Windows Explorer slow to start

By cottage · 36 replies
Nov 4, 2011
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  1. In the last month or so, Windows Explorer has begun to load very slowly. It used to load almost instantly but now it takes over 30 seconds.

    My System:
    Windows XP Home SP3 (with all updates)
    AMD 2100+ CPU
    1.5 GB RAM
    120 GB HD (35% free space)
    5MB/sec DSL Internet
    D Link Router (hardwired net to one other computer, AV receiver & WDTV Media Server)

    After Internet searches here & elsewhere, here's what I had done so far:
    -Disabled WIA service
    -disabled ZoneAlarm firewall & Avast Virus scan (temporarily)
    -full virus scan
    -looked at all running processes (all are recognized and valid)
    -completed a full defrag
    -completed a chkdsk /f
    -watched Task Manager to see CPU usage & running processes while Win Exp is loading. (System Idle Process is 99% prior to loading Win Ex. While loading, Idle Process never drops below 97% and taskmgr.exe occasionally shows 2% or 3%.)
    -Accessed all network drives, the local HD, optical drives, floppy drive (yes I have one!) and card reader. (They work correctly)
    -none of the above helped

    More detail:
    -Win Ex is very slow to load but once loaded, it works normally.
    -Other posts have suggested that "My Computer" should also load slowly if there is a drive problem. "My Computer" opens instantly.
    -Firefox also seems to load a little slower but there isn't a huge difference.
    -Web pages seem to load a little more slowly than previously and certainly slower than on the other networked computer. (but the degradation isn't as noticeable as with Win Ex.)
    -Outlook Express opens and loads normally.
    -other programs seem to load normally too.

    Does anyone have a suggestion?
    Is there some kind of logging program that I can use to find out what the computer is doing while waiting for Win Ex to load?
  2. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    Have you tried running in safe mode to see if the problem is the same.

    When your system is idle and it shows 99% CPU usage this clearly shows something is running in the background, possibly an infection. In safe mode you may find the CPU usage drops to normal, around 5 to 7%.

    Follow this guide to try and track down the process that is causing the problem.

  3. cottage

    cottage TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 18

    Thank-you Mark56,

    I'll try your suggestion and post the results.

    However, I may not have written my question clearly. The CPU is not running at 99% usage. System Idle Process is at 99%. (of down to 97% System Idle when taskmgr.exe is at 3% usage)

    I'll still try safe mode and post results.
  4. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    I misunderstood, the System Idle Process is monitoring the time the CPU is idle so that figure is quite normal. In this case you may be wasting your time following my first post.

    Something is obviously holding up Windows Explorer. Try running the System File Checker, see what that finds.

    Run the system file checker as follows.
    Click on Start > Run > Type cmd in the Run box and hit Enter.
    At the Command Prompt type sfc /scannow (you must include the gap before the /) and hit Enter.
    Let the process run to completion.
    You will be asked to insert the XP disc, please do so.
    Keep an eye on its progress to see if it carries out any repairs.
  5. cottage

    cottage TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 18

    Thanks again Mark 56,

    No joy yet.

    Here is what I have done:
    -Booted into safe mode and loaded Windows Explorer and it loaded almost immediately
    -Disabled all start-up items and rebooted (still had the Win Ex delay)
    -Re-enabled all start-up items and unchecked "Load System Services" on the MSCONFIG main window and rebooted (still had the Win Ex delay but had to reactivate Windows)
    -re checked "Load System Services" on the MSCONGIG main window and rebooted (back to square one)
    -I looked for an old system restore point and there is only one point available (this morning) Yesterday, I did a disk cleanup. Maybe that deleted all old restore points.

    In all of my reboots, I've noticed a couple of additional odd behaviors:
    -In the boot process the message "Loading you personal settings" remains on screen for almost 2 minutes (way too long)
    -Then my wallpaper appears but it is almost 2 minutes before the taskbar and desktop icons appear.

    Any other suggestions short of a reformat and Windows re-installation?
  6. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    There is something else you could try. Boot into Normal mode and go into User Accounts and create a new account. Then reboot and sign in to the new account and see how well that works.
  7. cottage

    cottage TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 18

    Thanks again Mark56. I appreciate that you are sticking with me through this problem!

    I set up a new user and have the same delay on the new user account.

    However, I found something interesting. It doesn't make sense but it is curious.

    I always use a shortcut in the Quick launch toolbar to access Windows Explorer so that Win Ex opens in "My Documents" rather than the Start Menu.

    If I open Win Ex by right click Start>Explore, Win Ex opens immediately. If I use my shortcut or if I use Start>Programs>Accessories>Windows Explorer then Win Ex takes about 30 seconds to open. The same behavior happens on both user accounts.

  8. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    Interesting indeed. Try deleting the existing shortcut and then create a new one.
  9. cottage

    cottage TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 18

    Nope. Same delay with a new shortcut.
  10. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    Umm, I'm running out of ideas, did you run the System File Checker as I suggested in post 4?
  11. cottage

    cottage TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 18

    Yes. I ran the system file checker and it didn't make any changes.

    Looks like I'm going to have to reformat and reinstall Windows. I'm not looking forward to that!
  12. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

  13. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    The clean boot has already been tried but Process Explorer might find some clues, this link goes straight to it, including a tutorial.

    Process Explorer
  14. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    Thanks Mark for providing the direct link and Ooops!

    I provided the wrong link in my earlier post. (It wasn't the direct link but should have been a link to HERE)
  15. cottage

    cottage TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 18

    Thank-you LookinAround for joining the thread and helping.

    I'm a reasonably knowledgeable computer user but I may be getting out of my depth.

    I have Process Explorer installed and used it to watch what happens when I load Win Ex. The CPU usage never exceeds 5%.

    There is a lot of other info about running processes, etc but I don't know enough about it to identify if any of it points to the problem.

    I'm in the process of reading through the Process Explorer help file but nothing has jumped out at me so far.

    Anything specific that I should be looking for?

    Add'l info...
    After looking through the links in your response, I unchecked "search for network folders and printers" in Win Ex. It didn't make any difference.

    Maybe a second line of attack.........
    Through this process I have noticed that this machine takes way too long to boot so I timed it with a stop watch. Maybe one problem is causing both delays. The major delays are:
    -screen display that says "Loading personal preferences" takes 30 seconds (My second computer has different hardware but identical software and this screen disappears very quickly)
    -time between wallpaper display and taskbar display - 2 minutes (other computer displays both almost simultaneously)
    -total boot time -6 minutes (my other computer takes about 2 minutes)

    Is there any way to log the boot process and the time that an event happens to see where the delay is happening? I did boot to Safe mode and set the system to create a bootlog. The ntbtlog.txt file show a list of drivers that loaded and didn't load but there is no time stamp on each event. I have a vague memory of some way of creating a bootlog with an event time stamp but I can't seem to find any reference. Ideas? (Windows XP Home)

    Thanks again for all the help!
  16. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    You can enable the boot logger by using F8 at startup and selecting Enable Boot Logging from the menu, it will then create a new .txt file.

    I would suspect there has to be something running on this system that is causing the problem which you may be are not aware of, lets have a look an an HJT log and see if anything sticks as.

    After that I would suggest you run a Repair Install which will preserve all your software and data, the only thing you will loose is windows updates and possibly a driver or two.

    Follow this to post an HJT log.

  17. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    Just to add a couple more notes:

    1. Initially, just use PE to check CPU usage issues
    > It's more accurate and shows more process detail then Task Manager
    > PE shows Interrupt usage (Task Manager doesn't - in fact, TM counts Interrupt usage as System Idle time!)
    PE can do lots of stuff but no need for you to learn all that now. Based on your reports, it would seem something is hanging or waiting a long time vs. something taking up lots of CPU

    2. Click Start->Run, enter cmd then enter
    net use
    Does Windows list any network devices?

    3. Right click My Computer->Properties->Advanced-> Performance Settings Advanced Button. Then the Advanced tab. Under Virtual Memory what is total paging file size for all drives?
  18. cottage

    cottage TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 18

    As requested, here is the HTL log....

    I'll make a separate post re the startup log.

    Attached Files:

  19. cottage

    cottage TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 18

    net use reports "there are no entries in the list"

    The paging files size is 1526MB
  20. cottage

    cottage TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 18

    I managed to get a couple of boot logs.

    First, I booted to Safe mode and clicked Boot with Log File and then examined the ntbtlog.txt file after the boot. It listed a lot of processes that were started and a few that did not start but there was no indication of time so it didn't help me find where the delay happened.

    Second, I managed to find a program called BootLog XP. I ran it and examined the results. It gave a very detailed list of the processes and their DLLs that were loaded and included times. I couldn't conclude anything from the list since there seemed to be no long periods of time when nothing was being loaded. The only processes that seemed to take a long time were:
    -csrss.exe 250 sec
    -svchost.exe (8 separate instances taking 214, 213, 175, and less seconds)
    Despite these long load times, they loaded in parallel with other processes and there were no long delays with nothing happening.

    I'm still stumped!
  21. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    BootXP is a pretty cool tool (i just tried it)

    Run it again. Click the Export button. Save the txt file on C:\. You'll probably need to ZIP it before you can attach to your next TechSpot post (TechSpot has a 200KB limit. Mine was 245KB before zip, 28KB after zip)

    Also, I noticed BootXP runs as user LocalService so if you save the file to "MyDocuments" it's NOT the same folder as the MyDocuments under your own userid. Which is why probably easiest to save it on C:\
  22. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,886

    I've only had time to glance through the HJT log there does appear to be a lot of processes running at start up that need not be, including three different CD burner programs.

    You also appear to have both Sbybot and SuperAntiSpyware running, I would get shot of Spybot, SAS is far better.

    Have you had in the past any other Anti Virus software installed on the system.
  23. cottage

    cottage TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 18

    Here is the exported file....

    Attached Files:

  24. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    Got it!

    Will take me a day or two till i have a chance to look through its output. One quick observation: excluding BootXP's Tracelog it appears from the report that it takes 4 1/2 minutes for your machine to load everything else (that sound consistent with what you're seeing?)

    1. As Mark suggested you can start by uninstalling what you don't need (or at least turn off program Auto-start options so an optional program only takes disk space (not real machine time to load everytime on startup).

    2. BootXP shows timings of all the start files. That's pretty cool! :) There's a tool named "Autoruns " that's a good companion tool that will tell us what all those startup files are (and who they belong to). In fact, could you also please attach an Autoruns report - see instruction below (then I needn't google filenames i don't recognize to figure out what something is). (p.s. One can also turn off autostart for programs/files using Autoruns tool. But we'll get to that later)

    Download Autoruns. Double click autoruns.exe to run it
    > Wait till status in lower left corner says Ready
    > Click File->Save, save as a text (.txt) file and attach to a TechSpot post
  25. cottage

    cottage TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 18


    Here is the autoruns file....

    You also asked about the 4 1/2 minute boot time. My stop watch timing indicated 6 minutes from the time I pressed the power button. It seems logical that BootLog XP would load sometime during the boot process and start timing at that point. Given that it is taking 1 min 15 sec to get to the Windows wallpaper, the BootLog time of 4 1/2 min sounds right.

    Attached Files:

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