16 gigs of RAM and still as slow as molasses
May 4, 2014 3:25 PM   Subscribe

My computer mysteriously started running slower than molasses. Please tell me possibilities as to why!

I feel like I ask a lot of computer questions here, sigh.

I have a preassembled desktop from CyberpowerPC. 16 gb of RAM, Windows 8.1. It's about a year old. I don't have the processor and other specs off the top of my head, but it is a proper gaming PC, so it runs pretty fast normally.

Yesterday night my computer was fine, I turned it off like normal. This morning I unplugged it, took it outside for a compressed air dusting, and came back in (I made sure all the plugs were seated). Then the following happened:

-It booted normally to desktop, but was super slow--I clicked the start button (I have ClassicShell installed) and it wouldn't even load the dialogue box. I did a hard restart.
-Win 8 normally boots very quickly, but this time it lagged at the teal windows logo for ages, enough that I thought it froze. Another hard restart.
-Same as above, only this time I let it run, and it finally loaded to the user menu and I logged in. But again, so slow it was nonresponsive.
-Popped in CyberpowerPC's Win 8 CD to disc drive. Could not boot from disk drive...system just skipped past it and went to hard drive again. Huh.
-Popped the disc into an USB disc drive and booted from it. Slowly boots to my Windows 8 disc.
-System repair didn't help (and the diagnostic took forever!)
-System restore failed on the first restore point (from yesterday, which reported there was an Windows Update installed). As in, it didn't even try, it just didn't work.
-System restore to an earlier restore point (April 29) ran, but at the end it said it failed on a specific file in E. E is normally my backup hard drive that's flaky lately (It disappeared from Windows yesterday and then reappeared, and was kind of iffy about loading files from it; I think it's due to the SATA cable), BUT the recovery dialogue box called E "system" (normally in windows my system drive is C). So I think the repair tools reassign the drive letters? I saw one called X which I don't normally see.
-Every time I boot from my Windows disc it is staggeringly slow. I know these things tend to be kind of slow, but we're talking 5 minutes here. The dialogue screens within the system tools are quick and responsive, however.
-When it exited the system restore, I I think it tried to do a system diagnostic from PC (not from the disc), which also took forever, so I took a shower. When it came back, I got the option (finally) to go to the system tools via PC, not via the disc. From there, I had the option to boot to safe mode from the first time.
-Tried the safe mode option. I managed to get to the login screen (after taking forever), logged in...and the screen changed from my red login screen to black...and then after the entire time I spent typing this up, finally booted to safe mode (5+ minutes at least??)

I'm kind of at a loss here. I'm not even sure if the problem is "Windows won't boot" or "Windows will boot but take 100x the amount of time than is normal to get there".

I don't think the drives themselves are corrupted, but my backup drive is about a month old (haven't been backing up as regularly as I should, plus I think the SATA cable is flaky as of about last night). I have some files on my system drive's desktop that I would rather not lose although they're not critical. I THINK this is a software issue, given that system restore detected a Windows update yesterday? Could this be hardware? Should I start pulling RAM sticks?

Also worth noting that I don't have a recent system recovery USB stick or disc. The computer came with a Windows 8 disc, so I never worried about making another one...but now that I'm having problems, I realized I never made another recovery disc/USB stick since I upgraded to Windows 8.1. I'm not sure this would matter...I could try to make another recovery USB stick at work tomorrow, but my computer there is Windows 8 and not 8.1. Also not sure how a different Windows 8's recovery usb will work on my computer.

Thoughts and help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
posted by Zelos to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, Safe Mode (regular safe mode, not the one with networking) is also running slow as molasses. I hit the start button and I went into the spinning icon and got a dialogue box of "The Application isn't responding. The application may respond again if you wait" like I did those two times I managed to load Windows 8 proper. Sigh.
posted by Zelos at 3:30 PM on May 4, 2014

One more update then I'll be quiet. I tried plugging in a USB drive while in safe mode so I can salvage files if I needed to nuke the system drive later, but it didn't...detect. To be fair, I only waited for about 30 seconds when everything else took five minutes+ today, so I'm not sure if it'd have worked if I waited a really long time.
posted by Zelos at 3:48 PM on May 4, 2014

I had a brand new PC recently with similar symptoms. I believe the culprit was the SATA controller on the motherboard in my case. An RMA to replace the drive itself didn't fix anything. It took a second RMA for the motherboard to get me fixed. Your comment about the SATA cable is making me lean that direction.

For a confirmation without changing any hardware, boot up Windows and view the event logs. Under system, see what errors/warnings you have. I had a ton of "The IO operation at logical block address... was retried" warnings.

There also seem to be some Windows 8 quirks with disks and certain drivers but since your system was previously good I doubt that is the case. More likely that things were nudged when you had it open and either the cable needs re-seating or replacing.
posted by metroidhunter at 4:06 PM on May 4, 2014

Check to make sure you haven't dislodged the CPU cooler while moving it around. If the system detects a high CPU temperature, it'll slow everything down to reduce power consumption.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:08 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not clear, have you tried this without the flaky drive connected? I find the best approach is to try to eliminate hardware problems before you do anything with the software.

It's suspicious that this happened after you cleaned it out. I'd take a careful look around inside the case and check to see if something could've gotten dislodged or something like that. Double check cable connectors, a lot of them snap or click but not all. Look for blocked fans as well.

In safe mode, you can also check out your disks to see if they are the problem. Right click on them, go tools tab and hit Check.

I have seen cases where the Windows 8 startup sequence hangs for long periods of time while it's trying to do diagnostics on attached storage that has problems, so it's possible that you just didn't wait long enough, especially if it's a very large disk that's failing. I'm not sure how long I would wait, it depends on the size of the drive, but I'd probably let it go for at least an hour or so if the spinner was still going.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:11 PM on May 4, 2014

If it's booted check to see how much RAM it is actually reporting. If it's reading only 1 gig then there is your problem.

I'd try booting with something like Damn small Linux (on a bootable USB or cd) and see how that runs as well. You can run some diagnostics on your HD from there.
Your computer probably skipped the boot by CD due to the order of what to boot located in your BIOS.

I'd also just unplug one HD drive try to run it then switch. Just to see the speeds. As other people said check the cables and error logs.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:11 PM on May 4, 2014

Run some benchmarking to find out what is slow.
posted by devnull at 1:58 AM on May 5, 2014

I had something similar happen to me. It turned out to be a faulty SATA cable. It might also be a SATA device. Make sure none of the cables are bent. Try booting with just one SATA device, ex. the hard drive. Try using a different port too. The HDD doesn't need to be connected to SATA 1 to boot. If that didn't fix it, use the SATA cable connected to the optical drive.
posted by glenno86 at 2:08 AM on May 5, 2014

I've had similar symptoms, which finally cleared up after booting from the Restore disc, opening a command line box and running CHKDSK c: /F /R, which fixed a ton of errors and marked off a bunch of highly inconveniently placed sectors as bad. Everything works fine for the time being, but needless to say this drive is going to be replaced ASAP.
posted by Devoidoid at 6:42 AM on May 5, 2014

Well, I'll be damned.

I did check that all the plugs were snug yesterday and checked again today. Everything (cables, cooling fans, RAM) was tight as far as I can tell, but per your recommendations I unplugged the SATA cable that went to the backup drive.

...and lo, everything booted. 16G of ram, no problem. Disk management shows the system drive as healthy. Quick checkdisk (under System Tools) was clean. It's...running.

I'll be damned. I'm running a full checkdisk on startup using the command line, but it looks like it's either the cable or the backup drive. I'm inclined to think it was the cable since 6 months ago I had a little "disappearing drive" issue too, but it righted itself after I reseated it. (That's why I didn't remove the cable yesterday--I thought the cable was just loose, but it might just be failing.) Could still be the drive, but I'll try the cable first. The backup drive is 2TB, so Windows trying and failing to get a decent connection to it might explain the huge lag.

(FYI, the lag was so bad that I couldn't have done any diagnostics in Windows--whether in normal mode OR safe mode--if this hadn't been the problem; it literally freezes on the desktop. I couldn't even open the My Computer dialogue box.)

On another note, I went to the Event Log and was surprised that I'd gotten warnings in previous months too. These were the entries that showed up repeatedly yesterday, although the disk error was actually existing in February and March too. (It doesn't SAY which disk is the issue, but given what's happening I'm betting it's the backup.) Should I be worried about any of this?

The IO operation at logical block address 0x1a813390 for Disk 1 (PDO name: \Device\0000002a) was retried.

The Network List Service service depends on the Network Location Awareness service which failed to start because of the following error:
The dependency service or group failed to start.

DCOM got error "1084" attempting to start the service EventSystem with arguments "Unavailable" in order to run the server:

I'll figure out whether it's the cable or the drive that's wrong once my new cables come in (another full chkdsk is in order). In the meanwhile, thanks everybody. This is the third time Metafilter computer wizards have saved my butt.
posted by Zelos at 8:00 PM on May 5, 2014

Well, damn. I swapped out the SATA cable from my disc drive onto the backup drive and my computer went from running great to the same issues again. It loaded to desktop this time, but froze on desktop--it couldn't even load my icons on my desktop, never mind load enough of anything to try diagnostics.

So it looks like my hard drive failed. (It never even exhibited problems of hard drive failure like clicking!) Um, how does one sift through and try to salvage files when plugging it in causes Windows to crash?

Please note that I am computer-stupid so if I have to try booting to Linux or something, explain it in small steps and/or link me to a site that can explain it to me in small steps.
posted by Zelos at 6:08 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Brief final update. I followed the suggestions for the full chkdsk from command line, which fixed hundreds of errors--enough so that I could boot up Windows, access the drive, and grab the files I want. (I also had backups I forgot about, so my data is fine.) The drive was failing diagnostics and was still under warranty, so I now have a new drive in my computer and all is well.

Also, apparently Windows 8 has a system where it requires an Advanced Restart to boot to USB, presumably because of Windows 8's startup speed. In my case, although I was fast enough to access BIOS, Windows 8 bypasses BIOS boot order entirely and goes straight to hard drive (I did change the boot order). More on advanced restart if anyone is interested.

Thanks again, everybody.
posted by Zelos at 1:06 PM on May 11, 2014

Well, it sounds like you are gaining valuable experience from all these PC problems. Regardless of how computer savvy you may or may not be - there are two troubleshooting rules which have seldom failed me. 1)Always look for the simplest solution first and, 2)Always look at what changed/what happened between "it ran great'" & "it doesn't run great."
Windows 8 is, in my opinion, a real good O/S but, no longer can you get into the BIOS (now called UEFI) by rebooting & pressing an F key. You have to get there from the start screen. I can cookbook the procedure for you if need be. Also, it changed again with Windows 8.1
posted by Hectahenny at 7:51 PM on July 14, 2014

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