Old Laptop upgraded for speed is still slow

May 28, 2010 at 07:17:37
Specs: Windows XP, AMD Phenom II X4 925 2.8 GHz w/2GB DDR2 RAM

I recently upgrated from a 7 year old Dell Inspiron 5150 paptop, P4 Mobile, 2.6 GHz w/1GB RAM (DDR I think).

I now have an AMD Phenom II X4 925 2.8 GHz w/2GB DDR2 RAM 800, ASUS M4A785-M motherboard, WD 40GB IDE 7200 RPM HDD.

Built by an independent shop.

I am using Windows XP SP3 because most of my software is not compatible with Windows 7 64-bit and I didn't have enough money to upgrade all the software.

I notice *some* improvement in performance but not anything close to the lightning speed I expected.

I realize this is not a gaming computer, but I did expect to see amazing differences based on the relatively simple kind of work I use it for.

Most of my work involves things like having several Microsoft Office windows open at the same time and several IE8 tabs open.

It still seems to take forever to open windows and the Start menu pauses forever when I try to get to a program, things like that.

Is there anything I'm missing on my new computer that would make things better? Would 4GB RAM make a huge difference vs. 2GB? It seems to me that if it's not running fast now, another 2GB of RAM isn't going to do much.

Thank you for any info you can provide.

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May 28, 2010 at 10:19:22
Paptop? Never heard of a paptop. Ok, j/k, my Q’s 2 U:

1. Why the WD 40 Gb IDE HDD?
2. How much free space is on the HDD?
3. Is the HDD healthy?
4. RE: Video (ATI Radeon HD 4200, On board), how much
RAM have you allotted for that?
5. What type of antivirus are you using?
6. Do you have other anti-malware software ALSO running?
7. Is the shop reputable?

The first thing I noticed was your older WD 40 Gb IDE HDD,
kind of an ancient thing (in computer terms). I mean it’ll work
and the 7200 RPM speed is good as faster RPMs definitely
help with HDD performance, but I was still surprised to see
that small IDE HDD in your specs. ATA (IDE) is slower than
newer versions of SATA. I would have a faster SATA HDD in
there at least (I like Seagate HDDs).

Setting a higher memory allotment for the ATI Radeon HD
4200 On board video may help (you do that in the BIOS).

2 GB of RAM should be fine for XP, unless you’re doing high-
end applications, gaming etc. You could game with that
system, but gaming systems have beefy video add in cards
usually with a lot of video ram on them.

Not all Antivirus packages are the same. Some are REAL
drags (Like Norton, McAfee etc) on system performance;
some are not and have a low resource system footprint (Like
ESET’s NOD32).

A Quad Core system SHOULD be faster, but the extra
processors will only kick in when they need to kick in.
Software is the weakest link in any system. The hardware
performance today far exceeds what OS and 3rd party
software can do, so you won’t necessarily get OOOs and
AHHs from a brand, spanking, new system, at least I don’t (I
use a 5 yr old Compaq single core system mainly). But I do
notice video gaming is much better on a newer systems with
HIGH END video, but improvements in overall performance
isn’t as noticeable.

RE: speeding up the system; there are enough sites online to
get all that info, www.helpdeskgeek.com/windows-xp-tips/99-
ways-to-make-your-computer-blazingly-fast/ , and the shop, if
reputable should have set up that PC and the
BIOS/Video/CPU settings properly, and then should have
optimized your PC & XP system. When you optimize, you:

-You make sure the HDD is healthy, before ANYTHING is installed, that's just common sense. Test with Western
Digital’s DataLifeguard tool, free from their website.

-You make sure the BIOS, device drivers on the PC system
are current and set properly

-You make sure all the OEM software crap is OFF the system

-You turn off any unneeded, unnecessary Windows services

-You make sure there are not a lot of start up programs

-You make sure MS Windows updates, MS Office Updates,
Media Players, Adobe Flash & ShockWave Player, web
browsers, JAVA are all up to date.

There are a lot of companies & technicians that don’t want to
take the extra time to do all that for the customer. I'm not
saying that your shop did that, but usually, they just want to
slap a system together, put the OS on and sell it to the
customer and get it out the door as fast as they can. Then the
customer has to optimize their own systems or just suffer.
That’s just MY experience with tech support (11 yrs

Just another stupid saying...

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May 28, 2010 at 12:32:07
Over 2GB of RAM is useless in XP.

I agree with PC GEEK about the hard drive. That 40GB drive is slowing you way down. Drives smaller than around 100GB are usually older and much slower than modern drives with oodles of cache.

Put in a cheap 500GB with 32MB of cache and watch your new PC scream.

Super PIII | Unlocked ES Tualatin @ 1.8GHz (150x12, 1.65v), 512K L2
2GB PC2700 | 500GB | Radeon x1950Pro | Apollo Pro 266T | Win7 Pro

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May 28, 2010 at 12:59:20
As PC GEEK has pointed out, the slowest thing on your new system is the 40gb hard drive, which is probably limited to a max 100mb/sec burst data transfer speed (UDMA 5 in Windows) , and has a lower sustained (continuous) max data transfer rate otherwise and a smaller onboard memory cache (buffer) than newer, larger drives.
The smaller the hard drive's onboard memory cache, the shorter the time the max burst speed can be used in one continuous go.
Your hard drive, any hard drive, is not using it's max burst speed most of the time - it's max most of the time is the max sustained data rate, which is much lower than the max burst rate - newer drives have a higher max sustained data rate than older drives.

Your mboard and the Phenom cpu you are using would perform much better if you installed 1066mhz DDR2 or faster ram rather than 800mhz DDR2 ram.
The mboard and your Phenom cpu supports a 2600MHz Hyper Transport (5200 MT/s) speed, but that's much less when you use 800mhz ram.

Asus M4A785-M support
See the Memory support list.
Many 1066mhz (PC2-8500), some 1200mhz (PC2-9600 ?).
(the ram must support 1200mhz and you must overclock in the bios to support the 1200mhz ram)
Note the dots for what applies in the last three columns on the right, and the notes at the bottom of each list, A, B, C, regarding where and how many modules you can install.


Kingston doesn't list any 1066 modules for your model on their web site, when one uses your model to look up ram for it, but it does mention them for this model, and that 1066mhz ram is supported for only one DIMM channel.

Crucial lists 1066mhz modules (PC2-8500)

You may not see much performance difference when you're on the internet, e.g. in IE 8. That can be much slower than the performance of the system otherwise.

The performance of your system on the internet depends on many things that may be bootlenecks that limit that performance. The following is about buffering, but the same things apply to your speed on the internet in general.
See Response 2:

In addition to what PC GEEK mentioned about how some anti-malware can drastically reduce the performance of your system, many people have way too many things that are loading as Startup programs when Windows loads initially that don't need to load. Some of those things only run initially, then unload, others are running all the time. The net effect is, if you have a lot of those things loading, that it takes a lot longer when you first boot for the hard drive activity to stop completely or diminish to a significant degree.
Start - Run - type: msconfig (click on OK or press Enter)
Look under the Startup tab. If you have a lot of programs listed there, most of them, or all of them, can be disabled from loading when Windows first loads.
See Response 4 in this for more info:

If you are using the onboard video on the new mboard, you would get better performance if you used a PCI-E X 16 video card in a slot instead, and the same amount of installed ram would perform better, if that's your only enabled video. Sharing the installed ram with onboard video drastically reduces the ram's max bandwidth - max data transfer rate - it as much as halves it. When you install a video card in a slot, if the onboard video is disabled by the bios, the installed ram is no longer shared with the onboard video, and the ram is then able to use the full bandwidth it is capable of with your mboard - you notice the difference most when a program benefits from more ram bandwidth being available.

Your mboard supports a Hybrid CrossFireX configuration - if you install one of certain specific Radeon chipset cards in the PCI-E X16 slot, the onboard Radeon 4200 video and the video on the card will BOTH work, the onboard video is NOT disabled, the ram is still shared with the onboard video.
If the situation is the same as for an Asus M3A78-Pro mboard I worked on that also has Hybrid support, if the card you install in the PCI-E slot is NOT one of the specific ones you can use along with the onboard video to support the Hybrid feature , you get NO video from the card in the slot by default, the onboard video is still working, the ram is still being shared with the onboard video. You have to go into the bios and set the video to NOT use the onboard video, then the card in the slot works fine.
If you DO NOT want to use the Hybrid feature when a card in a slot supports that, or if you do not want to share the ram with the onboard video when you have a card in the PCI-E X16 slot, or if the video card in a slot produces no video, you have to go into the bios and set the video (Primary video or Intialize video first, or similar) to NOT use the onboard video (set it to PCI-E, or similar).

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May 29, 2010 at 05:51:48
Thanks everyone, I had a feeling it might be the hard drive but I didn't emphasize that because I wanted to see if that's what everyone else thought, and it was. It's a good drive in good condition, but if it's too old to work well with this system then I'll have to upgrade. I'll look into the other points also such as allotting RAM to the video, but I think I'm stuck with the older software for the time being, so I'll optimize as much as I can other than that.

Thanks again for the thorough responses.

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May 31, 2010 at 13:49:16
The 40gb drive being slower, on it's own, doesn't account for the performance being not much different - something else is going on.

I'm assuming the "independent shop" did the proper thing - they installed the proper drivers for the mboard main chipset and the devices on the mboard, of course, after XP's Setup was finished.
Look at Device Manager -
(e.g. RIGHT click on My Computer - Properties - Hardware - Device Manager)
- there should be no devices that are unknown, or that are marked with a yellow ! mark or a red X.
- open up IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers by clicking on the +, double click on Primary IDE channel - click on the Advanced Settings tab - your IDE hard drive should probably be running in Ultra DMA mode 5, or a lot less likely, 6.

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