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I've got a relatively new Dell e4300 laptop running Windows 7 32-bit (fully updated). Several times throughout the day, it will seem to hang. When this happens, I'm able to move the mouse but the rest of the desktop essentially freezes. The hard drive activity light shows that it's busy working on something but I'm not sure what. This lasts for approximately 30 seconds and then everything returns to normal.

Unfortunately, since this happens at seemingly random times, I'm not able to get the task manager up in time to see what is happening.

What troubleshooting steps can I take to determine what's going on here? I've ran SMART diagnostics on the hard drive (which is a Western Digital btw) and it comes back fine.

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3 Answers 3

This is not necessarily a hard drive problem. At a minimum, I'd run LatencyMon to see if there's any particularly problematic driver or software utility that's obviously causing the system to sit around doing nothing waiting on a response.

If you're a bit more technically savvy, you should almost certainly be able to pin down the exact culprit with XPerf (part of the Windows Performance Analysis kit), but it may be a little too involved for the shy or faint of heart.

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Thanks, I'll look into this. –  Mike B Mar 30 '12 at 16:20

Use HDDScan from http://hddscan.com/

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In that menu use "VERIFY" it will read and verify what it read by re-reading. This is a very important step in testing a hard drive.

Many times the CRC checking mechanism will report no errors because the HDD assumes a bit value by specific comparative methods within its logic. Verifying the sector can identify bad blocks better.

SMART- is not so smart.. and wont always tell you something is wrong.. because its within a safe range.. that is convenient for the company and not you..

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If by the end of the scan you truly have 0 bads(blue blocks) then you might have another problem.. usually software related. Also check the performance graph. It should start high and gradually go slower.. It should not have massive peaks or dips (do not use PC during scan)

If there are 0 bads, then check if your driver is running the DRIVE in DMA mode and not PIO. You will have to search for that.

Also - Check your windows event manager.. sometimes a graphics card error, driver or/and hardware can cause "freezing" while the mouse still works.

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Great idea. I'll try this out. Thanks. –  Mike B Mar 30 '12 at 16:22

I have most commonly seen this behavior in two scenarios:

  1. Network-related i.e. checking for the existence of a mapped drive or network resource. This can cause apps, windows, etc. to "freeze" temporarily

  2. Microsoft .NET Optimization service - I'm frankly not certain what it does, although I have seen it consistently cause system slowdowns for small periods of time on slower systems.

Other thoughts: do you have any virus or malware scanners active on your system? What about logging or backup? Could it be that you have System Restore enabled and it's saving a Restore Point?

Another scenario could be that you do not have enough RAM in your system, therefore the OS is having to refer to the Swap File on the hard disk. Under certain conditions (i.e. switching between apps), it may be swapping RAM to HD to compensate for low memory.

I would check your Task Manager to see what applications / programs are running during these periods of slowness. You can get more details by opening the RESOURCE MONITOR and see actual disk activity and what programs are accessing the disk at those times. Also check the network to see if that may be the cause.

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Thanks for the feedback. With regard to your questions... 1) Yes, I have both Symantec AV and Adaware running, I'll try disabling adaware and see if that helps. 2) I think I have enough RAM (4 GB). I usually only use the laptop for internet and email. 3) I'll check out resource monitor. –  Mike B Mar 30 '12 at 16:22

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