We receive many questions from users about poor PC performance, and whether there is anything a user can do to improve the speed of their machine. We have written this article as a quick, troubleshooting checklist to assist you in locating causes of and finding solutions for poor PC performance. While this article does not directly attempt to address the other common question we receive, "Why is my PC Crashing?", we believe that some of these solutions could assist users with crash issues.
Solution: Viruses, spyware and malware running on your PC will consume CPU time, RAM and network bandwidth. We recommend that you get a good antivirus and anti-spyware scanning program. In some cases of bad infections (e.g. multiple viruses), it might be quicker, safer and more effective to reformat the hard disk and re-install the complete operating system.
Solution: Files can be written and read from the disk faster if they are stored in a continuous sequence of bytes on the disk. However, as files on the hard disk are updated, deleted and created, the file clusters become fragmented which makes disk access slower. Defragmenting your hard disk every couple of months will help keep your system running at optimal performance. Most operating systems have a built-in disk defragmenter. Some operating systems will automatically defragment during machine idle.
Note that for Solid State Hard disks this is not relevant.
Solution: Make sure you have the latest copy of the device driver for your video card and the most recent version of DirectX. Video device drivers are complicated pieces of software and as a result, it is very common that they are buggy or unreliable. If you have the latest device driver and are still encountering problems, consider rolling back to a previous version as it may be more stable.
Also check you video hardware acceleration is turned on from the Windows, "display properties" dialog and in DirectX (use Dxdiag.exe for this).
Solution: All onboard graphics solutions are slow when compared to non-integrated solutions. The onboard chipsets may have performance-driven names like "Express Chipset" or "Extreme Chipset" but they are not designed for high performance; they are designed for an economical price. If you are a gamer, you may want to consider upgrading to a mid-tier or better current graphics card for optimal performance.
Solution: We have seen some Windows skinning applicatons (such as Windows Blinds from Stardock) have a dramatically negative effect on the 2D and 3D video performance. The full-screen 3D results are not affected as the normal Windows interface is hidden when an application is in full-screen mode. Uninstalling or disabling Windows Blinds will fix this performance problem.
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 four processes to max out the CPUs. If you still appear to be missing a CPU, check BIOS settings In some cases, it might be possible to disable CPUs or Cores from BIOS.
Solution: You might be running your CPU in low power mode, which reduces the clock speed to save electricity. Check your BIOS settings for this and other incorrect settings (such as accidental under-clocking).
Solution: If you are running on battery power, you might find things speed up by connecting the PC to mains power.
Solution: Your CPU might be overheating and then throttling down to a slower speed. Check the CPU temperature and if it is too high, switch off your machine and clean out any dust in the case, ensuring that the fan outlets are not otherwise obstructed. If the temperature of your CPU is still too high, check that your computer fans are operational and running at the right speed. You may wish to consider purchasing extra case fans to help ventilate your machine.
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 startup when the PC is turned on. The more stuff you have running, the less RAM you have and the longer it will take for your PC will take to start up. The solution is to uninstall any applications you don't need and disable unnecessary applications from running at startup by removing their shortcuts from the StartUp folder.
Solution: Windows contains dozens of software services, which are pieces of software that run when the operating system starts. Most of these form crucial parts of the operating system, however, some services are not used by a majority of users and can be turned off for a small CPU/RAM usage saving. The detail of what services do what is beyond the scope of this article, but there are many articles on the internet which describe how to disable uncritical Windows services.
Solution: Your machine may be low on RAM. This may be as a result of too many applications running at once, or because you don't have enough physical RAM. Try shutting down all applications and rebooting your machine. If you encounter this problem frequently, you may wish to consider upgrading and adding more RAM as it is relatively inexpensive.
Solution: If your PC is more than five years old, it will never run Windows 8, Windows 7, or Windows Vista very well. Consider a hardware upgrade.
Solution: Check the S.M.A.R.T. status of the drive to see if the drive itself thinks everything is OK. You can also use DiskCheckup to verify the health and reliability of the hard disk drive - DiskCheckup can give you a heads up in case it is time to replace your hard drive.
You may also have some corrupted files. Windows comes with a utility called Scandisk which scans for file corruption and bad sectors.
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).
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.
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 is an option in PerformanceTest to limit the frame rate to the refresh rate. (Edit / Preferences). But there are additional options in some 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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 separate download. Starting with PerformanceTest V8, both releases are installed and the correct edition will be ran when testing.
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.
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.
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.)
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...
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (x1) card can be inserted into a multi-lane slot (x4, x8, 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.
Solution: We believe this is related to a CPU bug.
At the time of writing (March 2012) this seems to effect about half of the CPUs when run in our CPU benchmark.
The bug itself can cause the CPU to hang or behave unpredictably while doing division operations. The workaround AMD suggested is to patch the CPU, which reduces the CPU performance to avoid the hang. The patch should be applied in BIOS. But only half the motherboard manufacturers have applied it from what we can see (as of April 2012).
AMD Fusion Llano CPUs include the A4-3300, A6-3500, A6-3600, A6-3650, A8-3800, A8-3850, Athlon II X4 641, AMD Athlon II X4 651 and a few others.
This problem will be reduced (slightly more hidden) in PerformanceTest version 8 where we will do less division.
For more details, see this post, http://www.passmark.com/forum/showthread.php?t=3656
Solution: The Morphological filtering (also know as MLAA) setting might be turned on the video card's device driver control panel. This issue was seen with HD 6850 video card, but probably effects most cards.
Morphological filtering is a technique that applies full screen anti-aliasing, which can improve the smoothness and quality of rendered images.
Solution: We have seen a small number of baselines with very high 2D results in V7 of PerformanceTest. Roughly 10x faster than normal. e.g. Solid vector scores of 22.0 instead of 2.1
It turns out that running PerformanceTest across some remote desktop solutions gives higher than expected 2D performance. This isn't a real performance increase, the video driver is instead throwing away some requests to update the screen, making it seem to the application that updates are running faster than they actually are.
Solution: You are running some 3rd party software save power and lower CO2 emissions. The one we know about that causes a problem is the ASUS 'EPU-4 Engine' software. But there might be others as well. The EPU-4 software seems to under clock the CPU, making your PC run slower so that it takes longer to complete any task you give it. Considering all new CPUs automatically throttle themselves depending on load, it isn't clear to us why you would want this software installed. The ASUS EPU software is also part of what is grandiosely named 'ASUS AI Suite 3'
Solution: Your motherboard's BIOS might not have correctly detected the CPU you are using. This can happen if the CPU is not on the list of supported CPUs for the motherboard. Which is often a result of a new model CPU being used on an older model motherboard.
An example of this is the Gigabyte GA-78LMT-S2P motherboard not correctly detecting the clock speeds for the newer AMD FX-6200 CPU in the latest F3 BIOS version. PerformanceTest reports the clock speed as 2.81 GHz [Turbo: 2.81 GHz] when it should be 3.8Ghz [4.1Ghz turbo]. So you are effectively loosing about 30% of the machines performance because the BIOS isn't up to date (thanks Gigabyte).
The solution, if newer BIOS isn't available for your motherboard, it to manually correct the clocks in speeds in BIOS, in the same manner as if you are overclocking the CPU.
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):
Solution: The CPU has a power budget and with high speed RAM the power budget is hit, resulting in throttling of the CPU. Details are in this video.
In our opinion this is kind of poor design. What is point of claiming to support high speed RAM if it might slow the machine down overall? Makes getting the optimal BIOS settings overly complex.
Solution: Intel implemented some (more) CPU microcode changes to work around (more) security bugs. Details are here.
Impact is probably pretty small in real life software, but if you are doing regular benchmarks you might notice the machine getting slightly slower.