CPU Spikes to 80% w/ PCMCIA Network CardBus Adapter attached on Alienware m7700

By MarkW87K
Jan 17, 2008
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  1. Hello!

    I am currently trying to resolve the issues with my brother's Alienware m7700i Notebook computer. There are a few minor issues and one big issue. Before I go on, I will tell you the specs:

    Intel Pentium 4 3.6GHz
    2.75GB RAM DDR2-SDRAM PC4300
    CLEVO D900T Motherboard
    NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900GTX 256MB
    Promise 2+0 Stripe/RAID0 SCSI Disk Device (200GB HDD Space)

    Now, the issue that has been occurring since he received it, which was about a year ago, the CPU usage spikes up to 30%-100%, 85% average. I have scanned for any viruses, malware, and spyware. Nothing comes up when I scan it, no particular process in the Task Manager appears to show what is making the spike, since the Task Manager usually gets rid of the spike.

    It seems that it might have to do with the PCMCIA Network CardBus Adapter (Manufacturer Atheros). Every time it's taken out the computer runs as it should - no interruptions or spikes. However, most of the time when the adapter is attached the spikes will come very randomly. I have changed quite a few settings regarding the performance of the computer which only seem to show temporary benefits.

    Other notes: the keyboard appears to be warped; when you apply pressure on the laptop (left side of the touch mousepad) the PCMCIA card will beep, indicating new hardware found. However the card will still work properly as pressure is applied.

    I have tried many methods to resolve the issue, yet I cannot seem to fix it. So I am guessing it could be a hardware problem - but how does a hardware issue affect the CPU spikes?

    I have tried updating drivers and such, including ones that can't be found on the Microsoft website or anywhere else.

    Before anyone tells me that my brother should send it back to Alienware, he cannot, because he no longer has warranty.

    I would greatly appreciate any help. Let me know if any other information will be required to determine what the issue could be, and then hopefully we can all find a solution.

    UPDATE: Another issue that occurred: The notebook will freeze and lock up after an unknown amount of time has passed during idle. Nothing is running in the background and I have even turned off the screen saver. It requires me to restart the computer and then the Windows loading screen will be up for up to 5-6 minutes. Once I remove the Network Adapter it will go straight to the User menu.

    I am completely dumb-founded. Please help! Any information will help.
  2. mscrx

    mscrx Newcomer, in training Posts: 829

    unfortunately I am not familiar with alienware laptops but can you try to replace the pcmcia card with a known as working ok one from another computer?
    btw does he really need this card? you said its a network card. the laptop has one onboard, right?
    when did you install the windows os? did you try a different hdd with a fresh install?
  3. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 10,067   +13

    I have noticed this phenomenon with my toshiba also. PCMCIA usage tends to hog CPU cycles.
  4. flash222

    flash222 Newcomer, in training

    yes, that cpus...
  5. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 10,067   +13

    it may be that PCMCIA ports have priority with CPU access. I am not a laptop designer, so I am only speculating. I would assume this because it is treated as a PCI port like on a desktop. Hardware always takes precedence over software as this is done at machine level - not OS level. Experts - correct me if i am wrong on this one.
  6. mscrx

    mscrx Newcomer, in training Posts: 829

    don't have that or similar problems with my dell laptops but what Tedster said was absolutely correct.
    I would avoid using it or try different card(s).
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