Weird XP Memory-Leak-Style Slowdown and Boot Problems

Okay, lemme go through the order, since I’m wondering if that’s a factor.

I have a Dell 8100 which had WinME loaded on it. I finally decided to upgrade to WinXP Pro and make it a dual-boot. And yes, I need a dual-boot, as I have some programs that simply will not run with the NT kernel, no matter what has been tried. So, here’s what I’ve done so far.

  1. Backed up anything I wanted on the 40 gig hard drive with the OS to my new 120 gig drive. Both, obviously, were formatted FAT32.

  2. Formatted and repartitioned the 40 gig hard drive, into roughly a 30 gig partition and a 10 gig partition.

  3. Reinstalled WinME on the 10 gig partition. Spent some time getting the drivers and such set up properly, just in case something went wrong with the XP install.

  4. Converted the 30 gig partition from FAT32 to NTFS.

  5. Installed XP Pro on the 30 gig partition.

  6. Spent some time installing programs, copying data, setting up new drivers and software, etc. for WinXP.

  7. Decide to convert the 120 gig drive from FAT32 to NTFS without formatting first.

  8. Start to really notice a slowdown and sluggishness. EAC has problems using either LAME or Ogg Vorbis to encode. The encoding starts out fine and slows way, way down. Winamp and WinTV start stuttering after a while. Java-based chat gives massive lag, especially when typing. Games like Roller Coaster Tycoon run sluggishly. Simple things like opening directories takes longer. I don’t remember seeing any of this before the conversion, but I did convert fairly soon after installing.

  9. Ran an anti-virus scan, which took forever as it slowed down as well. Didn’t see anything in 30,000 files, and the active protection hasn’t caught anything that might cause something like this; for example, the Blaster worm.

  10. Remember that Microsoft warned me that converting on the fly like that could be problematic. Decide to back-up anything I hadn’t already backed-up, format the 120-gig drive and reinstall everything.

  11. Find out that apparently isn’t the problem either, as I’m getting the same slowdown/sluggishness as before.

  12. Learned that rebooting every few hours fixes this slowdown for a while, but is a big pain in the butt.

Also, after I converted the 120 gig drive, Me will no longer boot properly, or is taking so long that it seems like it’s not working. Not sure which.

So, I’ve come to you guys before I get pissed and reformat and reinstall both OSes. I could do it in almost no time, but I hate to do it again unless I have to. I have not tried a defrag as that will also slow down horribly and it doesn’t seem like a massive fragmentation problem. Besides, how much fragmentation can I get if I’m only using those partitions for the OS and not even caches? I’m wondering if I picked up a virus and Norton Corporate is not seeing it, but that seems unlikely. I don’t think it’s a lack of physical memory, as 256 megs should be plenty, and I’ve given it room for nearly a gig of virtual memory. 1.3 ghz should be plenty of processor power, and I don’t see why a slow processor would cause this gradual slowdown. I expect to lose a bit of speed as the CPU has to switch between hard drives at times, but not on the level I should be able to notice. I figure it has to be somehow related to those OS partitions and perhaps even the OS installs.

Also, I can’t explain the problem with the Me boot unless I was using something on the 120-gig for that OS that I don’t remember. This, of course, could matter since Me can’t read NTFS (plus, if there was something on there, it was blown away by the format), so that could be a reason, but it seems like a weird one for not even getting the OS to load properly at all.

So, you guys got any ideas before I spend part of my weekend reinstalling operating systems?

Despite what you say, my first suspect would be memory. I view 256mb as a minimum for XP, and with those programs and large disks I would have at least 512mb, more if possible.

The pattern you describe of it slowing down with use is consistent with this, as more and more has to be swapped out to disk.

Do you have any files in the root of your 120 GB HDD called “ntldr”. It’s possible that your computer is booting through that drive to get to your 40 GB HDD. If that’s the case, then formatting the 120 GB as NTFS means your copy of WinME suddenly can’t see some of its boot files, which is always a problem. Which of the partitions is called C:\ ? Your WinME boot sector may have been overwritten when you installed WinXP.

The rule of thumb is, always install the dumb OS first. Normally, this means install Windows and then Linux on a dual boot machine. However, with dual booting Windows, I’m not sure which one is dumber. They should play nicely together, but again, I’m not positive that WinME can read NTFS partitions.

Let us know what you find out.

" I don’t think it’s a lack of physical memory, as 256 megs should be plenty, "

How much of that is free after you start the computer?