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Author Topic: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?  (Read 12005 times)

Offline Atomic-S

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Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« on: 25/01/2010 07:29:32 »
I have Windows XP and 256 megabytes RAM, with 19.0 Gigabytes hard drive. It has developed the annoying habit of slowing down extremely, accompanied by interminable activity of some kind involving the hard drive. At the time of really serious problems developing, the hard drive was about 75% full. The following measures were taken: The hard drive was defragmented. The disk cleanup utility was used to compress some older files and recover a little space. The AVG virus software does automatic periodic scans, and never found a problem. CHKDSK was invoked and found no problem. A registry cleaner was downloaded and used to eliminate a reportedly large number of problems in the registry. A large number of files was removed from the hard drive and moved to removeable media to free up space, which was successful in reducing the fullness of the hard drive from about 75% to about 60%. None of these measures had any recognizable effect, except that cleaning the registry may have made the problem worse. The sluggishness seems to involve disk access, especially when starting up a program, or when running a program where a lot of disk access seems to be needed. The drive gets to the point that it keeps doing and doing and doing something, I don't know what, while the software is waiting for some result.

New software that might have something to do with this is as follows: OpenOffice was installed several months ago, and cause no noticeable problem except for itself: it takes way longer to start up than any other application. The former dial-up Internet service was supplemented by DSL from Qwest somewhat later, and I could not tell you if I noticed problems becoming worse at that time. And then some time after these, Google Earth was added, which may have caused noticeable problems. For example, tonight on starting up the computer, behavior was pretty normal, but after running Google Earth, which ran OK itself, I found that the system went wacky again, taking unreasonable amounts of time to do anything on the hard drive. This problem persisted even after shutting down Google Earth.

Further experience suggests the problem is not just Google Earth. Also, when running Internet Explorer through the DSL, and opening up more than 1 window, which often happens when clicking on a link, that seems to cause difficulties, and also perhaps if anything else is also running at that time. The problem seens to get worse with time, starting from when I first start up the computer. The more I work on it, the worse it gets, becoming almost inoperable eventually.

Another thing that happens frequently is a message popping up saying that Windows has found the virtual memory too low, and is expanding it.

Can anyone explain this problem?
« Last Edit: 29/01/2010 08:12:05 by chris »


 

Offline LeeE

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #1 on: 25/01/2010 11:12:55 »
You have insufficient ram to run Windows XP effectively.  I have one system that can dual boot into Windows XP (for a couple of games) and while its 512MB of ram is fine for Linux, which typically only occupies ~200MB, it's not really enough for Windows XP; after booting Windows XP the system immediately needs to write ~220MB into swap i.e. virtual memory on the HDD, and that's before I actually start running anything.

So on this system, Windows XP needs around 730MB ram just to sit there and do nothing; on your system this would mean that you're using about twice as much swap space as you have real ram and hence all the disk activity as it transfers stuff in and out of real ram to the virtual memory on the HDD.  The situation is made even worse by the very poor virtual memory handling in Windows (all versions) because it uses a normal file for virtual memory instead of a special swap partition, with the result that all swap activity has to go via the normal high-level filesystem process instead of being handled by a low-level disk I-O.

Windows XP really needs about 1GB of real ram to run without lots of disk swapping.
 

Offline BenV

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #2 on: 25/01/2010 11:30:06 »
How old is the hard drive?  They do only have a limited life, and I've rarely found one to survive longer than 5 years of daily use.
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #3 on: 25/01/2010 18:37:13 »
I agree with everything said so far and must add that you may have indexing switched on, a great way to wear out drives.
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #4 on: 25/01/2010 18:39:28 »
I think you will find Windows 7 uses a swap partition
« Last Edit: 27/01/2010 14:22:25 by syhprum »
 

Offline Geezer

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #5 on: 25/01/2010 19:06:59 »
I have Windows XP and 256 megabytes RAM, with 19.0 Gigabytes hard drive. It has developed the annoying habit .....


I'm quite impressed that it actually runs at all! What OS did it have to start with?
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #6 on: 25/01/2010 19:10:14 »
On the Siemens 1970 vintage IBM360 clones on which I learnt we had a separate 80Mb drive for the system and 250Mb drives for the data and 256 KB memory.
Is there any case to use a 32Gb semiconductor type drive for the system and say a 500Gb for a modern computer running Windows 7
« Last Edit: 27/01/2010 14:21:49 by syhprum »
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #7 on: 25/01/2010 19:13:30 »
"I'm quite impressed that it actually runs at all! What OS did it have to start with"

Try it with Windows 7 while in Australia I was running with a little lap top of similar spec quite successfully.
 

Offline SeanB

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #8 on: 25/01/2010 19:50:00 »
Windows defaults to a variable length swap file, but can be changed to use a fixed size, which does improve performance considerably. You do need 1G of ram, as after SP3 a lot of patches were written assuming a minimum of 500M of main memory, and are unstable with less.

As to disk life, YMMV from drive to drive, a general trend is that using the drive a lot will cause it to fail faster than one that os not used and in low power mode, but this is only a valid statistic for a large pool of drives, if it is one, then it will fail when it fails, you might get a warning if you have SMART enabled and something to monitor it to get info, but often drives fail with no warning.

Using a solid state drive for the OS, and a lot of ram to reduce swapping, along with a large slower drive ( which is a whole lot more drive size wise for the same price) for data and media provides a massive improvement, although the SSD has failure modes to be aware of due to limited write cycles.

 

Offline LeeE

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #9 on: 26/01/2010 00:58:31 »
I think you will find Windows uses a swap partition

I really think you will find that it does not.
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #10 on: 26/01/2010 11:36:43 »
I had in mimd windows 7
The partitioning part of the loader creates a seperate 100Mb section perhaps this is the source of my confusion ?
 

Offline LeeE

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #11 on: 26/01/2010 21:26:07 »
I had in mimd windows 7
The partitioning part of the loader creates a seperate 100Mb section perhaps this is the source of my confusion ?

Ah! - you might be right there - I've no experience at all with W7, so it may well use a swap partition as opposed to a swap file in the filesystem.  100MB seems a little on the low side though; one rule of thumb says you should have up to 2.5x your system ram in swap space.  However, that rule was arrived at when ram was much more expensive than it is now and before it became common practice, due to Window's poor swap handling, to ensure that you had enough system ram to avoid using significant amounts of swap space.

I can see why MS originally decided to use a swapfile; it would have confused too many of their typical users, who would have most likely thought it was just wasted disk space when they saw it in a partition map, and deleted it - lol.  But having some swap space is essential unless you can guarantee never exceeding the system ram limit.  Microsoft's attitude has always been that hardware resources are cheap though, and they seem to have done little efficiency optimisation.

Another comparison:  In some games I play under Windows XP I can end up using around 800MB of swap space, and then when I quit the game it can take around a minute or so for the game to unload and for all of the desktop icons to be refreshed.  When I render some very big scenes under Linux though (on the same system), I sometimes end up using 1GB+ of swap space, but when it's all unloaded it does so in a second or two, and the system is ready to go.
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #12 on: 27/01/2010 14:20:27 »
An 'Enterprise' version of Windows 7 is available for free that can be fully activated and run for 90 days, after 90 days it can be reloaded but you must reload most of your programs too which is no big problem if you have them on hard disk.
All personal data etc can be saved, I have the system on 4GB USB device for easy loading.
 

Offline LeeE

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #13 on: 27/01/2010 18:34:08 »
Why would I possibly want to run Windows 7?  Especially a version that needs reinstalling every 90 days?

Whilst having to regularly reinstall Windows seems to be an accepted fact of life for most users, it's really just a sad indication of the poor quality of MS's software; flawed by design.
 

Offline Geezer

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #14 on: 27/01/2010 21:26:57 »
In fairness to MS, I've been running the much despised Vista for a couple of years without any problems. It does have a footprint like a Sasquatch however.
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #15 on: 27/01/2010 23:42:49 »
The only reason you have to reinstall it is that you are getting it for free, if you have £200.00 or so to spare you can get a permanent version.
 

Offline RD

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #16 on: 28/01/2010 00:52:08 »
... I've been running the much despised Vista for a couple of years without any problems.
It does have a footprint like a Sasquatch however.

It is possible to remove unwanted bits from Vista using Vlite, (not recommended by Uncle Bill).
« Last Edit: 28/01/2010 01:02:44 by RD »
 

Offline Atomic-S

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #17 on: 29/01/2010 05:00:40 »
I agree with everything said so far and must add that you may have indexing switched on, a great way to wear out drives.
I do think something called indexing was seen to be switched on. Now I do not recall where it was that I saw it. I did not know what it is, only that it allegedly speeds things up.
 

Offline Atomic-S

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #18 on: 29/01/2010 05:04:36 »
I have Windows XP and 256 megabytes RAM, with 19.0 Gigabytes hard drive. It has developed the annoying habit .....


I'm quite impressed that it actually runs at all! What OS did it have to start with?
Don't know. I got the machine used, and Windows XP was what was on it, (or was put on at that time). In either case, they said that this was necessary because modern anti-virus software would not work with anything older, which was the problem with the prior machine. The prior machine had Windows 2000, and 256 MB of RAM, and that seemed to work. The version of Windows Media Player was better too.
 

Offline Atomic-S

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #19 on: 29/01/2010 05:07:51 »
Quote
You do need 1G of ram, as after SP3 a lot of patches were written assuming a minimum of 500M of main memory, and are unstable with less.
Interestingly, my problems seem to have occurred relatively recently. The system has undergone, as I said, a number of automatic updates of Windows XP.  I wonder if that could be a major cause of the problems. Just think, I may have an operating system that renders the hardware obsolete while it runs.
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #20 on: 29/01/2010 06:24:07 »
Atomic-S

Click on the main drive, go to properties there you can switch indexing on or off.

It speeds up searches unless you do lots of them it is better switched off.
« Last Edit: 29/01/2010 06:26:01 by syhprum »
 

Offline LeeE

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Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #21 on: 29/01/2010 16:55:51 »
Just think, I may have an operating system that renders the hardware obsolete while it runs.

See:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/01/29/windows_7_laptop_battery_issues/
 

Offline speedypcnet

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Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #22 on: 11/11/2010 21:35:42 »

Another thing that happens frequently is a message popping up saying that Windows has found the virtual memory too low, and is expanding it.


If your computer is getting overcrowded with information you will probably get a message tell you that your virtual memory is getting low. All you have to do is increase your page file values. On the other hand, you don't want this to be your only solution. If you increase the size of your page file too much it will only result in a lot of swapping between the RAM and the virtual memory. This can ultimately slow your computer down. If you are running out of both RAM and virtual memory, you might want to consider purchasing some more RAM.

Try following these steps to increase your virtual memory, or page file:

- Open the Start Menu and select the Control Panel
- Click on "Performance" and then "Maintenance"
- Select "Settings"
- Under the "Advanced" tab select "Settings" (under "Virtual Memory")
- Under "Drive" (Volume Label) select the drive that you want to modify
- Under "Paging File Size" click on "Custom Size"
- Modify the amount of virtual memory
- Hit Set and then reboot your computer
« Last Edit: 11/11/2010 22:19:23 by BenV »
 

Offline maffsolo

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Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
« Reply #23 on: 12/11/2010 23:36:55 »
Here's What You Need to Use Windows XP Professional
• PC with 300 megahertz or higher processor clock speed recommended; 233 MHz minimum required (single or dual processor
  system);* Intel Pentium/Celeron family, or AMD K6/Athlon/Duron family, or compatible processor recommended
• 128 megabytes (MB) of RAM or higher recommended (64 MB minimum supported; may limit performance and some features)
• 1.5 gigabytes (GB) of available hard disk space*
• Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher-resolution video adapter and monitor
• CD-ROM or DVD drive
• Keyboard and Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device

This is just to light up the screen and display a logo.

I though Lee had it right off the bat..

You have insufficient ram to run Windows XP effectively.  I have one system that can dual boot into Windows XP (for a couple of games) and while its 512MB of ram is fine for Linux, which typically only occupies ~200MB, it's not really enough for Windows XP; after booting Windows XP the system immediately needs to write ~220MB into swap i.e. virtual memory on the HDD, and that's before I actually start running anything.

So on this system, Windows XP needs around 730MB ram just to sit there and do nothing; on your system this would mean that you're using about twice as much swap space as you have real ram and hence all the disk activity as it transfers stuff in and out of real ram to the virtual memory on the HDD.  The situation is made even worse by the very poor virtual memory handling in Windows (all versions) because it uses a normal file for virtual memory instead of a special swap partition, with the result that all swap activity has to go via the normal high-level filesystem process instead of being handled by a low-level disk I-O.

Windows XP really needs about 1GB of real ram to run without lots of disk swapping.

I ran a 750 Athlon and started with 256M Ram as I has to individually shut down and oppen apps to run.
I maxed the Ram to 750 meg and it was running good . Kept my info on a second drive and hkept tohe primary drive to below 50 percent full.
Defrag 2 time a month. Rendered movies, picture manipulations and a word processor open it was fine . But go to the internet using a browser it run ata snails pace.

----
Defrag after cleaning the harddrive, removing the data, only leaves you with holes, that is just as bad as memory leakage.
Out side of not expanding memory you did the necessary steps but out of sequence.
Defrag in safe mode. Any other way is like changing the tires on a vehicle at 50 miles an hour.
Minimize XP resources needed to run, and defragment the drive. Look at the Task Manager It has all the processes and performance info in real time.
« Last Edit: 13/11/2010 00:00:14 by maffsolo »
 

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Why do I have a hyperactive hard drive?
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