Bizarre computer issue

On Sunday, my “new” computer (it’s inherited, actually) just started - slowing down. No apparent reason. No virus, no malware, no obvious hardware issue. By Monday night it was useless.

So we ran every malware and virus checker on the planet, nothing. Mrs. RickJay fiddled with the registry, no luck. We reinstalled Windows, no luck. I suspect it’s a device issue; there’s lots of devices on this thing, and I probably screwed up by deleting the software for one. Still, it’s a very strange problem. It’s as if the 2.4 Ghz, 1GB RAM computer became a 486.

Now I want to completely, totally wipe the hard drives, a pure format, and THEN reinstall from my Windows XP CD.

What’s the cleanest, best way to do this? Do I reformat from BIOS? From the DOS prompt? Thru the Windows installer?

I’d try a few other things before reformatting. Does the slowdown seem related to lots of disk activity? Check the size of the swap file then defragment the hard drive and run a chkdsk.

Already tried that.

It doesn’t appear to be particularly disk-oriented.

Is it overheating?


I really am quite convinced it is an issue with the machine’s astounding oversupply of devices, including not one, not two, but THREE expansion slots for extra USB ports. I’d like to remove them, then freshly install Windows.

Try the free utility Fresh Diagnose.. It gives you tons of info about your computer including benchmarks by component. That may help you isolate the problem.

Have you checked the BIOS? Make sure it’s not in fail-safe mode - slowest timings, all caches turned off etc.

Assuming none of these solutions work for you, and you have an NTFS (Windows XP format, that is.) drive, then you need to boot from the CD, format from the command line, then install. There is such a thing as a “boot disk, floppy type” for XP, but it is actually multiple disks, and is more trouble to make then it is worth, assuming your bios is set to let you boot from CD. I would recomend you see if it does in fact boot from cd, before erasing everything.

You can do a clean install by booting from the Cd, and choosing to install XP. It will give you the option to format. See Here.

If you’re certain it’s not a heat issue, I’d absolutely run a diagnostics on the hard drive fist, before I did anything as drastic as a complete wipe out.

Do you know the brand of your hard drive?
Here is a list of hard drive diagnostic tools.

Run the quick test first. It should tell you whether you need to run the full test or not.

I had a computer slow down on me due to a harddrive going bad. No error messages, no weird noises, and scan disk didn’t report any problems. Defragging took a while, but it did complete until the disk got really bad. It wasn’t even the primary drive.

Since you’ve ruled out software-oriented trouble (viruses, malware etc…, fragmentation, virtual memory…) I’ll second (or third) looking for a hardware issue – the HD going bad, one of the flat cables just off enough so that data correction can keep things going, but barely… etc. I’d say that this is more likely to be a problem than your drivers.
Unless, that is, you installed something (Anything!) new over the weekend, in which case it may be opening and not closing file handles, interacting badly with Explorer, leaking massive amounts of memory…


If this were the case how would you diagnose it? I have been seeing some wierd slowdowns of my recently reinstalled XP Pro that I think it related to some type or program. I’ve run all the cleanup tools as the OP did, but I’m still seeing a drastic slowdown when a couple programs are running. I’m thinking its connected to BearShare Lite, but by all accounts it’s running as intended and is free of Malware. I had it operating without any hiccups before the reinstall, so I’m wondering if there’s something like this happenening.

sorry if this is a hijack.


Now, when I restart it, it wants to do a file check (you know, with the blue screen.) Then it freezes.

I can get by and start Windows if I cancel the disk check. But that cannot be a good sign.

You might first try deleting all your internet files (not the program) and cookies.
Slowdown happend to me once and this cleared up the problem. ( I had megabites of these.)

It’s still a slug after re-installing Windows? And now, you’re getting the disk scan before startup?

Drives have gotten cheap almost to the point of disposable. I realize you’re in Canada, but as an example, CompUSA has an 80 GB drive on sale now for $30. At that price, it’s barely worth the effort of trying to diagnose what may well be a failing drive.

While you’re inside, take out those extra USB ports and whatnots. If you can, start out with just the memory, hard drive, CD-ROM drive and video board. Get Windows running, then one by one, re-introduce things if needed.

I downloaded the Western Digital utility. Drive C fails what it called “Raw read error rate,” whatever that is, at first glance. It passes every other attribute.

So I ran the Quick Test. It hanged. Can’t even finish that.

Might be time to start swappin’ drives.

Good Lord. I remember paying almost $4000.00 for my Northgate 486. It turned out to be a peice of crap.

No might about it, unfortunately. Back up…back up…back up.
Not good news.

I decommissioned the C drive and used the D as the master, reformatted, and reinstalled. Problem appears to be solved; it was the hard drive.

Thanks, everyone!

Since the OP has his answer, I’m sure he won’t mind me answering here. I’m assuming you’re on a Windows platfroml if not, disregard the following. This is not my line of work, so I can’t really give you professional advice, but as a start I’d just fire up the Task Manager (right-click on the task bar, choose Task Manager), open it to the “Processes” tab or the “Performance” tab, fire up your BearShare program, and see what it does to both displays – in the “Processes” tab you can see how much CPU and how much memory the process itself is taking up. In the “Performance” tab you can see how much CPU and memory are being used as a whole, before and after you start the program (statistics are shown only from the moment you start Task Manager; let it run for a while before you start the suspected program.)
This should get you started, at least. There are some better utilities than Task Manager out there for following these things, but I only have them at work – if you want I can get back to you on Sunday (we work Sun-Thurs. here.)

Hope this helps