is my computer just old at this point or is it underperforming?
November 11, 2010 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm wondering whether my Dell laptop is naturally slow at this point or whether there's something weird afoot; and also, how to figure out whether I can install a solid state disk in it without much trouble?

Strangely enough I never really noticed problems with it (except REALLY long startup times) until I've had to multitask a bit with Office, Photoshop, Firefox etc. and basically opening Firefox or Chrome, iTunes and Photoshop = computer gets kilt

What seems to happen is that the 2 processors seem to get pegged at 100% really easily

Here's some specifications, it's a Dell Inspiron e1505 from early 2007

Intel Core 2 Duo processor T5600 (2MB Cache/1.83GHz/667MHz FSB)
80 GB EIDE SATA Hard Drive (5400 RPM)
2 GB DDR2 SDRAM 677MHz (2 DIMMs)

I recently got an external hard drive and freed up about 5-10 gigs on the main disk and that seemed to improve performance really noticeably.. what else can I do? I imagine formatting and reinstalling things could help a lot (and fix the long startup problem) but I don't have the windows installer.. (it's XP on this)

A lot of things on this laptop have fallen apart and I've repaired a couple things (replaced keyboard, broken LCD, etc.) but although I have a new purchase planned I'd like to have this working snappily too. I just don't understand why it 'locks up' so much these days; whether the applications just require more performance or what. I don't think I have viruses or spyware, I never really open things that cause them and use Comodo Antivirus
posted by the mad poster! to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you don't have much free harddrive space, the Windows swap file could be having issues.

If the swap file doesn't have space to work, or if the drive is very fragmented, then you'll get all sorts of annoying problems like slowdowns and out-of-memory errors.

Have you defragged the disk recently?
posted by Netzapper at 11:13 AM on November 11, 2010

Best answer: Regarding your solid state disk question: you should be able to install a SSD in this system with minimal difficulty. Most SSDs manufactured are the 2.5" laptop size and are SATA disks. What you will want are recovery disks to load the OS onto a new drive.

The question is do you want to spend $180 on a 80GB SSD for this computer?

I agree wholeheartedly with Netzapper that you should defrag the hard drive. This is especially seeing that you got the hard drive down to the point where you had hardly and space left. The last space you use when you fill a hard drive is typically that space a swap file would use, which means your swap file is likely fragmented at this point and a defrag is probably very necessary.

If you think you have spyware, try Malwarebytes.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:21 AM on November 11, 2010

Response by poster: thanks for the responses. Should I set the swap file to manual or automatic? I have it set to manually take between 5-10gigs

I just run the defrag analysis thing and it gave me this.

The SSD price question is interesting.. I got this same question from the guy who's shop repaired my keyboard/LCD and I guess I don't really understand it, cause I can spend 200 or trivially but a new laptop I'm tryna get would be in the 1500+ range... maybe I should just not be so trivial about those increments and save up then
posted by the mad poster! at 11:31 AM on November 11, 2010

Best answer: At 67% file fragmentation you should definitely defragment and will certainly see a performance increase at the other end.
posted by Gainesvillain at 11:37 AM on November 11, 2010

Best answer: Defragment, run Malwarebytes(free), download/install/run Revo Uninstaller (Free version, use it to get rid of programs you don't use anymore), then download/install/run CCleaner (also free) to remove any leftover junk files, temporary files, and clean the Registry.
You should notice a big difference and probably free up a few gigs of disk space.

You COULD replace the HD with an SSD without much difficulty, but they're expensive. You'll need to reinstall everything and start from scratch (which could have benefits of its own, regardless of hardware). If you do, you should get an SSD that's got more capacity than the HD, since you're already low on space.

A good rule regardless of disk hardware or swap file settings is to not let it get more than 75% full if you can help it. A stuffed hard drive makes for an unhappy system.
posted by bartleby at 12:03 PM on November 11, 2010

Best answer: To add to bartleby's comment, with either Revo or CCleaner, take a look at what's set to start by default. Having a bunch applications running in the background (that you don't need) can really slow things down.
posted by jaden at 12:22 PM on November 11, 2010

Best answer: I'm not sure if I just got a really helpful tech or not, but I called Dell when I had a hard drive die in an Inspiron and not only did they send me the install disks and the drivers disk but they overnighted them. I was pretty surprised; great service. It can't hurt you to call them and ask, right?

Re-install is probably best if there is any way of doing so. Do you have a re-install partition on the drive from when the puter was new?

I think 80gig is plenty of hard drive so long as you don't jam it full, and you've told us you have an external drive, and you can use it to carry most of your media, aside from the programs themselves, and whatever files you're going to be working with immediately. Before you buy a drive for the puter, buy an external drive large enough to hold everything, so you can keep your laptop drive clean.

jaden: "To add to bartleby's comment, with either Revo or CCleaner, take a look at what's set to start by default. Having a bunch applications running in the background (that you don't need) can really slow things down."

I find this bit particularly annoying -- just about any piece of software I install on any puter puts some kind of garbage in the startup; just last week I installed OpenOffice and even *they* put garbage in the startup now. I'm like, "Hey, you could *ask* me before you put things anywhere for any reason." I'm *not* ragging on Apple here, but it does seem to me that they are a huge offender here.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:35 PM on November 11, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses. Following the hints about the disk space I moved a 5gig folder that I hadn't moved earlier, because once upon a time I'd used started XP encryption on it without waiting for it to finish, so I was being careful—but it seemed to have moved okay.

For some reason the startup times never really seemed to correlate to a lot of items in startup and the disk space issues never seemed to correlate to space-hogging programs installed. But I checked with Revo regardless; there were various Adobe and Apple/itunes things in there that I disabled along with Java, Dell, Google Updaters..

I removed a couple things via MalwareBytes, not sure what they were but they're gone (report log; it says 'no action taken' cause I generated the log before having it do its default 'fixing' action on the items, so I'll check again later)

Then I got SpaceSniffer and tried to figure out why I have 60out of 70 gigs used; turns out there were like 10 gigs of photoshop temp files in local settings\temp! So I got rid of them. Then I noticed that iTunes had about 10 gigs of podcasts in its library in my main drive.. so I followed Apple's online instructions to move the library to the external drive, which (cause of their instructions to consolidate..) ended up copying all the music in my external drive into a folder in the new iTunes folder there. oh well, I only use iTunes/iPhone at this point for music so it's not a huge deal, and I'll leave the backup original music folder on the external hd around. I also moved the old itunes library from c:\ into that old backup folder

So I have 40gigs used out of 70gigs now. Will check with CCleaner & also defrag next.

I can't lie, iTunes still groans when opening and Firefox makes the processors peg to 100% still..

I went to check why my computer says I have 70gigs when the Disk is 80 gigs and turns out there's a 5gig partition on there called DellRestore. I'm very wary of doing anything radical cause I need my laptop to work all the time but I suspect I can create an image of the current c:\, restore the computer from the Dell partition and if things go haywire just restore my backup C:\ image? hm
posted by the mad poster! at 6:26 PM on November 11, 2010

Best answer: My main work computer is a Dell XPS 1330, with a Core2 Duo T9300 2.5GHZ w/ 4GB of RAM and it's fine. My machine came w/ Vista and paid for an upgrade to Win7. My personal computer is a Dell Latitude D410, which is much older and still runs XP and it runs fine.

Check your memory usage. My guess is that upgrading to 4GB of RAM will be helpful to you. Dell will be happy to sell you a restore disk for your system.

So, my guess is that your windows install is all crapped up. You should also get a hard drive SMART monitor. This will tell you if your hard drive is dying, which is possible.

How can you access the DellRestore partition? Mine has something similar, but I don't think that it's really usable except by the Dell restore process. If you can kick that off from your current XP install, go right ahead.

If you want to image your currant XP installation, use Clonezilla. It's pretty cool and free.
posted by reddot at 6:38 PM on November 11, 2010

Response by poster: Hey I restarted after doing the aforementioned disk-emptying and removing those couple items from startup and everything's much snappier! The things I was kinda using as a litmus test (does itunes or firefox work?) seem to be much better now. I'm defragging now; interestingly the file that seems to be most fragmented (now that I've taken the big files away) seemed to have been chrome's thumbnails for websites and sure enough when I open chrome it takes forever to load thumbnails in its default page. Who woulda thought, it's all in the disk! Still defragging and doing a couple other things but the help is very appreciated
posted by the mad poster! at 7:41 PM on November 11, 2010

Response by poster: reddot, appreciate the pointer to Clonezilla. I'll see if I can get into Dell Restore at startup later.. my computer only supports max 2 sticks of 1gb RAM each
posted by the mad poster! at 7:42 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

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