Please help diagnose - Computer Sometimes Slow to Access Drives or Boot, Motherboard dying?

LetoAtreidesII

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Recently, my PC (about 7 years old now, but altered/upgraded many times since) started experiencing some serous issues. One day, I suddenly had to disable USB booting in BIOS or it wouldn't recognize my hard drives. It is often slow to boot and/or shut down - though it will almost always boot or shut down eventually if I wait long enough (10-40 minutes approximately, I never timed it), but that's obviously not normal or healthy (it used to boot in ~2-4 minutes) .

After booting and starting Windows successfully, it will often be slow to access files or recognize drives - the easiest way to tell is if I use my file manager - an antiquated version of ACDSee: v2.41 - which I prefer over windows explorer. If my computer is working properly, ACDSEE 32 2.41 will start properly (in ~3-5 seconds) and I see my normal mouse cursor and full file directory after it loads. If not, then the hourglass shows up and never goes away, my file directories don't fully show up, and ACDSee hangs. I can force close it but it doesn't solve anything.

Even if I don't try to start ACDSee, it's clear that something isn't right. While most of Windows seems to work more or less properly, files/drives in general are slow to load or be recognized. If I try to play an AVI file on my hard drive (with Windows Media Player), it won't load. And programs that open files (like Virtualdub) often have the same problem as ACDSee, though only when I try to open a file.

I'm going to call this state a "buggy boot" for the purposes of this thread. The strange thing is, if my computer has a good boot, none of these problems occur and ACDSee loads and works properly. With a good boot, my computer will, for the most part, function properly until I shut it down or reboot it. It is possible that it is slightly slower to access files than usual even with a good boot (like 5-15% slower), but it's nowhere near as bad as it is with a buggy boot.

One possible exception is that, once, when I left my computer idle for a very long time, the ACDSee bug happened even though it was initially a good boot. This has only happened once (so far), and is odd because I have my power management set to NEVER shut off hard drives and only shut off my display after 20 minutes of inactivity.

So, my current focus (besides figuring out what's wrong and what part to replace) is how to avoid buggy boots and get good boots. This is very problematic for me because I like to reboot very often. First, I have a dual-boot setup - one boot (on one hard drive) is Windows 7 64 bit, and the other (on another hard drive, the master drive) is Windows 7 32 bit. I use 64 bit 95% of the itme. Second, when I run certain programs/games and swap my monitor settings (I swap to an Aero theme to record video, then back out of it when I'm done; I have my TV as my second display for when I want to use my TV with my PC - I swap out of dual display when I'm done witht that) around, it makes some games more prone to crash - this is a quirk that has existed for years, which is probably unrelated, and which I never considered an issue before since I easily resolved it by rebooting. Also, running some games would make other games more prone to crashing afterwards.

From what I've figured out so far, rebooting always results in a buggy boot (though I'm not 100% sure of this). Cold booting is the only way to achiveve a good boot. Force shutting down my PC via the power button will always result in a buggy boot afterwards. After a buggy boot, I have to shut it down properly - I click shut down and wait for 15-40 minutes for it to finish shutting down.

All of this started about 2 weeks ago. I didn't make any major hardware or software changes at that time, nor have I done so recently.

I've done a full virus scan with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, and it's very unlikely that i have a virus in the first place - I don't use any pirated software. I never run any third-party executables unless it's either open-source or VERY thoroughly vetted (to a ridiculously obsessive extent). I never visit pirate/warez or other shady web sites. I only browse with Noscript. I never click on suspicous links. My OS/browsers have the latest security updates. So while it's always possible malware is responsible, I think it's highly unlikely.

I ran diagnostics on all of my internal hard drives (I have 4 external hard drives which programs don't run off of - I use them only for storage of video files and file backups) with Western Digital Data Lifeguard Diagnostic and all of them were good.

I have not run diagnostics on my RAM yet, but I plan to do so soon.

The most significant change I've made to my computer in the recent past is that about one year ago, I replaced/upgraded my motherboard, CPU, and power supply. I replaced/upgraded my RAM shortly before that. That motherboard, since I wanted one that was compaitble with my old CPU (even though I ended up having to replace my CPU as well), was a very old model that looked refurbished when I got it.

Below are my system specs. Please help me figure out what's wrong with my computer and how to solve it (and what part to replace, if necessary). Let me know if you need more information.

OS: Windows 7 64bit / Windows 7 32-dual-boot on two separate drives
CPU: Intel Core i5-2550K @ 3.4 GHz (NOT overclocked and was never overclocked)
MOTHERBOARD: Intel Corporation DZ77BH-55K
RAM: CORSAIR Vengeance 16GB (4 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Memory Kit Model CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9R
PSU: CORSAIR TX Series CMPSU-650TX 650W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply & New 4th Gen CPU Certified Haswell Ready
Video Card: EVGA SuperClocked 02G-P4-3662-KR GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2GB 192-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
Sound Card: Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer
Case: Antec Three Hundred Two Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case with Upgraded 2 x USB 3.0
 
on the hard drives download hdtune look at there health. run vendor test tools see if they pass. download hardware info set it to logging and sensor see if the 12v rail on your power supply is holding. on your mb blow out the dust and check the mb caps see if any of them are swolen/leaking. look at the gpu and sound card and the mb pci slot guild. make sure the sound card is not in a pci slot that shares pci irq or memory range of the video card. if the cmos is going bad or the bios at post watch the settings of the video and sound card see if there irq changes. if they do try a new cmos battery. if not try and reflash the bios with the newest one.
 
This may not pertain to your situation but on the off chance you happen to have a device such as a Lexmark printer with an in-built memory card reader, or perhaps any USB devices that provide memory card reading functionality, I have seen cases where these devices cause USB booting issues, stalling the boot process until the BIOS times out. You can either disable booting from USB in that case, or have the device disconnected / powered off during boot.
 

terry4536

Glorious
Herald
How long has it been since you have done a fresh install of the operating system? I didn't see a mention of your system drive. If you are using hard drives on your operating system, then running a drive diagnostic and defragging the drives would be a good first step.
 

terry4536

Glorious
Herald
Transferring the operating system to a new SSD would be a good choice as well. And if all else fails, then the SSD can easily be moved to a new system.

Updating the BIOS is a another possibility. I don't really see a slow boot up as a sign of a dying motherboard. I would concentrate on the system drive. Another thing that often gets overlooked is the virtual memory, boosting that can make a world of difference in the performance of the system (simply by increasing the resources available to the operating system).

In reference to the USB problems, have you tried updating the system drivers? Try updating the USB drivers first.
 

LetoAtreidesII

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To clarify, my BIOS has no issues POSTing - hangups are only on Windows startup, shutdown, rebooting, and the aforementioned issues whenever I have a "buggy boot."



I will download hdtune, thanks. Is that better than WD Data Lifeguard diagnostic (which as I said, I already tried)? I'll try Hardware Info as well. I should make clear that this setup has worked without this issue for about a year now, so I don't think there's a sound card/video card conflict.

Anything involving opening up my computer will have to wait. My OCD hygienic protocols require that all dirty tasks have to be reserved for certain limited, special windows of time and that EVERY dirty task has to be done at that time (because cleaning myself and my environment up afterwards is extremely exhausting and time consuming). So if I need any new hardware it has to be there at that time. I can't/won't casually open up my computer at any time anymore.



My printer is not connected to my PC when not in use (and is powered off). I haven't used it or plugged it in for several months. One recent addition to my system I forgot to mention was a Steam controller - which has a wireless dongle connected to a USB port. I can try disconnecting that but I really doubt that that's the source of my problem.

Besides that, the things that are connected to my PC via USB are: mouse, keyboard, 3-4 external hard drives.



The internal hard drives I mentioned are my system drives. As I said, I have a dual-boot setup, with Windows 7 32 bit on one and Windows 7 64 bit on another. The problem occurs on both drives with both boots. Like I said, I ran diagnostics with Western Digital data lifeguard diagnostic already, but I'm going to try again with hdtune as suggested above. I tried defragging last night but it didn't seem to work right - defragging should take hours (especially since I haven't defragged in a while) but defragging both system drives took only about a minute each, which seems impossible. I was using the built-in Windows disk defragmenter (which I've never liked but have never gotten around to using a third party defragmenter). If you think a third party defragmenter would be better, I'm willing to try that.



Yeah, like I said, I'll try additional diagnostics on my hard drives. I don't have an SSD and can't afford an SSD at the present time. I could try getting another regular hard drive.

I updated my system drivers when I first installed this motherboard last year. Those are the latest (final drivers) for my long out of print motherboard first released in 2012. So, I'm already using the final drivers, unless there are some third party drivers I don't know about. Same thing with the BIOS.

What changes specifically should I make to my virtual memory? I have it set to custom size - 6-8 gigs on my system drive (respectively, for each boot option I choose) and another 6-8 gigs on a secondary internal storage drive. Automatic page file management is disabled. I don't really see this as a performance issue. This is a system health issue. When I have a good boot, there are essentially no performance issues. The problem is in consistently getting good boots.
 

terry4536

Glorious
Herald
Virtual memory takes up a small portion of your hard drive to use as virtual system memory.

On this system, the recommended virtual memory is about 3000 MB. I have increased the minimum virtual memory to 10,000 MB and the maximum to 15,000 MB on the system drive. That is my recommendation. In my case, I experimented with various amounts of virtual memory. I ended up adding that same amount on another drive. The benefit to system performance seems to level off at that point (I also have 16 GB of DRAM). So that is a minimum total of 20,0000 MB and maximum of 30,000 MB (20GB - 30GB). I have plenty of storage so I'm never going to notice 20 or 30 GB.

I would point out that drivers can become corrupted over time. So updating the BIOS and drivers (even with the same final version) can be beneficial.

 

terry4536

Glorious
Herald
Why do you have a dual boot with two versions of Windows 7. That makes little sense to me. It is your system, and you can do whatever you want with it. If you are going to use Windows 7, then I would recommend consolidating the system with a single Win 7 64 installation.

An SSD upgrade is very affordable. A 250 GB SSD is sufficient for your operating system and programs. You can even use a 120 GB SSD in most cases. The 250 GB SSD are available for around $100.

$94
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820147676





 
It actually sounds like the defragment process behaved correctly if it only took a matter of minutes. Windows has employed a weekly defragment of the hard drives that takes place as a scheduled task since at least Windows 7, possibly even Vista (didn't use Vista enough to remember). There shouldn't be much file fragmentation to need to sort out, if any at all, and are you really going to gain anything from consolidating the free space of your drive?

Most folks have enough free space that finding contiguous blocks to write entire files to, even large ones, isn't an issue for the file system in Windows, so even with messy free space, just browsing the web should smooth out the smaller holes as small files are written to the browser cache.

I wouldn't spend much time with 3rd party defragmenting software, and I also wouldn't go and perform a bunch of defragmenting on drives that otherwise don't need it. Defragmenting forces your drive to run at 100% duty cycle, and most consumer hard drives aren't rated for that long term. Once the files themselves are defragmented, there is little else you can do to improve things other than the physical placement of the files on the drive, and the return there isn't usually worth the cost.

Defragmenting drives hasn't been of significant importance since before SATA became a standard, when drives were slow enough that the placement of the data on the drive could make minor performance benefits, and folks still worried about data interleaving. What's more, defragmenting an SSD, something you now find commonly employed as the OS drive, only serves to use up write cycles to the cells, since seek time is pretty close to a constant across an SSD.

Those things all sound pretty harmless to the boot process. I agree that it seems unlikely your Steam controller would be contributing to the issue. I would however try the boot process with no USB devices installed, at least once, since there really doesn't seem to be a definite cause yet. That is generally a very easy means of ruling a large swatch of peripherals out as the cause of problems.

Having external drives that are USB, the BIOS may be waiting for each drive to spin up before proceeding, and drive spin-up time can increase with age. Also, depending on which drives were attached to the system when you installed Windows, you could unfortunately have important boot information stored on a drive other than your primary. If the drive the boot information is on for any reason isn't coming up as fast as the boot drive, you're going to be waiting, or face a non-bootable system.
 

terry4536

Glorious
Herald
I agree that defragging your hard drives shouldn't take very long if they are scheduled to defrag on a weekly basis. You can check the scheduled events for your drives to see if they are being defragged and optimized on a routine basis. If they aren't, then something is wrong in that operation. A large hard drive can take a long time to defrag (if it has been a while since it was performed).

Also, check your update history for updates at the time period when your system slowed down. If a solution hasn't presented itself, then rolling back those particular updates may fix your problem (the updates can always be reapplied).
 

terry4536

Glorious
Herald
Another thing that you can check (when you are actively having this problem) is the task manager. Anything that is running in the background and slowing the system should show up on the task manager. It will show up as using a lot of CPU or memory resources. If an app is running in the background when you are having this problem, you can highlight the app in task manager and select End Task to stop it. If you try this shut down as many things as you can.
 

LetoAtreidesII

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All my internal hard drives are perfect according to HDTune. First system drive, second system drive, and third hard drive (storage) are all OK all the way down the board for Health, and a full error scan for all three revealed nothing but green squares. That matches up with the results from WD Data Lifeguard diagnostics.

I ran into some issues with my flash drive being recognized by front USB ports so my RAM test has been held up. I did find a way to get it to work, but it also prevents windows from starting if the drive is plugged in. This doesn't prevent me from running memtest, but it makes it difficult so it's going to take a while.


I'm actually a somewhat advanced user so you don't have to explain basic concepts like virtual memory or task manager.


Possible but unlikely the way I run my system. Also, the exact same problems started on both Windows installs at the same time, so it's unlikely to be a driver issue, though it could still be a BIOS issue. I guess it's still worth a shot so I'll do it if I get around to it.

There's a day coming up next week or the week after that I HAVE to do the motherboard swap in or not at all until the next window 5-6 weeks later, so if I don't have time to mess with the BIOS before then, it's not happening. Think of it like I'm living on a space station and with a supply/maintenance ship that comes around every 5-6 weeks. All repairs/resupply have to happen when that ship docks. It's sort of like that with me.


It was initially done to help transition to 64 bit (I started out with 32 bit windows on this system) but with the intention of doing both. But I still use my 32 bit boot for many critical tasks. First, I have some games that don't function properly on my 64 bit install but which do work right on my 32 bit.

More importantly, I do all my video encoding on virtualdub on my 32 bit drive since you can't get the DivX codec for virtualdub anymore. I know there are "better" programs and/or codecs for doing that but I prefer to stick with what I'm familiar with. If you know of a way to transfer my virtualdub DivX codec from my 32 bit install to my 64 bit install, though, I would love to know because this is what I use my 32 bit install for most often.

And finally, there are some programs/drivers that I never installed on my 64 bit install that I use rarely but which are critical when I need them - MS Office and my printer drivers. I could theoretically install them, but I've been too busy/lazy to do so for something I rarely use, and I'm probably building a new system this Fall anyway (or whenever the video card shortage ends).



I could get one but I'll have to eventually replace it, so it would be a waste. I have 3 internal drives atm and 4 external drives (three connected atm, disconnected 4th one temporarily when this problem started) and I'm barely squeezing by. Any drive I have takes the place of another potential drive. So every drive has to pull its weight. 250GB is pathetically little for my storage needs. 500 GB would be my bare minimum for a functional drive of any kind.

While I could add a 250 GB SSD to my current setup, when I build my new system later this year (or whenever the cryptocurrency video card shortage ends), the 250 GB SSD would have no place in it. From my brief survey of them, most new motherboards only have space for 6 SATA drives (and one or more M.2 slots which I refuse to use, see below). Motherboards with more SATA slots exist but they're out of my price range.

Any system I use needs a minimum of 3x optical drives and 3x internal hard drives. I need 3 optical drives because I need 1 blu-ray drive, 1 clean dvd-rw drive and 1 dirty dvd-rw drive. I would prefer more than 3 internal hard drives, but 3 can do if they're big enough. 250GB is not big enough, and I want more HD space in my next build, not less.

If a hard drive is taking up space in my case, using up a SATA slot, and is sucking up wattage from my PSU, it has to pull its weight in terms of storage. I can't compensate for it by making the other drives bigger. No matter what, it's 250-350GB less storage than I would have otherwise.

Plus, 250 GB isn't enough even just to put the stuff I need high performance from - OS, page file, games. One game could easily be like 50-80 gigs, though most are less. I'm a person who like to play a lot of different games at the same time. Currently, I'm playing an MMO, several multiplayer games, and several single player games. All that easily exceeds 250 gigs. I do a lot of video recording too. And when I run out of space on my other hard drives and I need to record more stuff before I get a chance to encode it, I like to have 100-200 gigs of spare space on my system drive to do additional recording.

I refuse to use M.2 right now, because I don't like how fragile they look. The precious and priceless data on a drive is way too important to trust to something so frail. It's like a RAM chip. But if you break a RAM chip, it's no big deal. If you break an HD, it could be the end of the world if you don't have all your data backed up. A clean Windows install takes me 5-12+ months to recover from. So unless I have an exact clone of my HD somewhere, it would set me back 5-12 months. I would only consider using an M.2 SSD if they encase it in something protective. Even some RAM chips have better protection than those M.2 SSD's do. My current motherboard has no M.2 support anyway so getting a temporary M.2 drive isn't even possible.

There's no getting around it - my next system build has no room for a 250 GB SSD. It has to be 500-600 GB with 2 additional standard hard drives supplementing it. So I could get a 250 GB SSD for temporary use now, but it would be useless in my new system. Waste of money.





I have all scheduled and automated tasks disabled. It's one of the first things I do when I install Windows or any program. Why? Because I'm a gamer and I play at all sorts of odd unpredictable hours. Honestly, IMO everyone should disable all automated updates and scheduled tasks when they first get a new computer unless they don't use it to play games. I'm still peeved at all the guys who wiped our group or raid because their computer suddenly "froze" or starting "lagging." It often ends up being because their auto update or some other scheduled BS kicked in. I hate those people so much and I will never be one of those people.

I used to be pretty good about keeping all my programs and drivers updated, but I've lapsed a bit since I suffered an injury a few months ago that seriously disrupted my routine. I don't think this is an outdated driver issue though, and I just did a windows update.

And thanks, I didn't realize that SATA reduced the importance of defragging. Occasionally my knowledge might be outdated. I guess I was stuck in an IDE frame of mind.

I did no updates around the time this problem started occurring. As mentioned, all updates are done manually.



I'll try that, but it'll have to wait until my maintenance window coming up. Does this include disconnecting my keyboard and mouse? It's been a while so I've forgotten, but I don't think a system will even boot without at least a keyboard attached.



I'm extremely conscious of processes, TSR's (old term), and task manager. I obsessively monitor my task manager to the point that I can pretty much recognize any process that shouldn't be there on site. I have always very rigorously streamlined every process on my system. I run msconfig and services.msc constantly (always after installing any new program or updating a driver) to make sure that no process is running that I'm not aware of.

The reason I run such a tight ship is because until about 2 years ago I ran 32 bit Windows 7 exclusively and I had to be extremely frugal with my limited memory. Now that I'm running 64 bit Windows 7, I'm not handicapped with the 4 gig RAM ceiling and I can afford to let some more TSR's run. But I still keep things very tight. Old habits die hard.
 

terry4536

Glorious
Herald


The recommendation of the 250 GB SSD is primarily for the operating system and the most used software. Other software, data, and games can reside on the other drives. It offers a much faster boot up. But if you prefer hard drives, there is also the hybrid hard drive. But I think you would be better served by the SSD.

I know of no method to transfer software installed on an operating system to another other than reinstalling the software. I would like that option too.

I think that much of the problem could be fixed with updating the BIOS and doing a Repair Upgrade using your Win 7 installation disc. That will clear up anything corrupted in the BIOS and anything corrupted in the Windows system files. A fresh install of the operating system (along with all of programs) is the ultimate fix, but it is also the most time consuming.
 

LetoAtreidesII

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I tried flashing my BIOS. Didn't fix it. I also tried unplugging all USB devices except my mouse and keyboard. Also no effect. I'm not going to try a repair upgrade of Windows at the present time. I basically already have two separate installations of Windows and this same issue started happening on both at the same time. So I think it's extremely unlikely it's a Windows/driver corruption issue.



This is what I've been hearing for years, and I've been trying to explain why that doesn't work for me. My main point was that I'm going to be getting a 500-600 GB SSD soon anyway; a 250 GB SSD would be a temporary thing I'll throw aside to collect dust in several months.

I basically fill my PC with the maximum number of hard drives after the three mandatory optical drives. So if I get a 250 GB SSD insteaed of 500-600 GB, it's still 250-350 GB less total space I'll have no matter how you slice it. Even if my other drives are bigger, it doesn't change the fact that if my SSD were 250-350 GB bigger, I would have 250-350 GB more space.

Also, ALL of my games must go on my highest performance drive. I'm not going to pick and choose which games get a huge load time boost and which don't. Every single game I'm actively playing right now is on my 500 GB velociraptor and it's a bit too small for comfort - and you want to take 250 GB away from that.

Anyway, I've already ordered a replacement motherboard and an SSD - not the garbage 250 GB SSD you recommended but a 1 TB SSD. It'll be the SSD I use for my new build and it'll be easier to transfer files if I put it in now.
 

LetoAtreidesII

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FYI I swapped out my motherboard about two weeks ago and it solved ALL of my problems. I appreciate the time and effort everyone spent trying to help me but, honestly, I'm glad I didn't waste more time and resources on pointless diagnostic steps when my first hunch was 100% on the ball. It is also somewhat disappointing that all the knowledge and wisdom here didn't so much as suspect what the real problem was when I did.
 

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