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Usually if windows is running slow (e.g. takes 7 seconds to open an explorer folder when it is usually sub-second), I identify that something chewing up memory or CPU. However, sometimes both are very low and the computer is still slow. In these circumstances, windows behaves like it is waiting for some slow message to get back before it will release reserved CPU to other processes and troubleshooting has proven tricky. I've seen this behavior on multiple computers not just one and am not sure how to troubleshoot it. Right now, I typically open task manager:

  1. click on the processes tab. see if a is spiking the memory, cpu, i/o
  2. spotcheck performance and networking tabs, but don't usually find anything.

When I don't find anything useful in memory/cpu where else should I look?

Thanks.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jun 27 '11 at 18:17

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Actually, Windows is waiting for a slow message to get back - the data off of your hard drive, which is always the bottleneck of any computer system these days. –  Breakthrough Jun 27 '11 at 18:55
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Chances are that if your CPU utilization is low and your memory doesn't look like its under pressure, that your performance problems are most likely related to IO - either disk or network.

When you try, for example, to open Windows Explorer you may see it stall for several seconds at a time while it waits for the IO requests it sends to your hard-drive and/or network to complete.

An easy way to get a better picture of your machine's performance when running Windows 7/Vista, open Task Manager and then hit "Resource Monitor" underneath the CPU and memory graph. This will allow you to see your CPU, Memory, Disk and Network utilization and will allow you to drill into the apps running on your machine to determine which is causing unexpectedly high CPU/memory/disk/network utilization.

TechRepublic has a pretty good walk-through Resource Monitor.

If you're running XP (or before), you can get the same information found in Resource Monitor, but you'll have to use Performance Monitor and add a number of counters for Disk IO queue length, network bytes read/written, etc.

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