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Slow hard drive?

By steeve ยท 9 replies
Sep 6, 2009
  1. i have a compaq laptop a couple of years old, nothing fancy but adequate. running xp home. recently it's been slowing down. i have done all the usual scrubbing, AV work, etc which did improve things a bit.

    i've been using prism hud which is a great app for getting a real time indication of how resources are being used. what it shows is that whenever almost any operation is started, the c drive shows 100% busy and c drive read/writes go to max for much longer than they should. although the machine has inadequate ram (256k) the memory and cpu usage are not abnormal.

    seems like that c drive is slowing things down. is there such a thing as a slow drive? or can it be the communication link to the drive?

    any ideas would be appreciated
  2. strategic

    strategic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,020

    Normally, when an HDD is slowing down like that, it means that it's failing and needs replacement.
    If you have anything important on it Back it up now...
    I'm assuming you defragment your HDD on a regular basis?
  3. steeve

    steeve TS Enthusiast Topic Starter Posts: 146

    actually it's my daughters computer, so no regular defrag. but i have defragged it a couple of times lately. does regular defrag help to extend the life of a drive?

    sounds like i should look into replacing the drive (toshiba). it's only about two and a half years old.
  4. strategic

    strategic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,020

    Actually, it depends how you look at it.
    Regiular defrag if anything might wear out your drive, only if you don't do it enough.
    However it will make it faster for the computer to read the files.
    Picture it as a document you may have which is about 20 pages let's say. If it's in order and placed neatly in a pile, it's easier to go through, if the pages are scattered all over the room... it's not.
    Download this tool, and maybe update and run it once a week. It defrags and does so much more. I run it about 3-4 times a week on mine which makes itr quicker to do its magic.
  5. AtK SpAdE

    AtK SpAdE TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,495

    A Defrag is certainly not going to physically extend the life of the drive. It might preserve the speed/longevity of the OS install, but the word is still out with some people.

    If you think that there is a serious slowdown coming from the hard drive, you should check the disks health. Most modern hard drives are equipped with S.M.A.R.T technology along with other built in diagnostic abilities. You can read about SMART HERE

    A utility that will give you information about the health of your hard drive is made my seagate, it is called seatools. Each brand of Hard Drive makes their own tools, but Seagates works the best IMO, and it will work on most brand hard drives even if they are not made by them. Seatools can be found HERE And it is free.

    Run the scans and you can figure out if your hard drive is on its way out. Of course SMART is not 100% accurate but it will give you a general feel for the health of your hard drive.
  6. sethbest

    sethbest TS Enthusiast Posts: 79

    In addition to Atk Spade's valid points, as well as 3rd party disk scanners:

    You may also want to check your event logs to see if there have been any errors, application or system, relating to hd read and writes, often errors of this sort can give you an idea if bad sectors are being run into or if there are many errors recently it may indicate an imminent drive failure.

    There are a few ways to get to the event logs but the easiest way is right clicking your my computer icon, the actual icon not a shortcut of it, and clicking on manage, then under system tools in the left column click event viewer and you will find the logs listed by type.

    Also if your bottlneck is your hard drive, you might consider reducing the size of your system paging file, to keep more work done on your ram, but you might just end up slowing things down by running out of memory.
  7. steeve

    steeve TS Enthusiast Topic Starter Posts: 146

    @strategic thanks for the link to advanced system care...really useful piece of software. i like the optimization section...that it gives all the details of the proposed modfications with the option to accept or reject, before making the changes. and also different optimization levels. a great way for an average user to get to adjust registry settings that they didn't even know existed!

    @atkspade...thanks for that. the computer and the daughter have returned to far off college so i will try to do the analysis remotely. another utility i know of is speedfan which i may try first because it will be simpler to install etc given my daughters minimal computer savviness

    @sethbest...the event logs are not something i had looked into before, but i now see they are very useful. i will use them from now on. i will also play around with paging file size

    great help...thanks to all
  8. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    The 256 MB memory is the obvious cause of the slow down... but also take a look at your hard drive... Low cost laptops get the cost down by using slower drives... which are usually slower due to defects that privented their rating at higher speeds.
    Look on the label of the drive for speed... it could be 4200 rpm, 4800 rpm, 5400 rpm, 7200 rpm... and if it is NOT 7200 rpm, that will be part of the reason for the slow speed... but I agree with Strategic that the most common cause of a drive this is becoming slower is the failure of the hard drive... and it will only become worse as time goes on... Best to bite the bullet and get a new EIDE drive while they are still inexpensive... their prices have been low, but are going back up as the industry is switching over to SATA drives... Soon they will be few, but costly.
    Consider only Fujitsu, Seagate, Toshiba or Western Digital. Avoid Hitachi, Samsung, or Tri-gem due to history of early failures. If yours is a Hitachi, I would replace it immediately.
  9. strategic

    strategic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,020

    ... or at least if you want to stretch it out, make sure anything important is backed up so you're ready for it. ;)
  10. steeve

    steeve TS Enthusiast Topic Starter Posts: 146

    i will check the speed

    the thing is, when it was newer, it ran pretty sweetly for simple tasks. i'll have a look at hard drive prices...but i also like the idea of stretching it out!
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