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I have a Dell laptop w/dual core and 4 gigs of memory. Recently my machine has started to go off in never never land for 5 to 20 minutes at a time with a lot of hard drive churning. Eventually it comes back and everything operates properly.

If I manage to have task manager up CPU usage shows no more then 3 to 5% during this process.

I am on a corporate network and have very good virus protection in place.

The problem seems to have increased in frequency since I let an update happen to IE8 and/or I started using hibernate more frequently.

Any ideas or suggestions?



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These Microsoft Technet notes on Windows XP Performance might be useful reading.

In the Resume from Hibernation section,

During hibernation, all devices are turned off, and the system's physical memory is written to disk in the system hibernation file. Before hibernating, Windows XP writes the important parts of memory to the hibernation file in a compressed format.

The speed with which hibernation can be completed has been improved by optimizations in the compression algorithms, and by overlapping compression with DMA (Direct Memory Access) transfers to disk. As a result, the compression time is almost completely overlapped with the I/O for most hardware. The speed of resuming from hibernation also benefits from improvements in the boot loader (which also affects the system boot), and from improvements in device initialization routines that are common with resume from standby.

This is the important part that may explain your hard drive churning,

The time that it takes to resume from hibernate can vary considerably. The amount of system resources needed to resume from hibernation is comparable to the amount needed to boot the computer; but in this case, the computer must also read back and decompress whatever "dirty" pages were saved while going into hibernation. Thus the time to resume from hibernation depends on how much RAM the computer has installed, the applications that were running, and what state those applications were in when the computer went into hibernation.

As a potential solution I suggest you try PageDefrag from Mark's SysInternals suite

PageDefrag uses advanced techniques to provide you what commercial defragmenters cannot: the ability for you to see how fragmented your paging files and Registry hives are, and to defragment them. In addition, it defragments event log files and Windows 2000/XP hibernation files (where system memory is saved when you hibernate a laptop).

Mark Russinovich also has a nice blog to check out for more concepts.


Have you done checks with a fewer number of open applications at hibernation?
Does that change the performance (like few small apps implies better resume from hibernation)?

If you suspect your hard disk life is in trouble, you could look at HDTune.

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I understand the startup time issues and haveused PageDefrag but the issue is that it does this at random times well after the system has come back online. – John S Mar 18 '10 at 17:25
FYI Both the pagefile and hiberfil are only one fragment each. – John S Mar 18 '10 at 17:33

I see the hibernate tag on your question.

I know of several computers (mine included) that have problems going into hibernation mode - when they try to wake, it takes 5-20m to return to a functioning state with the computer doing seemingly nothing in that time. The solution for this problem is to simply try to avoid hibernation; adjusting your power/monitor seetings.

But, you said the harddrive is churning away for no reason? That is often a good indicator that your drive is getting ready to die. As a precaution, back up your files and prepare to purchase a new drive. However, I've seen computers do this and then lose this symptom over time, and do just fine.

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I understand the startup time issues and haveused PageDefrag but the issue is that it does this at random times well after the system has come back online. The hard drive is churning for some reason but the reason is unclear. I don't believe that it ia a harddrive issue because of the age (young) age of the drive. I suspect that drive is churning because of memory swaps but why this is occuring on a system that has 4 gig of memory and very few programs and services running is what is odd. – John S Mar 18 '10 at 17:27
Although less likely, as you suggest, I think that the harddrive on its last legs can still be a candidate for this issue. Since you still think this is not the case, we can widen our spectrum. Do you know how to check your Windows Error Log? Anything pecululiar? How about your Windows Scheduler? Is there anything in there? As a side note, rereading your post, it could be the case that 'repeated hibernation' here means that you are hibernating a lot between shutdowns/restarts. Do your hibernation symptoms persist when the computer's had a nice reboot? – rlb.usa Mar 18 '10 at 19:16
nothing noticable inthe event or error logs. The hibernate reference was to the fact that since boot time is relatively long and I work for many days on a single project/problem I like to hibernate so that my work space stays the same until a project is done. It is also a reference to something I remember reading about a few years back about XP performance degrading on laptops after going into hibernate. I can't find that reference anymore but I recall it had something to do with fragmentation of memory??? – John S Mar 18 '10 at 21:05

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