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My computer takes 2:37 to boot (according to Soluto) (avg. 1:05).

As you can see by the information I've included, this shouldn't be so. I can't for the life of me figure out why. I've always had both COMODO Firewall, and Avast! 6 running on this PC.

So my question is, how can I pinpoint what is causing this slowdown?

*Possible driver conflict between the latest versions of COMODO Firewall, and Avast! 6 that could cause system slowdown. More investigation needed.


System Summary:

Operating System MS Windows XP Professional 32-bit SP3

CPU Intel Pentium E5300 @ 2.60GHz

RAM 6.00 GB Dual-Channel DDR2 @ 399MHz

Motherboard PEGATRON CORPORATION Benicia

Graphics MX70 (1280x1024@60Hz) 512MB ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT (Diamond)

Hard Drives 625GB Western Digital WDC WD6400AAKS-65A7B2 (RAID)

Optical Drives ATAPI DVD A DH16A6L-C

Audio AMD High Definition Audio Device


Services:

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Processes:

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How many processes are running in the background (bottom left corner of task manager)? –  jmreicha Oct 19 '11 at 20:33
    
With Google Chrome closed, a total of 18. –  Alan Oct 19 '11 at 20:42
    
I thought Soluto broke this down for you...? –  Shinrai Oct 19 '11 at 20:47
    
The information that Soluto provides isn't very helpful, it lists "System" as the item consuming most of the time, with no other details. That's one of the reasons that I am also looking for an alternative to it. –  Alan Oct 19 '11 at 20:52
    
Boot to safe mode and see how long it takes. This only loads services/processes that are essential for Windows to work. –  jmreicha Oct 19 '11 at 20:57
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3 Answers 3

Windows provides Performance Counters as well as Event Tracing which allows applications to do performance analysis so that one can pin-point the cause of performance problems, amongst those that exist there is one outstanding toolkit: The Windows Performance Toolkit available in the Windows SDK.

In this toolkit you will find xbootmgr.exe, meant for Windows On/Off Transition Performance Analysis.

Although the above linked document goes into all the details for every on/off transition, here is the general idea about tracing and analyzing the boot transition using xbootmgr and the xperf GUI:

  1. Download the Windows SDK, then install the Windows Performance Toolkit using it.

  2. Open up a command prompt as an administrator, then run:

    cd %ProgramFiles%\Microsoft Windows Performance Toolkit

  3. If you want help in the future, you can type xbootmgr -help as well as xperf /?.

  4. Do a boot trace like this:

    xbootmgr -trace boot -traceFlags BASE+DIAG+LATENCY -noPrepReboot

  5. After the boot, it will generate a trace within two minutes.

  6. The trace has been saved in %ProgramFiles%\Microsoft Windows Performance Toolkit, you can drag it onto xperf.exe and it will be opened in a GUI.

  7. You will see a GUI with different graphs, the arrow at the left side allows you to add/remove graphs.

  8. Look at the graphs and see if you can identify anything out of the ordinary, you can select an interval and zoom in on it if you want to. Right click and unzoom when you want to see the whole.

  9. For each graph, you can right click to get summary tables for the currently selected interval.

  10. In these tables, sort by weight or by time to figure out which it is spending the most to. Please note that you can drag around columns, so for example the I/O table allows you to check out the highest using process as well as the highest using path.

    The divider (a yellow header column) makes it so that the columns right of it show the total for the columns left of it. So, if you have Path first and then Process, then you can open the tree for a file to see what processes have accessed it and then you get the totals for that process/file combination.

  11. You can find more information on how the graphs and tables function here.

  12. If you somehow need to go down to look into the stack traces; do another boot trace and append the -stackWalk profile parameter, set the _NT_SYMBOL_PATH and right click on any graph and enable "Load Symbols". This will allow you to check what functions it's actually calling, in general you won't need this; but it can allow for things like discovering that your firewall is interfering with your debugger as a programmer. Pretty nifty...

Good luck, I hope you can find the culprit. If not then drop the trace and we'll take a look for you...

Please note that DPCs are Deferred Procedure Calls and Interrupts are Software Interrupts, both are related to drivers / hardware.

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That sounds excellent! I will give it a shot. I updated my post above with some information regarding a possible driver conflict that a friend of mine at Awil is looking into. –  Alan Oct 19 '11 at 21:39
    
@Alan: The firewall mentioned in my post is actually COMODO, so that might be quite possible... –  Tom Wijsman Oct 19 '11 at 22:12
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I know that COMODO and Avast! have forever had troubles getting along nicely. But it was working so perfectly just last week, I have a suspicion that it may be this "silent update" that my friend was talking. I very much appreciate your extremely detailed post, I'm going to add it to my tech-tips folder as I'm sure it will be invaluable in the future. –  Alan Oct 19 '11 at 22:25
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Assuming your HDDs are in a RAID-1 array, you might start with defragmenting the boot partition (unsure how it might affect a RAID-0/5 array). If you've been using the computer for a long time [without defragmenting], that should help quite a bit. Your next bet might be getting faster RAM, possibly.

Looking at that Soluto software, it says it shows a breakdown of what happens and how long it takes during boot, perhaps post that information if possible? It might reveal what's bottlenecking the boot process. Edit: D'oh, saw your comment posted while I was typing this, I wish it notified about stuff like that. Anyway, my previous advice still stands. I've found HDDs tend to cause bottlenecking the most no matter what you're doing.

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Thanks for your answer. I do defrag my HDD regularly using Auslogics Disk Defrag. I'm getting ready to boot into safe-mode and see what I get, so I'll see about getting you that information when I get back. –  Alan Oct 19 '11 at 21:03
    
Perhaps I should try a different defrag program? I'm having a friend of mine look into my Process Explorer logs for any sort of driver issues. –  Alan Oct 19 '11 at 21:23
    
I use Defraggler myself, but I don't think it matters as long as you're not using the built-in one; most defrag programs are generally equivalent at pure defrag tasks, it's usually the extra features (such as automatic background defragging) that sets them apart. –  NightKev Oct 19 '11 at 21:39
    
Auslogics has automatic background defragging, I love that feature. –  Alan Oct 19 '11 at 21:44
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FakeRAID (otherwise known as HostRAID or "We couldn't be bothered to put proper RAID on your motherboard") is actually one of the worst offenders for putting a 30 second or so delay into your boot procedure.

My machine (with dual 1TB drives in RAID 0) actually boots slower than a machine with a single 500GB non-raid device, specifically because my system seems to like to go for a coffee so that the motherboard "boot" RAID can hand off to the drivers that handle RAID devices in Windows. What you end up with is a drive that is blazingly fast when booted, but is actually much slower to get to the point where you can actually use all that extra speed.

I have actually had several generations of RAID and non-raid machines, so I've had long experience with these annoyances. If I had the money I'd get a proper hardware RAID card, as it is I can deal with a few seconds of delay by going and making a coffee myself or something...

Quoting Wikipedia:

hardware RAID controllers are expensive and proprietary. To fill this gap, cheap "RAID controllers" were introduced that do not contain a dedicated RAID controller chip, but simply a standard drive controller chip with special firmware and drivers; during early stage bootup, the RAID is implemented by the firmware, and once the operating system has been more completely loaded, then the drivers take over control.

This is almost exclusively what you get with motherboard integrated RAID and even when you buy the dirt cheap "dedicated" RAID cards.

Other than that I'd kill the Hamachi service (or at least set it to delayed).

Soluto didn't do much to improve my boot times either, though that little countdown clock was interesting.

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Does this apply, even if I only have one HDD? –  Alan Oct 19 '11 at 21:24
    
Also, my BIOS has the options to switch to ACPI, or IDE hard drive mode. Would that help? –  Alan Oct 19 '11 at 21:26
    
Ah, I just saw "Hard Drives" and "RAID" in your question and assumed that you were actually using RAID. If you only have one hard drive then chances are that it should not be causing a delay, though it is vaguely possible. I'll remove my answer shortly as it probably doesn't apply. If your hard drive is set to use ACPI then that is the best mode, but I do not think you can change modes without reinstalling your OS, though again I could be wrong. –  Mokubai Oct 19 '11 at 21:32
    
No need to remove your answer, it may be helpful to someone in the future : ) My friend who works for Awil (Avast) says that it may be caused by a silent update they released that could be incompatible with the sandbox driver COMODO Firewall uses. I'm looking into that now. –  Alan Oct 19 '11 at 21:37
    
I think this thread means "AHCI" where it says "ACPI". ;) –  Shinrai Oct 20 '11 at 19:49
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