Slow system - disk related?

Tea

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Tannin's Thinkpad sucks. It's really, really slow. I'm fairly sure that the performance issues are disk related. We are seeing a glacial boot process, and very slow program start-up times. One operational with whichever tasks are desired, it runs at a perfectly decent pace.

The hardware: T 400 Thinkpad; Core 2 Duo 2.53 CPU; 3GB DDR-3; 2 x 500GB Samsung drives; stand-alone ATI graphics chip.

OK, there is quite a lot of stuff starting up, but I don't think that anything in the startup is useless or especially unusual, and the thing is still slow to load anything after the startup is completed. It seems to be disk access that makes it slow.

We have defragged it from time to time but that doesn't make much difference. The boot drive stores quite a lot of data; it can be anywhere from 50% to 80% full as a rule. Sometimes more than that, but I'll ignore that as I don't expect decent performance from a system with a 90-odd percent full hard drive, and we empty stuff off again and defrag afterwards. I'm probably not running the Intel Matrix Storage Manager (or whatever they call it now) as I've known it cause a lot of trouble in the past and I don't trust it. For starters, it doesn't uninstall cleanly, which is always a danger sign.

Clues please gentlemen.

? Is it worth considering one of the pay-for disk utilities? Or are they, as I suspect, 99% hype and of little practical value?

? Is it worth considering the Intel storage driver? I have had bad experiences with it in the past, so I'm rather reluctant.

? Is it worth considering switching to the non-compatibility SATA mode? As I understand it, this might give me tagged queuing, but very little else as it can only influence the external transfer rate which is rarely a significant performance factor. Secondly, it introduces some very significant barriers to system management and reinstallation, notably needing a damn floppy drive before you can reinstall Windows - reliability and maintainability is much more important than small performance gains, so this is another one I'd want good strong evidence in support of before I went for it.

? Is it worth considering a reinstall? Last resort stuff, as I have quite a lot of software that's painful to reconfigure, and in any case I'm not convinced that the issue wouldn't return quite quickly, same as it did last time. I plan to reinstall next time I upgrade the boot drive, and avoid it till then if I can.

? Any other ideas?
 

Tea

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UDMA Mode 5 for both drives, Dave. CPU utilisation is not an issue: just to confirm this, I started a couple of slow-loading programs just now and see that the CPU utilisation never got over about 40% for either core.
 

MaxBurn

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Shouldn't need the matrix storage manager, think you only need it if you have RAID in use I believe. Do need the intel chipset inf, update that?
 

Tea

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It's a reasonably recent one (the Intel inf, I mean), Max. Not sure if it's the absolute latest, but it was the latest one when I last reinstalled, maybe 6-9 months ago. I'll update it anyway. Can't do any harm!
 

time

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? Is it worth considering one of the pay-for disk utilities? Or are they, as I suspect, 99% hype and of little practical value?
I don't know what they could do for you that you can't do already. You can easily find free utilities that command the drive to do a self-test, so you no longer need Samsung HUTIL etc. I usually use SpeedFan (later versions only) because it also takes care of temperature and voltage monitoring, or HDDScan.

With regard to all you other questions, the point is that it didn't do it before, so something is now broken. There's not much point changing something that is the same as it has always been.

AntiVirus and other parasitic software can cause these effects, but it sounds like you've been watching the process monitor while loading your applications ...

If you've eliminated everything else, it stands to reason it must be one of the drives. How does a file copy between the drives go?
 

Tea

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Back to this thread. Thanks Time. I actually have no reason to suspect a hardware problem with the drives. In any case, it is very rare to see performance problems with hard drives that are not accompanied by data integrity issues. This is pretty obviously software-related. Apart from anything else, anytime I format and reinsatall, everything goes great for a while.

Bozo, I've been defragging regularly - something I generally don't need to do on most machines, actually - and I think it makes some difference, but only a small amount. I ran CCleaner a while back, I'll give it another burl.

But the really interesting part is that I downloaded a 30-day trial copy of Diskeeper and ran it. The boot times are as abysmal as ever (or maybe slightly improved) but one of the other symptoms, and a really annoying one, has almost completely disappeared - that is the very long delay involved with reading any large folder full of images. (Or probably any largish files, but I only have images.) Massive improvement. I am ascribing that problem to MFT fragmentation - it only ever seems to arise after I get a certain amount of data on the drive - at a wild guess, say about 300GB.

Any further thoughts?
 

Tea

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By the way, kudos to Diskeeper for sorting part of my problem and improving my system's performance.

Anti-kudos to Diskeeper for telling outrageous lies. Yesterday, my C drive was completely defragged. 100%. Diskeeper told me so. I believed it too, because it had just finished defragging it.

Today, it is telling me I have "severe" fragmentation on that drive! Note that I have barely used the system. In fact a little web surfing aside, the ONLY thing I have done is move some files OFF the C: drive and onto the other disk. It's not in the slightest fragmented. Diskeeper lies.

The other drive - well, that's giving us more evidence that they tell lies, because I installed a brand new 650GB drive today, and copied ~450GB of data over onto it from my old drive. This data has been copied onto the new drive once. That's it. Never edited, never moved, never even read, not since it was copied onto the drive - which was only two or three hours ago. This drive too, according to Diskeeper, has "severe" fragmentation problems. It lies.
 

time

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Uninstall any A/V or other anti-malware software and see if that affects boot time. They can intercept every disk access - not good.

Once booted, is the memory usage at the desktop reasonable?

You're not running Nero on this are you?

Is the Windows Indexing Service disabled?

If you haven't already done so, stop Acrobat, Office and whatever other crap programs are auto-starting some useless part of themselves.

So a file copy is okay once the PC has staggered to its feet?
 
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