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Slow machine

I have a Dell PIII/1.6 desktop w/128 MB of RAM with XP.  This is the slowest computer I have ever seen.  While troubleshhooting it, I've shut down background programs, disabled page filing, swapped memory, and even reformated and reinstalled XP.  The clean reinstall of XP took 4 days to complete.  I even tried a new processor and changed hard drive cables (grasping at straws). I've got a Compaq Laptop running the same way.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.
1 Solution
128MB RAM for XP is too little - boost it to 256MB at least, and preferably 512MB.  Your programs are swapping to disk too much.
I would test the drive. sounds like the hard drive could be going bad. If you have another drive maybe try that or run the diagnostics on the drive. I had some slow machines that once the hard drive was replaced it went the speed it should be. Sometimes they even passed the diagnostics.

Drive Diagnostics:

Western Digital:
IBM and Hitachi:

Also I would check the BIOS to ensure the UDMA is on for the drive.
128MB for XP is a minimum requirement. I've seen people even do it with 64MB.  As to why it would take 4 days.. maybe the CDdrive is skewed, or the hard drive is on the brink of failure.
I would also remove any devices you have installed... sound card, modem and such and then try installing XP again.  Of course, more memory is nice but, 128MB should be sufficient for the installation process.

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DrShockAuthor Commented:
Hi all,
  This system seems to buzz right along with the drive util's and in formating the drive, but dies when the install starts "copying the files needed for windows" and by the time it is setting up PNP and the others it's like trying to load it on an 8086.     Anyway!
Doubled the RAM and tried another hard drive... No avail, still taking forever.  I'm not sure if the BIOS can cause this or not.  Could it be an IDE controller (on the motherboard) failier? To see this problem twice in one month is wierd, especially with two different systems.
A problem with the IDE chain could cause a slowdown, as data gets corrupted, a bad cable could do this, or a bad optical drive.  Look in the BIOS and check if the both the optical and the hard drives are properly detected.  Are they being accessed in DMA mode?  Also check if the installation CD itself is ok - try an installation on another machine.
on top of what callandor suggests you might want to run some software to stress out the cpu and see if there are any errors with that. If you swapped out ram and your hard drive, then the only two things left (if callandors suggestions do not work) would be the cpu or motherboard causing that problem.
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