Slow computer that locks up! Help!

Computer help, please!

I bought my wife a new computer about 2 months ago. Now the darn thing is driving me nuts - and I can’t figure out what happened!

Specs: PC celeron 3.0 GHz, 256 MB RAM, 80 GB (NTFS) + 40 GB (FAT32) IDE drives, Wireless Networking card, Windows XP Home (SP2).

It’s slowed to such a crawl that my 400 MHz laptop running Win98 outperforms it. And if you leave it alone for more than 2 minutes it locks up!

I’ve turned off Indexing, Hibernation, and checked power properties. The machine is running AVG, Zone Alarm, Ad-Aware, Spybot, and all have checked out good.

I believe it’s a setting in XP that I have somehow forgotten about. Do the symptoms sound familiar to anyone? If so, what should I check?

(The first one to say “Get a Mac!” earns the undying wrath of my wife.)

Thanks in advance for any help.

Is it in a spot (either confined or dusty) that it could be over heating?

No. It’s out in the open. Fans are clean.

I don’t think there’s a hidden setting in XP for “lock up every 2 minutes,” sorry.

It would be interesting to know what’s locking up. Does the mouse stop moving, or the CPUs peg, or the hard drives go nuts? If you don’t know, launch the task manager’s “performance” tab, and see if the CPU spikes when the lockup occurs.

Next thing to try is Start->Run->“msconfig”

Turn off everything, reboot and see if the problem goes away. If it does, start turning the stuff on a little at a time until you identify the culprit.

Hardware doesn’t usually care if you’re using the machine or not, so I wouldn’t look there first.

Have you given it a decent clean up recently. Use the Spybot Secure Shredder to get rid of accumulated Temp, Temp Internet and Cookies files. (it finds the ones XP has forgotten about)

How much free space on the drives? With only 256 Meg and I don’t doubt some of that will be shared with the onboard graphics - you will be using the swap file a lot. If the drive is almost full and cluttered that will slow things down a lot.

Clean it up, defrag and immediately set the swap file to about 1 Gig, then reboot. This will reserve a 1Gig area on the hard drive for nothing other than the swap file, instead of it being plastered here there and everywhere on the drive.

Some more memory wouldn’t go amiss either but Celerons aren’t all that quick at the best of times.

It really sounds like the heatsink for the CPU is loose, but it should lock up even if you are using it, not just when left alone. What is the CPU usage doing when it slows down, just sitting at the desktop?

So what does the first person who suggests more RAM earn?

Seriously though, 256 is not really enough. I would scandisk (chkdsk /f), then do a defrag or 2, get rid of temp files, and get more RAM.

More RAM might be good - but…

I have a 667 MHz desktop with 256MB RAM sitting upstairs that blows the doors off this Celeron. Don’t think that’s the problem.

Great suggestions, all. As soon as I can get to t he computer, I’ll try some of them and report back.

Same OS on the 667? XP, while MS recommends something stupid like 128 runs much much faster on 512, if not 1 GB.

Reseat the cards. Push down all the hard drive connections. Reseat the memory. Random lock ups tend to be memory errors.

Restart in Safe Mode, and see if it locks up. If not, it is likely a device driver, or a program that launches at Windows startup.

Actually the 667 runs XP Pro. So, basically, yes.

I’ve used XP on computers I’ve taken down to 256MB of memory when checking memory sticks, and it won’t slow down so drasticaly as this is. The system has slowed down, and hasn’t any less memory than before. They are not running processes that large amounts of memory greatly benefit.

A 3 Ghz computer doesn’t run slower than a 400 Mhz computer because it has to switch memory out with the hard drive cache.

Download a free system diagnostic and run the memory check first.

Something like Memtest86. It’s free if you download it.

There are many free ones out there.