Win98:Extremely high %Kernel Usage; PC extremely slow

I run a Windows 98 peer-to-peer network with 7 PC's.  One PC is extremely sluggish, sometimes even taking several minutes to respond to a mouse click.  The way I need to have the PC configured, it is almost unusable.  Upon using System Monitor, I discovered that the % of Kernel Usage is at a consistent 90% and above.  The CPU is an Athalon800 with 128 meg of RAM.

Consequently, I used MSCONFIG and chose to have only System Tray and ZoneAlarm checked in selective startup.  Upon doing Ctr-Alt-Del to bring up the Close dialog box, it now shows only System Monitor, Explorer, ZoneAlarm, Vsmon, systray and Minilog (for System Monitor) running.  But, System Monitor still shows excessive kernel usage--it is at a consistent 75%, better, but much too high.  And I cannot have the software running in the background that I need, mainly ArGoSoft MailServer, without it going back up up to 90-100%  I can understand occasional spikes at this height, but not consistent levels such as I am receiving.  The system resources are at 84%.

I have run virus scans using both Norton and Panda, plus have run a Trojan scan, finding nothing.  Scandisk and defrag have been run recently. System File Check has also been run.

I am running out of ideas.  How should I go about to continue to troubleshoot this problem?  What could be causing the Kernel Usage to be so high when only a few essential programs are running?  How do I go about detecting the "leakage"?

Hope someone can help me with this perplexing problem.
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jhiebConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Sysexperts advice about defragging in safe mode is probably the safest thing to do because it keeps all TSR's or background applications from potentially corrupting your file system.

I also agree with Sysexperts advice about updating your NIC card drivers. It could be the NIC is not releasing the process correctly. I have seen a lot of problems with bad nic drivers and corruption; especially on flat-file systems such as with an Access database. As a preference, I have always preferred 3com and then Intel nic cards. Hopefully, you have a good card in your system. As with all of your devices make sure you are current on your bios, drivers, and service packs.

Remember that this Access database is a flat-file system. It will be a hog on your system especially if multiple people are writing to it and using it at the same time. For performance issues, you really don't want more than five people connecting to a single Access database.

Just for grins, make sure you index your database. Close the database and then Compact and Repair the database. Your database could be corrupted. Also, are you using Service Pack 2 for your Office 97? I would make sure your service pack is current. I would prefer going to Office 2000 but there is no reason to start spending a lot of money right now.

Last but not least, you may need to get yourself a file server. Nothing fancy is really needed; since it will mostly be for sharing databases and user files. Your network is almost at the size (10 PC's is where you want to make the switch to a server based network) where having a dedicated Windows 2000 box would be a good idea. Right now, you risk corrupting your Access database if multiple users are connecting to the machine and you are using the PC as a workstation.

That is about all I have for you.

Good luck,

Hi borleymsgs,

This sounds like you have quite a problem and I am not sure if I can be much help.

1. Go to the and look at the technical resource section the Utilities, drivers, and updates. There may be some utilities or special drivers for your CPU and popular peripherals.

2. Start the computer in safe mode. Does the Kernel usage go down? Not sure what this will mean except that all special drivers are not being used when in safe mode. This might point you to one of your peripherals. I would start with the monitor driver and anything AGP specific.

Good luck,

Hello borleymsgs,

   Thank you for posting your question on the Expert-Exchange message board. My name is Joe, I am (on of the) technicians who will be assisting you today. If you do not understand something that I say, do not hesitate to ask for a clarification. Computers and technology are a tough field :-). Alright, you my friend are one good techie, followed all of the troubleshooting that I would have done. But you might want to take a few of these suggestions into mind.

   Okay, what you should try doing, is making sure that the memory is compliant with your system, it sounds silly for such an advanced user, as you are, but it does happen. Secondly, make sure the network is equally distributed (meaning one terminal gets 40% of the bandwith and the others get less). My recomendation to you, is that you transform the drive from my guess is FAT32 or 16, since it is Windows 98, into NTFS, which makes things faster. If that does not work, try disabling ZoneAlarm. Last, but certainly not least, try buying (or installing a trial version) of Norton SpeedDisk or Utilities 2002, the tools they provide just might fix your problem. Also, try disconnecting your PC from the network, is it any faster? If so, then the problem is with the network host settings.

Sir or madame, I hope I could be of valuable assistance today, if you have any further questions, feel free to contact me. Please provide negative and positive feedback, as I am always learning from my mistakes. Have a pleasant night. On behalf of the Expert-Exchange Network, it has been an honor serving you.

Mr. Joseph S. Thomas
Technical Support Representativew
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borleymsgsAuthor Commented:
I have traced the problem down to the running of Acess97.  The PC in question is the server for the backend of a sizeable (but not huge by any means--about 6,000 records, but many different queries, reports, etc) split database.  Since the network is peer-to-peer, the PC serves both as a workstation and server.  Whenever the PC in question accesses the DB, the Kernel Processer usage spikes to 100% and then goes back to a normal level of 5% or so. But, when one of the other PC's on the network access the database, the Kernel Processor usage goes to 100% and then stays at a high level (at least 75%, but often 90% to 100%, where the PC is unusable for practical purposes)--it does not return to a low level--even if only one PC accesses the DB.

I have Compacted the DB and Repaired the DB, but neither of these seemed to help.

I did some of this testing last evening and ran out of time for further testing.  I hope this gives someone an idea of how for me to proceed.
Good find. You will need to change the role of your machine if you haven't done that already. With Windows 98 you can tell it that it is a file server. This will tell windows 98 to distribute the resources differently and may resolve your resource issue.

The last person who posted recommended that you change your pc to NTFS. Obviously, you cannot do that because you are Windows 98. But, if you want better performance and stability you may want to change this machine to Windows 2000/XP and convert your filesystem to ntfs for performance enhancement. Whatever you decide to do, changing the role of your machine should redistribute your resources more effectively. Here are the steps to do this:

1. Click Start
2. Click Settings
3. Click Control Panel
4. Double-click System
5. Click the Performance Tab
6. Click File System
7. Click the area that says "Typical Role of this computer"
8. Click the most common role for your compuer
9. Click OK
10. Click Close to close the Sytem properties dialog box.
11. Click YES to restart the sytem.

Good Luck,

In addition, I would do the following.

1) Get the latest version of drivers for all the hardware - especially the NIC.

2) Get the latest patches for windows and Access.

3) Consider adding More RAM to the machine.

4) Do a complete Defrag from SAFE mode.

5) Try disabling Zone Alarm and see if it makes any difference.

I hope this helps !
borleymsgsAuthor Commented:
I will try all of the above suggestions.  Some have beeen done since the problem developed, which I will list:
1)I have changed the typical role of the machine to that of a File Server (today)

2)I have done a Defrag (last week)--Is SAFE mode any different than normal, assuming that normal runs OK?  I sometimes am forced to use SAFE mode, but this time it ran properly in normal mode.

3)As far as I know I have the latest patches for Windows and Access, as I use Windows Update

4) I have disabled Zone Alarm at times.

As you may assume, these have been done without being of any help to the problem.  

It has been suggested to me that Acess often times reaches a threshhold level, after which it starts acting up.  I can't feature 6,000 records being the threshhold, though.

Another suggestion by another party was to add another PC dedicated to the database.  A possible way of getting around the problem, but not a solution in my mind.

Further comments on the problem--When I reboot the PC, the % Kernel Processor Usage is about 5%.  When I use Access on this PC, it spikes to 100% for about 15 seconds, then returns to about 25% and remains stable, even if I close Access.  When a remote PC opens Access, then the usage goes up to 75% and remains there, even if the remote PC closes Access.  If more than one remote PC opens the database, the usage stays at about 75%--it does not seem to affect the usage.  The curious thing is, though, that when the database is first opened by a remote PC, the usage drops momentarily to about 25%, then returns back to the 75% level.  But I cannot understand why the usage stays at 75%, even when all PC's close Access.  It is as if the PC will not release the utilized resources.

I will keep testing and trying the offerred suggestions.  Thanks for the responses.
I am curious as to whether the access database has been set up to run in a client server environment or if it is layed out as a desktop database and just accessed over the network.

To my knowledge the use off cached updates etc in a database greatly reduce the requirements on the server.
borleymsgsAuthor Commented:
I am still working on this problem.  Doing a Disk Defrag under SafeMode helped the usability of the PC in question significantly, but the kernel processor still is being tied up.  I am not absolutely convinced that Access is the culprit, but since it is the program that acceses the PC, it is receiving the blame.  The crux of the problem is that the Kernel Processor Usage does not decline once it reaches a peak from a remote PC accessing it--it stays at a constant high level, and varies from there.

To add further confusion to the problem, I have added the utility TaskInfo2000 which monitors many factors, including %CPU time.  This shows the %CPU being quite low (around 4%), whereas the Kernel Process Usage % hovers around 90%.  Are the same items being monitored?  It seems like there should be a correlation, but they are vastly different.

Griffon--I am not sure what you mean if the database has been set up to run in a client server environmnet.  It has in that it has been split, with the back end residing on the PC in the question and the users having their own front end.  Is there a method of getting cached updates in Access?

Ihieb--I question your comment regarding Access as a flat-file system.  I have always considered Access a relational database, as there are relationships to various tables.  I will admit, though, that the main table that is utilized is quite large, but not huge by many definitions (6,000 records, with about 100 fields per record).  I prefer not going to Access 2000, for from my experience, there have been more problems with 2000 than with 97.

I have loaded the latest drivers for the NIC and have done various through scans for viruses, trojans, and open ports.

Hope that maybe this will give someone some more clues.
I am not sure if access likes cached updates or not but I tend to use VB/DEPHI/C++ for the front end and utilise the ODBC to access the access database.

If it is done like this it enables you to run access databases without even having access on the machine. It also give the facility for cached update and allows you to free the data from memory and close the server connection.

It seems that if access is the culprit it is opening a connection to the machine working as a server but never disconnecting so it is still holding all of the information in the memory.

I am not exactly sure how to make sure all of the connections to the server are being closed in access.. for more information on that and cached updates in there ask in the access forum. Anyways I will continue to look in to the problem for you.

borleymsgsAuthor Commented:
I still have the problem, but need to get this question closed out.  I believe that I will have to resort to dedicating a PC to being a file server for Access.  The problem happened suddenly, so I still believe that there is an underlying cause, but since I cannot find it, I believe that the extra PC should be a good patch.

I do not believe that Access can be cached, or at least I do not know how to do it.

Thanks to everyone for their help.


Many other users suffer from this problem.  It is not OS specific, it covers all Windows operating systems.  I have read about it (and suffered from it) while using Peer to Peer sharing software.

From what I have acertained, there is not a fix from Zone Labs in any current patches, or in the pipeline.

I was very disappointed myself when I tested other Software Firewalls and discovered this to be the problem and an expensive one for some.

I have since changed my Firewall and my CPU utilisation on an Athlon 1333 Mhz has fallen from 100% all the time to around 8-12% when using the exact same setup and TSRs/background services etc.

The next question is what else to go for instead of Zone Alarm, presumably with ICS (Internet Connection Sharing) facilities.  Free Sygate Personal Firewall doesn't hasve ICS, you need to upgrade for that.

I hope that I've helped.  Go to these two pages for similar answers, they're a little blunt!
well this is an old question but there are some new things not spoken here. First of all I had this problem and this is where I found someone with a similar problem (kernel processor usage going wild (up to 60-70 %) on idle). Something about my configuration first : duron 750 on k7vzm (ECS) board, 128 M RAM, 40 G HD, TNT2, LAN network (5 slower computers). Simptoms are : high kernel usage on idle state, freezing (once a day).

When I started sys monitor init digits on kernel usage would be 3-5% and it would stay that way for as long as I do not move mouse. Soon as I move mouse kernel would go to 0% and then skyhigh (almost 50-60%). I am moving mouse he drops down, I stop he goes up again). Computer is virus and troyan free and system services are basic ones(mouse, antivirus, graphic card).

First I tried everything you experts proposed here. NOTHING WORKED. Later I red on the NET something about "known bug". Man, that was funny.

Anyway I removed windows 98SE and installed WIN95. Nothing changed. Then I installed WIN98. Sill the same.

Then it came to me. It has nothing to do with the operating system. What's left. Hardware - no way.
BIOS of course. After some sooping I found it. BIOS ACPI function was enabled. I killed it off course. On the first boot system found bunch of new devices, installed them and everything was normal. Kernel usage drop to normal state (1-7%) on idle, system is not freezing everything work O.K.

There you go experts. I hope someone still read this, it cost me 2 days of working.

I also had a problem with Win98 just as Senka described. I was running "Task Manager" from Niresoft Solutions and also "Process Explorer" from in order to pin the problem down. Task manager gives a graphic display of CPU usage and Process Manager shows CPU utilisation by process. When both programs were running; either together on on their own, there "appeared" to be a contradiction of utilisation. From this I determined that this was a hardware/bios issue but was not sure of the culprit until I read the comments by Senka. I disabled the ACPI function on my Epox motherboard and the problem was resolved.

Glad I could help.

I have gone to all the trouble of registering for this site simply to thank Senka for his/her comment.  It worked for me exactly as described.  I wish I had found the comment sooner.  I'm running (debugging really) a new Athlon 2000+ system with ECS mobo and Win 98 SE.  Senka's comment was a GREAT help.  FYI, Win 98 seems to have a number of problems running properly with high speed Athlons.
Same problem, ACPI, and same solution.

Peer to peer network under Win98SE with server being an older Compaq Deskpro P100.

Switched out to Dell Workstation 410 PII with a larger SCSI hard drive.

Copied files across network.  Renamed computers rebooted and had office of 7 workstations login.

Lo and behold, system monitors shows, after two workstations boot up,  Kernel Usage jumps to 92% and stays there even when stations close out of all applications and release files.

Found this discussion, shut off ACPI in BIOS, rebooted.  Windows found new devices, restarted and allowed users to reboot.  Max peak with a couple of workstation running was 38% and hovers around 4%.

Looked back at device manager on older Compaq P100 and it didn't have ACPI listed (as an older computer, it didn't have that feature) but the newer Dell did and luckily was able to turn if off in the BIOS.  Not that important, and can probably try it myself, but does anyone know if just disabling ACPI in device manager will accomplish the same results?  (When things quiet down here, I'll try it and let you all know.)

Thanks to borleymsgs for asking the question and to all who put in their 2 cents worth, especially, Senka for the answer.
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