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  • Causes and Solutions for a slow PC

    Common reasons for a PC running slowly

    As many people have been running our benchmark and asking us to explain why their PC is slow we have written this article to try and help them find the cause and fix it.

    Note that we are not attempted to cover the other common question of 'why is my PC crashing', in this article but some of these solutions might also help with crashing issues.

    This is not intended to be step by step guide for such things as re-installing your O/S or changing BIOS settings, as that would extend over many many pages. Rather is intended to be a short list of things that you can research and check.


    Problem:
    Spyware & Viruses and other mal-ware are running on your PC using up CPU time, RAM & network bandwidth.
    Solution:
    Get a good antivirus and anti-spyware scanning program. In some cases of bad infections however it might be quicker, safer and more effective just to reformat the hard disk and re-install the compete operating system.



    Problem:
    A fragmented disk is causing slow disk access.
    Solution:
    Files can be written and read from the disk faster if they are stored in a continuous sequence of bytes on the disk. But as files on the hard disk are updated, deleted and created, they become fragmented. Windows has a build in disk defragmenter. Use it every couple of months.


    Problem:
    3D graphics are slow
    Solution:
    Make sure you have the latest copy of the device driver for your video card. Then check you have the current copy of DirectX. Video device drivers are complicated pieces of software and as a result it is very common that they are buggy or unreliable. So if you have the latest device driver and still have problems, consider trying the previous versions.

    Also check you video hardware acceleration is turned on from the Windows, “display properties” dialog and in DirectX (use Dxdiag.exe for this).


    Problem:
    Onboard 3D graphics are slow
    Solution:
    Just about all of the onboard graphics solutions are slow when compared to equivalent generation PCI solutions. The onboard chipsets might have names like, "Express Chipset" or "Extreme chipset" but they are not designed for high performance. They are designed for low price. Consider an upgrade. Especially if you are a 3D gamer.



    Problem:
    2D is slow plus 3D graphics are slow in windowed mode, but OK in full screen
    Solution:
    We have seen some Windows skinning applications (like Windows Blinds from Stardock) have a dramatic negative effect on the 2D and 3D video performance. The full screen 3D results are not effected as the normal Windows interface in hidden in this case. Uninstalling Windows Blinds fixes the performance problem.


    Problem:
    CPU is too hot
    Solution:
    Your CPU might be overheating and then throttling down to a slow speed. Check your fans, heat sinks and CPU temperature. Clean out any dust in the case. Check the fan outlets are not obstructed. Check this especially if this is a new build or new CPU.


    Problem:
    Your PC is full of Junk
    Solution:
    Over time people tend to install more and more software. There has been a trend by software developers over recent years to have their own applications set to automatically start up when the PC is turned on. The more stuff you have running, the less RAM you have and the longer your PC will take to start up. The solution is of course to uninstall stuff you don’t need and stop unnecessary stuff running at start up.


    Problem:
    Your Operating System is running stuff that you don’t need
    Solution:
    Windows contains dozens of software services (pieces of software that run when the operating system starts). Most of these are part of the operating systems. Some of which most users don’t need and can be turned off for a minor saving. The detail of what services do what is beyond the scope of this article, but there are lots of articles on the internet about turning off some of these services.


    Problem:
    PC is slow start and stopping applications & the disk light is on excessively.
    Solution:
    You might be low of RAM. This might be because you have too much junk running or because you don’t have enough physical RAM. Clean up your junk and or add more RAM. Now-a-days RAM is cheap.



    Problem:
    PC is slow
    Solution:
    Upgrade your hardware. If you PC is more than 5 years old, it is never going to run Vista or XP very well. Consider a hardware upgrade.



    Problem:
    Slow disk access and errors from the disk
    Solution:
    You might have some corrupted files. Check the S.M.A.R.T. status of the drive to see if the drive itself thinks everything is OK, then try Scandisk to check for file corruption.



    Problem:
    Slow disk access
    Solution:
    Check you have the correct motherboard device drivers for your motherboard. If you are just using the default device drivers, you might not be running the hard drive in the faster possible mode (PIO mode vs Bus mastering Ultra DMA mode). Also check you are using the best cable (80 conductor cable vs 40 if using IDE drives).


    Problem:
    RAM access is slow
    Solution:
    Check the BIOS RAM timings. Select automatic unless you really know what you are doing. Check you have enough RAM to avoid swapping out to disk all the time. Check the RAM is in the correct slots and matched pairs if you have a dual channel motherboard.


    Problem:
    The full capacity of my CPUs / Cores are not being used
    Solution:
    If you are running PerformanceTest then check the number of processes in the Edit / Preferences window matches the number of CPU's and cores that you have in the machine. So as an example, having two Dual core CPUs mean you want 4 processes to max out the CPUs. In some cases it might be possible to disable CPUs or Cores from BIOS. So check BIOS settings as well if you seem to be missing a CPU.


    Stuff which normally doesn’t help much if at all.

    Here is a list of stuff that probably won’t help your PC run faster (despite what you might read elsewhere from people with vested interests).
    • Fixing registry problems. Removing a few things from the registry rarely has any impact on PC speed. The whole registry 'cleaning' industry greatly exaggerates the benefits of doing this.
    • Using ‘memory optimizers’. At best these memory optimizers do close to nothing. At worst they are a straight out software scam, preying on the ignorant consumer.

    Copyright PassMark Software 2007. Not to be reproduced without permission.

  • #2
    I am a PC Technician and since we charge alot todo work, I'd figure I'd give you guys some instructions on exactly how I fix common problems.


    Problem: Adware/Spyware/Virus

    Solution:

    1) Boot into safe mode (press F8 as computer boots) and select Safe Mode with Networking.

    2) Clear ALL temporary internet files and folders.

    3) Goto Add/Remove Programs, and remove anything that looks like it could be malicious or unwanted (WeatherBug, etc...)

    4) Then, install Adaware and Spybot Search and Destroy

    5) Run and update both. They will probably find problems, remove everything they find. I have removed millions of instances of problems, and it has NEVER ruined any OS installation.

    6) Update and run your AV software. If you don't have any, or care to install any, use an online scanner. HINT: If you disable your AV, and use an online scanner, they sometimes find different problems.

    7) If it finds anything remove it. If the AV software can't remove the infection write down the name and Google a removal tool, based on the name of the infection.

    Once that is done, goto RUN > MSConfig > choose the Startup tab

    Remove as much as you can from msconfig. You can REMOVE EVERYTHING and the computer will still boot, so don't be afraid to remove something if you don't know what it is. Keep the stuff you recognize like your AV. You don't need 7 different IM applications starting when the computer boots.

    That should greatly increase startup times, and take care of 99% of Adware/Malware/Virus infections. I charge 100$US to do that, and follow that to a "T". Sometimes I have to use Enterprise level spyware/adware scanners that are not avail. to the retail scene. But I have to do that 1 out of every 100 I fix.

    You can also backup your stuff and format and reinstall if things get too heavy. However, Windows Activation will get very angry at you, if you do this too much (more than ~3 times on a custom machine, or more than 1 on a OEM machine).

    [Editors note: This post was written many years back now. Some modern viruses are better at hiding themselves. So a full re-install, or restore of an earlier full disk backup is often a better solution]
    Last edited by Brian; 09-08-2007, 01:27 AM. Reason: Revision to step 2+3

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    • #3
      Problem:
      3D graphics results don't get above 60 frames / sec
      Solution:
      If the frame rate for the 3D test always sits at approximately 60 frames / sec then your frame rate might be limited to your monitors refresh rate. There was an option in PerformanceTest to limit the frame rate to the refresh rate, in the Edit / Preferences window in version 8.This option was removed in V9, as for a benchmark we never really want to limit the frame rate. But there are additional options in video card device drivers to control this and further overrides in some versions of DirectX. As stated in the Wikipedia article "...For that reason it is not uncommon to limit the frame rate to the refresh rate of the monitor in a process called vertical synchronization."
      So check your video card device driver settings for "vertical synchronisation" or "Refresh rate" settings..


      Problem:
      CD / DVD Score is low in PerformanceTest
      Solution:
      The media selected for the test has a big effect on the score. Media with a large number of small files will give lower scores than media with a small number of large files. We suggest you use our test CD/DVD for consistent results. DVD media is often better than CD media as well.
      Last edited by David (PassMark); Yesterday, 10:00 PM.

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      • #4
        A key way to keeping your PC top notch when running into issues.. When installing your OS for the first time on a freshly formatted drive..Spend the extra bucks on a external usb Hard Drive and Keep a fresh Install on that as well with all your driver installs for your hardware,network and basic programs.. Also have 1 cheap storage other than your main drive for files/programs you don't want to lose or need to back up.. So if your OS craps out you can just plug in your backup OS drive and boot to that.. This way you can format and reinstall your OS on the other drive when you feel like it rather than saying Crap I NEED ACCESS NOW! :P

        I have 3 drives in my pc.. 74gig raptor (main) 250gig maxtor (storage) and a 80gig maxtor drive (OS Backup).. It only takes me a few seconds to go into bios and select boot priority to be back up and running :P.. When I have some time I reformat my *main drive* and reinstall the OS/drivers or do a auto recovery that I set to for when I first installed the OS..
        Last edited by SniprKlr; 12-31-2007, 01:31 AM.

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        • #5
          Problem:
          Windows 7 only reports 2 cores for a Core i7 9xx CPU
          Solution:
          The Core i7 CPU should have 4 core and 8 threads (when hyperthreading is turned on in BIOS). We have seen some rare instances where the wrong number of cores is identified by Windows, 2 cores instead of 4. This might happen if you upgraded the CPU from a 2 core unit to a 4 core unit. The solution is to reset the Core count via the Microsoft msconfig utility, under the advanced tab.

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          • #6
            Problem:
            Disk results are slightly lower than expected
            Solution #1:
            One of the (many) reasons you might get a slight decrease in disk speed is the BIOS disk controller mode. Typically BIOS options are IDE, SATA, RAID & AHCI. IDE is the most compatible, but often slower than the other options. If your hardware and O/S support SATA & AHCI, then select these options.

            AHCI stands for "Advance Host Controller Interface". It offers a collection of features not available on the old Parallel ATA controllers such as hot plugging and NCQ command queuing.

            Warning: turning this on without the right drivers (especially on Windows XP can result in crashes and a BSOD). Also see this Microsoft knowledge base article

            AHCI performance gains vary from 0% to 20% depending on the test method, the hardware & the O/S.

            Solution #2:

            Also check you have the latest BIOS firmware for your motherboard.

            Solution #3:
            Try different SATA ports on your motherboard. Some motherboard come with 2 disk controller chips. Normally there is one controller included with the motherboard chip set, but there might be a second set of ports to support RAID or other advanced functions.

            Example:
            This was taken from this old post. A Samsung 1TB drive (HD103SJ) scored 620 in the PerformanceTest DiskMark. While the average DiskMark for this drive was 829. The rest of the configuration was, Intel i7 920 @ 3.36ghz / 6gb / Win7 64 / Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD3R MB.

            Initial score: 620

            Switching cable from the Gigabyte to Intel SATA port increased score to: 784
            Switching to AHCI on Intel port increased score to: 819

            An overall 32% performance increase. CPU usage was also lowered at the same time. So a double benefit.

            Comment


            • #7
              Problem:
              3D graphics results are lower than expected. Especially the "Medium 3D" test (in V7 of PerformanceTest).
              Solution:
              If the settings in the video card's device driver are manually set to maximum quality and maximum anti-aliasing, then this can significantly decrease the frame rate compared the leaving the setting on the default values.

              Comment


              • #8
                Problem:
                CPU Results are lower than expected compared to other baselines with the same CPU.
                Solution:
                The 64bit release of PerformanceTest will return higher results than the 32bit release. The reasons for 64bit being faster are examined here. And there is a chart here. So for the highest CPU benchmark results use a 64bit operating system and the native 64bit release of PerformanceTest. Note that the 32bit release of PerformanceTest will run on 64bit operating systems, but give lower results, than the native 64bit release, which is a seperate download.

                Especially effected by this is the integer maths results on Intel CPUs. The integer maths test does a combination of 32bit and 64bit arithmetic. A 64bit CPU on a 64bit O/S running native 64bit code doing 64bit maths is a lot faster than a 32bit configuration doing 64bit maths. This was shown 4 years ago in a comparison we did between 32bit and 64bit performance.

                But what seems to have changed is that recent Intel CPUs have improved 64bit performance more than 32bit performance, compared to older CPUs.

                So as an example, in the years between the Pentium 4 and Core i7 chips, 32bit maths improved 7 fold in speed, while 64bit maths improved 12 fold.

                So now the difference between 32bit and 64bit is very pronounced on the Integer maths test on newer Intel CPUs. The difference also exists for AMD chips, but it is not as stark.

                Upgrading to 64bit software and operating system should give you much better results.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Problem:
                  The individual CPU tests, "String Sorting" & "Physics" results in PerfornmanceTest are a bit low, but other CPU results aren't too bad. Memory test and 3D test results are also a bit low.
                  Solution:
                  This can be caused by bad RAM configuration. The strings and physics test use more RAM than the other CPU tests and so the impact s more pronounced on these tests. Check the BIOS RAM timings. Select automatic unless you really know what you are doing. Check you have enough RAM to avoid swapping out to disk all the time. Check the RAM is in the correct slots and matched pairs if you have a dual (or tri) channel motherboard. Check the RAM is of the correct speed for your motherboard.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Problem:
                    The 2D results in PerfornmanceTest are low in Windows 7 compared to XP.
                    Solution:
                    Changes in Windows 7 have heavily impacted the kind of artificial benchmarks that PT does. The real world impact of these changes may be beneficial in some cases and detrimental in others, but the average windows user probably won't notice much difference. In some circumstances, XP also had better GDI acceleration than Win7. You can find a discussion of the 2D performance issues in Win7 here. Turning off some of the Windows effects and Aero can help improve the benchmark results. (Right click the desktop and click Personalization. Click Window Color.)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Problem:
                      The incorrect number of CPUs or Cores are being reported by PerformanceTest

                      Solution:
                      If PerformanceTest doesn't detect the correct number of CPUs in the system or the correct number of cores, then it is likely that the CPU(s) will not be fully loaded during the CPU benchmark, and you'll get poor CPU performance results.

                      If you are running PerformanceTest then check then check what is reported on the "System" and verify the CPU and core count is correct for your CPU.

                      The only case we are aware of it not being correct (as of Mar 2011) is when there is a problem in the BIOS configuration.

                      In some BIOS setup screens you can find a value called something like,
                      "Max CPUID Value Limit" or "Maximum CPUID Input Value BIOS" or "Limit Maximum CPUID to 3", etc...

                      This CPUID limit setting needs to be disabled if you are running XP or later.

                      The technical reason for this is as follows.
                      CPUID is a low level machine code command that can be executed on the CPU to gather information about the CPU. This information includes details like the make and model of the CPU, the features it supports, cache configuration and the number of cores available.

                      New CPUs make much more information available about themselves than old CPUs.

                      Full details for Intel CPUs can be found here,
                      http://www.intel.com/assets/pdf/appnote/241618.pdf

                      When Windows boots it queries the CPU to see what level of information is supported (what numbers can be set in the CPU's EAX register). Old operating systems like Windows 98 didn't support a value greater than 3. So to support new CPUs with these old operating system the BIOS developers included this option.

                      Some programs like PerformanceTest also use the same CPUID instruction to detect the available CPUs and Cores in the machine.

                      So having this value set wrong can result in wrong system information being reported for newer CPUs and thus lead to performance problems and other strange behavior.

                      As an example of what might be (incorrectly) reported in PerformanceTest, if this BIOS setting in incorrectly enabled. A Intel Core i7 950 might be reported as having 1 core instead of 4 (or 8 with hyper threading).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Problem:
                        CPU is slow all the time
                        Solution:
                        You might be running your CPU in low power mode (which will reduce the clock speed). Check your BIOS settings for this and other incorrect settings (like accidental under-clocking). Also check the power settings in the Windows control panel.

                        If you are running the ASUS Cool n Quiet feature, consider turning it off in BIOS. According to ASUS this feature can automatically tune CPU voltage and frequency. However running cool and quiet does not equal maximum performance. Maximum performance is often hot and noisy.


                        Problem:
                        Laptop computer is slow all the time
                        Solution:
                        If you are running on battery power you might find things speed up by connecting the PC to mains power. If your PC is in Power Saver Mode you might get at 30 to 40% improvement in the CPU benchmark after changing to High Performance mode. See the "Power options" in the Windows control panel to change this setting.


                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Problem:
                          CPU results are low. But they were OK when Windows was first installed and the CPU has more than 1 core.

                          Solution:
                          After checking power settings and for overheating (see above). Then also check the Windows boot settings. The machine might have been 'tweaked' to run on a reduced number of cores.

                          Run the configuration utility built into Windows called Msconfig.exe, from the Windows start menu. In the Boot tab select Advanced Options. Then uncheck the "Number of processors" check box. This will allow Windows to autodetect the correct number of CPUs/Cores in the machine.

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                          • #14
                            Problem:
                            Your high end SSD drive doesn't get past around 280MB/sec, but according to the specs should be able to run much faster.

                            Solution:
                            Make sure you have connected the SSD drive to a SATA 3 port (6Gbits/sec) and not the slower SATA 2 port (which is only 3 GBit/sec).

                            Note that older motherboards won't support SATA 3.

                            After the overheads are taken into account, 3 GBit/sec corresponds to a transfer speed of around 280MBytes/sec

                            Also check you are in AHCI mode as mentioned above

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Wrong or bad PCI-E slot

                              Problem:
                              3D test results are low. Especially for the 'complex' test. Frame rates in games might also be slow.

                              Solution:
                              Make sure your video card is plugged into the correct PCI-E slot on your motherboard. Some MB have various PCI-E slots that run at different speeds (lane counts, x1, x2, x8, x16).

                              For PCI-E the lane count is automatically negotiated during device initialization, and can be restricted by either endpoint. For example, a single-lane PCIe (1) card can be inserted into a multi-lane slot (4, 8, etc.), and the initialization cycle auto-negotiates the highest mutually supported lane count. The link can dynamically down-configure the link to use fewer lanes, thus providing some measure of failure tolerance in the presence of bad or unreliable lanes

                              Bad lanes or dirty connectors on your video card or motherboard can result in some of these lanes being disabled.

                              In the CPU-Z software there is a "link width" display. So check that out and see what you are now running at. For example it should be x16 if that is what your video card and MB support.

                              For most applications the difference in bandwidth between x8 and x16 isn't important, as x8 is enough most of the time. Being stuck at x1 or x2 however can be very noticeable.

                              Possible solutions include BIOS updates and re-seating the video card.

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