Windows 10 Slow HDD Issue
May 16, 2017 1:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm having some struggles with Windows 10 after it performed an update. Everything is slow and I can't access tools like chkdsk, or boot to Windows media via USB or DVD.

Here's a rundown:

I purchased a refurbished Lenovo t420 with 16GB RAM, an i5 processor, and 750GB HDD. I like it!
I confirmed that this system runs Linux really well! I have run several distros off of boot CDs and they really work great.
However, I'd like to install Linux in a way that can coexist with Windows 10 Pro.

After a few days of using Windows 10, and really having a nice time, an update was forced on me (just before I took the laptop to give a presentation...had to ask a friend to borrow his laptop, grrr).
Somehow during this mega-update, little bits on the HDD became corrupted and Windows then decided it needed to chkdsk or something, and that was fixed.

Now it was time to log in again. I did so, and noticed that things were _really_ slow. For example, hovering over the start menu, you now have to wait around 5-10 seconds for the button to show the "hovered" effect. Then you click on the menu and wait another 5-10 seconds for the start menu to display.

I checked the task manager and TBH I can't even tell what's going on. The highest-usage processes seem to be using around 0.1% resources...? I stopped those I thought I could safely stop, and disabled startup software I didn't need, like Skype, Dropbox, Steam. No change.

I can move windows around the screen like a boss, once they're opened. So this doesn't seem to me like a graphics problem. Logging in is slow, everything's slow, but once the elements are on the screen, they interact well.

It's like Windows is using some generic HDD driver now, instead of the manufacturer's. Possible?

But here's my biggest problem. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to get this thing to do a chkdsk. I downloaded a 4.3GB Windows 10 .iso from the MS website, burned it to both a DVD and a USB, and made sure my BIOS would boot from either one of those before it would boot from the HDD.

But it still seems to skip right over them when booting up! I land at the same Windows 10 login screen every single time, unless I use a Linux live CD.

OK fine, so I RMB the HDD in Windows (took about 2 minutes to be able to do that) and then told it I wanted a scan & fix. "OK, on reboot we'll do that." Nope, on reboot I go right back to my user login screen. WIFI light is on solid from this point--no idea what it's doing.

Then I tried again, holding Shift and hitting Reboot from the login screen. Again, takes me back to the same place.

Man, I just want to chkdsk this thing, get to the bottom of the slowness, and fix it. Then I want to partition my 750GB drive into nice chunks to accommodate Linux.

Suggestions? Thanks!
posted by circular to Technology (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Use CrystalDiskInfo to check on the drive's S.M.A.R.T. status.
posted by gregr at 1:42 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Have you tried adjusting your Virtual Ram settings? Like this article

It shouldn't be hitting your hard-drive to open the start menu... maybe for recent files but I think that should be cache'd in memory.

If you can get to a command prompt in windows and pass the /X flag, it should schedule a chkdsk for your next bookup.

Something like: chkdsk C: /F /X
posted by teabag at 1:43 PM on May 16

> Use CrystalDiskInfo

Thank you, I brought it over on a USB, double-clicked it, gave it permissions to run, and the HDD has been grinding for five minutes at this point, so we'll see if it opens. :-)

> Have you tried adjusting your Virtual Ram settings?

Yes, I forgot to mention that. The existing values and end values were remarkably similar, but I tried it anyway. No change that I can detect.

> It shouldn't be hitting your hard-drive to open the start menu

Yeah, it's weird. The HDD light is on most of the time. I can't think it'd be hitting my CPU that long, so there's some delay somewhere.

> If you can get to a command prompt in windows and pass the /X flag

OK, I'll try that after the CrystalDiskInfo thing.
posted by circular at 2:01 PM on May 16

BTW the virtual RAM change was a change from like 2.8GB swap to 2.9GB swap.
posted by circular at 2:04 PM on May 16

Classic symptoms of a failing hard drive. Chkdsk will be of little help. Replace the drive.
posted by LoveHam at 2:10 PM on May 16

The highest-usage processes seem to be using around 0.1% resources...?

Yeah, it's certain that everything's waiting for the disk, not for the CPU. The resource monitor will give you a lot more details about what's going on in your computer than the task manager. Launch it by opening the run menu (Win+R) and typing resmon.exe.

There's a pane for memory. If you're way overcommitted on memory, that will cause things to swap to disk a lot, which will make everything terrible.

On the disk tab, you'll see what's using the disk the most, though IME a lot of stuff ends up getting bundled up together as "System". The lower pane has a column "response time" which should be like a couple ms but I'm sure in your case it's going to be something unreasonably large like 500+ ms. This could be because something's using all the disk bandwith (either swapping memory to disk, or like if you have two on-demand virus scanners both trying to scan each other or something), OR because something's wrong with your disk and operations are having to retry all the time and time out and so on.

In that case, the S.M.A.R.T. status will probably show that there's been a lot of errors.
posted by aubilenon at 2:15 PM on May 16

OK, just got the Crystal result: Imgur Link

Is there anything suspicious in that result? It seems yellow-light-y to me but I don't know much about HDDs.
posted by circular at 2:26 PM on May 16

Yes. I think their summary "Health status: CAUTION" is too mild. I would get a new hard drive, and use this computer as little as possible until I've gotten my data off of it.
posted by aubilenon at 2:39 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Reallocated sectors are a bad sign. Definitely back things up and get a new drive.
posted by teabag at 2:44 PM on May 16

To give a little more detail, here's the relocated sectors count means: When your hard drive notices a sector is failing, it stops using it and remaps requests to use a different sector instead. The "current" column is just a score. The actual raw value is in the right column - this has happened 237 times (but that column is in hex, so it's really 567 in base 10). That is normally 0. (as it is in my computer's drive that's been powered on for 16598 hours)
posted by aubilenon at 2:46 PM on May 16

OK, so I'll go get a new drive now. All I have in terms of Windows media is the publicly-available image I downloaded from Microsoft today, and the S/N sticker on the bottom of the laptop. Is that enough to get me going again? Also, if I buy an SSD this time, can I reuse the current drive caddy inside of my T420? Thanks.
posted by circular at 2:50 PM on May 16

> Also, if I buy an SSD this time, can I reuse the current drive caddy inside of my T420?

Yes. It uses the 2.5" drive form-factor (the big ol' desktop drives are 3.5"). Replacing it will be a piece of cake.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:09 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everybody, for your help. I just put in the new SSD and it's reinstalling.
posted by circular at 4:00 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Might be too late, but one time I had all the symptoms of a failing hard drive, but when I replaced the hard drive cable (not the actual drive) that fixed it. Failed hard drive cables (or hard drive cables coming loose) is a thing. But if you've got a new SSD, that's fine too!
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:41 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Assuming that you upgraded to Windows 10 from whatever version of Windows came with the device, and you have a sticker like this one on the bottom, you should be able to use that product key. Alternately, before junking the old hard drive you could run something like Magical Jellybean Keyfinder to extract the product key from Windows.

If it's a newer machine (i.e. came with Windows 8 or later), Windows stores the product key in the firmware, and you won't need to worry about finding the product key at all.
posted by Aleyn at 6:54 PM on May 18

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