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troubleshooting Question

PC Running very slowly online - how to diagnose and fix?

Avatar of y2jk
y2jk asked on
Windows XP
16 Comments1 Solution569 ViewsLast Modified:
Before I get to the main body of my question, please note:

1) If you feel this question is not posted in the most appropriate topic area, please advise where else I should try, so I can post another question there linking to this one.

2) This is a topic I am especially weak on, so any advice will need to be very detailed (an idiot's guide, basically!) so that I understand it. Almost as important as fixing the problem, I want to understand it so that I am better prepared for next time (and I'm sure there will be a next time!). Depending on the effort required to help me, I am more than prepared to up the points. Thank you.

Now onto my problem. My son has an XP pc, with broadband connection via a wireless (Belkin) network, running IE6, and signed up to all the usual teenage sites (MSN, MySpace, Bebo, etc). I have an XP laptop also on Belkin wireless, and all works perfectly for me (just thought I should mention that, in case it helps). For the last couple of weeks my son's pc has had trouble connecting to the Internet, MSN, etc. It "seemed" to coincide with the subscription to McAfee running out, as it kept asking us to go to their site to verify our subscription, but we just couldn't connect to the Internet. I ran a couple of "old faithful" virus checkers (SpyBot S&D and Ad-Aware), they found and cleared a few minor bugs, but it made no difference. As I'd had a few issues with McAfee since I bought the pc, but the Norton on my laptop never played up, I completely uninstalled all McAfee products and bought Norton Internet Security 2007 and installed that. I ran a full system scan and it found nothing.

He was then able to connect to all his usual online stuff again, so I assumed McAfee was the problem, the expired subscription perhaps blocking online connectivity / activity. However, it takes an absolute age for the pc to fully boot up (I'm talking over 5 minutes before the Norton icon appears in the system tray and any online apps start working!!). Even when connected, on MSN he has to wait at least another minute or 2 before he can select any menu options or links (the app just appears frozen). And a really weird thing, if he clicks on any link that opens up a web site, the whole pc freezes (we have to CTRL, ALT & DEL and End Task). However, if we connect to the Internet first, clicking on a link from MSN, or within an e-mail etc, then opens up a new browser window which connects to the relevant site ok (albeit slowly!). So I thought I'd found a workaround for the issue, that being as long as he opens up a browser window before doing anything else, the rest of his online activity should work ok. Not an ideal solution, but better than nothing.

However, the slowness of the pc is getting worse, (although all other apps seem to work fine, WORD, Excel, games etc, it's only online stuff that's a problem, and the initial startup). I am assuming it's not a virus issue, as Norton didn't find anything on a full system scan, but for a Pentium 4 pc with 1GB of RAM, the performance is just rubbish. There's definitely an IE issue, having to open an initial browser window to enable all other online activity to work, that's just bizarre!

What I'd like to know is how to diagnose the problem and fix it. I've read various other questions on this site (about various topics) where the most common answer to fix a problem is to uninstall and re-install software. However, I don't want to do that if I can help it, especially the Belkin software. With the trouble I had installing it in the first place, and the numerous calls to the help desk, often on hold for 87 hours before I got to speak to anyone (good job it's a toll free number!!), it's the very last thing I want to tamper with. And as my pc has no problems, and his has only been playing up for the last few weeks, I don't think the network is part of the problem anyway. Not that I really know what I'm talking about!!

Issues I have with this type of problem are:
- I am not confident with editing the registry (I've done it once before, but only when following some very detailed instructions, I wouldn't know what to do myself)
- In Task Manager he does not have any curious applications runing, but there are around 60 processes running, and I don't know if there are any clues to be found there or not
- Looking at the Event Viewer Logs, I can't see anything that points to any possible cause
- I don't know of any diagnostic tools on the pc that I could use (or on the net to download), and probably wouldn't understand how to use them anyway!

So, there you have it. A pc that's started running like a dog and I have no idea how to diagnose and fix the cause(s). What can I do? I previously read about another virus type tool called Hijack This, where you post a copy of some system log or other on a site and it is diagnosed by experts (such as yourselves) and advice given on changes to make. Does this sound like a good idea for my problem (wouldn't Norton have picked up anything like that though?)? Is it worth posting a screen print of all the processes running?

As an aside, could Norton itself be part of the problem (I very much doubt it's the whole problem)? Previous versions were notorious for being very memory hungry and slowing systems down, but the sales blurb for this 2007 version claims to have fixed that issue. Do you believe that, or in your opinion is the latest Norton just as "bad" as previous versions? My only suspicion is the extraordinary length of time it now takes to boot up (as I said earlier, well over 5 minutes). It was nowhere near that slow before I installed Norton. I did wonder about running the pc without any anti-virus software (just as a test) but thought better of it!!

Any advice would be very much appreciated. If you recommend the use or download of any diagnostic tools, could you please detail exactly how I should use them and what to look for.