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XP unusable whilst hard drives are in use

By doveman ·
I have a Phenom II X3 720, 4GB DDR2 1066Mhz, a Gigabyte MA780G-UD3H motherboard and a 1TB Samsung HD103UJ and a 640GB WD6400AAKS.

Whenever I do something that involves transferring files or processing data from one hard drive to the other, my PC becomes basically unusable and switching back to Opera takes ages, as does changing between tabs in it. The program transferring files is barely using any CPU time and my CPU usage overall is very low during this time.

I realise that Opera stores temp files on the main drive and needs to access them, which is going to conflict with the other program that is reading files from that drive and processing them before writing them to the second drive, but something doesn't seem right as I read about people doing other things whilst they're processing files in the background, but my PC just doesn't seem to be able to multi-task like this whilst the harddrives are in use.

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I would look closely at the device drivers and the AV software

by robo_dev In reply to XP unusable whilst hard d ...

Assuming that the PC has no virus or rootkit....

i would look into what device drivers are being used for the SATA controller. if yours is the one that came with the mobo, it may be out of date.

Also, what anti-virus software are you using? Some AV software can be misconfigured so it's checking things too closely.

Of course, I would defragment the drives, and run chkdsk as well as drive diagnostics, as a failing drive is going to thrash a whole lot trying to read data.

Also, enable AHCI:

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Useful tips but I'm not sure they're the answer

by doveman In reply to I would look closely at t ...

Thanks for the tips.

I'm satisfied the PC is clean, so that's not an issue.

The drivers for the AMD SATA controller (which is running in Native IDE mode) are v5.1.0.8, which date back to 2008, but there don't appear to be any newer ones.

I'm using Avira Antivir (free edition). I'm pretty sure I've tried disabling it to check if that makes any difference, but I'll test this again.

The drives are definitely OK and I've checked the SMART data as well, although they probably do need defragging.

I'm not convinced that enabling AHCI will make much difference, as the reports I've read suggest a marginal performance improvement, if any, with mechanical drives. It also seems fraught with danger on XP systems, so I don't really want to mess with that for no good reason.

I still don't understand why my system slows to a crawl whilst I'm processing some files between two hard drives and I can barely use programs like Opera, which I wouldn't expect to need to access the drive much. I guess it does, and obviously having the drives defragged will reduce the amount of jumping around the drive will need to do to access the file I'm processing, but it will still have to jump between the file and Opera's or Windows' files that need to be accessed when I'm using Opera or click on the Start Menu, etc.

I guess if I had a completely separate drive for Windows and my programs that would help, but I imagine most people don't and I'd have thought if they have the same problems I do, it would be common knowledge that multi-tasking doesn't work very well (at least whilst one of the programs is processing files).

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Perhaps a BIOS upgrade?

by robo_dev In reply to Useful tips but I'm not s ...

In the olden days, for better performance, you split larger drives into smaller partitions. Never heard of somebody having to do that these days, but there may be issues simply based on how big the partition table is. So an experiment would be to try two smaller drives and see if the transfer is any faster.

My thoughts would be that somehow the PC bus is having an issue, such as something related to processor power saving, or some odd interrrupt, device conflict, or resource issue.

I think you mentioned something about BIOS update. It's also possible that a BIOS update breaks something, so sometimes the fix is to goto an older version.

Note too, that SATA controllers have firmware updates, and often hard drives themselves have firmware updates.

One crazy thought is to boot the system with a Linux Live CD and try some file transfers. Although, obviously you must be careful not to accidentally wipe out data, this would show you if it's an OS thing or a hardware thing.

Programs like Opera use temporary files, so perhaps you need to clear out the temporary files?

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Good ideas

by doveman In reply to Perhaps a BIOS upgrade?

My drives are already partitioned, so I don't think that's an issue.

I doubt it's a BIOS problem, as I'm sure someone would have noticed if there was a major problem like this with a BIOS update. I haven't updated it in quite some time anyway. Similarly, the SATA controllers are built-in to my motherboard, and there doesn't appear to be any firmware updates for that or my hard drives.

It's certainly a good idea to try using a Linux Live CD, or even a HD install. That would at least show whether it's an XP problem or not. There might well be a PC bus issue in XP.

The problem mainly tends to show up when using one particular program, but I tried it again recently and didn't have this problem, so it's hard to track down.

I do tend to have a lot of tabs open in Opera, but I don't think it's an Opera problem because when the problem manifests, it generally slows down everything, such as opening the Start Menu, Windows Explorer, etc.

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