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The computer is a 2-year-old Packard Bell laptop running Windows 7 Home Premium on a 2.27 GHz processor with 3GB of RAM.

It just took over 20 minutes to start up, and when it eventually does run, it erratically slows down at little apparent provocation.

I have checked it for Viruses and Malware (full scans with up to date SUPER Anti-Spyware, MalwareBytes and AVG). There are no programs running without permission, or on Start Up. There are no unexpected processes using huge amounts of memory or CPU. The HDD is about 2/3 empty, and I defragged it anyway.

Based on an answer to a similar question here, I tried running PerfMon, and I am seeing spikes of HDD usage when the system slows down, but it's too slow to really see what's going on until after things are running normally again!

What is wrong with this laptop?

Edited to add:

It does seem to have been the Hard Disk - the laptop now won't boot, claiming there is no operating system. Going to take it into the friendly local shop to sort it out. Thanks to all for their advice and assistance.

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chkdsk says what? – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Oct 9 '12 at 20:13
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I hate to say it, but from a number of years doing repairs I would tend to lean towards the hard drive, though this of course is far from a guarantee.

For starters, you are seeing a spike of HDD usage in PerfMon, which coincides with the slowdown, secondly a 20 minute startup time is obscene, even for much older hardware, and is a behaviour I've seen on countless computers with bad hard drives.

I would suggest finding the manufacturer of the hard drive specifically, then obtaining the appropriate free diagnostic tool from that manufacturer's website. Examples of this would be Seagate's SeaTools (Which is available at

Run a "quick" diagnostic if it has such an option, and if the quick diagnostic does not turn anything up, you will want to run a full surface scan, which can take a very long time depending on the size/speed of the drive.

Good luck!

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Thanks for the suggestion! I will give that a go. – Guy F-W Oct 9 '12 at 19:47
Yes, have to agree with Thracky; could very well be damaged sectors in critical areas at the start of the disk. I suggest you buy a copy of Spinrite (, it has a money back guarantee. Let it run at level 2 and don't interrupt it if it takes a loooong time to reconstruct the data from the damaged sectors. – Jan Doggen Oct 9 '12 at 20:20

And if you're really desperate to find out if your hardware is definatly still ok. Reformat and reinstall your OS after backing up your important data to an external harddrive or dvd(s). That's what I always do when my machine gets all cranky.

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How does reformatting help? If the OS install was broken, wouldn't reinstalling be sufficient? – Chris Smith Oct 10 '12 at 17:06
What I meant was formatting your hard-drive, which is done anyways when you re-install your OS. But you'll get my point. – Jens Ackou Oct 10 '12 at 19:04
That's what I was getting at. I usually DON'T reformat my hdd when reinstalling the OS. It's not necessary. – Chris Smith Oct 10 '12 at 20:03
@Chris if you say so – Jens Ackou Oct 10 '12 at 20:49

It's hard to say, but, it could be a virus. As Thracky already answered, i would suggest something software related first. First off, backup your data. Try to boot in safe mode, is it possible? Did it take you another 20 minutes? Disable system restore, try to run softwares such as Spybot Search and Destroy, ccleaner. Search for threats, immunize the system (spybot), clean the registry, clean temp files (ccleaner). Use hijackthis, tell us if you find anything.

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It could be a heat problem; the HDD activity could just be correlated to general activity. Modern CPUs will throttle the clock rate hugely and hardly accomplish anything if they are overheating to help protect the chip from being destroyed. It may not manifest as high CPU usage in task manager.

If the heatsink was knocked loose, the CPU could be heating up enough to cause this even in the early boot up stages. If thermal transfer isn't happening, the CPU could be getting REALLY hot while the sink stays cool.

Check BIOS to see if there is temperature monitoring in there. Pull gently on the heatsink to see if it is on tight. You may want to pull it off, clean both surfaces and reapply thermal paste if you don't see the problem elsewhere.

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