TechSpot

Slow Loading with XP

By mbdm
Jul 28, 2002
  1. Loading Prob D:

    My computer often takes *way* too long to load games and runs extremely choppy even when given the simplest instructions/commands in windows. The HardDrive light begins flashing and my computer slows almost to a hault. It is almost unplayable in some games.
    Could it be my hardrive? or would i benefit from reformatting?
    Any help is greatly appreciated ! Thanks !

    system specs:
    1.4GHz P4
    128 RDRAM
    20GB Ultra ATA-100 Hard Drive (5400RPM)
    GF3TI200
    WINXP PRO
    SB Live!Value
    (shares internet connection with one other copmuter)


    * mods note: Please enable Private Messages
     
  2. SuperCheetah

    SuperCheetah TS Rookie Posts: 868

    You really need a hard drive upgrade for your computer. See this thread for more on the speed differences between 5400 and 7200 RPM hard drives, believe me there's a big difference.

    http://www.techspot.com/vb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1884

    Also, a memory upgrade should be looked into. I know XP has a 128MB minimum amount of memory so upgrading to 256 or 512 would not be a bad idea. Depending on whether money is an issue I would go for a new hard drive first preferrably one of the newer Western Digital 8MB buffer hard drives. I have one and the speed is fantastic with them.

    But yes as you suspect, the hard drive is the major factor in slowing your computer down, but if its extremely slow then a reformat might not be too bad of an idea if its not too much trouble.
     
  3. StormBringer

    StormBringer TS Rookie Posts: 2,871

    The harddrive shouldn't be causing that. While there is a noticable difference in 7200rpm vs 5400rpm, it isn't enough to cause the system to come to a halt when loading a program.

    I'd say you biggest concern is RAM, 128MB is minimum for WinXP, sure MS says that it will run with 64MB but in my experiences, systems with less than 128 MB usually don't run very fast unless you turn off several things. Look at your memory usage in the task manager and you'll see what I mean.

    I run XP with full eyecandy and all the trimmings and my memory usage is almost 200 MB without any other stuff running in background, when I run as usuall, my RAM usage goes up to between 210-250 MB.

    I'd look into the RAM first, then go for a new HDD. You can still use your old HDD as a slave drive for backup or to store files.
     
  4. mbdm

    mbdm TS Rookie Topic Starter

    very informative, thanks !
     
  5. LNCPapa

    LNCPapa TS Special Forces Posts: 4,356   +283

    I agree with Storm - it's more likely to be RAM than Hard Drive speeds. I have run WinXP on 128 meg of RAM and it sucks - but it's great when given lots of memory to play with.

    LNCPapa
     
  6. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 6,305   +52 Staff Member

    It is very important to have a well-balanced system. Whether you have been upgrading from older system or bought this system as-is, it is very imbalanced.

    Your processor is good, your video card is great and it seriously looks like you have potential for a really good setup.. But the amount of memory is very poor and your hard disk may be kind of slow depending on the model.

    I'm fairly sure what you experiencing is known as "swapping". This is where Windows emulates memory usage on the hard disk. Memory is constantly being changed, written too and is an essential part of your computer.. However, when you run out of memory, Windows uses the hard disk instead. Memory is hundreds of times faster than a hard disk, so you can imagine the performance impact this has. Your whole computer then relies on the hard disk to many tasks and it may wait hundreds of times longer than usual for operations to get done. I am convinced this is what you are experiencing.

    There are two things you should do to minimize this problem.

    1.) Defragment your hard disk
    2.) Buy more memory

    An optional step may be to get a faster hard disk. I know that your hard disk isn't hugely outdated speed wise, so this is just if you have the money to throw around. You will see a good increase in performance with a more modern, 7200rpm disk. Memory takes priority over this upgrade though.

    Step 1.) Defragmenting:
    Fragmentation slows down a hard disk a LOT. Especially after long periods of usage without defragmenting. Think of your hard disk as a stack of papers all sectioned, labeled and neatly stacked. Now imagine those papers getting tossed and thrown around.. It would be a lot easier to find papers that are organized, would it not?

    This is kind of what is happening to your drive when it gets fragmented. The files on your hard disk physically split apart on the disk, and it has to search around for everything. This results in longer seek times and pauses during disk activity. This is especially noticable in games and memory intenseive applications where your computer is forced to swap memory to the hard disk.

    You can fix this using a disk defragmenter. A not-so-bad one is included in Windows XP. It's a good idea to exit any programs that access the disk (virus scanners,, etc) before you drafragment, so close down anything that is running in the background. You can find the utility in Start/Program Files/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Defragmenter. It will proably take about an hour, so make sure you've got the time to wait around.


    Step 2.) Adding more memory should be the next step. I recommend doubling the amount of memory you have. If you have the money or the price is right, triple it. You will want to make sure you know how much memory your motherboard can support however.. Consult your manufacturer] or motherboard manual. As far as RDRAM goes, I don't know much about it, but maybe someone else can help your decide on what kind to get etc..

    A fairly satisfactory amount of memory should be anything above 256mb. I'm totally happy with 512mb (although I admit I wan't more. :eek: ). My sister's computer runs great with 384Mb of memory and her system specs are quite a bit lower than yours.

    128mb of memory in Windows XP will leave you some 30mb free for usage (With nothing else running!)... Not exactly a whole lot. Especially when you factor in a single program can easily take up 15mb or more memory a pop. Games can use up to 200Mb easily.

    In the meantime, it might be a good idea to remove all startup programs that are not essential using the msconfig utility that comes with XP. Go to start/run and type in msconfig. Choose the "Startup" tab and deselect every program that is not a necessity to start up when Windows does. You may want to leave your virus scanner and firewall on the startup list, however. Stuff like Realplayer, Winamp agent, KaZaA etc.. Can go.


    If you defragment and upgrade your memory, your system should be in much better condition.

    I also recommend you check to make sure your disk is running in DMA mode, and not PIO. PIO is far slower than DMA and requires a high amount of CPU usage. You can make sure everything is set to DMA by right clicking on "My Computer" on the desktop, choose "propteries" and then choose "Hardware". Go to "Device Manager" and then click on "IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers". There should be a Pimary Channel and a Secondary Channel listed. Dobule click on each one and ensure that each pull down menu is set to "DMA if available". It should also list out each drive connected to your system and list its current transfer mode, such as DMA multi-word or DMA 4.. etc.. As long as it says DMA, you shouldn't be too bad off.

    If your disks are connected to a seperate disk controller (If you see SCSI or mass storage device somewhere in device manager), then do not worry about DMA. It is already enabled.
     
  7. mbdm

    mbdm TS Rookie Topic Starter

    wow, thx ill take a look.
     
  8. LNCPapa

    LNCPapa TS Special Forces Posts: 4,356   +283

    Samsung PC800 RDRAM chips have always been good to me. I get pretty awesome memory performance from it. PC1066 is out but I seriously doubt you can use it. I've got a gig of PC800 in this machine and it runs quite well.

    LNCPapa
     
  9. SuperCheetah

    SuperCheetah TS Rookie Posts: 868

    /me bows to Rick's superior computing knowledge and admits that I was wrong in suggesting a hard drive upgrade. :eek:

    :D
     
  10. kewei50

    kewei50 TS Rookie

    if u ask me the biggest boost u can get is upping ur chip or board
    that'll do the job
    hehe
     
  11. Elcarion

    Elcarion TechSpot Paladin Posts: 188

    Nothing will slow down a system more than being short on RAM...it will slow any CPU down. Kind of like a Ferrari with a 500 ml fuel tank...it won't go anywhere fast!
     
     
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