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Horribly slow boot time on XP Professional -- no viruses, good maintenance

By chriscricket ยท 21 replies
Sep 27, 2011
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  1. Running XP Professional 32 bit on a fairly new system I built. Wife has the exact same system and her's runs like a pro, so it's not a hardware conflict issue that I know of.

    The System takes 15+ minutes to boot into windows. About 5 min from BIOS to windows. Another 5 for Windows to load. Yet another 5 to log into my account. I am the only user of this computer so there is only one account.

    Last time I ran chkdsk was a few weeks ago, and it came back clean. I defrag weekly, clean registry weekly, and scan for viruses every other day or so (using Spybot SD, Microsoft Security Essentials, and Malewarebytes, just recently uninstalled AVG).

    I have tried disabling firewall configurations, system monitor configurations, played with msconfig startup, among other things and I cannot for the life of me figure out why my computer takes so long to boot.

    This is my first time to ever post on a forum, so please tell me any other information you need or what you would like for me to try.

  2. mike1959

    mike1959 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,020   +56

    Do you have any spare RAM? If yes, for the couple of minutes it would take to swap a RAM board, it's worth a try. With XP, 512MB at least, your PC should boot in a couple of minutes at worst.
    Another test you could try, is to download 'PC Wizard 2010'.

    When run, this program has a 'Benchmark' option. You can run a 'Global' bench mark, or just on Hard drive, or RAM etc.
    The 'Global' benchmark may give you a better idea of what is faulty, if it is hardware problems.
  3. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,419   +77

    This sort of thing can impiicate a failing HDD (or even motherboard). Try running chkdsk /r to start with. Then download and run the manufacturer test suite for the HDD.

    5 minutes from bios to Windows start is extraordinary. One thing which often helps when hardware testing is to disable (i.e.remove) all non-essential hardware - CD/DVD drive, network, printers, usb stuff etc. You want to be at absolute bare-bones.
  4. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,565   +1,443

    hmm; suspect BIOS or one of the new root virus' which load the virus BEFORE windows kernel gets loaded (and thus undetectable).
  5. chriscricket

    chriscricket TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thank you for all the responses.

    I ran the benchmark tests and nothing came back that I think is bad (though I'm not positive how to read the tests, all but one had a lot of green).

    I suppose I can swap DDR with my wife, but I ran MEMtest a little while ago and don't remember negative results. I'll try again tomorrow.

    I ran Kasperaky rootkit scanner and nothing came up.

    I did a chkdsk and everything was positive.

    It's possible I was exaggerating on the boot time from BIOS to windows. Although not 5 min in length, I feel as though it's still much longer than needs to be. Also after windows loads to get to user selection, the monitor goes black except for my mouse for about a minute. Same when I log into my user account. Logging into my account takes the most time, literally 7-10 min to get in and load up.

    Something that may be of note is sometimes my sound will be a little glitchy. Say I'm listening to Pandora. Every once in a while if the processor runs high, the sound will stop 1-2 times a second. Seems as though something is eating processor but I see nothing out of line in task manager (although system idle will run sometimes in the 80s and I don't see anything making up for the processor loss).

    Thanks for the help guys. Any ideas are appreciated
  6. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,419   +77

    I.m not sure if you are running any two malware scanners at once that do the same thing. I.e. anti-virus or anti-spyware. That is often a recipe for internal conflicts. One test you could do would be disconnect the internet, disable all anti-malware in such a way as to prevent anything running as soon as you boot up, and see if it changes anything.

    Re-enable if it makes no difference, but of course, if it does, enable one at a time to see which causes the problem......

    You should also check system events for any recent errors. Report if you see any. http://support.microsoft.com/kb/308427 is for XP,
  7. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,565   +1,443

    Let's investigate; you need to run as admin for these.

    My Computer->righ-click->Properties
    on the general tab: How much RAM on the system?

    click the Advanced Tab and then the first Settings under Performance
    click the second Advanced Tab
    what shows up for Virual Memory? Frequently we see two settings,
    a min and max; I like to set both to the same value and make it twice the Ram.
    (don't reboot just yet)
    press OK to get out of that.

    now dbl-click My Computer; Please report size and freespace of the HD

    Let's cleanup the junk left from browsing; start->run->cleanmgr
    to remove tons of temp files.

    Download PageDefrag, install and run. When you get the prompt, choose defrag next boot

    Investigate fragmentation; (ALWAYS run CHKDSK /F first, but you say you've done that)
    start->run->dfrg.msc but you need to run as admin for this

    When or if you defrag and it completes, suggest booting into Safe Mode
    and observer time to get a GUI desktop. Should be much less due to so little is loaded.

    Now reboot normally and watch the time.
  8. chriscricket

    chriscricket TS Rookie Topic Starter


    DDR is maxed for 32bit XP, 3.25gb.

    Virtual Memory was set to 4gb. I played with VM for a while thinking it was that. At one point I even set the page file to be read off of a USB Flash Drive (since USB is faster than IDE) which had no avail. I set VM to 6500mb on the windows installation HDD as the initial and max size.

    Size of my C is 40gb, free space is 21.6gb.

    I clean the computer regularly using CCleaner, so when I ran the windows cleaner there was nothing to clean.

    Used pagedefrag, seemed nothing was fragmented becuase it zipped through it VERY quickly.

    Whenever I defragment, it gives me some error saying it can't defragment some files. The drive doesn't look terrible, but could use some defragmentation, and I'm not sure how to get around the error.

    I forgot to Safe Mode, but regular boot time took this long from the welcome screen:
    57sec of the welcome screen after I logged in.
    44 sec of black monitor with operating mouse and keyboard after welcome screen
    4 min 32 sec of loading my desktop to a somewhat operable state (probably another minute to complete loading).
  9. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,430   +185

    I haven't read through all the posts so apologies if any of this is redundant but a couple other things that come to mind:
    > You said you "played" with msconfig. Did you try a "Clean boot"? See HERE
    > Are you using any network drives or network printers? In any case, from an Explorer window click Tools->Folder Options->View. Uncheck Automatically search for network folders and printers (so windows won't search network on startup)
  10. chriscricket

    chriscricket TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Tried clean boot, didn't seem to have much effect. Although this "not being able to defrag my C drive" is bothering me a bit. It's defrags about half of it and says I can't defrag the rest of it.
  11. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,419   +77

    Some of what you say (especially defragger ending with an error) suggests a proper HDD test would be a good idea. That is - a full surface non-destructive read-write test. Download your HDD manufacturers test programs and run the non-destructive read-write test. Obviously, sometimes this will take hours and hours, but might well be worth it in the end.

    This page http://www.tacktech.com/display.cfm?ttid=287 gives links to the test suites of nearly all HDD manufacturers.

    Seatools for Dos or Windows has the capability of testing much more than Seagate drives http://www.seagate.com/ww/v/index.j...toid=720bd20cacdec010VgnVCM100000dd04090aRCRD

    Some defraggers will not defrag very large files (e.g. 1GB+), such as the pagefile, or other significant system files, (e.g. pre-fetch), but there are usually options to mark those so there are no confusing messages....please, whenever you mention 'some error' it is a useless thing to say - you must give the exact message, else you could easily set us off on a wild goose chase.
  12. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,565   +1,443

    It would appear that the lion's share of the time is getting to the desktop.
    I am guessing you have just too many programs running.

    Suggest running (start->run->cmd) and enter TASKLIST /SVC >myTasks.txt
    Then come back, follow-up to this thread and copy/paste that file into your reply.
  13. chriscricket

    chriscricket TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I'll try that tasklist and a HDD test when I get home today. I really didn't think anything about it until last night, but I also noticed the computer has this ability to freeze up when running a few applications at a time. I was running pandora off Google Chrome, and Left for Dead 2. Computer should have been able to handle it fine, but at one point it got really laggy and froze for several minutes. During the freeze I could move the mouse, and my keyboard was having good response (checking with the numlock/capslock keys), but I couldn't do anything in windows (no access to the start menu, taskmgr was frozen, and all windows were frozen as well and could not switch between programs).

    This kind of thing doesn't happen all the time, but does happen on a daily basis. I'm not completely sure how the task manager reads CPU usage in comparison to the processes listed, but I've been keeping a close eye on that recently and the CPU usage next to the process list doesn't match the percentage listed under the usage tab. Generally the usage tab is 20-30% more in use than listed under the process tab. I haven't seen anything out of the ordinary under the processes tab,

    As I've stated before, I have done many virus scans before, including scans you can do online, and nothing has been identified as a threat. And I also did a Kapersky rootkit scan recently which also came up clean.
  14. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,430   +185

    just fyi... One of my favorite tools for looking at CPU / processes and usage and more is Process Explorer (Look through THIS thread for good examples including Process Explorer screenshots). It's Task Manager on steroids! And sometimes be very revealing.

    Just click on the CPU column header (in Task Manager or Process Explorer) to sort by CPU usage
  15. chriscricket

    chriscricket TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I'm starting to firmly expect it's a hard drive issue, which should have been my first guess TBH. I've had this harddrive for a very long time (I think close to 6 years), and it would not surprise me if it's life was coming to an end.

    Running seagate HDD tests on my boot drive:
    +SMART - failed.
    +shortDST - passed
    +generic short test = passed.

    Also in the processor explorer every time the CPU gets high it's because of interrupts, which i suspect is also the HDD. The interrupt process usually sits between 25-50% CPU usage, and was highest when running HDD tests. Before I get into purchasing a new HDD and reinstalling everything, what do you guys think? Could it possibly be something different?

    Please note, these tests, and noticing a high use of the interrupt process, were run remotely if that makes a difference.
  16. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,430   +185

    Yup. Hard drive is failing

    1) fyi... High interrupts in PE usually points to a hardware or driver issue
    2) And, in your case, SMART failed alone means the hard drive is bad

    One other tool tip: Check out CrystalDiskInfo. I like it because it provides a quick, easy (and visual) report on SMART data, temps and more about all hard drives on the computer

    /* edit */
    p.s you'd expect higher interrupts when the drive test is running (because there's a lot of continuous disk activity) but not continous high interrupts during normal operation
  17. mike1959

    mike1959 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,020   +56

  18. chriscricket

    chriscricket TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Sorry for not posting in a while, it's marching season and our band is struggling with performance.

    I did a lot of research on the computer the other day and found an article on certain ways a CPU reads information from HDDs. Apparently there is a super slow one called PIO, and a good one called DMR. My HDD has has errors happening because of a bad sector(s), causing it to eventually read in PIO mode. I managed to default the drive back into DMR mode for now, until XP freaks out about the errors and forces PIO on me again. Changing this to DMR fixed my speed issues. My CPU was reading 20-50% capacity on interrupts alone which was causing huge lag in computing.

    Thank you all for all of your help. Hopefully I can run Seatools in DOS mode and get HDD errors fixed. If not, I think I'll just suck it up, replace my HDD with something not ancient (like a SATA connection), and reinstall most everything.

    I consider my problem fixed as I know now what is happening, however, for all the techies, I have one last question.

    If I were to copy my C drive (windows installation drive) exactly file to file over onto another new drive, then booting that new drive as my master after taking out the bad drive, will there be any problems with windows or installations? (I assume not since it should be an exact copy). Also do I need a good program for doing that? Or will ye ole ctrl-c/ctrl-v suffice?
  19. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,430   +185

    Copy/Paste won't work. You need to create an exact disk image copy (also called disk "cloning"). You need to do a sector-by-sector copy of the disk (not file/folder copy) to duplicate the disk.

    See HERE
    > EASUS Disk Copy will create an image copy OR
    > Use their ToDo Backup can image the disk as well as create a backup for you

    /* edit */
    p.s. fyi.. Here;s one of a few reasons why: Some Windows system files must be located on specific sectors on the disk to be bootable. File/folder copying copies data but doesn't guarantee where the files are written to on a new disk (which is OK when you're just copying your own data). You need sector-by-sector copy of the partition/disk to create a bootable image copy. (plus copy/paste doesn't guarantee you'll copy system hidden files)
  20. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,430   +185

    Sorry for the double post about just to make sure you see

    p.p.s. You may need to reactivate Windows when you copy the HD. You can also get your Windows keys from old drive with magic jelly bean.
  21. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,419   +77

    You will possibly find SATA is not supported by your board - it is a little squarish connector. Many new discs (and this is quite popular with retail replacement discs) come with a little utility designed to simply clone your old drive to a the new one and then boot off the new one. In other words replacing a HDD can be very easy.

    Provided it can be read at all, of course. In your case, there may be greater or lesser parts of the OS unable to read.

    It is not so easy to change the drive type i.e. from IDE to SATA, because this really does not have the correct drivers in your existing copy of Windows. Hence a reinstall is always required in that case, although it can be a 're-install in place' if you have the right CD.

    In your position, my recommendation would be a re-install to a SATA drive (if supported - hopefully you have a full install CD, or can borrow one). Having got the new drive working, you could temporarily mount your old HDD in place of the CD/DVD and thus recover any or all data you want to keep.
  22. Lestrad

    Lestrad TS Rookie

    I had the same problem and realized it was simply because my installation of XP was on one of two hard disks and the BIOS was set up to boot first from the one that didn't have the XP installation. Duh. I set the disk with XP to boot first in the BIOS and now it's fine.

    Hope this helps!

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