Extremely Slow SATA Drive

My HP Windows Media PC started to run very very slowly last week for no apparent reason with no errors logged and no indication of the cause. After a lot of time I have narrowed it down to my Samsung SP1614C SATA hard drive. It takes a long time to boot (in safe mode or normal), but does so eventually (30 minutes or more) without any errors.

When Windows loads, I can do everything but disk access is extremely slow. I ran HD Tach to check the disk speeds and it shows sequential read speeds of less than 1MB/s for over half the disk. The last 50GB (of the total 160GB) had sequential normal read speeds according to HDTach.

I am a little suspicious as this failure coincided with a Windows Update (could be a red herring though). I have never seen anything like this, and am hoping that this kind of error is known to someone out there!?
trevormastersAsked:
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mikemCommented:
Can you check the drive in another computer? or another SATA drive in the existing computer?

Mike
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trevormastersAuthor Commented:
Hi Mike - I don't have either available. I was hoping I would not need to do that! I realise that it may be my only option though.
Thanks.
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mikemCommented:
My initial thoughts are that it is the drive failing. However, you would need to do some tests before coming to that conclusion.

First of all, copy of the data onto another media in case;

a) it is the drive failing; and
b) the testing becomes destrucive.

And if the system crashes at least you have a backup ..

What you can then do, is to remove the update and see if that improves the performance again. If the performance remains unchanged then the problem is likely to be with the hard disk..

Run CHKdsk with check for bad media/bad sectors and see what the results are. This will take a LONG time.

If the media reports as OK then the problem could well be with the XP installation or other drive configurations.



Mike
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mikemCommented:
Something else I just thought of;

press CTRL-ALT-DELETE

and look at the process list.. Are there any processes using a lot of system resources?

You can sort on CPU (click twice to sort in descending order)..

Mike

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trevormastersAuthor Commented:
Hi Mike, I am trying to copy stuff off it now... it is managing about 1GB/hour. I have already tried removing the update - no change. Also, I bailed out of CHKDSK after a few hours as it was going to take at least a day to complete. The CPU is at 0% - no processes are taking up the CPU, it looks like the disk is the bottle neck. Disk access is slow, even if I boot up in safe mode, or from DOS (CD).
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mikemCommented:
Looks like the hard disk has failed then..

If it's under warranty, take it back and get a replacement.

Mike

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trevormastersAuthor Commented:
OK - thanks. Is it still likely to be the controller (or not)?

This is the only SATA drive I have ever had - I have never seen a drive fail like this before.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Very slow access is often a symptom of XP having reverted to PIO access mode for the hard disk.

If so, this will fix it:  (this is a harmless registry edit -- the deleted values will be reset by Windows at next boot)

Load RegEdit (Start - Run - Regedit)

Go to the following keys:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\ Class\{4D36E96A-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}\000x

The last four digits will be 0000, 0001, 0002, 0003, and so on.

Under each key, delete all occurences of the following values:

     MasterIdDataChecksum
     SlaveIdDataChecksum

Now reboot your system and see if the problem disappears.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
... You can check the transfer mode in advance if you want by going to Device Manager; expanding your IDE/ATA/ATAPI controller line; and, for each IDE channel (Primary & Secondary) do a right-click, Properties, and look on the Advanced tab to see what the "Transfer Mode" is set to (should ALL be "DMA if available"), and what the "Current Transfer Mode" is (you can't change that in Device Manager -- that's what the above registry mod will force Windows to detect).

Be sure all of the "Transfer Mode" settings are "DMA if Available" ==> you can change those in Device Manager if necessary.   The registry modification I noted above will force redetection of the actual modes (since you can't change the "Current Transfer Mode" otherwise).
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trevormastersAuthor Commented:
Hi Gary, I checked the settings in device manager and they were all set correctly as you specified. The drive is slow even when I boot from  DOS so I don't think it is a Windows issue. I managed to copy most of my data off (45GB) in 24 hours and it is all intact which is great! I will try the Samsung disk util next.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
I would still delete the registry keys and force Windows to do the redetection.   Sometimes Windows will actually do a better job of managing the hardware than the BIOS routines.

But I do agree that since access outside of Windows is very slow there's a more basic problem.  There are a few things you should check:

(1)  Look carefully in your BIOS to confirm that the BIOS is set to use DMA transfers -- I doubt you changed that intentionally, but it could have somehow been modified to only use PIO.

(2)  Run Samsung's HUtil disk utility (you indicated above you already have it; but just to be sure you have the current version, it's available here:  http://www.samsung.com/Products/HardDiskDrive/utilities/hutil.htm)  and be sure that the drive itself is set to use the max UDMA transfer mode.

(3)  Both the SATA controller and the drive electronics are almost certainly okay since you're getting "normal" access speeds on part of the disk !!   With modern zone-sectored disks what you're seeing is VERY unusual.  Do you by any chance have (or have access to) a copy of Spinrite (http://www.grc.com/sr/spinrite.htm) ??  This is by far the most thorough low-level diagnostic tool for hard drives; and has the added benefit that it tests non-destructively.  It would be VERY useful to run this against your drive (I do NOT recommend using Chkdsk -- I've seen too many cases where data is lost because of incorrect modifications it makes).

(4)  Just to be sure you're not having some strange interactions with other subsystems (especially memory), I'd suggest you run MemTest86+  for at least an hour and see if it reports any issues (http://www.memtest.org/).  Not particularly likely, but if you're having access issues with the DMA controller this should be detected here.

(5)  Most commercial PC's are designed with very marginal power margins.  Just in case this is a power-related issue (it's surprising how many times this can be true), you should do what you can to test this.  From your comments, it's unlikely you have a spare power supply, so I would (with power off of course) unplug the power connections to the CDROM, DVDROM, floppy drive (if you have one), and also unplug any unnecessary USB devices (and perhaps any optional add-in cards); then see if that makes any difference.   Not a terribly scientific test; but without a spare, larger power supply it's about as good as you can do.


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trevormastersAuthor Commented:
Many thanks for your reply.

1) I checked the BIOS settings which were set to "auto" - at the top of the screen is it said PIO mode=4 but had a DMA transfer mode set too.

2) I am trying to get HUTIL to run. I don't have a floppy drive, so I created a DOS boot image and HUTIL would not run - complained about not being able to open a file, which is probably because it needs to write to it. I am in the process of trying to get a ramdrive installed - requires some research.

3) I do not have spinrite but I'll keep it in mind.

4) I have previously tested memory and all was well.

5) I tried removing all the external USB connectors but no change. I will try the internal ones as well when I get a chance, and have sorted out the drive testing. This was useful to know though, as I often have a lockup (on another PC) when I have my iPod connected at startup. I think this explains why.

Back to my DOS ramdrive lesson...
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trevormastersAuthor Commented:
HUTIL crashed during the simple surface scan after 11% completion. It also reported a non-specific error during the 'random surface scan'.
I will contact Samsung next.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
"I will contact Samsung next ..." ==> Sounds like the best approach.  The HUtil results confirm this is a drive access issue; so time to take advantage of the warranty.   Fortunately the failure mode was one that allowed you to recover all of your data :-)   (hard drives don't always fail so kindly)
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trevormastersAuthor Commented:
I finally got HP to deliver a new Hard Drive and it is testing just fine. A pity they could not send one pre-installed, or at least supply recovery CDs (the old disk had all the recovery data on the actual hard drive! NOT very useful). Many thanks for your help, and the introduction to some very cool tools for future use.

Trev
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
You're most welcome.
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