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I'm running windows XP and I've noticed it has become quite sluggish in the past few months.

Background: I have suspected a few programs, but I haven't found anything conclusive. By viewing my CPU and memory usage history (using process explorer) I don't think either of them are to blame. I'm thinking that accessing the HDD is taking up a lot of time. I have noticed that operations that require reading a lot of files (such as launching a large application with many dlls to load), and also switching between running applications take particularly long.

Is there a way I can test my hard drive to see if its performing where it should be?

CPU: dual core 2.8 GHz
Memory: 4GB
HDD: 160 GB, WD Raptor 7200, with 2 partitions:
partion C: 45 GB total - 2.3 free (used for XP and program files)
partion D: 103 GB total - 25 free (used for all other other files, i.e. all my source code)

Thanks for any thoughts.

Edit: Tried using HD Tune Benchmark and here are my results. HD Tune: ST3160812AS Benchmark

Transfer Rate Minimum : 2.9 MB/sec
Transfer Rate Maximum : 73.7 MB/sec
Transfer Rate Average : 54.7 MB/sec
Access Time           : 17.7 ms
Burst Rate            : 137.2 MB/sec
CPU Usage             : 5.6%
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that is not a wd raptor ... STxxx is usually seagate. compared with tests on the same model, everything is pretty much OK, except the minimum transfer rate is WAY out of character, but i suspect another program/process interfering or the hard drive being full, re-run the test in safe mode. –  Molly7244 Dec 14 '09 at 15:02
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8 Answers 8

I would suggest downloading CCleaner and Defraggler (both free)

CCleaner

CCleaner is a freeware system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system - allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner. But the best part is that it's fast (normally taking less than a second to run) and contains NO Spyware or Adware! :)

Defraggler

Use Defraggler to defrag your entire hard drive, or individual files - unique in the industry. This compact and portable Windows application supports NTFS and FAT32 file systems.

Auslogics Disk Defrag

Disk Defrag is a vital maintenance tool that will improve your PC's performance by defragmenting and re-arranging files on your disk.

Both will fully optimize your computer, then you can start looking into programs etc

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Never tried Dtraggler, is it better than Auslogics Disk Defrag? –  TheSean Dec 14 '09 at 14:57
    
there is hardly a worse or better with defragmentation programs, the all do pretty much what it says on the tin, if you already have a decent defragmentation program (such as Auslogic), there's hardly any reason to change programs. –  Molly7244 Dec 14 '09 at 15:09
    
I only recommended Defraggler because it was free and has a good success rate from when i use it at work –  admintech Dec 14 '09 at 15:50
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Check to see if your OS drive is fragmented. With only 2.3gb free (I assume that is what you mean) I don't think Windows is actually able to defrag the drive. From what I remember if you are under 15% of free space, it gives you a warning/error.

So yes, if it is fragmented it can certainly slow things down.

(Outside of this, another thing to do is check if your HD is in PIO mode instead of DMA)

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Your hard drive performance report indicates that something else is slowing you down. You should try Systech's recommendation, but first I would run something like spybot to look for malware / adware. It is easy and common to get bogged down with many unwanted internet programs without knowing and they slow your computer by trying to communicate with where ever they phone home to. Thus the communication is the bottleneck and you won't see your CPU maxed out. After removing any malware / spyware you find or verifying you don't have any, defrag your hard drive and carefully clean your registry.

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Don't forget to check the Event Log:
The slowness might be due to a sector that is about to fail, requiring several retries before it is retrieved.

I would also suggest a chkdsk -f -r.

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I've not compared it against the other defrag options mentioned here, but MyDefrag (formerly JKDefrag) when run with it's "Monthly" option will do a nice job of rearranging to put frequently-used files at the front of the disk.

You should also check what your Virtual Memory settings are - if Windows is dynamically resizing a page file on C, it's almost certainly highly fragmented and will have a major impact. Defrag programs can't generally defragment the page file because it's in use by Windows, but after you defrag you can run the PageDefrag tool from Sysinternals. Doing that while the drive is highly fragmented won't do you much good, but after defragging it should help.

You can also see about moving your page file to your secondary partition and giving it a fixed size (max and min set the same). That partition is going to be slower to access, but having a contiguous page file will help matters.

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Even better, move the paging file to a different disk –  prestomation Dec 14 '09 at 19:52
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Try turning off your Windows page file. It increases the response time of my laptop over 10,000%. You might think I'm joking but when I have to wait many minutes for my laptop to respond with the page file on, verses barely a second with the page file off, it makes such a difference.

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Is there a way I can test my hard drive to see if its performing where it should be?

Run HD Tune and then check the result browser to compare with other drives of the same make and model. The program also provides health and error checks.

enter image description here

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To avoid as much interference from running programs/processes, run the benchmark test in safe mode.

HD Tune is freeware and portable (doesn't require installation).

However, the performance of hard drives doesn't really deteriorate in a physical way, they either work or they don't, there isn't much in-between. The reasons for your problems are most likely to be found elsewhere (e.g. fragmentation). You should also free up some disk space on the C: drive, 10-15% free disk space is recommended for system drives on windows based systems. You can also defragment your pagefile.sys with PageDefrag:

PageDefrag uses advanced techniques to provide you what commercial defragmenters cannot: the ability for you to see how fragmented your paging files and Registry hives are, and to defragment them.

PageDefrag is freeware and portable (doesn't require installation).

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Thanks, I tried this and here are my results. In the graph there are a lot of downward spikes (hence the low min transfer rate). Although, my average seems to be average for my drive. Does this point to anything? HD Tune: ST3160812AS Benchmark Transfer Rate Minimum : 2.9 MB/sec Transfer Rate Maximum : 73.7 MB/sec Transfer Rate Average : 54.7 MB/sec Access Time : 17.7 ms Burst Rate : 137.2 MB/sec CPU Usage : 5.6% –  TheSean Dec 14 '09 at 14:52
    
opps - guess comments don't format very well. –  TheSean Dec 14 '09 at 14:53
    
that is not a wd raptor ... STxxx is usually seagate. compared with tests on the same model, everything is pretty much OK, except the minimum transfer rate is WAY out of character, but i suspect another program/process interfering or the hard drive being full, re-run the test in safe mode. –  Molly7244 Dec 14 '09 at 15:03
    
i edited my post and changed the screenshot according to your HDD model. –  Molly7244 Dec 14 '09 at 15:04
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CAUTION!

Your Disk might have the first read-block problems. When a disk block can not be read the first time, the system retries and that takes longer. This is a first sign of an older disk starting to lose blocks. It might even be starting to realign the defect blocks already, and this slows down the system as well.

BE VERY CAREFUL to do anything WITHOUT A BACKUP first!

My advice:

  1. Buy a new disk soon, as yours is probably 4-5 years old.
  2. Download Seagate SeaTools from the Seagate website and run it to test for bad blocks - if you don't believe me.

I already had to repair a few PCs that started "degrading performance" and ended with file systems full of bad, unreadable blocks.

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AND DO NOT DEFRAGMENT the disk until you are sure that you do not have disk block problems. Else you are not able vote for the answers any more from your computer ;-( –  Thomas Dec 14 '09 at 19:48
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