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Windows PC is slower, slower, slow.

Posted on 2012-09-22
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Last Modified: 2012-09-26
I am 20+ years user of Windows PC's. So I am well aware about defragmentation, malware protection, startup precautions and the likes.

Please help me with understanding what is happening to my (and my wife's for that matter) computer when it gradually looses its performance, so that:
Incessant "not responding" are getting ubiquitous.
Circular animated pointer(used to be hourglass) is annoyingly  omnipresent
About a year ago it was (seemingly) much better, and reboot seemed to improve performance somewhat
Reboot is painfully slow.

Regular maintenance procedures are in action (including useless 'registry cleaners').

Please see the attached image for details.

The questions to experts are:
Can you please share any thoughts about why this deceleration is happening?
Is Windows OS a huge malware designed to provide these kinds of effects with system's aging?
Any recommendation except "throw your computer away" (and wait a couple of years for your new one to come to the same situation) or "use PC Tools", "Norton something", ASC etc. ?

Did I mention I am not a rookie? At all? Good.
Thanks.
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Question by:midfde
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by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 600 total points
ID: 38425029
Can you please share any thoughts about why this deceleration is happening?

In addition to your steps, run Disk Cleanup to get rid of temporary files which can slow things down.

Is Windows OS a huge malware designed to provide these kinds of effects with system's aging?

No. Not at all. It just needs to be maintained.

Any recommendation except "throw your computer away"

The one I am using right now is in its 5th year and is fast and as fast as the day it was new.

Double check for malware (Malwarebytes); cleanup temporary files; and then defrag again completely.  

I use Symantec Corporate SEP, but I do NOT recommend Norton 360. That product can kill a computer.

.... Thinkpads_User
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Expert Comment

by:davorin
ID: 38425031
On my opinion slowness is caused by several factors (on healthy computer):
- OS updates - more updates you have installed on your PC, more space they take and and normally they make PC slower. The same I could say for AV and other program updates.
- New versions of programs - normally they are built and tested on newest, more capable computers, so slowdowns are more noticeable on older computers.
- more installed programs
- and as you have already mentioned - fragmentation and registry "pollution".

Most effective way to prevent this are regular OS re-installations, but when you will start to install additional programs you will notice that PC is slower and slower.
Quick cure that sometimes might help is de-installation of all unneeded programs.
Another option is to track down causes of slowdown by monitoring CPU, memory, page file usage when the computer is acting slowly.

I have noticed that you have installed also a WD external disk. Some version of them comes with backup program, which frequently searches over your hard disks for user files and slows down a computer as hell.

I'm sorry, I don't think I have helped you much.
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by:amclaughlin01
amclaughlin01 earned 600 total points
ID: 38425043
How is your drive space?  Do you have plenty of free space?

Have you looked at Task Manager and the processes that are running to see what is using the most processing and memory?  Do you see many that you don't know what they are or that you don't need to have running?

Computers I see running slow will show many processes running that the user has no idea what they are or from programs that they swear they uninstalled.

That is usually where I start to look.  Usually, the only thing that can slow down a computer is something that is running... or trying to run.

After checking running processes, I would also take a look at your windows services to see if there is anything unusual running there, if so disable it.
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by:midfde
ID: 38425055
Can anybody please share SSD experience? With something like "faster by order of magnitude" delight?
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38425072
SSD drives are very fast. I use a 7200-rpm hard drive and it is fast. But drives do not slow down over time - they just fail.

Also I keep all my stuff up to date and updates do not slow things down either.

Processes use memory but if properly set up processes do not slow things down. So look for the traditional causes (malware, temp files, and fragmentation). .... Thinkpads_User
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by:amclaughlin01
ID: 38425093
SSDs are very fast for booting, saving, opening.  However, once booted you really are still at the mercy of memory and CPU speed for actual running programs and the number of programs opened at once.

So, I would ask the question, as to what you are trying to accomplish by using an SSD over the traditional SATA/IDE HD.
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by:midfde
ID: 38425106
To: thinkpads_user.
>>SSD drives are very fast
I am not interested about whether SSD is fast or HD is 7200, but about will my open MS Word task take 1 sec instead of, say, 10 secs? Boot in 10 Secs?

>>...drives do not slow down over time...
This is questionable.

>>So look for the traditional causes
My "Advanced System Care" and I did :-(
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by:midfde
ID: 38425130
To: amclaughlin01Posted on 2012-09-22 at 13:28:25ID: 38425043
>>How is your drive space?
Half of 140 GB is free.

>>...the only thing that can slow down a computer is something that is running...
As insulting as it seems, when I ask my computer "What are you doing?" by means of Task Manager, it replies (and I see it on its dark icon): "Nothing", but after its "...is not responding..." song.

>>..user has no idea what they are...
Of 120 + lines that my TASKLIST command returns, I recognize hardly 10%. How can I tell what I [do not] need please?
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by:midfde
ID: 38425153
to:amclaughlin01Posted on 2012-09-22 at 14:02:53ID: 38425093
>>...what you are trying to accomplish by using an SSD...?
To speed my virtual memory up. But I am not sure it is a bottleneck. That is why I beg for experience sharing.  As I said, it is not unusual when my computer looks like it does nothing while ignoring any my GUI efforts, with 90% CPU "System Idle Process".
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38425170
I am not interested about whether SSD is fast or HD is 7200, but about will my open MS Word task take 1 sec instead of, say, 10 secs? Boot in 10 Secs?

I just opened Word 2010 from my 7200-rpm hard drive and it was ready to go in about 1 second. Never 10 seconds.

>>...drives do not slow down over time... This is questionable.

A hard drive has a motor that runs at a regulated speed. That rotational speed does not change. I do not know why you would find this questionable.

>>So look for the traditional causes My "Advanced System Care" and I did :-(

I did read that comment, so I just suggested you re-check. Why?  My 5 year old Thinkpad T61p runs as fast today as it did 5 years ago. And it is fast enough that I don't have any compelling need to replace it.

I have 4GB of memory (or more), fast hard drives, Symantec Endpoint Protection (which is light on resources) and Perfect Disk (which defrags on a set and forget basis). I run Disk Cleanup once a week and I sort and file my email and Compact Outlook 2010 weekly as well.

with 90% CPU "System Idle Process".

System Idle always shows over 90% but that is not chewing up CPU at all. Open Task Manager and set the option to hide when minimized. You get a green square in the system tray. It should be dark green almost always.  Even with System Idle over 90%, a properly running computer will run less than 5% CPU more than 95% of the time.

.... Thinkpads_User
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by:midfde
ID: 38425184
>> I do not know why you would find this questionable.
Because it may make several attempts to write / read for an old defective magnetic surface.

>>System Idle always shows over 90% but that is not chewing up CPU at all.

That is exactly what I mean when I say "It replies: 'Nothing'". It nearly ignores my mouse but displays dark green "Task Manager" icon. I (purhaps mistakenly) conclude it is doing something with my HD.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38425190
Because it may make several attempts to write / read for an old defective magnetic surface.

You may have a defective hard drive that went bad and is causing this. So long as the hard drive is good, that will not happen (in my experience). Drives tend not to degrade, but fail (many bad spots occur). Drives have spare sectors to isolate bad spots (if any).  So fail: Yes.  Get progressively slower from the first day: Never in my experience.

It nearly ignores my mouse .... I (perhaps mistakenly) conclude it is doing something with my HD.

If the hard drive is busy, that can happen, but it is usually temporary.

Open Task Manager, click on Performance and then click the Resource Monitor button. Click on the Disk Drive tab and see if there is a lot of activity. I see some there but not an undue amount on my own machine.

Also check for malware again. More and more, this looks like a virus that your virus scanner has missed (very common).  ... Thinkpads_User
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by:amclaughlin01
ID: 38425192
Thinkpads_User,

I would have to say that you are probably a bit more knowledgeable and experienced compared to most users.  The regular user is not going to know how to get into task manager or to run the regular maintenances that you do.  Even midfde is much more advanced than most users.  So, some of the things you perform on a regular basis above does not usually get done.

I myself am in an environment that I test/install alot of programs that I then later uninstall.  Doing this over time will not only fragment a hard drive, but may also lower it's lifespan and create bad sectors.  Defragmentation will certainly help, but you are still writing and erasing to a storage media.  For the person that does not defragment, can cause a computers read/write operations to slow down.

On top of that, the registry can slowly grow and have numerous entries that are no longer used but do not get removed after uninstalling the program, but have to be parsed when booting and loading programs.  

I find that I still have to reload my computer about once a year due to programs that my kids, my wife, and myself install.  And each time I do, it is amazing how much faster it runs.
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by:amclaughlin01
ID: 38425206
>>System Idle always shows over 90% but that is not chewing up CPU at all.

I have run into this and it is very frustrating, because of the fact that there is no rhyme or reason to it happening.

Regarding: >>..user has no idea what they are...
Of 120 + lines that my TASKLIST command returns, I recognize hardly 10%. How can I tell what I [do not] need please?

What I will do is systematically set programs to not load during boot using msconfig.  Usually, there might be a good description on what is using it in task manager, and if not could be a program that you really don't need running all the time.

For further research, you can always google the process to learn more.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38425213
I generally go about 3 years between reloads, so in the case of my Thinkpad, I have reloaded once when I changed from Vista to a new and larger hard drive with Windows 7. I am still running on that Windows 7 build in early 2010. I do understand that some people need to rebuild more frequently. I generally will rebuild a client machine after about two years. ... Thinkpads_User
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by:amclaughlin01
ID: 38425223
I find that the top 2 culprits to majority of users are the browser addins and coupon printer ad software.

The downfall to a many unknowing users  8)
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38425238
Move to Windows 7 if that is the case as UAC and browser security prevent that from happening without permission.
... Thinkpads_User
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by:midfde
ID: 38425295
To:amclaughlin01Posted on 2012-09-22 at 15:42:18ID: 38425192
>>I still have to reload my computer about once a year
Do you mean format (revert to factory config)  and re-install all needed software?
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by:amclaughlin01
ID: 38425311
Yes, basically reload from scratch.  This is really the only guaranteed way to remove all unwanted or unused software, spyware, malware, etc...  100%

If you have the resources, you could look at using something like clonezilla or FOG to image your computer after doing a fresh install, then it is really easy to "reload" a computer without the hassle of reinstalling all your "good" commercial programs such as Office, or games.

And I always recommend storing your personal documents, pictures, and data on a separate partiton or drive to make the reload process easier and quicker.  But of course, I am sure you back all of this up to an external drive already.... right ;)
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38425323
@midfde - If you do re-install Windows, you should try to determine why (we have given lots of reasons here) and take measure to prevent reloading on any frequent basis.

I captured a current bootable image with Ghost onto a USB hard drive and I agree with that idea posted above.

I back up data two or three times a day onto the other computer with SyncBack Pro but that is in case of outright failure of either machine.

... Thinkpads_User
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by:midfde
ID: 38425324
thinkpads_userPosted on 2012-09-22 at 15:41:11ID: 38425190
>>Drives tend not to degrade
I was under impression that this is normal for an aging hard drive: more and more sectors go to "bad" storage and HD performance degrades.

BTW, nobody mentioned CHKDSK command. Am I missing something? Is it obsolete?
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by:amclaughlin01
ID: 38425336
CHKDSK is still available.  However, I don't find myself using it unless I have a reason to suspect the drive itself is failing or I start to see actual file corruption.  Defrag is probably more useful as part of a regular maintenance regime than CHKDSK.
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by:midfde
ID: 38425346
>>>Move to Windows ...
I hear this since Windows 3.1 in response to usual "slow, unwieldy..." complaints. They (complaints) do not seem to change much ever since.
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by:midfde
ID: 38425350
to amclaughlin01Posted on 2012-09-22 at 17:23:34ID: 38425336
>>...unless I have a reason to suspect...
Do I have better than good reason? I'l try it anyway.
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by:amclaughlin01
ID: 38425354
Windows itself is very secure and fast.  It's usually the programs you install on Windows that make it appear it's the OS that is running slow, when in fact it is the way the installed program interacts with Windows.  Or a piece of hardware that doesn't work as well as others due to drivers or incompatibilities.
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by:amclaughlin01
ID: 38425357
CHKDSK certainly won't hurt.  I just don't usually jump to that as being my first troubleshooting item.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38425359
I was under impression that this is normal for an aging hard drive: more and more sectors go to "bad" storage and HD performance degrades.

With a commercial hard drive that does not tend to happen. It may happen with cheaper consumer drives but I do not use those.

Or a piece of hardware that doesn't work as well as others due to drivers or incompatibilities.

Another reason to purchase a commercial, certified PC. I tend not to have such issues.

.... Thinkpads_User
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by:midfde
ID: 38425404
Is Inspiron 1720 purchased from Dell over the Internet a "commercial, certified PC"?
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38425422
That machine came with Vista Home Premium. I expect it was certified to run what it came with (most name brand machines are). But it is not a commercial machine in the sense of sturdy engineering and professional operating systems. It is a consumer's computer.

Some Dells are not readily upgradeable (engineering again) so it may not run Windows 7 Pro, for example.

I purchase commercial Lenovo Thinkpads over the internet, so there is nothing wrong with that. But I spend the money on machines designed for business (as I am servicing clients).

.... Thinkpads_User
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by:nobus
ID: 38425851
in such a case, i always start bu running ram and disk diags, to be sure about the basics
i recommend to download UBCD, and boot from it - you'll find disk diags in the HDD section
http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/                              ultimate boot cd
http://ubcd.mirror.fusa.be/ubcd511.iso                        direct link UBCD

if your disk shows problems, here is how i handle it :
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Storage/Hard_Drives/A_3000-The-bad-hard-disk-problem.html
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by:
rojosho earned 300 total points
ID: 38427365
Hello midfde,

Sorry for coming in late to the party.

Looks like my fellow EE friends have given you some very good advice and suggestions.  Not wanting to muddy the waters, i think a plan is in order.
PLAN-A:
1. Using Msconfig disable ALL of the programs that are being loaded at start up.
2. Going into 'Scheduled Tasks' ensure that any task/service/program that is schedule to run at boot up is disable.  Google update is the biggest problem, with a Defrag operation at bootup being the second.
3. Download from CNET the system stress test app called 'HeavyLoad' and some of your normal applications while this is running  - to get a feel for the system.

PLAN-B:
1. Locate a spare HDD (Can be smaller then your current HDD) and install your flavor of Windows.
2. Download from CNET the system stress test app called 'HeavyLoad' and some of your normal applications while this is running  - to get a feel for the system.
3. This will help isolate any hw or sw issues.

Dinner is ready, got to go.. Chow,

Rojosho.
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by:Callandor
ID: 38428544
You should leave task manager open and see if a process suddenly starts consuming huge amounts of cpu.  If it is a disk problem, you can load DiskMon http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896646.aspx to see what is happening.  Finally, a bad network card can introduce delays, as the system waits for a proper response before handling other requests.  You can try disconnecting the network card or disabling it in the BIOS, if it is onboard, and see if the system responds quicker.
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by:nobus
ID: 38429037
to see what processes are running, you can use task manager, and in the Performance tab, the resource monitor
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by:midfde
ID: 38439094
I just hoped after about 20 years, and move from 386 / 0.02GHz / 0.04Gb / 1Gb / DOS to Duo / 1.7GHz / 2GB / 200Gb / Vista I finally may get a chance to wag  my computer, not other way round.<br />It looks like "not so fast".
Too bad.:-(
Thanks for a fruitful discussion.
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