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Optiplex 320 slow for no apparent reason

  • Hi,

    I have an Optiplex 320, circa late 2006, with a 3Ghz Pentium 4 531 w/HT processor, integrated ATI Radeon Xpress 1100 video, 512MB 533Mhz RAM, Windows XP Professional SP2.

    All the latest Windows Updates have been applied, as well as the Dell Downloads for the video card and chipset. The virus protection is up to date, and it is virus free.

    The problem is that the PC will for no apparent reason run very slowly or sometimes freeze for a few seconds. Nothing else is running on the PC at the time. I could be trying to do something simple like Start / All Programs, or right click on My Computer / Properties, with nothing else running, and all of a sudden the PC will freeze up. During this time, Task Manager will show no CPU activity (System Idle Process at 99%).

    I suspected the ATI video driver because I've heard of problems with the Radeon Xpress 1100, so I updated it to the latest version available on the Dell web site. No change. I'm curious as to why the release date of the driver is 9/10/2007, but after the install the driver files are dated 7/27/07 version 8.401.0.0. Perhaps I should remove the driver, reboot, and then install? The instructions do not mention this. Also, am I correct in suspecting the video driver as a cause for the system freezing up?

    I'm at a total loss. Anybody have any ideas?

    Is there any diagnostic software that would help me determine a cause for the freezeups?

    Thanks in advance.

    Message Edited by danmb on 11-27-2007 06:43 AM
  • danmb,
     
    Does this happen if you run the computer in Safe Mode? 
     
    Steve
  • I haven't tried it in safe mode. Let's suppose it didn't happen in safe mode. What does that tell me?
  • danmb,
     
    If the system performance is OK in Safe Mode, that will tell you that there is nothing wrong with the hardware in your computer.  It will also tell you that there is something (or more than one thing) loading in normal Windows which is causing Windows to run slow.  Even though the system is fully updated with Windows and Anti Virus updates, other types of programs such as spyware, trojans, hijackers, adware, keyloggers, etc... could still be infecting your system.  There are a number of good, free programs available which can clean these infections from your system.  Spybot Search&Destroy from PepiMK software, AdAware from Lavasoft, AVG AntiSpyware from Grisoft are just a few.  These can be downloaded from www.download.com and are completely free for personal use.
     
    Steve
  • I have pretty much the same problem with the same model Optiplex (circa Oct 2007). Hardware diagnostics reveal no issues. There's no speed advantage to running in Safe Mode. Anti-spyware scans revealed nothing. Also, this machine has pretty much run this way right out of the box (with Win XP SP2 pre-installed by Dell).

    Now I had some luck by running a defragmenter (JKDefrag -a 7) where the system 'sped up'. I thought I had the problem licked at least temporarily until significantly more files were added.

    But then there was a power outage and the system came crashing down hard. On the next boot up, the system blue screened. Turned out that the ATI driver was corrupted. Reinstalling brought the system back up, but now it was slow like it was before. How weird is that?

    I'm currently trying to re-run the optimized defrag (jkdefrag.exe -a 7) to see what happens. I'll reply to this thread when I have an update.

    _KJH
  • I hit jackpot!!

    I had a hunch that the hard drive was the bottleneck, so I ran HD Tune and found that I was barely getting above 2MB/s transfer speeds. Well that's the problem right there! A quick check in the BIOS showed that there was nothing that could be adjusted there for the HD speed, so it had to be something to do with the OS. Could it really be drivers missing? Sure enough, after installing the South Bridge Chipset drivers from support.dell.com, my 320 was running like a cheetah.

    I also can't believe this was the solution. How come these drivers weren't pre-installed with the OS?? Anyway, sometimes the simple questions are the ones you should ask first.
  • Hi,
     
    Thank you for your reply.
     
    By "South Bridge Chipset drivers", are you referring to
     
    ATI SMBus
     
    Driver
     
    Release Title: Chip Set: ATI SMBus, Driver, Windows XP, Multi Language, OptiPlex 320, v.5.10.1000.6, A01
    Release Date: 11/6/2006
    Criticality: Urgent
    Description: ATI SMBus INF
    File Name File Size Download Time (56K) File Format
    R134873.EXE
     
    Thanks...

  • danmb wrote:
    Hi,
    Thank you for your reply.
    By "South Bridge Chipset drivers", are you referring to
    ATI SMBus



    Yup.
  • I saw this update and installed it awhile back. Just in case I installed it again. Didn't make much of a difference.
     
    Hey, got a question for you. This system has a Pentium 4 with HT. But when I run the Hyper-Threading Technology Test Utility, http://www.intel.com/support/processors/tools/htu/, I get this:
     
    Hyper-Threading Technology Test Utility
    Version: 1.9
    Time: 2008-01-04 15:15:32 GMT
    Validation Key: 04012008HT1.9-0F92-7A93-9E35

    ADVISORY! The Hyper-Threading Technology Test Utility
    was unable to identify if all the core components are
    present, turned on or functional in this system.

    Without all required components, Hyper-Threading
    Technology is not fully enabled.

    Processor test: Passed
    Chipset test: Did not pass
    BIOS test: Did not pass

    Please contact your PC system manufacturer or vendor
    where you purchased your computer system
    if you expected it to be enabled with Hyper-Threading
    Technology.

    ======
     
    I'm curious, what do you get when you run this?

     


  • kjhosein wrote:
    I hit jackpot!!

    I had a hunch that the hard drive was the bottleneck, so I ran HD Tune and found that I was barely getting above 2MB/s transfer speeds. Well that's the problem right there! A quick check in the BIOS showed that there was nothing that could be adjusted there for the HD speed, so it had to be something to do with the OS. Could it really be drivers missing? Sure enough, after installing the South Bridge Chipset drivers from support.dell.com, my 320 was running like a cheetah.

    I also can't believe this was the solution. How come these drivers weren't pre-installed with the OS?? Anyway, sometimes the simple questions are the ones you should ask first.




    Dang it, I spoke too soon. No sooner had I rebooted than I was back to square one. Multiple attempts to reapply that driver and some newer ones from ATI failed. I ended up calling Dell to see if they had any other ideas. At this point, I had unfortunately dismissed hardware as the problem as all of the diagnostics came up empty, including a 12 hour run of memtest.

    Here's what did work and across multiple reboots - I took out a stick of memory (the 320 had 2x1GB in the 2 slots). Any permutation of 1 stick of memory in any slot gets the machine to its normal working condition with the drive transferring up to 70+ MB/s. Yes! As the machine is under warranty, Dell is replacing both motherboard and RAM, as those tests don't prove conclusively whether the memory and/or mobo is to blame.
  • I don't understand. Dell is replacing the motherboard??? Did they say why? Is this a general fault with all Optiplex 320's, or just yours? It's very unusual for Dell to just up and change a motherboard like that.... My system is just out of warranty (by about a month)... The only way I would get a motherboard replaced is if Dell admitted to a defect..


  • danmb wrote:
    I don't understand. Dell is replacing the motherboard??? Did they say why? Is this a general fault with all Optiplex 320's, or just yours? It's very unusual for Dell to just up and change a motherboard like that.... My system is just out of warranty (by about a month)... The only way I would get a motherboard replaced is if Dell admitted to a defect..





    It was for the reasons I stated before. The tests pointed to an issue with the hardware. I ran through a laundry list of tests and spent over an hour on the phone with Dell support before they drew that conclusion. So in fairness, they didn't just 'up and change it'. Hardware does fail and this is one of the instances.

    I doubt it's a hw defect that exists in all 320s or those mobos, but I don't know that for a fact.
  • It was the video card driver!!!!

    I had suspected it early on. Don't use the ATI driver on the Dell web site. Instead go to ATI and get the drivers for the Radeon Xpress 1100 there: http://ati.amd.com/support/driver.HTML . It's listed under Integrated/Motherboard.

    Be sure to remove the existing driver first - there should be an ATI removal tool listed in Add/Remove programs. Then reboot and allow it to detect the hardware, then reboot again, then install the new ATI driver.

    The difference in performance is absolutely amazing.