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I'm not exactly sure when exactly it started happening, but my computer now is extremely slow.

Originally, I have been using this computer for all sorts of stuff: Photoshop, web design/development, movies and even some light (Warcraft 3) gaming. I have been running it with Windows XP

But now it is very, very slow, and I don't know how, why or when this happened. After I noticed the slowness, I removed Windows XP and installed Windows 7 on it, but it is still very slow. Now watching videos is unbearable at full screen (slow frame rates, audio out of sync) and painful when made smaller.

Why would this happen? What would cause this? I am starting to think it is a hardware problem (the CPU has died or something), but I don't even know if that is possible.

The PC is running with 1GB of RAM, three hard drives (all up, something like 400 GB) and I think a 1.6GHz processor

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As apparently Photoshop no longer runs fine either: I assume these are local videos that run slow, to rule out any incidental connection problems aside your slow computer? And right-clicking "This Computer", or something like Windows-SysReq or Windows-Pause shows some "About this Computer" screen. I think that shows the processor speed as well. I wonder if that would show a lower figure if the CPU is actually running on a lower speed for whatever reason? –  Arjan Sep 23 '09 at 8:23
    
Perhaps use CPU-Z, it will also tell you the CPU temp I think –  Ivo Flipse Sep 23 '09 at 8:32

7 Answers 7

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Checking the CPU temperatures is a good idea (RealTemp).
Don't forget the other common factor, harddisk state (HDTune).
And, yes (Ivo) graphics should also be checked (FurMark)

Alternatively, try running a USB Booting Ubuntu for a while...

PS: since you do not declare mysterious stalls and crashes,
I am ruling out memory problems for now.

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Since videos are unbearable, I'd expect his GPU to be messed up. Or even worse his motherboard, which would effect every piece to some extent. As would a faulty PSU... Go add some more troubleshooting ;-) –  Ivo Flipse Sep 23 '09 at 7:56
    
@Ivo, you could very well be right, but I never saw a faulty GPU slow down things. Sure, the screen might look weird or blank out altogether. But to slow things down, I'd expect some broken communications from CPU to GPU, and even then: would that slow down the computer? –  Arjan Sep 23 '09 at 8:19
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Oh and +1 for trying it with Ubuntu, to see if you computer has a sudden distaste for Windows... –  Ivo Flipse Sep 23 '09 at 8:33
    
If the GPU doesn't get enough power (which would indicate PSU problems) it will start running in a hampered mode. How to check it? Probably with something like RivaTuner which shows you how much it's working. –  Ivo Flipse Sep 23 '09 at 8:34
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@Ivo, Ubuntu is easy to get on a bootable USB and the path disconnects the harddisk -- that was the target :) –  nik Sep 23 '09 at 8:47

CPUs are fairly robust. In my years of servicing laptops I have had only one where I had to change the CPU. The typical symptom of a faulty CPU (information handed down from my boss) is that the computer will simply fail to POST.

Most CPUs slow right down when they get too hot. It could mean that the heat is not dissipating efficiently enough from the CPU to the heatsink, and it may require a reapplication of thermal conductivity grease or a new fan (or simply a clean).

If your hard drives are faulty it may take a long time to swap from memory to the hard drive. If the hard drive is faulty it will usually show up in the SMART log (self-monitoring analysis and reporting technology) which all modern hard drives have. If your hard drive has a bad sector, it will automatically mark it as bad and remap it to an available backup sector, but this is usually a sign that your hard drive has had it. The SMART logs will show this as "reallocated sector count", but also if your hard drives show big numbers for read or write errors, then it means your hard drive has had it.

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See also winhlp.com/node/10 regarding what Windows can do in reaction to slightly dodgy HDs. I find the PIO-trap an extremely common cause of general slowness in Windows. –  bobince Sep 23 '09 at 10:37

Have you tried cleaning out any grills/other vent outlets? When collected dust clogs up fans and grills your components (mainly CPU & GPU) will overheat and run at a lower pace.

Just power down your pc and carefully vacuum any grills/brush any fans.

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use compressed air rather than vaccuuming - vaccuuming tends to suck-up/out things that you don't want sucked :) –  warren Sep 23 '09 at 10:32
    
Have used it for years, never had a problem. compressed air just moves the dust blobs to another place in your case. I put my vacuum machine (word) to the lowest power level and open the little vent on the mouth piece. –  Boris Callens Sep 23 '09 at 12:06
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Pulling out air is better than forcing air onto the board from other cleaning equipment (which is likely to add static-charged dust particles in the flow). So, canned-air is fine to blow but not a vacuum blower which pulls in air from your room. –  nik Sep 23 '09 at 13:58

It might be a graphics card problem, like dragging windows seems slow and juddery and watching videos are terrible

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1st of: Check hardware. Remove memory or swap places. Run a benchmarking tool outside of windows. eg. http://www.inquisitor.ru/about/

2nd: You are running XP. Which means it gets slower the longer you use it. I think I reinstalled XP every three months when I was heavily using it.

Defrag every day, virus scans are necessary!

3rd: 'Upgrade' to Ubuntu! ;) Or just install it to see how things are running.

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"I removed Windows XP and installed Windows 7 on it, but it is still very slow" –  David Pearce Sep 23 '09 at 12:34
    
Hardware is what you should check then! As mentioned in step 1! :) –  Aaaaaaaaaha ERLEBNIS Sep 23 '09 at 13:41
    
Defrag every day? If that would be true, then why would people still be using Windows? –  Arjan Sep 23 '09 at 15:00
    
Arjan, because windows which is heavily used screws up your harddrive... :) –  Aaaaaaaaaha ERLEBNIS Sep 24 '09 at 7:31

Your harddrive may be failing.

Try a utility that can turn on SMART and check for read and write errors. SpinRite and smartmontools come to mind. This is my first guess.

You may have unsupported hardware.

Check Device Manager for question marks. Resolve by finding drivers.

Use msconfig or Windows Defender to turn off unneeded startup programs.

You may have faulty peripherals.

A bad Ethernet NIC can generate lots of spurious interrupts and drag down a system. Ditto USB.

Strip the system down to bare essentials ans see if the problem remains. Remove all USB hardware, and then plug them in one at a time, in different ports than usual.

You may have software run amok

This is my last guess, as you have tried two different O/S. However, modern Anti/Virus and security suites can drag down any older system. Try running without one for a while and see what happens (just be careful on the Internet!)

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Incidentally, I just had this problem, with the CPU running at 98-100% at rest. I found the problem was a process called wmpnetwk.exe, the network sharing process for Windows Media Player. (I have Windows 7).

I killed that process (on Task Manager - Processes, click "Show processes from all users" in order to see it), then I found "Windows Media Network Sharing Service" in Services and disabled it. Note, I did NOT set that one to "manual"...it has a nasty tendency to restart itself, even without WMP running. My CPU went back to 0-5% with no programs running. Sped everything up considerably!

Windows Media Player still works, too. There are probably a handful of features in Windows 7 that aren't functioning now, but it's better than nothing functioning at all...

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