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From Love and Limerence
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have my primary PC apart right now, as I'm doing a project of pretty much tearing it completely down and getting it mostly clean. The issue isn't with that PC, but rather the one I'm using in the meantime. It has an odd type of "slowness" I'll call it.

Dell Dimension 4100
Pentium III 933MHz
512MB SDRAM
GeForce 4 MX440 64MB w/8xAGP
Sound Blaster Live! Platinum
40GB 7200RPM 2MB PATA HDD
DVD Rom Drive (not sure of specifics)
Windows XP SP3 up to date and just freshly installed

Before anyone says "it's old", yes, it is, but the type of slowness I'm experiencing isn't from that factor. Here are the symptoms.

1. Installing Windows XP took much longer (maybe two or threefold) than it used to on this PC.

2. Installing games (Sims 2), updates, etc., seem to take a little bit longer than they used to/should on this PC.

3. The Windows loading bar during boot moves normal during the first few passes, then slows (but not stops) to a very very low speed, and crawls across the screen and does a couple more passes, and then speeds back up to normal for maybe another half pass right before finishing loading. Loading besides that part is pretty decent speed given the hardware. It's not as though alot of stuff is loading either since it only does a few passes total, and it's a fresh install of Windows. The middle of the boot screen process is just absurdly slow.

4. The Sims 2 (base game with no expansion packs) runs brutally slow on the lowest settings. We're talking single digits when rotating or moving the screen, but a more "normal" for this hardware ~20FPS range when the screen is stationary. Note that I guess these numbers since I didn't verify it, but the point was, it seemed "normal slow" during no screen moving and absurd slow and hitching during screen rotating or moving, even on the absolute lowest settings. It also loads a bit slowly too.

5. I notice something else odd. In the DXDIAG report, it says "Default System BIOS", but back when I used it more frequently, I swear it said "A11" (which is the latest BIOS version for it).

6. During a past try to install either Windows 2000 or Windows XP (can't recall which), I got a BSOD about lack of ACPI compliant BIOS or whatnot (I wish I had the exact error), but basically, from what I looked up, the BSOD is only possible to happen with a BIOS that lacks ACPI, but this BIOS should support it obviously. I thought nothing of it at the time, since it happened just that once, but maybe it's a clue.

The last two symptoms have me suspecting a corrupt BIOS, but these seem to be odd symptoms (random and only specific slowness) for a corrupt BIOS. I'll have to try and find my old floppy discs so I can reflash it with the latest BIOS.

I should mention that the general "feel" of the PC, besides in the instances described above, isn't slowness at all. Web pages load fine, and videos and music don't stutter or load slowly or anything. RAM usage as per Task Manger is ~160MB (idle) to between ~200MB-250MB (Media Player and Firefox open). I have it tweaked with some services I know I don't need disabled, and other things optimized for the PC. It runs pretty good normally, it's just these odd instances where it's slow.

Here's what I've tried.

1. I've tried various video drivers. That's not it.

2. I've tried defragmenting the hard disk. That's not it.

3. All of the drivers are installed correctly. There's no missing things in Device Manager.

4. My first guess was it was maybe set to PIO mode. It is indeed in UDMA mode, so that's not it.

My two guesses at this point would be a corrupt BIOS, or maybe a HDD starting to go bad. Past that, maybe it could be a quirky IDE controller, bad RAM, or whatnot, but I'm pretty sure the RAM is good (passes MemTest86+, but that doesn't totally rule it out). It's hard to pinpoint, so before I start trying everything, does anyone have any starting points, or maybe know more than I do about this area about why it could be slow? This PC has always been a trusty and reliable backup, and I'd like to keep it in that shape.
 

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Site Owner
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Sounds like your hard drive (which can be linked directly to loading) could be heading south. Swap out that old drive with one of your newer ones and see if you get the same results.

You had that old Dimension sitting right? Maybe you have to clean it as well lol
 

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From Love and Limerence
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6,574 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
It's very clean, so it's not a heat or dust issue.

I hope it's not the hard disk itself. However, I will admit that this is a 40GB Maxtor drive that originated from my other past Dell Optiplex GX270, and those were known to have a decently high rate of failure too (after the infamous motherboard failures, and to a lesser extent, PSU failures, in them due to failing capacitors).

I use this one though (even though it's a Maxtor) over my others because it's the largest of my spares, and the rest are all 5400RPM drives save a Western Digital Caviar 20GB. Why don't it use that? It's not because it's half the size, but rather, it's quite annoyingly loud, and this Maxtor is damn near silent. I actually had the Western Digital in but get fed up with the noise, so I swapped the larger Maxtor in since it was the only other 7200RPM drive. It's quiet though. Can it be failing if it's so quiet like this? It makes no grinding or clicking, and almost no noise to speak off. I should look into SMART tests and speed tests to see if anything is out or line. I'm not too versed on software for such things (outside Everest which does SMART tests), or what types of results I should be looking for.

I'll try swapping out cables too, but if I remember right, this is one I swapped in not all too long back because the hard disk wasn't being identified in the BIOS (and it was this same hard disk) on the previous cable. That may have been because I folded it up alot to try and make it look a little neater though. I have a plethora of IDE cables though, so I guess it never hurts to try.

If worse comes to worse, I'll try switching the old Western Digital back in and see if it has the same issues. If not, then that means it is the drive.
 

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I am very glad to try to help you Lord Zedeck! never forget your huge posts in the forum!
I sometimes check for my computer hard drives health by reading [SIZE=-1]S.M.A.R.T. Information. I have encountered errors and it helped very well. from wikipedia: [/SIZE]Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology, or S.M.A.R.T. (sometimes written as SMART), is a monitoring system for computer hard disks to detect and report on various indicators of reliability, in the hope of anticipating failures. More: S.M.A.R.T. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

You may need an application to read S.M.A.R.T. values. Best easy program I know is HD Tune. It is small, light and doesn't install any extra stuff on the system. Go to HD Tune website and pick up the freeware version (without pro). EXTRA EDIT: Everest is much confusing, HD Tune is easy and better than it.
After installing, go to the "Health" tab. Now just make a screen shot of it and upload it here.

If the cable is being loosy, burned, broken or just doesn't function well then you will see a huge "Data" value for "Ultra DMA CRC Error Count" and you if you really see it to keep increasing then the cable really needs to be replaced. The high number in the "Data" value of Raw Read Error Rate, Seek Error Rate, Reallocated Event Count and Write Error Rate indicates that the hard is not doing its job right however it doesn't mean it is broken and it may still work for years.

I am not sure which ID is most likely the one which may indicates an IDE controller problem. I think Google can be helpful.

Reallocated Sector Count is the most important ID to check about. Look for the "Threshold" value of it. Now check the "Data" value. If the Data value is higher than the "Threshold" then Its final day is nigh.
 

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From Love and Limerence
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6,574 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Well, here's the results from that.









It looks like all is well to me, but, I'm not sure what specifically you're looking for. Also, I'm surprised this thing runs so cool (pretty much the same temperature as my four drives in my main system, but they have 120mm fans in front of them and this has nothing at all).

If the drive is okay, it looks like I'll be swapping out cables next, and failing that, hoping I can find my floppy disks so I can reflash the BIOS.

If that still doesn't do it, then I'll try another HDD anyway, and failing that, I wouldn't know (but I would tend to lean towards blaming the motherboard/IDE controller).

That reminds me, Intel did release some sort of Ultra ATA storage controller software/driver or whatever for some older chipsets long ago. I always did fine without it, but perhaps it wouldn't harm to try that either.
 

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From Love and Limerence
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6,574 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Update: Yeah, Everest reports an okay HDD too.

I think I found out what's wrong here.

I'm 95% sure the motherboard is handicapped and the cause. I tried swapping out the GeForce 4 MX440 for the GeForce 4 Ti4200 to see if it'd at least help in Sims 2, and the flood gates opened. I kept getting an "other error" code from the diagnostic lights, BSODS the few times I was able to get it to POST, memory errors via MemTest86+ (but I am 100% sure the memory itself is fine since it returned every single memory address as faulty, which sends up Red flags to me as a bad MCH and/or motherboard). The memory kept throwing BIOS beeps unless it was reseated many countless times, and the VGA kept needing to be played with. Along with the fact that I used to have problems getting the sound card and/or NIC to show up in Windows even though they were plugged in (thought it was a bad PCI slot until they all did it, and all my cards did), this all just screams that the motherboard is only barely operational, and that's after a whole mess of playing with it. Once I get it working, if I so much as look at it funny, it refuses to work.

I did get the GeForce4 MX440 back in and it booted fine. The Windows loading bar went up normally, only passing three or four times, and loaded insanely quick this time, so I hoped it was "fixed", at least for now, although Sims 2 is still slow, but I think that actually is the VGA's fault since I just remembered after seeing the specs of it Everest that this specific MX440 has memory under speed of what nVidia regulated it at (this one's a mere 150MHz DDR on a 64-bit bus...), and on top of that, I did downclock it from 275MHz core to 250MHz core in the past to help lower temperatures.

Yeah, anyway...

So, long story short is, I'm pretty sure it's either a bad BIOS or motherboard, but I'm slightly leaning towards the latter. There's another 5% chance it's the CPU or PSU I suppose, but since it works perfectly when it does work (which is the key), I'm just betting it's a finicky motherboard that isn't working as it should.

It's a shame. Although it's old, I've always liked this PC since it's always been stable and reliable as a perfect backup, but while I'll let my main PC get away with less than 100% stability (not to say it's bad at that), a backup that I don't mess with as often won't and shouldn't get away with it. A backup needs to reliable. It's almost not worth trying to reflash the BIOS to see if that fixes it, since I'm not 100% sure where my floppy disks are, if I didn't toss them out when I moved.

Maybe I'll use this as an excuse to grab a Taulatin (they're seriously way too cheap to pass up on eBay right now before they do go extinct) and a new motherboard for one (they're ranging low enough to be tempting at the least). I'll toss them in this case and have a decent backup with enough CPU power for the Ti4200 (a Coppermine is too much a bottleneck for one). I don't know yet. Maybe I'll just leave this as is and let it "barely work" for when I do need it. In any case, I guess that solves this.
 

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Zedeck, check some of the deals t Microcenter. You can get a Pentium 4 Dell Optiplex for around $250 with in Xp. not a bad deal.
 

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From Love and Limerence
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6,574 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I used to have a Optiplex (GX270). Besides the known issues with a certain range of them (which mine was suspect to, and had already suffered and been fixed of by time I got it), it was a great PC.

However, if I can get a Taulatin for ~$10 and a motherboard for ~$50, I can just put those in my Dimension 4100 case with the HDD, sound card, etc., it already has. I would need cooling though too, which I haven't looked into yet. I've always wanted a Taulatin, and this is far cheaper, so I might just do this. A replacement XPS-Z board (if I can find them anymore) went for at least $50 itself last I saw them on eBay.

However, I will keep my eyes open for deals and take a look there. The way I see it is though, if any worthwhile board alone I get is going to cost at least ~$50 anyway, I may as well get a Taulatin capable one on eBay, toss on a measly $10 for such a great CPU, and use the rest out of what I've got. I plan on selling my E8400 soon anyway, so that should at least cover it and then some.
 

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The one and only
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i would first suspect the harddrive as well. its the only part that really degrades signifcantly over time.
Or maybe your memory is really fuzzy and 20 fps was considered fast? lol
 

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From Love and Limerence
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I'm pretty sure the hard drive is fine (for the most part). It may be degrading too, but the motherboard is just barely functional as well, and that's the real problem. With a bad motherboard, you can't tell if it's the IDE controller making it look like the hard disk. Even if another drive made the odd slow cases go away, the other issues with the motherboard itself pretty much tell me the whole thing is just ready to give it up.

Also, does anyone else notice the oddity in many of those results from that test? Why do so many results have values of 251, 252, and 253, like they've maxed out and that's not the actual values or something?
Or maybe your memory is really fuzzy and 20 fps was considered fast? lol
What may have been off on my memory wasn't the frame rate, but what card I had used when I tried it long ago. I switched between the MX440 and Ti4200 on and off a little bit, and it must had been the Ti4200, not the MX440, that I used when I remember that game being more smooth than it is now. Normally, benchmarks show frame rates between the two in this game to be not so far apart, but I have an even further handicapped MX440, so I tried swapping the Ti4200 in to check and see if that fixed the problem in at least the slow gameplay, but I made a post about what happened when I tried that above.
 

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the tests only report back the correct values for what are implemented in the drives SMART registers, static readings above 200 usually mean those values are not implemented.
 

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From Love and Limerence
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Oh, well it's the "data" column that's most important anyway, right? If the CRC error count was where it was, why was it returned as "OK"? A few other things are above the threshold too, but as I previously said, I don't know what's being looked at with this. I never did anything with a SMART test besides look and make sure they were all being returned as OK.
 

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SMART returns back OK for values that aren't implemented, as otherwise an incorrect value would report a SMART failure.
 

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From Love and Limerence
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Ah, so maybe the hard disk is going, but while the motherboard "works", it's not doing so as it should, so I think that's the bigger issue.

I have my primary PC back up now, so what's what with the backup isn't a priority anymore. I never realized there was so much dust on the two front intake fans. It wasn't really super bad or anything, but it was alot worse than I'd like to let it get. I also installed the side internal door with three fans and temperatures are lower across the board so far (that's the key part), back to where they normally were, but, I did just start it up (although I'd check after just starting it up prior to the cleaning and it wasn't any lower than usual). I expect them to go up a bit, but hopefully not so much as the Northbridge running at 55C-60C or more like it was.
 

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Dust can greatly decrease the lifespan of electronic; it causes electric discharge besides insulates the device and heats up the device.
You better keep it clean especially if it's old already.
 

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From Love and Limerence
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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
I know that, hence, I clean it pretty regularly. it was just the front fans aI hadn't touched in a while, since they weren't bad enough to where I'd think they could be as bad as they had gotten since then. Like I said, it wasn't super bad anyway. There was a bit of a dust buildup on the edges of the fan blades themselves, but that was really the worst of it. The hard drives had some on the front too. The actual internal and electronic parts (CPU, GPU, etc.) I clean far more regularly, so they weren't even bad at all.

As for the age, well, not really any older than yours, no? We have pretty similar PCs if I think about it.

Edit: Also, another question. The Ultra DMA CRC Error Count field had a pretty high value (I think?) on my other PC. Isn't Windows (at least 2000 and XP) supposed to revert to forced PIO mode after so many of them happen? It was running in UDMA5 mode. Is that value how many the drive has had during it's life, or during that session?
 

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Final Fantasy XXX
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If it is not the harddrive itself, assuming everything else is in good condition including working cables and is tightly plugged in, then it has to be the motherboard or power supply. Older model motherboards and power supplies have the tendency to be the first component to go out and they will show signs of degrades like lacking in performance and such. You're lucky that the pc still post or boot to windows.

Anyways, I wouldn't keep a junk like that lol because it will only cause more trouble =)
 

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From Love and Limerence
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
The reason I've kept it was because, up until now, it was so very reliable. It was used as a backup, not even as a secondary or every day PC, for the last few years. Given the limited needs and reliability of it, I would have been foolish to part with it. Even though it hasn't really failed, even if we were to classify it as such, it still lasted almost ten years though, so I can't complain.

I won't junk it, but I'll probably just have to keep in mind that's not 100% working as it should/I'd like it to.
 
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