Something's messing up my system efficiency

I’m running a P4 3.2GHz with 512Mb RAM, XP, and a 40 gig hard drive using about 36 gigs. Over the last two months it’s been getting increasingly sluggish with pretty basic tasks. In particular, when I try to right-click files in windows explorer, I get the hourglass for a few seconds before the menu finally opens. The same thing happens when I click to activate the cursor in a text field. Switching windows seems to take a long time too.

I have fully updated adaware and spybot that I run on a regular basis, and I’ve got Symantec, which, while not the most current version of the program, still gets updates and has blocked a few nasties from getting in within the last few weeks. I’ve got spyware blaster too, but I’ve neglected that since October or so. Yesterday I picked up the trial version of AVG anti-malware and ran CWShredder. It got quite a few tracking cookies that adaware and spybot had missed, so I still suspect something got in that my current protection has missed.

At any given moment I typically have one or two Firefox windows open (usually gmail and SDMB), My Documents, and AIM (with a hack that shuts off the ads). Firefox takes up an average of about 70M of memory, Symantec around 10M, and AIM around 7M. There are multiple instances of SVCHost.exe running, though, and that has me concerned. I’ve researched the file and found that some viruses and malware will disguise themselves as SVCHost, but I’m told that I shouldn’t be worried unless they’re taking up more than 15M or so. Right now I’ve got 5 instances running: one is using 11M, the other four are using 1M. I’ve got two copies of SVCHost on my computer. One’s in Windows\system32, the other’s in I386, both of which seem to be legit according to a google search.

So, questions:

Should I be concerned about the situation with SVCHost?

Could my problems be due to the amount of hard drive space I’m using? I last ran a defrag in September or so–is another one in order?

I’ve seen criticisms that Firefox is pretty memory-intensive, but IE7 seems to be just as greedy. Any suggestions on what I should do about that?

What are some good freeware options apart from adaware and spybot? I was rather a fan of AVG, but now their trial versions have a time limit. Am I gonna have to break down and buy something more advanced?

Generally speaking, what are some ways to tweak my performance? I’m considering upgrading my RAM, but I’m on a Dell so their stupid certification thing only gives me some rather expensive options.

Lastly, here’s a HijackThis log:

Logfile of HijackThis v1.99.1
Scan saved at 12:13:48 PM, on 3/13/2007
Platform: Windows XP SP2 (WinNT 5.01.2600)
MSIE: Internet Explorer v7.00 (7.00.6000.16414)

Running processes:
C:\Program Files\Common Files\Symantec Shared\ccSetMgr.exe
C:\Program Files\Common Files\Symantec Shared\SPBBC\SPBBCSvc.exe
C:\Program Files\Common Files\Symantec Shared\ccEvtMgr.exe
C:\Program Files\Common Files\Symantec Shared\ccApp.exe
C:\Program Files\AIM\aim.exe
C:\Program Files\Symantec AntiVirus\DefWatch.exe
C:\Program Files\Symantec AntiVirus\Rtvscan.exe
C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe
C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\WINWORD.EXE
C:\Program Files\Winamp\winamp.exe
C:\Documents and Settings\Dxxxxx\My Documents\download\HijackThis.exe

R1 - HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main,Default_Page_URL =
R1 - HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main,Search Bar =
R0 - HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main,Start Page =
R1 - HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main,Default_Page_URL =
R1 - HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main,Default_Search_URL =
R1 - HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main,Search Page =
R0 - HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main,Start Page =
R3 - URLSearchHook: (no name) - {4D25F926-B9FE-4682-BF72-8AB8210D6D75} - C:\Program Files\MyWaySA\SrchAsDe\1.bin\deSrcAs.dll (file missing)
O2 - BHO: Adobe PDF Reader Link Helper - {06849E9F-C8D7-4D59-B87D-784B7D6BE0B3} - C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 7.0\ActiveX\AcroIEHelper.dll
O2 - BHO: (no name) - {53707962-6F74-2D53-2644-206D7942484F} - C:\PROGRA~1\SPYBOT~1\SDHelper.dll
O2 - BHO: DriveLetterAccess - {5CA3D70E-1895-11CF-8E15-001234567890} - C:\WINDOWS\system32\dla fswshx.dll
O2 - BHO: SSVHelper Class - {761497BB-D6F0-462C-B6EB-D4DAF1D92D43} - C:\Program Files\Java\jre1.5.0_06\bin\ssv.dll
O3 - Toolbar: (no name) - {BA52B914-B692-46c4-B683-905236F6F655} - (no file)
O4 - HKLM…\Run: [NvCplDaemon] “RUNDLL32.EXE” C:\WINDOWS\system32\NvCpl.dll,NvStartup
O4 - HKLM…\Run: [ccApp] “C:\Program Files\Common Files\Symantec Shared\ccApp.exe”
O4 - HKLM…\Run: [vptray] C:\PROGRA~1\SYMANT~1\VPTray.exe
O4 - HKLM…\Run: [AVG7_CC] C:\PROGRA~1\Grisoft\AVG7\avgcc.exe /STARTUP
O4 - HKLM…\Run: [MSConfig] C:\WINDOWS\PCHealth\HelpCtr\Binaries\MSConfig.exe /auto
O4 - HKCU…\Run: [AIM] C:\Program Files\AIM\aim.exe -cnetwait.odl
O4 - HKCU…\Run: [ctfmon.exe] C:\WINDOWS\system32\ctfmon.exe
O9 - Extra button: (no name) - {08B0E5C0-4FCB-11CF-AAA5-00401C608501} - C:\Program Files\Java\jre1.5.0_06\bin\ssv.dll
O9 - Extra ‘Tools’ menuitem: Sun Java Console - {08B0E5C0-4FCB-11CF-AAA5-00401C608501} - C:\Program Files\Java\jre1.5.0_06\bin\ssv.dll
O9 - Extra button: AIM - {AC9E2541-2814-11d5-BC6D-00B0D0A1DE45} - C:\Program Files\AIM\aim.exe
O9 - Extra button: - {CD67F990-D8E9-11d2-98FE-00C0F0318AFE} - C:\WINDOWS\system32\Shdocvw.dll
O9 - Extra button: (no name) - {e2e2dd38-d088-4134-82b7-f2ba38496583} - %windir%\Network Diagnostic\xpnetdiag.exe (file missing)
O9 - Extra ‘Tools’ menuitem: @xpsp3res.dll,-20001 - {e2e2dd38-d088-4134-82b7-f2ba38496583} - %windir%\Network Diagnostic\xpnetdiag.exe (file missing)
O9 - Extra button: Messenger - {FB5F1910-F110-11d2-BB9E-00C04F795683} - C:\Program Files\Messenger\msmsgs.exe
O9 - Extra ‘Tools’ menuitem: Windows Messenger - {FB5F1910-F110-11d2-BB9E-00C04F795683} - C:\Program Files\Messenger\msmsgs.exe
O11 - Options group: [INTERNATIONAL] International*
O16 - DPF: {17492023-C23A-453E-A040-C7C580BBF700} (Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Tool) -
O16 - DPF: {4ED9DDF0-7479-4BBE-9335-5A1EDB1D8A21} -,0,0,90/
O16 - DPF: {BCC0FF27-31D9-4614-A68E-C18E1ADA4389} -,0,0,23/
O20 - Winlogon Notify: avgwlntf - C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\avgwlntf.dll
O20 - Winlogon Notify: NavLogon - C:\WINDOWS\system32\NavLogon.dll
O20 - Winlogon Notify: WgaLogon - C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\WgaLogon.dll
O21 - SSODL: WPDShServiceObj - {AAA288BA-9A4C-45B0-95D7-94D524869DB5} - C:\WINDOWS\system32\WPDShServiceObj.dll
O23 - Service: Symantec Event Manager (ccEvtMgr) - Symantec Corporation - C:\Program Files\Common Files\Symantec Shared\ccEvtMgr.exe
O23 - Service: Symantec Password Validation (ccPwdSvc) - Symantec Corporation - C:\Program Files\Common Files\Symantec Shared\ccPwdSvc.exe
O23 - Service: Symantec Settings Manager (ccSetMgr) - Symantec Corporation - C:\Program Files\Common Files\Symantec Shared\ccSetMgr.exe
O23 - Service: Symantec AntiVirus Definition Watcher (DefWatch) - Symantec Corporation - C:\Program Files\Symantec AntiVirus\DefWatch.exe
O23 - Service: InstallDriver Table Manager (IDriverT) - Macrovision Corporation - C:\Program Files\Common Files\InstallShield\Driver\11\Intel 32\IDriverT.exe
O23 - Service: Intel NCS NetService (NetSvc) - Intel® Corporation - C:\Program Files\Intel\PROSetWired\NCS\Sync\NetSvc.exe
O23 - Service: NVIDIA Display Driver Service (NVSvc) - NVIDIA Corporation - C:\WINDOWS\system32
O23 - Service: SAVRoam (SavRoam) - symantec - C:\Program Files\Symantec AntiVirus\SavRoam.exe
O23 - Service: Symantec Network Drivers Service (SNDSrvc) - Symantec Corporation - C:\Program Files\Common Files\Symantec Shared\SNDSrvc.exe
O23 - Service: Symantec SPBBCSvc (SPBBCSvc) - Symantec Corporation - C:\Program Files\Common Files\Symantec Shared\SPBBC\SPBBCSvc.exe
O23 - Service: Symantec AntiVirus - Symantec Corporation - C:\Program Files\Symantec AntiVirus\Rtvscan.exe

Nothing there looks terribly suspicious. Go look in the disk defragmenter (My Computer-> right click on a disk-> Tools -> Defragment -> Analyze), and see if the swap file (the big green box) is in more than one piece. If it is:

  • Turn off Virtual Memory (My Computer -> Advanced Tab -> Performance).
  • Reboot
  • Defragment your drive (same as above + “Defrag now”). This will take a while (possibly hours).
  • Turn on Virtual memory, with a FIXED size of 1536 (3 times your physical memory). Do not choose “let Windows manage it automatically.”
  • Reboot again

Then, delete everything in your Temp directories (Start->Run->"%TEMP%" and Start->Run->"%TMP%"). Reboot again.

See if this helps. You might also want to consider putting more memory in that machine, 512 is rather low. (But that obviously doesn’t explain the slowdown over time). 36 of 40 gb is also getting pretty tight on disk space; the usual wisdom is that you need about 15-20% of each hard drive empty for decent windows performance (less than that, and the file system works harder to locate spots for new files, and fragmentation becomes more likely).

In my experience, all those antivirus programs can really slow your computer down, especially if they’re set to “Auto-Protect.” Back when I was on a PC, I would leave it off and just run an occasional virus scan, while maintaining careful browsing and downloading habits, and using Firefox instead of IE.

I’ve heard of problems with AVG’s anti-spyware app not playing nice with other anti-spyware apps. Would you consider removing it and seeing how things go?

Also as The Shroud says, Symantec will end up just pissing you off.

If you have Spybot Search and Destroy, use the file shredder tool and see just how much garbage there is that Windows doesn’t know about.

Set Firefox to delete all unwanted personal data on exit, even if it is only cached web pages.

Dump Symantec and replace it with Avast free antivirus.

Consider installing a second hard drive - if it is a faster one than the primary drive, or even the same speed, shift the swap file to that drive as it will respond faster due to being used less.

Definitely consider increasing memory to at least 512 MB.

Also,if your system has onboard graphics but has an AGP slot available, look for a cheap graphics card with about 128 MB of graphics memory onboard.
This will release the shared memory and graphics memory is faster anyway.

Remove all desktop icons - each one uses memory to no good purpose. Not much admittedly but still.

Thanks for the advice, guys. I did as you suggested, TW, and I definitely need a defrag. I was planning on doing one in the near future, but I need to back up quite a lot and prune some files. Unfortunately, the time for that is a ways off yet.

Also, the only thing I’ve got running real time is Symantec and it blocked a couple of legit threats just this weekend. I can’t do that with Adaware or Spybot, so that’s moot. Also, AVG can be pretty INSISTENT. Since it has no real setting between “off” and “high,” I personally leave it off between scans. I’ll look into Avast, though. I update Symantec once a week, but the base version I use is a couple of years old now.

I can tell you, however, that McAfee came pre-installed on this thing with a 30 second trial period (possibly less). That thing was pretty much bloatware and damn near gave me an aneurysm. A closer look at my hijack this log shows that it’s still got a couple of giblets festering in my registry. Any advice on how to safely deal with that?

Lastly, my rig already has 512, and I’d like to bring it up to a gig. Unfortunately, since I’m on a Dell I’m limited to their overpriced, “certified” components. My graphics card is a GeForce 6800 with 256 megs too, and I already have Firefox clear the cache and such when I close it down.

Your 40 gig hard drive is probably getting a little long in the tooth. When I replaced my girlfriend’s 8gb hard drive with a new 80gb it was like a new computer. And since you’re using 90% of your computer’s available drive space, it would greatly benefit from some breathing room.

Assuming you can’t immediately replace the drive, you could try turning System Restore off if you aren’t using it. System Restore takes up gigs of space making backups of your entire system every time you do something simple like install Media Player. To turn it off, go to Control Panel, System, System Restore. There’s a check box to shut it off on all drives. But if you do like System Restore or you think it might come in handy, use Disk Cleanup (in Start Menu under Accessories, System Tools) to remove all but the most recent restore point. That should get a few gigs back for you.

Also, check your Recycle Bin and see how much space it’s claiming. It defaults to 10% of your disk space. Do you need a 4gb Recycle Bin? Right click on the Bin icon and choose properties to get at this option.

Same for IE, the cache tends to be ridiculously huge. Set it as small as it will go. This is under Internet Options in Control Panel or in IE.

Another vote for removing anything with the name Symantec on it. Symantec products can take the best computers and reduce them to doorstops in minutes. I have a feeling their security model is to protect the user from viruses by preventing the user from doing anything at all.

Following on the critical success of a blockbuster that was this thread, I continue with my directorial vision of cinematically enshrining the hell-arious antics of dirty, wretched machines.

Last week I tried to burn a CD in preparation for a road trip. I popped a CD-R in the drive, which began whirring with activity as its LED began to blink. It didn’t prompt me to ask what I wanted to do with it, but I didn’t think anything of that, since that’s happened on occasion before. I opened my computer, and the E: drive indicated that there was a CD-R inside.

I opened the directory, hit “write these files to a CD,” only to get a message saying that there was no CD in the drive. I tried a different CD-R, figuring the first one was corrupt. I got the same message. I cracked open a fresh stack, and got the same message with those.

A laser lens cleaner has failed to relieve me of this inconvenience. The thing can still access information on CDs; the brush-coated disk had an audio track telling me that I was running a CD lens cleaner. I just tried opening some files off of backup CDs, and those worked.

What could possibly be going on such that the drive knows it has a CD and can read information off said CD, but abruptly becomes blind when I ask it to put information on a blank disk? I’m disinclined to consider it a hardware problem. Is that impression not justified, or have settings been inadvertently fucked with somewhere?

Aw crap, that was supposed to be a new thread and I missed the edit window. Not my day with the cyberweb stuff, is it? :smack:

And kudos to Samclem for fixing an oversight of mine.

Sorry for the multiple posts, but my rig’s lethargy is apparent everywhere I turn. The only thing blocking me from implementing many of your suggestions so far is this damnable CD burner issue keeping me from backing things up.

Anyway, since we’re addressing the issue of hard drive space, I have another related concern. Back in 2002 my old computer crapped out on me due to a mishap with a new 100gig hard drive I put in it. After that I found out about Dell’s pickiness towards hardware its people haven’t certified, among other things. Later I found another 100 gig drive on Dell’s site for approximately the same price as the one that had self-destructed on me, so I bought it expecting to someday put it in my computer. That never happened, as I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop with that computer after I got it working again (an unjustified suspicion; I was paranoid after the earlier disaster).

I still have that 100 gig hard drive sitting in my closet, still within its box. It hasn’t been subjected to any temperature extremes in the 4 years since I bought it, nor has it been roughly handled. The box has been accidentally dropped from no more than waist height a few times, and has spent prolonged periods on its side or upside down, though. What’s the likelihood that I could hook it up without incident? I won’t say that it’s been completely sealed during that time, but it’s never experienced any worse than a slightly chilly or uncomfortably warm and humid apartment when my AC failed once. Think it’d work?

Should be fine if the abuse some of my hard drives have been subject to is anything of an indicator.
Shift as much stuff as possible from your primary drive onto the slave - Photo’s, music, etc. Clean up the primary - uninstall anything you don’t use. Set the swap file on the slave, after defragmenting it to be sure that it isn’t broken up all over the place, as is Windows tendency.
Should make a world of difference.

I don’t altogether get this Dell pickiness with hardware - I’ve upgraded a few, put new drives and memory in them and never had any problems.

I’d say those are the two most pertinent, and related facts. Symantec/Norton is, in my opinion (and more significantly, in my experience) a bloated, intrusive, resource-hogging nuisance.

The hard drive space remaining is so little it is likely contributing to the problem. You should be able to install the new one as a slave on the primary IDE channel. You’re originial drive will be the master drive on the Primary IDE channel. The original drive may need a jumper moved on it when it’s a master on the same IDE cable as a slave, or it may stay the same, so check it. The 100G drive will need the jumper set for slave. Failure to boot is likely because of a wrong jumper on on to the drives. It will not drestroy the drive if wrong, just prevent start up. You may wish to take it in to somebody and pay for installation, if you don’t feel like you can do it. There’s no shame in that. The system won’t defrag correctly when less than 10% empty space is available. You may wish to set up the drive as an external USB drive, and forgo the internal mounting, but I think with a 40 G internal you need a larger internal drive. A 40G drive is ussually big enough for windows XP and your applications, when data files are not saved on it. Dozens of large new games can throw this out the window at Gigabytes in size for each one. I have a game that has 6G in saved games.

You should dump the cache files for the browsers when they start working badly as a first step. The antivirus could be slowing things down, but a machine running the speed processor you have should handle it when browsing no trouble. I think it’s the hard drive causing the slow down. You ran virus and spyware checks, so the hard drive space available is likely culpret.

Is your’e recycle bin turned off or on? Go empty it if it’s turned on, as it takes 10% of the drive to save deleted files by default. I leave mine turned off as when I erase I want the space freed up.

The computer goes slugglish when the hard drive cache file can’t be expanded properly, and it has to make do with the memory available, without switching memory to the cache file.

It’s a medium-shot, but I’d try this hotfix:

I ran disk cleanup and pruned some files, so I now have 5.45G free out of what my C: drive properties tell me are 33.5G total. That’s now up from 3.?? when I posted yesterday, so it’s a start. The figures I quoted were from a dir/w in the command prompt, which now tells me there are 5.8G free. I figure this must be a bits vs. bytes thing (I can never remember the conversion). I have 4G alotted to the system restore. I won’t turn that off until I’m set and comfortable with everything else. In the meantime, where do I go to reset the disk space reserved for the recycle bin?

The space I’ve cleared truly has made a difference. I suppose I’ll give the hard drive thing a try this weekend, since one factor I forgot to mention in not attempting to install it in my rig is the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to open my case until this Monday (spring-loaded latch that didn’t look like a latch :o). I feel comfortable installing it myself, since I know how to set the jumpers, connect it to the power supply, and to access the BIOS to configure the new setup. All the same, is there some more sophisticated understanding I’m failing to take into account here?

Also, is it possible that the reason why my CD burner is refusing to work is because my hard drive space was so low? It seems that the trouble it’s been giving me is related to software rather than hardware.

Thanks again for all your help. I’m beginning to come around on the Symantec issue, and I’ll look into Avast. I’ll also google some reviews and see what other antivirus programs might be good.

How foolish of me. It was a simple matter of right-clicking the recycle bin to bring up the properties :rolleyes: I have to say these multiple posts are making me feel like quite a board novice. I do apologize for this rapid-fire crap.

One thing to keep in mind…you say you bought a 40Gig HD. What you really bought (and damn the manufacturers for this) was a drive with 40 billion bytes, which does not translate into 40GB, because each kilobyte is actually 1024 bytes instead of 1000. But they sell it as 40GB anyhow. I think my 40GB drive had about 36 or 38GB of usable space on it.

So you likely had less free space than you thought.

Yes. It might be needing to copy the files to a temp directory (on your hard drive) first before copying to CD. If it’s also using virtual memory to do the burning/buffering, you could be running into problems due to low disk space.

Get that 100GB motha’ in there, yo.

Turns out my rig only has one 40-pin connector, and it’s occupied by my DVD drive and CD burner (I don’t have a combo drive). According to my rig’s technical specifications, it supports SATA hard drives, but doesn’t say anything about ATA which is what my extra hard drive is. I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t work, but I’ve apparently had the kibosh put on this expansion project of mine. Or does this comment about bridge chips mean that there’s hope?

That’s rather irksome.

I feel like setting fire to something now. :dubious:

You can add in a PCI IDE card that will allow up to four drives total to be added to the internal system. Make sure it’s a new card that handles up to the ATA 133 speed access. The card should come with a hard drive cable. You should make sure to use an 80 wire high speed cable. The high speed IDE requires a ground for each communication wire. The other option is to get a sata drive if you see a connector already there. The other IDE can go into an external USB connection case for backups.

Example of an IDE card, you don’t have to have a raid compliant one.

Example of the proper IDE cable.

None of these examples are a best value, just convenient as an example.

Your BIOS may even allow for booting from an Add on card, not that it will have to. The new cards don’t conflict with the MB IDE like the old computers.

You also have an option that I hesitated to suggest, because I don’t know how handy you are. Replace the old hard drive with the new larger drive, which I think is less desirable anyway.

New Sata drive $80.
External case for the IDE drive to use with USB $20.

New IDE card to use new IDE drive you own $20.
New cable for drive if needed $10.

I hope it helps you decide.

Just encase check that your L2 cache is attivated in the BIOs. Nothing kills preformance like a deactivated L2 cache, I would expect you to complain even more though. It might take 10 minutes to boot or longer with that turned off.

The maximum speed of the cd drive can hold back the speed of the hardrive sharing the same IDE connector. A mode 2 top speed cd rom can limit the hard drive to mode 2. Getting the cd rom and the primary hard drive on a sperate connect, may be another reason to get the IDE card. All three can run on seperate connectors.