PC with a fresh XP install acts quite sluggishly - what's wrong?
February 24, 2005 3:56 PM   Subscribe

A powerful PC with a fresh XP install acts quite sluggishly when compared to its previous 'messed up' status. What can be wrong here?

So, a friend of mine asked me to reinstall XP on his machine.

Specs: 3GHz Pentium 4 with 1 gig of RAM, a 80GB hard drive (WD), an MSI graphics card (nVidia chipset), and a feature-rich MSI motherboard (can't remember the model right now, but I remember him telling me a year ago, when he bought the PC, it used to top all comparative tests in the PC magazines).

I formatted the drive, reinstalled XP (Home edition) and installed the drivers for the graphics card and the motherboard (going for every option I was presented with: Ethernet drivers, INF updates, etc.).

But something's wrong here; the PC acts quite slowly when it comes to stuff that you can follow on screen (i.e. give you a visual feedback).

What does this mean?

The PC boosts fast. And apps launch fast too; clicking to launch Internet Explorer (for example) will bring it on your screen in quite a short time, like a 3GHz machine with adequate RAM does.

But try to navigate on a menu, scroll through a two-page document, move an icon from here to there, and the machine acts as if it's running at 250MHz with 64MB of RAM... refusing to follow the mouse's movements and only responding with a quite noticeable lag.

I've Ctrl+Alt+Del'ed it, and CPU usage is ranging from 0(!) to 2%, and memory usage is remarkably low too. Also, no strange processes running in the background. Only a couple of these side utilities that nVidia puts on the system tray for easy access to options, etc.. Oh, and we haven't installed any software on the PC, so no spyware-like background apps running either.

What can be wrong here?

Thanks for your help in advance!
posted by kchristidis to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
A final note too:

Even if I go to "System Properties", "Advanced", Performance "Settings", and choose "Adjust for best performance" on the "Visual Effects" tab, the results are equally dramatic.

Also, the virtual memory seems to be in quite decent figures; 1536 MB, if I recall correctly, with the maximum suggested by Windows being 1534 MB.
posted by kchristidis at 4:02 PM on February 24, 2005

sounds like you need proper video card drivers... it might be running off unacccelerated default ones. Go download the proper ones for your card and install them.
posted by Jimbob at 4:05 PM on February 24, 2005

(Ooh, you already have NVidia drivers installed. Ignore my suggestion, then. Although it does seem like some kind of slow-down in the video rendering side of things)
posted by Jimbob at 4:11 PM on February 24, 2005

Perhaps your box got "owned" after you reinstalled a fresh copy of XP, which is open to a number of security vulnerabilities until you install a firewall and run Windows Update. Leaving a newly unprotected machine on the net for as short a time span as 40 seconds can get it infected or corrupted in short notice.
posted by AlexReynolds at 4:28 PM on February 24, 2005

it may still not be running the accelerated video drivers if XP doesn't know how to work the AGP slot on your board, which is quite possible if you're not using an Intel chipset. you can check this by opening up Display Properties and seeing if your video driver is named "VgaSave" - this is a failsafe video mode (moreso than just loading a generic VGA driver). install the chipset drivers and then reinstall the video card drivers and it should be OK. (you appear to have already installed the chipset drivers but you might wanna look online and see if there are newer ones if you haven't already.)

I've noticed sometimes the video card won't kick out of VgaSave mode unless you go into Computer Management, hit Device Manager, and uninstall the video card. then, reinstall the drivers and reboot. that might fix it as well. now is a good time to install security updates and everything though - that stuff should come first before drivers (except ethernet drivers, obviously :) IMHO. when you go to Windows Update, check the Custom Install option - sometimes driver updates hide in it.
posted by mrg at 5:31 PM on February 24, 2005

I agree with Alex. Did you hook it up through a router with a firewall to install the updates or just plug in a cable modem? If the latter, most likely your machine is no longer yours. Hopefully, you just have video issue, but if that fails to solve the problem and you did not use a firewall, it would be easier now to just do a re-wipe and re-install (with firewall) than to try and find any malware.
posted by caddis at 6:57 PM on February 24, 2005

sounds like you need proper video card drivers

my first guess too
posted by scarabic at 7:17 PM on February 24, 2005

Turn off Indexing in services -- it may be trying to index the whole c drive, which can really slow things down. You can stop indexing and then set it to low priority and restart it later if you want it running.
posted by words1 at 7:22 PM on February 24, 2005

Double-check all the drivers you are using, and make sure that you've got the "official" ones and not the "supplied by MS" versions. Quite a few times I've noticed that the MS drivers, although serviceable, seem to be lacking features found in the drivers packaged by the hardware suppliers. If you didn't install the motherboard and video drivers from the original CD or downloaded from the manufacturer's website, go back and replace the MS drivers with these.

My own ASUS board works without the manufacturer-supplied drivers, but it works badly and slowly until I've used the manufacturer's install utilities.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:53 AM on February 25, 2005

Thanks for the responces everyone, but still, we came up with nothing good.

A few additional points to make, along with replies to your kind suggestions:

- Motherboard model: MSI 875P Neo FIS2R (drivers)
- Graphicas card mode: MSI FX5600T TD256
- The slow performance was apparent even before the first connection to the Internet.
- I installed the drivers using the CDs from the products' boxes.
- Indexing in Services is off.
- No VgaSave mode.
- I connected to the Internet (got a copy of Agnitum Outpost Firewall too, of course), downloaded the updated drivers for my motherboard and graphics card, but still, same ol' slow performance.

I'm all ears for additional tips and advice.
posted by kchristidis at 2:39 PM on February 25, 2005

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