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Windows XP performance lag every second

XDAndy asked
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-09
I've noticed just this week that my computer seems to pause every second. It happens no matter what program I am in, or even when everything is closed. On movies, online and offline, and music it causes echo. When at the desktop, moving the mouse in circles you can see it pause every second for a fraction of a moment. The harddrive light will actually flash in sync with the pauses during a virus scan where normally it would stay on solid. I am quite certain it is processor related, but cannot pinpoint what would have caused it. The last big thing I remember doing is converting an mpeg file to avi and putting it on dvd. When I played the dvd in another machine the video was choppy with echoes, just the same as playback on the problem machine. I am at a loss as what to try now. I have found similar problems, but those solutions have not changed anything. I reinstalled audio drivers, removed some programs, and defragged the HD. Nothing helped.

Thanks for any ideas,
Watch Question

What are the specs for the machine this is happening on? Processor/RAM/Harddrive/etc.


Sorry, should have specified.

Dell Latitude D620 XP Pro SP3
T2400 @ 1.83 GHz
1 GB Ram
Samsung HM080II (80GB)

If you press <cntrl>-<alt>-<delete> and look at the processes tab, click on the CPU header twice, so you sort the view by CPU, and see the max user at the top, do you see any process that show using a lot of CPU every second other than "System Idle Process"?

If so, if you end that process (assuming it doesn't look like a system critical process) does your system performance smooth out?

You might want to do a malware scan with free Malware Bytes, just to see if this is some kind of malware that is hijacking your system to do something. http://malwarebytes.org/


Sys Idle Proc ~95
The rest are 02 or below. The usual programs; firefox, outlook, task manager. Nothing unusual or unrecognized.
I will try the malwarebytes scan, although I would think CounterSpy would catch something were it there.

Did this computer come with SP3 or did you install it?
If you installed it, try uninstalling it and see what happens.
Kelly W.

Interesting that you have Outlook running. I've seen Outlook cause momentary freezes when it's checking for new mail. Never seen it do it once per second though! But perhaps you could terminate the Outlook process and see what happens.

Do you see this behavior when you don't have any programs at all running except for watching a video?

Also, do you have some kind of indexing program running, like Microsoft Search 4.0, Google Search, or Copernic Desktop Search? Or perhaps two of them running at the same time?

I've found that MalwareByes catches and can purge a lot of junk that other programs don't. But no anti-virus / anti-malware solution is perfect, at best each one can catch only 60 - 70% of what is out there.


I'm running the Malwarebytes right now. The pausing occurs with nothing running but explorer, or just the movie player alone. I do not have any indexing programs running like you mentioned.

A few other things to check if the Malware Bytes scan comes up clean.

1) Are all of your drivers and BIOS up to date with the latest possible downloads from Dell's support page for the Latitude D620? Page here:

(I've seen strange things like this before when the BIOS is old, or a mouse or network card driver is out of date)

2) Do you experience the same freezes if you boot XP in same mode, no networking? If not, could be a software issue with third party software or drivers.

This could be due to a hardware interrupt of some sort going on with the processor due to a hardware issue. Hopefully a driver update would fix that. But if the hardware is faulty, that's a more extensive trouble-shooting process.


MalwareBytes found a couple of infected items in the registry. They were removed. No change. I updated the BIOS. No change. I noticed that the pausing starts immediately after the computer starts to boot. The HDD light starts blinking in steady time, instead of solid or random. I will try the boot in safe mode tomorrow morning and then try removing SP3 after that.

Thanks for the ideas thus far!
Alan HendersonRetired marine engineer

Back to basics. :)
Have you tried a system restore to before this happened?

Worth a try:
Run System File Checker to restore and repair all Windows files:
Start » Run » Type "sfc /scannow" without the quotes. There's a space before the /.
Click OK.
Have your Windows CD ready to insert if prompted when repair is necessary.


I tried the file checker with no change. I also tried a system restore to one week ago, which was before I noticed the problem. No change. The problem also occurs in safe mode with no networking as well. I have not tried removing SP3 yet. I guess that would be worth a try at this point.

I don't think removing SP3 is going to help, but if you want to try it, go ahead.

You described that the hard drive light starts blinking with this 1 second rhythm the moment the computer starts to boot up. So this is before the operating system is even loading. Which unfortunately points the finger at BIOS or hardware. If you've updated BIOS with no luck, then this could be a hard disk problem, or a CD-ROM problem if this is an older computer using IDE instead of SATA between the hard disk and the motherboard.

First thing I would try, if the laptop supports removing the CD-ROM drive and swapping in a battery in that bay, is removing the CD-ROM drive from the equation, and then boot up again and see if these 1 second pauses are still happening.

If that doesn't help, you can do some hardware diagnosis on the hard disk. You will need to know what brand the disk is. You can see it by going to the Control Panel / System, then go to the Hardware Tab, click on Device Manager, and click the plus next to 'Disk drives' in the tree. You will see a string of numbers there for the drive - or you might actually see a brand name. You can plug that string (copy and paste) into google and typically you'll find a page showing what brand and model the disk is.

(you can typically see by the brand unscrewing the single screw over the hard disk cover and looking at the label as well)

To diagnose the hard disk, prior to removing SP3 (which can be a 1 to 2 hour process), I would test the hard disk. If you have another computer that you can use to burn a disk, you can download the Ultimate Boot CD image (http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/) and burn it to disk using Nero or another image burning software.

Then you can put the CD-ROM drive back into the laptop (if you have removed it), and boot from that CD. The CD contains a bunch of applications that are useful for testing the hardware. There is a hard disk diagnostic section that lets you run a utility specific to the hard disk manufacturer.

If this is all getting a little too sophisticated for you, then perhaps someone else has other tips besides hardware diagnostics you can try first...

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I'll try the CD ROM removal first. If nothing, then I know we have a copy of the UBCD around here.  Thanks for the suggestion. I didn't think about testing the hard drive.
Any updates on what you have done and how the troubleshooting has been going?
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