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damian5000 (TechnicalUser) (OP)
8 May 10 2:36
Please read entirely.  I've already tried a few different things to try and figure out the issue.  I THINK the problem is not enough RAM, but not sure.  Mulled it being a crappy motherboard or hard drive, but now don't believe either of those is the case (motherboard is Asus, chkdisk finds no errors at all on the drive)

... Anyways.. Here it is..To start with, the computer takes super long time to boot up...

After boot up, sometimes hard drive will run constantly for 10-20 minutes regularly...Will then be okay for awhile and then same thing happens again.  

Sometimes system slow down gets so bad the mouse cursor will freeze up, programs will be impossible to start or switch to...etc..Sometimes system will just plain lock up while the hard drive continues to work away at whatever it's doing and a restart is required.

I'm not putting a heavy load on here.  Even when there's no load and the processor usage is at 2% or even 0% the hard drive will often be working away incessantly.

I THINK the problem is the RAM.  She only has 256 and available is 224 (the rest is onboard video). Running Windows XP service pack 3. Processor 2.8 P4.  Asus motherboard.


Couple of things I've already checked

1) Drive is running in DMA, not PIO.
2) Set Pagefile to 1.5x (333 MB), didn't affect issue
3) Have a bare minimum of software running in background.  Only AVG.  
4) Ran DOS chk disk and not a single error or anything out of place reported.
5) Already ran defragment.  Reports defrag not required.
6) Checked Task Manager for processes using tons of disk writes/other, but nothing really comes up as too big to be putting this kind of drain/usage on the drive.

What I don't understand and why I'm not sure it's the RAM is that Task Manager reports 76k physical RAM available..commit charge total @ 400k (peak 600k). Currently have only the web browser and Task Manager running (with AVG in back).  

Obviously if the system total is at 400k regularly and she only has 228 megs of RAM, there is a problem there...should it be that high (400mb) with only a web browser running? Is that 76k part of the TOTAL that's already in use?  Or is it RAM just sitting there not being used (which doesn't make sense to me since Commit Charge is at 400k, wouldn't it use all the available physical ram it could?).

Any help on this appreciated.  I'm leaving here in a day or so and want to have things working good for.

The girl I'm trying to help has NO money and a baby on the way, and I have little to spare.  If the RAM is the problem, I don't mind shelling out a few bucks for an upgrade, but I want to make sure that's the issue before I invest in helping her out.

Thanks much and sorry for being so long winded and appreciate advice here.

Thanks,
Damian
damian5000 (TechnicalUser) (OP)
8 May 10 3:15
I should add that I've run AVG virus and spyware removal, MalwareBytes anti-malware and cleaned up whatever came up there.  Also ran everest and another hard drive testing tool. SMART is fine and drive passes tests.  There is no 'bloatware' running either.


 
BadBigBen (MIS)
8 May 10 3:46
Definitely, it is a RAM problem, in that there is NOT enough RAM...

General rule of thumb, the more the merrier...

XP will run the way you described, with only 128NB+, starting at 512MB it gets better, and runs really sweet at 1024MG (1GIG)...

so my suggestion, up the RAM to 1 GB and you will see a major improvement...
 

Ben
"If it works don't fix it! If it doesn't use a sledgehammer..."
How to ask a question, when posting them to a professional forum.
Only ask questions with yes/no answers if you want "yes" or "no"

goombawaho (MIS)
8 May 10 8:34
I'd try to get it up to 512MB minimum or 768 or 1GB.

Also, after that, make sure that things like Windows Search, Google Desktop, etc. are NOT installed because they take a lot of disk resources when indexing.  You can even turn off the indexing service in SERVICES.MSC (set to disabled).

Use a program like Process Explorer to check every process running and see that none of these type of products are running.

P.S.  Sounds like somebody is sweet on somebody else - shelling out their own money for RAM.  That's how computer geeks show affection:  let me give you some ram.
G0AOZ (TechnicalUser)
9 May 10 13:48
Agree with above posters, lack of sufficient RAM is most likely culprit.  When that PC first hit the streets, it may have been SP1.  All the Microsoft updates and patches, SP3, etc., has increased the size and overhead of the operating system quite significantly.  Antivirus programmes have all increased in size dramatically in order to deal with the ever growing number of threats out there. Hence the desire/need for more RAM to cope...

You should also not overlook the hard drive.  I have to say I usually ignore the statement 'Defrag not required', and do it anyway!

Take off Indexing, run Disk Cleanup, remove unnecessary browser add-ons, clean out Cookies, Temporary and Internet files.  Empty the Recycle Bin, and delete the files in the C:\Windows\Temp folder.

Hard disks can also 'slow down'.  By that I mean sector access times can increased considerably, as the drive ages.  Run something like MHDD  -  this can passively interrogate the drive and tell you access times for all sectors.  If you're getting a majority in the <150ms category and slower, the drive has a problem.  This doesn't show up with CHKDSK.

ROGER - G0AOZ.
 
rclarke250 (TechnicalUser)
9 May 10 16:07
Yep, you need more ram.

1. had nothing to do with the drive activity. IO is programmed input/output and uses more cpu cycles than DMA direct memory access.

2. setting the page file larger, just allows the system to swap info in and out of memory. The page file is reserved space on the hard drive, so if it is swapping information between the hard drive page file space and memory, you will see a lot of drive activity.

3. Windows is still doing things in the back ground, and the OS itself will have to load into memory,and the page file space, bits it needs, back and forth.

4. CHKDSK is a file system check not a hard drive diagnostic utility. To test the drive, download the diagnostic utility from the drive manufacturer.

5. Defrag is also a file system utility, and not a diagnostic utility of the hard drive.

"What I don't understand and why I'm not sure it's the RAM is that Task Manager reports 76k physical RAM available..commit charge total @ 400k (peak 600k). Currently have only the web browser and Task Manager running (with AVG in back). "

  76K left of the amount of ram you have when not running anything....remember when you use a computer, you don't run the programs from the hard drive, you start them there, and they load into memory, of which you only have 76k to load anything. Which means it has to swap yet more information between the memory, and the hard drive (page file).  

"Obviously if the system total is at 400k regularly and she only has 228 megs of RAM, there is a problem there...should it be that high (400mb) with only a web browser running? Is that 76k part of the TOTAL that's already in use?  Or is it RAM just sitting there not being used (which doesn't make sense to me since Commit Charge is at 400k, wouldn't it use all the available physical ram it could?)."

 OK, 400K is not 400M. Commit charge has to do with virtual memory, which again is the page file, residing on the hard drive. You can read more here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commit_charge

 
damian5000 (TechnicalUser) (OP)
9 May 10 23:44
Ok, thanks for all the advice and input.

LOL at 'geeks giving RAM to show affection' haha...

That IS one thing I was wondering about.  XP's official minimum is 128 and recommended is like 256.  My guess was that with service pack updates it became more powerful thus requiring more RAM... And newer versions of software took advantage of the extra ability...not sure if all my terminology is correct there, but you get the idea.

Cheers and thanks again
goombawaho (MIS)
10 May 10 7:35
Try memory first and then see how it goes.
damian5000 (TechnicalUser) (OP)
12 May 10 7:57
Okay, I haven't bought the RAM yet.  It's likely the problem as everyone said, but I have an update.

When I run Everest or WD Life Diag, the drive passes SMART summary on every count.

But when I run HDDScan, the temp has a '!'.  Everest reports it as OK.

What's more worrying, HDDScan reports UDMA CRC Error Count as '!' .  Though Everest reports same data but says it's OK and always passes.

I haven't done an extended test, but the quick SMART test with HDD and with WD Life passes fine.

Any opinions on this?

I've included an attachment.
goombawaho (MIS)
12 May 10 8:23
Use the manufacturer's utility instead of any other program.   Data Lifeguard Diagnostics - later version if possible, earlier if that one won't work with your drive.
4.15  5.04c    Run the LONG scan and then don't worry about it if comes back ok.

Both are available on this CD:
http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/download.html

Download is NOT the yellow box, it's half way down the page.
damian5000 (TechnicalUser) (OP)
12 May 10 8:26
Sorry to waste anyone's time with this.  I think I can actually answer my own question here.  Same results from the test, but HDDScan interprets it as a problem, while Everest and WD Diag don't consider the value a problem.

Couple other quick questions regarding this...Is $40 a lot to pay for 512MB DDR 400?  They have a stick of 256 2nd hand (with warranty) for $25, but it's only PC333. MB supports 400 and other stick already in the PC is 400.
kjv1611 (TechnicalUser)
12 May 10 9:50
RAM prices for older than DDR3 all seem to be on the rise, now that DDR3 is becoming more main stream.  Even DDR2 is getting more price.  For a year or two, they were practically giving the stuff away.

It's a lot to pay, used, I think.  New, not sure.  For DDR Ram, I'd probably check eBay first...

What's the max that system can hold?  If a 512MB slot costs that much, it may not be much diff to get 2 1GB sticks, used at least.

Definitely check eBay.  I just searched real quick, and found "buy it now" DDR 400 at $16:
http://shop.ebay.com/?_from=R40&_trksid=p3907.m570.l1313&_nkw=DDR+400&_sacat=See-All-Categories

2GB (2 X 1GB) @ $51.34:
http://cgi.ebay.com/2GB-2-X-1GB-PC3200-400-DDR-PC-3200-2700-2100-MEMORY-RAM-/350347331295?cmd=ViewItem&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&;hash=item51925406df
kjv1611 (TechnicalUser)
12 May 10 9:55
Also, how old is the hard drive?  And the system for that matter?

Depending upon age, you may or may not want to put very much into it.  For instance, you can pick up a "new" system that just needs to be reinstalled with a Pentium Dual Core, Athlon X2, or Phenom X3 CPU, nice amt of Ram, good size hard drive, small form factor, lots of plugs for $200 to $300 tops on eBay:
http://shop.ebay.com/?_from=R40&;_trksid=m570&_nkw=acer+ax*

I have seen 2 in use, myself, and WANT to get one for myself to use as a media center, well sora... but right now I've got an HP with a mobo that I put in new, and it can support a few hard drives instead of just one..

Anyway, those things (link above) run really quiet, and seem at least as reliable as any other OEM machine, and they run quick, too, for basic tasks.

Just try to be picky on them, and read the descriptions CAREFULLY.

Well, anyway, if you had $200 to $300 and wanted to make a big impression for someone just doing web browsing and such, that'd be a decent move, I think. wink  It'd perform FAR better than spending $50 on Ram and/or $50 on a hard drive on an older system that may fail a couple months after you do all of that.
kjv1611 (TechnicalUser)
12 May 10 9:58
What I just posted depends upon what you have to spare, how much you WANT to spare, and all of that.

If you wanted to spend a little more than $50, but not the full $200 to $300, then I'd consider the RAM and possibly the hard drive.  If it's more than a few years old, anything on the market right now will make a difference, ESPECIALLY if it's an older 4200 or 5400 RPM drive.  I may have overlooked it (just skimmed), but I didn't see any system specs anywhere, other than the amt of RAM.

I'm guessing with the quoted RAM, we're dealing with a P3 at best, maybe early P4 system, and quite possibly that desktop could have a 5400 RPM drive.
kjv1611 (TechnicalUser)
12 May 10 10:08
WD 160GB IDE 7200 "Blue" Hare Drive at NewEgg (about $50):
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136112

The 2GB Ram I mentioned earlier (eBay) at $50

Total = $100

Plus your time to transfer or reinstall the system on the new drive.

Or $200 for a whole new system.  Well, it might include speakers, keyboard, mouse, but that'd be the most.

Those are Acer systems, and frankly I do think they are very well put together.  I've personally worked on an HP system, about same age, but cost more, where part of the motherboard ended up dying, whereas I've personally seen 2 of the Acers that ran anything the users wanted (including SOME games on one), and I don't know of any major issues.

Acer is seen as an elcheapo manufacturer, but frankly, they seem to be doing a good job of late.  I won't say it's better than a custom build, but I also won't say it's worse than a Dell or HP.  Frankly, when you get to the internals, none of them are terrific, on the consumer-level... at least in my experience.
damian5000 (TechnicalUser) (OP)
12 May 10 10:14
Sorry goombawaho, didn't see your reply before I wrote again.

I believe this drive is Hitachi made. They unfortunately don't have something I can run from Windows, which is strange considering this is 2010.  It might be stranger that we don't have a blank CD to burn a boot disc considering this is 2010. Will have to keep it in mind next time I'm out.

re kjv1611, Thanks man...But, I'm in Soidao, Thailand right now and it's not easy to get eBay items shipped here. Shipping normal global is cheap...Like $5 USPS.. friend or family could take care of 2nd hand shipping it to me after purchasing it on eBay.  Just time wise waiting for it to arrive vs. spending an extra $20 or $30.

 
damian5000 (TechnicalUser) (OP)
12 May 10 10:18
Just read your new posts...The drive is 7200.... I don't think she needs 2gb.  All she does is play a few 2D games, chat and internet.  

I understand what you mean about the new computer though.  They are actually selling some pretty decent internet/email rigs for like $100 with shipping.
kjv1611 (TechnicalUser)
12 May 10 10:46
Hmm, then in your location, given that you say you can find a PC for $100, comparing that against other options, that may be your best bet.  When you say that price plus shipping, is that on a used "refurb" system, or a new system?  What sort of specs?  I mean even the idea where they were going to give away laptops to impoverished nations typically hasn't done very well (last I read), b/c of just the pure costs ending up over something like $150 or $200 or so... I forget the details.

Well, whatever works out, let us know. :0)

If you can't easily get your hands on any RAM, and if you don't want to reinstall Windows - that'd probably help - then there are some other things you can do:

1. Run a few cleanup apps:  For Windows XP, I highly recommend RegScrubXP - at www.majorgeeks.com
   Other good apps here: CCleaner, Glary Utilities, and Advanced System Care.  I'd run the last one, well, last.  It uses the most resources.  Frankly, I'd run all 4, but in this order:
       1. RegScrubXP
       2. CCleaner
       3. Glary Utilities
       4. Advanced System Care

2. What AV is she using right now?  I'd suggest running Microsoft Security Essentials as #1 choice, Avira Antivir as 2nd choice.  With Avira, I'd probably turn some options off, to speed it up a little.

3. Performance Settings - I'd DEFINITELY set it to "best performance" if not already done.  (Right-click "My Computer", Properties, Advanced, Performance, Visual settings.).

4. For your Virtual Memory, SWAP file, it needs to be set to something like this (ideal): 2 Times the system RAM as the minimum, and 4 times the system RAM for the Max.  In your case, I think you said it was 128MB, but your first screenshot showed what appears to be 256MB.  So I'd set the Virtual memory range to 512 and 1024.

5. Go through Start-Run MsConfig, and remove as much as at all possible from the Startup Items there.

6. Under services, turn off anything possible.  One you can turn off if she's not using wireless, is the MS Wireless somethinganother  - if it's using a wire, you don't need the wireless config tools.  There are several other things that can be turned off as well.

7. Remove old System Restore entries... well, actually a reinstall would be quicker than all this stuff I've lsited, but this can help otherwise... Right-click My Computer, go to Properties, System Restore, turn off System Restore.... Reboot... Turn on System Restore.

8. Check for outdated drivers.

9. Run a lighter web browser.  Either Firefox with fastest fox plug-in... or I'd moreso suggest just strait Google Chrome... if prefer diff than Chrome, then try Opera, it's a pretty browser, and is fast, though not as fast as Chrome.

10. If she's got any "pretty picture" for the background, and she's willing to do without, then turn that off - just leave it with a plain color... particularly with older hardware, this makes a bigger difference than you'd think.

11. If she's running a screen saver, turn it off, or at best, change it to "blank screen"

12. What is she using for Office type documents?  OpenOffice may run a littel better on limited hardware than say MS Office XP, 2002, 2003, or 2007.

13. Change Internet Explorer's settings (if she is using that and wants to stick with it)... under Advanced... tell it to always empty Temporary Internet Files on closing..

14.  "Helper" type applications are always the types you can turn off when needing a few MB of RAM or a few CPU cycles here and there.  I am talking any toolbars, deskbars, etc..

15.  For media, don't use Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, or Quicktime.  Instead, use KMedia Player and/or VLC media player - both are much faster than the others.  Also, don't go adding a bunch of plugins - that'll slow those down as well...

16. Turn off "extra" stuff in the BIOS.  If it's not going to be used, kill it - Parallel, Serial ports are commonly enabled if on the computer, but few people use them anymore - if using a USB printer, you don't need Paralell (most likley), same for Serial - unless you're using an old Serial Modem or mouse, or just happen to be using some off the wall piece of hardware... and most of those nowadays even use USB.

Now I'll hush... probably more than you'll ever want to dig into, and some things you may have already done..
kjv1611 (TechnicalUser)
12 May 10 10:48
Well, one more note on turning off services - do be careful in this area.  If you're not sure about something, Google it, or else just don't touch it.

Oh and one other helper for older systems... is to turn off System Restore... If you don't think she'll ever use it anyway... but make sure on that one.
kjv1611 (TechnicalUser)
12 May 10 10:49

another BIOS setting that is more useful on older hardware than newer.... is the Video Memory settings.  Depending upon her needs and all, you may can adjust these settings either more or less, and see how the system responds.  I've seen some older machines get big performance benefits or hits from this one.  Also, the various CACHE settings in BIOS - sometimes make a big difference.. .try tinkering there if you are comfortable with that..
kjv1611 (TechnicalUser)
12 May 10 10:50
Sorry about so many posts, but with older hardware, it's more of a challenge to try to get extra oomph out of such machines. wink
damian5000 (TechnicalUser) (OP)
12 May 10 13:15
Thank you all.

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