Advanced PC troubleshooting - PC HDD led stays on for 10 mins solid, boot up crawling.

User reported a PC that takes 20 mins to boot up and start Outlook, Bloomberg and IE8.

When the PC is past bootup (e.g. 20 mins after boot up), the performance is fine i.e. HDD LED blinks only when there is activity, open/close Outlook, Word, Excel, IE8 are all within 1 sec.

When PC is rebooted, the HDD led comes on solid (not flashing/blinking) after Windows logo is displayed. The HDD LED stays solid on for 10 full mins and the Windows startup is superslow. It takes a full 20mins for user to start Outlook, IE8, Bloomberg whereas it takes less than 5mins for any other PC to bootup and start the same apps.

Here are the details:
Dell Presicion T3400,
Win XP Pro x64 SP3
Intel Pentium  Core2 Duo 2.33GHz,
80GB SATA2 7.2k rpm HDD
GB Ethernet
2 x Nvidia FX 570
Symantec Antivirus v11

Here are the diagnostics already done:
1. HDD full chkdsk and surface scan - all OK
2. Windows XP system file check - sfc /scannow
3. MS Office 2003 detect and repair - all ok
4. Dell Boot up PC motherboard, RAM, HDD HW diag - all OK
5. SMART HDD reporting - HDD all ok.
6. Symantec antivirus full scan - nothing
7. MSconfig disable unnecessary startup - startup stripped down to bare essentials (no Java/acrobat updater etc).
8. No antivirus startup scan is scheduled.

Any suggestions? Thanks.
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Aaron TomoskyDirector of Solutions ConsultingCommented:
The first thing that jumps out at me is xp64. It was never well supported and may indeed have an issue manifesting here. Especially the lack of driver support was bad. Did they add any new hardware recently?
R. Andrew KoffronCommented:
remove the Norton antivirus, use the removal tool if needed, and reinstall it clean, if you have to use norton.  change to Nod32 or Kaspersky or even MS security essentials if you can. see how it boots with no AV if you're behind a firewall and not in serious risk.
Actually, it can depend on many things but most likely cause is the sheer amount of start-up applications and services when windows load. Even if you disable the start-up of some of these applications , some of them still manage to 'phone home' as a service (usually using svchost.exe). To figure out which application is 'phoning home' you must use a specialized tool like process explorer:  
Also try and remove AV active scan at start-up (if enabled). Also your processor is a Pentium which is hardly qualified to process all this data quickly so I might suggest you get some pure dual or quad core one. Also you failed to mention if the PC is connected to a domain as that can take some time too. But,my advice to you is to update the hardware (if that's an acceptable option) .
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are  you using symantec endpoint protection 11 (managed or unmanaged) client ?
it seems that the indian programmers have finally managed to ruin the product by messing with auto update function (version 12.1.601). On many machines the autoupdate ceased to function while on some, the machine struggles to get the updates (and fails of course). Check that too ...
R. Andrew KoffronCommented:
Core2 Duo with 4 Gb RAM is perfectly adequete to run xp 64 bit machine even with a heavy load and boot up in less than 20 minutes.  new hardware would be nice but hardly seems like a root cause of this issue.
the architecture of Pentium Dual Core is  equivalent to Core 2 Duo (Simple marketing gimmick). However more pure processor power is always welcome. I would check the svchost processes as I think some are to blame.
R. Andrew KoffronCommented:
I'm not arguing more would be better, just that it's plenty to boot an XP 64-bit SP3 machine in 2-3 minutes 5 minutes if it's super loaded up, even with a bunch of start up crap. 20 minutes isn't likely to be a speed error if all hardware diags are coming back clean. My money is still on Norton, I've fixed more computers by removing Norton-AV than viruses.

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"I've fixed more computers by removing Norton-AV than viruses."    :-)
However, SEP is actually the best AV from Norton. It was done at the time by American programmers now company has moved everything to India (with 'expected' results). Now they messed it up and,believe it or not, they don't know how to fix it (which is natural since they didn't write it).
It could also be the Indexing service running and updating itself.  You can turn indexing on and off to test this.

A tune up tool I use for most "Slow" computers is Tune-Up Utilities.

15 day free trial:

Just a good overall tune-up tool.
does it start so slow if you boot in safe mode also?
to eliminate software problems, install another disk with XP to test
I would also maybe take a look to see if you have a hibernation file running in the background.

I wrote an article here at Experts Exchange that address's Solid State Drives and how to optimize them for minimal writes.  I have in this article some instructions on how to disable and remove the hibernation file in Windows 7 as well as adjust your page file size.  With 4GB RAM your page file should not be set to the common old standard anymore, which was 2x Physical RAM.  Just set it to 1024-2048 and you should be fine with that.

My article is here:
Jackie ManIT ManagerCommented:
What is the brand of 80GB SATA2 7.2k rpm HDD?

You may need to download the boot disc for that particular brand of HDD to run a test.

The tools from three major brand of HDD are listed below.


SeaTools For DOS: SeaTools for DOS can test Seagate or Maxtor Parallel ATA (PATA and IDE) and Serial ATA (SATA) interface disc drives. Because the software boots to its own operating system you can test your drive regardless of the OS installed on it. You can even test a new or completely blank drive. SeaTools for DOS will instruct the drive to run its built in Drive Self Test (DST) and give either a pass or fail status. If you are troubleshooting your disc drive and the DST passes, then you have a good drive!

SeaTools For Windows: SeaTools for Windows has replaced SeaTools Online and PowerMax. SeaTools for Windows is a comprehensive, easy-to-use diagnostic tool that helps you quickly determine the condition of the disc drive in your external hard drive, desktop or notebook computer. It includes several tests that will examine the physical media on your Seagate or Maxtor disc drive and any other non-Seagate disc drive.

SeaTools for Windows tests USB, 1394, ATA (PATA/IDE), SATA and SCSI drives. It installs onto your system. SeaTools for Windows is completely data safe.

Please click the following link to download SeaTools from Seagate website.

For those who want to erase the disks, the "Erase Drive" function in SeaTools for DOS is what you want.

Drive Fitness Test: The Drive Fitness Test (DFT) quickly and reliably tests SCSI, IDE and SATA drives. The DFT analyze function performs read tests without overwriting customer data. (Note: other DFT restoration utilities may overwrite data.)

Drive Fitness Test contains a Low-level format utility (Use option: Erase Disk).
- Note: this utility overwrites customer data to allow repair of bad sectors.
Western Digital

Data Lifeguard Diagnostic: The Data Lifeguard Diagnostic Tools are used primarily for determining the physical condition of your hard drive. If you are having computer problems which you suspect are hard drive related, you can test your drive with this tool. This diagnostic utility is designed for hard drives larger than 8.4 GB with the model number starting with WDxxx.

This is the function we need for erasing disks: WRITE ZEROS TO DRIVE - The Write Zeros option, wipes any and all data off your drive. This option used when your data is no longer usable or recoverable. If you no longer need any data from your drive and would like to start over, run this option to set your drive to an as new condition. NOTE: Please make sure that you have selected the correct drive to perform this function on as once ran, no data will be recoverable.

are you sure there is no task running during boot?
Boot it with a Knoppix CD to eliminate hardware as a possible cause:  If it boots ok with Knoppix, you can be assured that your hardware doesn't need replacing and you can focus on software.  It doesn't take a lot of time to do this.
Something quick you can do that may help to identify the cause. There is a little known setting that can be made so that during Startup, Logon, Logoff, and Shutdown, a small message window is displayed showing what processes and/or apps are being processed. After making this change, watch the screen during startup. If you see a process remain on the screen during the long delay, that is the culprit. Then we can go from there. This setting can be made to any domain pc or standalone pc. It does not add any time to the process. I have all my pc's doing this always. The instructions are here:

Very simple and quick to enable. Once done, do a shutdown, then start it and watch.
Timothy McCartneySYS ADMINISTR I INFRASCommented:
Have you tried running malware scans with other great removal tools? Norton isn't a big player when it comes to getting rid of viruses/spyware that have already infected a system, and these items can play a tremendous part in very slow boot times and poor overall performance.

I recommend downloading the following programs, updating their databases, and running a full scan with each one. The best option is to run them while windows is operating 'normally' however for performance reasons, it may be more feasible to reboot into safe mode (with networking) first (Press F8 repeatedly until you get a black screen with the option to boot into 'Safe Mode with Networking')

Malwarebytes Anti-malware -
SuperAntiSpyware -
Spybot Search and Destroy -

Those three should be able to give you a good idea on how infected your system is (and should to a pretty good job at removing most traces).

If you find that these scanners populate with a LOT of malware, your best option may be to do a full backup of data (and scan said data afterwards to be sure no malware is present for reinfection), then reformat and reinstall a fresh copy of Windows.
sidartraAuthor Commented:
Hi all,

Great suggestions. I will try booting up in safe mode, removing NAV to test, then revert.


R. Andrew KoffronCommented:
i don't think NAV will remove in safe mode. unless you use the removal tool.
sidartraAuthor Commented:
Hi, <br /><br />I removed Bloomberg, SEP (NAV), and Nvidia display driver. And the boot up speed went back to normal. The cause was one of the 3 apps. <br /><br />It was not due to new device added (no recent changes), not due to some pesky startup (startups stripped down to bar minimum). <br /><br />Cheers<br />Joo
tx for feedback
but why the strange characters??
That's HTML markup - I don't know why it's in the comment like that.
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Windows XP

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