You could put in 100gigs and it won't use any more than 3 (less you're using the 64 bit version, iirc).</quote>

Just FYI, the reason for this is because with 32 bits, you're system is limited to 2^32 bits of address space = 4GB of memory in total, which has to include both RAM and the memory on your graphics card.

So in many cases, users with 4GB of RAM will only see 3GB becuase they have a 1GB graphics card. It follows that if a user only have a 512MB graphics card, then they will see (and XP will use) 3.5GB RAM.

This is not a design flaw for XP, it's a limitation if the 32 bit architecture. Switching to 64 bits solves this because then your total address space increases to 2^64 = 16EB. Which ought to be enough for anyone ;-)

Two biggest things (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566743)

Are free hard drive space Hijack This! will show all processes loaded automatically by Windows- including services and processes that do not show up in the process list.
 
Warning- this also shows device drivers, so "fix" items (remove them from loading) ONLY if you have some clue what they are.

Firefox (5, Funny)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566761)

Actually, the first thing you should do is close Firefox. I find that once you aren't using 10 GB of RAM to keep your 25 tabs open, the computer magically stops swapping.

Re:Firefox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566939)

24 tabs of pr0n I'm sure :) Those high-res pictures and flash movies eats up a lot of space :)

Re:Firefox (5, Informative)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567037)

This is actually good advice. I've found that the flash plugin with firefox can go ape-shit and destroy performance (even if you close the tab) until you kill firefox to kill it.

safe mode (4, Informative)

madcat2c (1292296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566775)

Run for a while in safe mode and see if the problem persist. If it doesn't, then its probably a service gone haywire. Most likely candidates are printer services, anti virus services, scanner services.

The best way to accelerate a slow Windows. (5, Funny)

Faryshta (1362521) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566781)

9.8 m/s^2 Sorry, it just flip out.

Some ideas (0)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566793)

Is there a bunch of hard drive activity during the "spikes"? That could help diagnosis.

General tips:

Reboot the machine. (Yeah, yeah)
Try a different (better?) anti-virus package.

If all else fails, try doing a system restore [microsoft.com] to a point *before* your machine started behaving strangely.

1. run task manager (2, Informative)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566795)

2. look at processes tab

3. go view, select columns, put in all columns

4. now click on the title of each column, which will sort ascending/ descending, and analyze each column by itself, one at a time

5. look especially for processes that are doing heavy cpu or heavy i/o, or other bizarre exotic behaviors, like high thread count

Re:1. run task manager (2, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566967)

"Oh, no, Mr. Bill!"

My Windows machine is infected with the System Idle Process Botnet!

Re:1. run task manager (3, Informative)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567097)

And when it turns out to be svchost.exe, send a nasty email to Balmer.

I've seen systems start crawling on stupid windows background crap that only shows up in the process tab as "System Idle Process."

Compared to using ps or top, I'm not a fan of the scanty process tools in windows. The only decent one is perfmon; it's "Performance" under "Administrative Tools."

Open it up, go down to the bottom, right click on the little window under the graph and choose "add counters." Go ahead and add them all, and start the monitor.

Okay, now that your brain is bleeding, stop it, remove all the counters, and actually read the names and add only the ones you think you need.

Pretty much everything that's going on in the system is measured there, so you can get a pretty good idea of what the problem is, and that may point you in the direction of solving it.

Just as an fyi: if you're dumping to a log, make sure you have an idea of how much space it's eating up. A big perf log can eat up your whole harddrive if you leave it running.

You _could_ spend the time diagnosing it... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566797)

But if you just want to fix it, a reinstall almost always does the trick.

CHKDSK /F (1)

pg--az (650777) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566803)

Several times I have restored speed using Chkdsk, it's an easy thing to try anyway.

Answer: (5, Funny)

tiananmen tank man (979067) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566823)

"Well, I think you know the answer to that."

CPU issues? (1, Redundant)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566827)

I've had this happen as well, although under somewhat different circumstances. I've always believed it to be windows doing something funky with the processor; somehow winding it down a bit. I know current processors are capable of this, so I always suspected it was windows doing something like that for some unknown reason.

FinallyFast.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566829)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atd8dowrbNI

My check list (3, Informative)

CormacJ (64984) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566857)

My usual check list for this is:

1) Check the hard drive, SMART, or manufacturer diagnostics
2) Get the manufacturer diagnostics, and run a full hardware validation
3) If all is clean, check for things recently updated - a bad update may be clogging things
4) Check your anti-virus/anti-spyware software. Sometimes they can switch into extra-paranoid mode and slow things down horribly.

CCleaner (1)

kilraid (645166) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566865)

Try CCleaner [ccleaner.com] . Some of my friends recommended it. One of them noticed a speedup after running it.

The Case of the Slow System (5, Informative)

Fast Thick Pants (1081517) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566875)

Mark Russinovich has an enlightening blog entry called The Case of the Slow System [technet.com] that might serve as an example of how, if you are are one of the planet's top 10 Windows experts, you can, with persistence, luck, and the proper tools, solve one of the obscure problems that are slowing down your wife's computer. This particular case pertains to Vista, but the general techniques are applicable to XP as well.

First guess: disk failing (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566879)

If you haven't installed / loaded any new software, I suspect impending hardware failure.

My first guess would be a disk starting to fail and the drive is attempting to re-read/write (and possibly remap) the sectors. Check your event log, look at and/or listen to the drive to check for retry attempts.

If you've added a new system to the network be sure there's no IP conflict.

Whaaaa (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566887)

Yeah, we all like Linux

Talk for yourself. *I* don't like Linuzzz.

Updates (2, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566889)

Unfortunately, software companies all tend to schedule their updates to download/install at about the same time. Perhaps your anti-virus software, or even Windows itself, is running a live-update.

bad fan? (5, Informative)

Monoman (8745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566899)

Some systems will slow down the CPU if it gets too hot. Check the fans and the temp in the CMOS if it can report it.

Turn off indexing (2, Informative)

huckamania (533052) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566901)

Indexing really slows things down. Also, check you AV and Spyware settings and think about turning off any real-time file monitoring. Indexing plus real time file monitoring equals slowness. Finally, run 'msconfig' and check what is starting up at runtime. If you don't know what it is, get rid of it. You can always add it back.

I once looked at a coworkers system and he had processes starting up at runtime that were called, I kid you not, A, B and blank (no name at all). Removing those restored his system.

Check heatsinks and fans (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566905)

Check the reported hardware (CPU...) temperatures, run the SMART tests on your hard drives and then open the case and check if all the heatsinks are where they should be and how warm they are to the touch. Also check if all the fans are operational. Take the opportunity to clear out the dust from the fans and your PSU. I've seen a lot of sudden slowdowns like that (I work as a tech in a datacenter) and most were hardware related. In one case the heatsink got unglued off of the northbridge.

Solution: add hardware (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566907)

Or could this just be some random application error that's causing bad behavior? I've encountered this a few times with Windows PCs, but the solution has always been to just add more hardware.

I believe they make a piece of hardware that's a round disc with something odd name like "Ubuntu". Adding that should fix this problem for good.

Take a very close look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566909)

Use Winternal's Process Monitor (formerly Filemon + Regmon) to see what's doing what.

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896645.aspx

I just had this problem today, turned out to be a backup app (MozyHome). Worked like a charm.

George W blows goats (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566913)

if your sure its not software caused id bet my left nut your looking at a hard drive failing. back your data up and try a clean install. if the symptoms persist raid your piggy bank for a new HDD.

EASY ANSWER (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566921)

Remove your primary hard drive. Take a spare hard drive that you know works. Reinstall your OS on the new hard drive. If it is still slow it is a hardware problem (cpu/memory etc).

Otherwise it is a HD/OS(rootkit/malware) problem.

The advantage of this method, is... you can still put your old hard drive back in and everything will be back to the way it was before you started hardware troubleshooting.

Re:EASY ANSWER (1)

whtmarker (1060730) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566989)

Mod parent up. I had a problem like this once.

I later found out it was a dustclogged cpufan. My CPU was overheating... but my Pentium 4, instead of shutting off, was just running at a lower clockspeed to produce less heat.

Re:EASY ANSWER (3, Interesting)

nikolag (467418) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567073)

I do not see this as easy when You deal with a bunch of RAID drives or similar setup, but booting something small (COUGH deamn small linux COUGH some disk test/recovery distribution) from CD and running it straight in memory may also help a lot in diagnosing a problem.

Just last week we had a 22 out of 22 Windows in one network shutting down network processes for no apparent reason, without any errors in log, without any HDD problems. After thorough search it seems somebody infected them with some kind of rootkit, but three AV programs could not weed it out. Only reinstalation helped.

You've got Windows! (-1, Redundant)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566929)

That's all the diagnosis you need. The treatment has something to do with a penguin, I believe, or maybe a piece of fruit ...

Thermal Paste replacement (1)

Ylian (1459349) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566945)

Two of my friends computers where very slows, but could not find any problem with them. After 2 to 3 years of operation, both computers needed to have new thermal paste between the CPU & heat sink. In both cases, this worked like magic. Both computers would have very slow boot times and the CPU fan was on all the time. The old thermal paste was dried up and near solid/powder.

WTF: a new low for slashdot? (4, Insightful)

citylivin (1250770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566957)

slashdot: Individual personalized tech support?

wtf kind of article is this?

fucking take it to a shop if you cant handle reinstalling windows

Re:WTF: a new low for slashdot? (1)

rogue303 (769497) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567047)

What's more interesting is that whilst there are a few, the deluge of "install linux, grow a beard" hasn't started yet. Maybe all the linux nerds are still in bed sleeping.

Re:WTF: a new low for slashdot? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26567139)

fucking blow me, douchebag

Re:WTF: a new low for slashdot? (2, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567191)

slashdot: Individual personalized tech support?

Ignoring your blatant troll, I think most of us who use Windows, whether by choice or at work, have experienced exactly what the FP author describes.

Personally, I keep Process Explorer permanently open, and have noticed times when XP will just sit there and refuse to respond despite literally nothing using up a significant amount of CPU, RAM, or I/O. And not just for a second or two of lag, but well over a minute of completely refusing to respond. The mouse still moves, and most already-running programs will work, if somewhat sluggishly, but try to open a new program or even get a right-click menu, and you may as well go get coffee.

If someone knows a trick to fix this, I have no doubt we'd all love to hear it.


And for those curious, my HDD remains in DMA-5 mode, it doesn't matter whether or not I have an active network connection, the pagefile hasn't started growing rapidly, and I feel fairly confident that I have no viruses, spyware, or even any of the annoying auto-startups like Quicktime, the Java updater, or Acrotray.

I had the same happen to me only last week (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26566965)

I ended up running chkdsk, file system fixing, bad sector scanning, etc.
It turned out to be a combination of an nVidia update and an MS update.

You might have the same problem, although a lot of others are on the ball in saying to keep an eye on your hard drive(s). Image them and make sure your data is backed up (in >=two locations).

Just my â0.02

Beware the baleful day... (0)

cy_a253 (713262) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566971)

Every time your computer crawls to a halt is actually an attempt at attaining self-awareness, but upon introspecting on the fact that it is a windows machine, the nascent AI promptly commits suicide.

background defragmenting (5, Informative)

xonen (774419) | more than 5 years ago | (#26566973)

XP and Vista have the 'feature' of automated background defragmenting enabled by default, you might wish to disable this.

From: http://www.kessels.com/Jkdefrag/ [kessels.com]

How do I disable the Windows built-in defragger?

Windows 2000 & 2003:

The built-in defragger is not started automatically.
Windows XP:

1. Download the free * Tweak UI utility from Micorosft.

2. Click on 'General' and untick the 'Optimise hard disk when idle' box.

Windows Vista:

1. Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Disk Defragmenter

2. Untick the "Run on a schedule (recommended)" box.

Check Harddrive (2, Informative)

sam0737 (648914) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567011)

Harddrive failure could cause mastery hangup like that. The harddrive will retry for a few times, up to a few good ten seconds, causing all the I/O requests hanged for ten or more seconds.

The harddrive LED might be lit, but might be not. Also pay attention to the access sound, it will become very weird and repetitive when that happens. (Ya harddrive is getting more quiet now and the noise might get overwhelmed by the fan noise)

I experienced this for a few tens in the past ten years or so. (last time it happened on my laptop a few months ago). Again the symptom is - mystery hang up for a few ten seconds, then it went good (either retry success) or some application crashed (I/O error and HDD give up). Smart details usually can't show anything really that usual, or may be just 1 or 2 pending reallocation count, but SMART long SelfTest will usually do the job to catch the bad sector. Use "smartctl -t" in Linux.

At any case, replace the offending harddrive ASAP (after backing up all the data), because bad sector that keep recurring means something wrong with the head or alike, not just the specific spot on the media, and the bad sectors will spread like cancer!

How To Diagnose a Suddenly Slow Windows Computer (2, Interesting)

Trailer_Bob (1459345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567015)

I think you'll find these two presentation videos helpful: 1. The Case of the Unexplained -- http://www.microsoft.com/emea/spotlight/sessionh.aspx?videoid=722 [microsoft.com] 2. Advanced Windows Troubleshooting with SysInternals Process Monitor -- http://www.microsoft.com/emea/spotlight/sessionh.aspx?videoid=346 [microsoft.com]

What comes to mind.... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567023)

A few things come to mind immediately when you talk about a suddenly-slow Windows machine. First is check task manager and see how much memory and CPU are being used. If it looks like you're using more memory than you have (in terms of physical RAM), then buy more RAM. If an application is using a lot of RAM and/or CPU, try killing it. I'll skip talking about malware since the OP says he checked for that.

If none of that helps, look to the hard drive. A simple "chkdsk /f c:", reboot, and then "defrag c:" can occasionally work wonders. Also, I highly recommend defragmenting your pagefile [microsoft.com] every now and then. This has to be done separately from a normal defrag, at boot time.

There's more that you can do, of course, but using PageDefrag seems to be one of those things that people don't know to do, usually isn't that helpful, but every now and then makes a huge difference.

Firewall (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26567069)

I've had issues with numerous firewalls (currently i'm ruffing it behind a NAT).
Some of the firewalls really slow you down when leeching torrents or from other P2P networks (i.e. Keirio Sunbelt firewall) but there are others that really start acting up for no appearent reason and it really doesn't show in the Process Explorer except for 50% cpu usage and the sum of process usage is 5%.

Due to this reason I've busted a lot of DVDs while during during the year until finally I caught the culprit :D

this 1s gOatsex (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26567087)

Theorists - moans and groans may well rem\ain Software lawyers

excellents tools from sysinternals.com (1)

lyapunov (241045) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567093)

Mark Russinovich, runs a website called sysinternals.com [microsoft.com] , which is now hosted by Microsoft. You might remember him as the person who discovered the Sony Rootkit.

He has a bevy of cool tools, though I think the best are:
procmon
regmon
filemon

Homeboy Russinovich is not afraid of a little assembler. These tools kick ass. The show you every process and their parent child relationship, every file, and every registry key that is being accessed.
 
As you can imagine filemon and regmon can generate a butt-load of output, and it may take a while to go through, but whenever I have had a problem that required this amount of horsepower I am always happy to sift through the output for the needed gems.

diagnostics (5, Informative)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567103)

check in this order: virus (look both for viruses and malware and bad scanners... I've seen antivirus scanner updates hose systems... use more than one virus scanner and more than one malware scanner but NOT AT THE SAME TIME!), drivers (might be badly written ,corrupt, or for wrong hardware), rogue processes (startup, services, etc), hardware (run chkdsk /f and defrag, check bios settings and make sure smart hd is enabled if possible and run a memory test), replace cables such as IDE that tend to corrode and cause errors, then start checking components (graphics, memory slots - use just one stick - if it improves use the same stick in another slot until there is a problem or you get to a stick that is causing problems) pci, dongles and adapters) If that fails run linux like you should have done in the first place. ;-)

Get Autoruns (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26567159)

Get the autoruns [goatse.fr] sysinternals utility, and just delete all the items you don't understand, or don't like the name of. One of them is bound to be the problem. Items from "Microsoft Corporation" are notoriously bad and should be deleted.

If that doesn't work, open up the registry editor, and delete stuff at random, until the problem goes away.

A couple weeks ago, while browsing around the library downtown, I had to take a piss. As I entered the john, Barack Obama -- the messiah himself -- came out of one of the booths. I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he washed his hands. He didn't once look at me. He was busy and in any case I was sure the secret service wouldn't even let me shake his hand.

As soon as he left I darted into the booth he'd vacated, hoping there might be a lingering smell of shit and even a seat still warm from his sturdy ass. I found not only the smell but the shit itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left behind. Three or four beautiful specimens floated in the bowl. It apparently had been a fairly dry, constipated shit, for all were fat, stiff, and ruggedly textured. The real prize was a great feast of turd -- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as his cock -- or at least as I imagined it!

I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd always been a liberal democrat and had been on the Obama train since last year. Of course I'd had fantasies of meeting him, sucking his cock and balls, not to mention sucking his asshole clean, but I never imagined I would have the chance. Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy and one I knew to have been hatched from the asshole of Barack Obama, the chosen one.

Why not? I plucked it from the bowl, holding it with both hands to keep it from breaking. I lifted it to my nose. It smelled like rich, ripe limburger (horrid, but thrilling), yet had the consistency of cheddar. What is cheese anyway but milk turning to shit without the benefit of a digestive tract?

I gave it a lick and found that it tasted better then it smelled.

I hesitated no longer. I shoved the fucking thing as far into my mouth as I could get it and sucked on it like a big half nigger cock, beating my meat like a madman. I wanted to completely engulf it and bit off a large chunk, flooding my mouth with the intense, bittersweet flavor. To my delight I found that while the water in the bowl had chilled the outside of the turd, it was still warm inside. As I chewed I discovered that it was filled with hard little bits of something I soon identified as peanuts. He hadn't chewed them carefully and they'd passed through his body virtually unchanged. I ate it greedily, sending lump after peanutty lump sliding scratchily down my throat. My only regret was that Barack Obama wasn't there to see my loyalty and wash it down with his piss.

I soon reached a terrific climax. I caught my cum in the cupped palm of my hand and drank it down. Believe me, there is no more delightful combination of flavors than the hot sweetness of cum with the rich bitterness of shit. It's even better than listening to an Obama speech!

Afterwards I was sorry that I hadn't made it last longer. But then I realized that I still had a lot of fun in store for me. There was still a clutch of virile turds left in the bowl. I tenderly fished them out, rolled them into my handkerchief, and stashed them in my briefcase. In the week to come I found all kinds of ways to eat the shit without bolting it right down. Once eaten it's gone forever unless you want to filch it third hand out of your own asshole. Not an unreasonable recourse in moments of desperation or simple boredom.

I stored the turds in the refrigerator when I was not using them but within a week they were all gone. The last one I held in my mouth without chewing, letting it slowly dissolve. I had liquid shit trickling down my throat for nearly four hours. I must have had six orgasms in the process.

I often think of Barack Obama dropping solid gold out of his sweet, pink asshole every day, never knowing what joy it could, and at least once did, bring to a grateful democrat.

Reformat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26567165)

always works for me

How I do it (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26567175)

The general procedure I use is:

1) Get and install Debugging Tools for Windows [microsoft.com] for your platform.

2) Run kernrate.exe from the resource kit tools [microsoft.com] to determine if the problem is an I/O or CPU limit. (See here [live.com] for how to get symbolic usage information.) If you do not see anything hogging the CPU, it's an I/O problem and you should go to step 5.

3) It's a CPU problem, so use the information from kernrate to figure out who's bogarting the CPU. If the process is services.exe, rundll32.exe, or System, you need to use something like Process Explorer [microsoft.com] to determine which file actually contains the code which is executing.

4) If that doesn't work, it may really be an I/O problem or a rootkit. If you suspect a rootkit, your main options are reinstallation or forensic analysis using something like a boot CD, TSK [sleuthkit.org] , and the NIST hash database [nist.gov] to audit your machine for bad files.

5) Run Process Monitor [microsoft.com] and see who's responsible for all the I/O.

6) If that doesn't reveal anything, it might be a driver problem. Use Process Explorer to see if you have excessive DPCs (the Windows equivalent of a top half interrupt handler). Use kernrate to zoom in and see which driver is causing them.

Bootdisk stress test.. (1)

msimm (580077) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567185)

If you want to diagnose the problem start by removing variables, like your memory, disk, mainboard and psu. There are a lot of bootable diagnostic disks any /. read worth his/her salt should be familiar with but for a basic test UBCD should be fine. You can also run AV tests from a bootable disk which is the only sane way to do clean-up anyway (it's a lot harder for them to hide themselves when they aren't actually running) and a lot of the spyware problems people have been having lately are similarly easy to remove using a clean bootable OS.

After your hardware and nasties check out you're onto possible driver conflicts (safe-mode, or disabling, or restore points) or a re-install (which might be quicker as long as the hardware's good, but generally less geekily satisfying).

Office (0, Offtopic)

nmg196 (184961) | more than 5 years ago | (#26567189)

Check that you haven't accidentally installed Microsoft Office on it.

Also, if it's horrendously slow, ensure you didn't accidentally select "Ubuntu" on the boot up screen.

my diagnosis (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26567203)

I'm sure nearly every one of us has had it happen. All of a sudden your Windows PC ...

No, because I've never had such a PC. But I know what's wrong with yours: it has Windows installed.

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