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My setup...

i5-2300
nvidia gtx 550 ti
6 gigs ram
600 w ocz modular psu

I recently reformatted and I am already experiencing drastic slowdown as soon as windows comes up. This includes repeated lockups with multiple and various programs reporting that they are not responsive, and then recovering after 10-30 seconds.

I've checked memory and hard drive, both of which come out fine.

Despite my plethora of worthless antivirus software, I'm forced to assume that my illicit downloading practices have lead me into some computer trouble that I can't seem to determine.

I have used CCleaner, Search and Destroy and Malwarebytes, all of which have found nothing to indicate what is causing this massive slowdown.

In addition, according to my resource manager, my computer is operating at a load of only 30-50 percent CPU usage and 60% ram usage, but taking 5-10 seconds to load files and open folders. Repeated lockups of multiple programs, especially Firefox, which seems to go unresponsive every 2-3 minutes.

I used a program called OTL by old timer, but cant make any sense of the results I was given. Any help or suggestions on that would be appreciated.

I have Avast but it didn't find anything when I had it do a full system scan, so I'm thinking its clueless (also Norton, AVG, and ad-aware). I also have mse but it has yet to complete a full scan it takes so long (I left it on last night but when I woke up my computer had a problem and had to restart).

My hard drive has 300 GB out of 1TB free and I already used HD Tune Pro, which said my hard drive was fine and it's not an SSD. Also, I'm a new at computers and only have the hdd that is currently inside the computer.

In addition, I'm not sure if stuttering is the issue I'm suffering. My problem is that during my typing of these responses, Firefox has gone "not responsive" at least 5 times, each for about 5-10 seconds. When I try to Ctrl+Alt+Delete to bring up windows task manager, it took 20 seconds.

Essentially, it's that my computer goes super slow at bringing up anything, or taking any action whatsoever that opens a program or file, and has repeated incidents where I can't even click on whatever I'm trying to do because it locks up. The confusing thing about these incidents is that it's right after restarting where there are minimal programs running, and the computer and memory load is light.

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I am not saying that you have a virus. But running anti virus software from a potentially infected host does not always work. Try booting from a CD and scan the system from that. (For a lot more details, read superuser.com/questions/100360/… ) –  Hennes Sep 8 '12 at 19:13
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2 Answers

Generally Windows becomes unresponsive in the manner you describe under the following circumstances:

  • Issue specific to explorer.exe (i.e. a malicious browser helper object - and you would think they would only load with IE but they load with explorer.exe as well - may be loading when you log on) - a quick and "scorched earth" tactic to fix this is backup all the data under your Windows user account and delete then recreate this account.
  • Too many processes competing for CPU
  • Too many processes competing for RAM
  • Driver blocking system
  • Malware running in background. If you haven't detected any it's possible you've been infected by a rootkit which can be undetectable while the operating system is running.

And "Driver blocking system" can be further broken down into:

  • Some process (usually explorer.exe) waiting for a storage device - i.e. too many processes competing for disk space, something waiting for a CD, a disk (CD or otherwise) producing errors that Windows is retrying
  • Some filter driver inbetween your programs and a storage device is having issues. Nero, for example, installs a filter driver called PxHelp20.sys. If you've ever installed software that came with your optical drive, or software to burn to optical drives, it may have installed such a driver that could be causing issues. Antivirus programs also use filter drivers to accomplish their tasks.
  • Some process (usually explorer.exe) waiting for a network drive - mapped drives that suddenly disappear due to being disconnected can cause this. There are network filter drivers that operate in the same concept as described above - firewall, VPN, or antivirus software may install these.
  • Faulty hardware not communicating properly with system, i.e. maybe a USB-attached CD burner or similar. Also check Event Viewer for possible clues.

These types of issues can cause lock ups but not necessary be reflected in CPU or RAM usage.

Make sure also your problems with Firefox are not due to malicious or excessive addons.

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Download a Linux LiveCD and run it in memory.

If the Live OS runs fine then it probably isn't a hardware problem. Backup your files from the live OS if needed. Format the hd again, but make sure you format the whole drive, every partition and the boot sector...every inch (use Parted Magic) OR just install the linux livecd to hd and relax for a few days... the ubuntu releases are nice

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