A 36 hour defragging saga

I ran into an issue with my Windows XP Pro machine slowing down.

I was talking with Bruce Arnold at the September meeting and he reminded me of doing a defrag.

The computer is a trusty Pentium III 800 megahertz with 512 meg of RAM (max it can take). It once had Windows 98 SE installed when new and was upgraded to XP Pro years ago. Its main purpose is for light MS Office tasks, communications (Pidgin, Skype, FireFox), and local server software hosting for development.

In addition to the slowness, the computer rebooted itself a few times over the last 60 days. Twice on Saturday. One time in August it happened while I was out. I though a power outage, but all other computers were running and clocks were not in need of resetting. I brushed the event to a memory loss – mine.

I noticed several months back more frequent hard drive sounds than normal. I also had brief seconds long delays where the GUI would not refresh the results of mouse and keyboard interactions. Those delays seemed to becoming more frequent and longer.

I did a defrag a while back but did not turn off some background server services such as Flash Media Server, Coldfusion server and Windows Internet Information Server. Some of these, in particular ColdFusion have some large files associated with the active program. Defrag seems to not want to defrag programs that are running. This time I took the time to go into services and shut these down.

I also shut down Skype, Gaim, Quicktime and any other program that seemed to be running.

I noticed also I only had 20% of a 30 gig hard drive remaining. I looked around for files I could delete or move to the second 250 gig hard drive. I managed to free up 40% in this process. In one case I changed the place certain programs stored their data to the second drive. During one copy process the computer rebooted.

While I was at the HCC club meeting the computer rebooted on its own and was in a disk error checking when I arrived back. This process took about 4 hours and came up with a list of corrections such as lost chains but also a few unrecoverable errors.

Still I started the defrag on Saturday 5pm it finished on Sunday 12 noon.
The defrag still refused to defrag the Coldfusion 290meg executable file. However later I moved the file off and back on to the hard drive.

After all of this I decided to review the event log. There I found new messages cropping up about the time the performance started changing.

They were under System events and had atapi as the source which means the hard disk controller. The event ID is 9 and reads “The device, \Device\Ide\IdePort0, did not respond within the timeout period.” The other error is as warning and event ID 51 which reads “An error was detected on device \Device\Harddisk0\D during a paging operation.”

The frequency of these messages in the event viewer was high on Friday and Saturday. A few on Sunday before I clean up the drive a bit more.

There were also was one day in August that had a number and about 10 days in the last three months with these events appearing from 6 to 20 times during the day.

I will watch them to see if the continue to repeat. Probably partly due to they are on my sensory radar screen. However they seem less frequent and less vigorous.
End result is better performance after a day of use.
After mouse and keyboard input, the GUI refresh delays appear abated.

Still notice those hard drive sounds.

So got my fingers crossed that the problem was Windows XP not being able to deal with the HD fast enough because of the 80% full state of a drive that did need defragging.

Lon Hosford

One thought on “A 36 hour defragging saga”

  1. I have had nightmares on my fragmentation infested drives, which had no free space left on them. I think its human nature to keep storing stuff, everything thats needed and not needed until the drive gets choked. From my experience i have learnt not to procrastinate on drive maintenance, and to adopt a prevention is better than cure approach for fragmentation.

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