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My Windows Explorer on Windows XP 32Bit is very slow lately. When I start it, it takes up to 10 seconds until it lists all folders and drives. During this time it is nonreactive, which means it does not react to mouse or keyboard input. Even after it stays slower than usual. opening new folder takes a couple of seconds, while previously they were opened instantly.

Other filebrowsers like "Total Commander" work very fast as usual.

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This is what I'm talking about: superuser.com/questions/7621/… –  OscarRyz Jul 22 '09 at 15:25
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I think I got the same problem: superuser.com/questions/11291/… –  Graviton Aug 6 '09 at 9:42
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7 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted
+100
  1. Download Sysinternals' Process Explorer
  2. Run the program with administrator rights (so it can access all the information it requires from the system).
  3. Right click on the process Explorer.exe, and select Properties.
  4. Select the performance tab.
  5. Now open a new Explorer window, and watch the graphs. You should be able to tell whether the problem is i/o access or cpu (I haven't found the memory to be a probable cause for this behavior).
  6. Other tabs like Performance and Threads, should help you to figure out what's abusing the system's resources.

If you reckon the problem could be some corrupt dll or handler attached to the Explorer process, then follow these steps:

  1. Download Sysinternals’ Autoruns (it doesn’t need to be installed).
  2. Uncompress the zip file and run the program autoruns.exe with administrator privileges.
  3. Wait for the program to retrieve all the information, then select the Explorer tab.
  4. Look for any item without a publisher or from a dubious source.
  5. If you find any, disable the item by un-checking the box to the left, then close the application and reboot the system.
  6. Repeat the process with any other dll/handler you think it could be causing the problem. Reboot again after each one (you can also re-enable the items by checking the corresponding box).

Hope that helps.

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thank you! that sounds like a good solution to debug the problem. but i could not find any suspicious values in process explorer when starting a new explorer.exe (where the problem occurs). I/O bytes goes to ~30KB shortly after starting, but i think that may be normal. it goes back to 0 while the problem still persists. the cpu usage stays very low all the time. –  clamp Jul 31 '09 at 8:35
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thank you also for your second suggestion. i looked through the list, which is very long, but all of the items seem to make sense. most of them are from microsoft. the rest is from the companies that make my drivers or tools that integrate into explorer-rightclickmenu. –  clamp Jul 31 '09 at 9:04
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Just because it's something you use doesn't mean it isn't at fault. Try enabling all third party add-ons one at a time. You may even disable all to confirm if add-ons are at fault at all. –  prestomation Aug 4 '09 at 3:05
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A checklist,

  • Do you have network mapped drives? that may be causing stalls
  • Do you have fragmentation on the primary drive? that makes enumeration in explorer slow
    • try JkDefrag -- Do not trust the built-in defragmentation support
  • Do you have page-file fragmentation, that makes a lot of things slow
    • try PageDefrag -- if you start this app, it will tell you which system files are fragmented immediately. You can then choose to defrag with a reboot
  • Windows support note on other application conflicts
  • Confirm that this Windows machine is at the same service-patch level as the other systems that do not show such problems
  • Consider turning off Indexing Service -- this is not exactly known to cause such slow-downs, its supposed to work only in idle conditions, but its a waste anyways
  • Is your Windows configured to show ZIP files as folders?
    • This is known to cause problems
    • would suggest shifting to 7-zip anyways.


Some more things you can try.

  • The autoruns check is a good idea,
    did you find any new or unexpected start up activities engaged there?
  • Did you make any recent driver or system updates?
  • There is also a possibility of system file corruption. You can check for that
    from the Start, Run with a "sfc /scannow" or "sfc /verifyonly" command.
    It will take some time to verify all Windows files are intact
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thanks! yes i do. but i also had them before when everything was fine. also other users in the same network have the same mapped drives and it works fine for them. –  clamp Jul 22 '09 at 14:20
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i dont think that fragmentation is the cause, because as i said, other filebrowsers work fast as usual! –  clamp Jul 22 '09 at 14:22
    
indexing service is turned off already. –  clamp Jul 22 '09 at 14:27
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+1 "network mapped drives". Used to cause regular explorer freezes as it did its voodoo in the background. –  nagul Aug 6 '09 at 8:28
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I would try Process Monitor from Sysinternals which should allow you to see what sort of file accesses are being performed when you open a file.

As I understand it, Explorer attempts to find icons for each file which sometimes attempts to locate the associated application, (so it shows the excel icon beside a excel file etc). However if there is a application located on a network folder (or on a memory stick) then this can slow it down. And of course if the drive path is not there, eg a memory stick that isn't plugged in or network path it can't find, or if permission to the file is denied, this will slow things down.

Process Monitor will also show you lots of other stuff that goes on when you open a windows, for example, sometimes when explorer attempts to access an application to determine the file icon, this triggers an anti-virus scan.

Note the icons were supposed to be cached, to avoid repeated look ups, but that may not be happening. There is a registry key which controls the size of the cache

Hkey_Local_Machine\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Max Cached Icons

(Mine is set to 2000, but maybe you can try increasing it).

The cache can also get corrupt, but I never heard of this causing a slowdown, rather it sometimes causes the icons not to be drawn correctly.

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I know somebody that this happened to, the way he solved it was to create a new XP user profile, unfortunately that meant losing lots of profile specific application settings, but it beats re-installing!

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My guess relates to what @nik suggested: a network problem. Try this: "How to disable automatic search for network printers and folders in Windows XP."

--
Portuguese version/Versão em português:
Minha sugestão é relacionada ao que @nik sugeriu: um problema rede. Tente isto: "COMO FAZER: Desativar a Pesquisa Automática por Impressoras e Pastas de Rede no Windows XP"

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thanks, but that did not solve the problem. –  clamp Aug 6 '09 at 10:04
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I've had a problem like this where I had shortcuts on either(can't rememebr exactly) my desktop, C root, or My Documents referencing non-existant files. I know it sounds crazy, but deleting the broken shortcuts fixed this problem for me. There was something special windows was doing with these shortcuts(I think trying to get an icon resource fro the shortcut from the non-existant file or something like that). So look at shortcuts on your desktop and delete any that aren't valid, and then go from there.

Edit: In trying to find the article that helped me fix my issue(it was a long time ago) I did find this: http://ss64.com/nt/slow_browsing.html

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Delete the following value from the registry:

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\MyComputer\NameSpace\DelegateFolders{E211B736-43FD-11D1-9EFB-0000F8757FCD}

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