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Friday, January 11, 2008

Success! Getting the Laptop Back Up To Speed


My goodness. Months of frustration since October 2007 -- finally I've resolved the problem.

Back in October, James was using my MX7118 Gateway notebook to do some computing tasks while his desktop machine was shot (crashing hard drive); getting rebuilt by moi. This Gateway's got a dual core processor (more up to date than our desktops at the time) and was adequately speedy even with the factory level of 512MB of RAM. At least more than adequate for the rare use it got for the previous two years. (It even did an admirable job introducing the resource intensive game The Sims 2 with a few expansion packs =with no custom content= for visiting friends. -the key was, no custom content!)

Cave people that we are in computer gadgetry, once we obtained a wireless router and networked all our machines, at last using the Gateway to access the network became practical because now it was easy to move files between the machines and go online without miles of cables. :)

How slow did the Gateway get in October?! I'm not talking about a five or ten minute boot up time start to finish, but it was taking 20 minutes from boot to the login window, and by December, after login, another 10 to 15 minutes for the few things on it to finish loading at Startup. CPU usage was 80 to 100% almost constantly. Frankly, if you need to wait half an hour just for a machine to boot up, there isn't much point in using it any more.

It had great security and was clean, no viruses or spyware. Using hibernate to speed up its readiness for use, still took about ten minutes in loading time. But no matter what, every time a new program was started (a browser window for example), it took three or four minutes before the window loaded on screen. Windows Media player kept crashing. Typing into form boxes like the location bar on a browser sometimes delayed more than 10 seconds between keystrokes. No duh, something was wrong! Since the machine was clean, I was convinced that some of the hardware was dying.

Tweaking and disabling some Windows Services and slogging through the Event Viewer was interesting but provided no joy and is how I ended up discovering Wiki-How and posting about it. ;)

Then insight finally arrived! A few days ago (yep, January 2008 already), I discovered something called Process Explorer, free, made by Microsoft, which showed me more detail on running processes than is usually seen on Windows Task Manager (ctrl-alt-del). I discovered that hardware interrupts on the machine were the source of bottlenecks. So something was indeed wrong with the hardware, but it turns out, easily fixable! Yay!

I found a forum which presented the solution. Apparently due to some glitch that occurred in October, the hard drive converted from DMA mode to PIO. Having some clues now, examining hardware configuration in Device Manager for the primary IDE revealed that even though "DMA if Available" was in the "Transfer Mode" settings for the hard drive, my laptop was actually in PIO mode for the drive and it was this that was creating all the bottlenecks. Apparently this is a known bug in some setups according to Microsoft.

So the solution was -- uninstall driver for the primary IDE, reboot (Windows then self reinstalls the driver in the correct configuration), reboot again, and voila, the notebook was booting up in less than five minutes again as of last night!

Whee, happy happy! Dancing Banana Dancing Banana


Semavi Lady woofed at @ 1/11/2008 02:56:00 AM | Permanent link | (0) Comments

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