It’s the new year, which must mean it’s time for all our PCs to go belly up.

Or so it seemed to me in the past couple of weeks. I thought the tale of these three systems is worth telling, as a lesson in recognizing and solving different types of PC problems. Perhaps you’ll see something of your own PC troubles in this, but even if you don’t, there are still lessons to be learned.

We’ll begin this with the story of my daughter’s ever-slowing Vista system.

The Tale of the Clogged PC

This past weekend, I’d decided it was time to nuke my daughter’s system from orbit. It was the only way to be sure.



Emily’s been running a fairly decent, though not bleeding edge system. Core components include an Intel QX6850, Asus P5Q3 Deluxe motherboard and an older 512MB Radeon HD 4870. Over the past couple of months, the system had begun running slower than molasses.

Emily is a fairly typical teenage girl when it comes to PC use. She uses the web heavily, and happily downloads anything she thinks she might like. She is, however, more tech savvy than most teenage girls, so she doesn’t do really stupid stuff, like open phishing emails. However, she’s a happy user of WildTangent games, likes to have the Weather Channel bug running (ugh, I say), and related sorts of gimmickry that can act as brakes on a fast system.

Recently, though, her system had been really dragging – so much so, that she’d given up on using it, and was using the communal living room laptop to do her homework and even run some light games. (I confess: I got her hooked on Torchlight.)

It all began several months back, when Emily began complaining that her system was glitchy. At the time, it was running Windows XP. I’d built the system about eighteen months ago, and it had been running reasonably well. I’d never been entirely happy with the QX6850, though. Even with a beefy Scythe Ninja cooler, the CPU typically idled at 58 degrees C. The QX6850 ran at 3GHz, but was built with the same 65nm process technology used in the original Conroe CPUs.

So I did something that, in retrospect, planted the seeds of bigger problems to come: I thought it would be a good idea to perform an in-place upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista.

Lessons Learned, The First Round


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  • pkoi - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    too strange , did you repeat that? backward ? Reply
  • nicknomo - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I looked at computer #1, and I don't quite understand why you did any of that. That computer you had is far superior than anything I'm using.. The problems your daughter was having was in no way related to any of the solutions. Why not just try a repair installation of XP if you really wanted to fix the issue? Vista sure wasn't going to help at all. The hardware upgrades seem excessive, especially considering you were using pretty recent hardware to begin with.

    I'm not really in disagreement with the "what I learned" part of it. Yes, check your BIOS... don't do an in place upgrade if you can avoid it.. but, the lessons don't go with the problem..
  • loydcase - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Well, you have an interesting point. I should have probably kept her on XP until it was time to move to Win7. Maybe I should add that to my "lessons learned." ;-) Reply
  • ssj4Gogeta - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Or you could just have done a fresh Vista install. Reply
  • mackintire - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Because that machine eats a ton of electricity at idle and acts like a portable space heater.

    I ran away from that processor for almost the same reasons. Windows 7 would have been a much smarter choice, but I know better than to trust a upgrade install when the OS has been used for that long. Going over the machine with something like Revo uninstaller and removing everything un-necessary would have been a good idea too.
  • Spivonious - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I agree. My best system at home is an E6600 with an HD3850. It runs everything I throw at it and Win7 is smooth as butter.

    Some more thorough spyware scans would have been the proper solution.
  • jigglywiggly - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    That system was great, infact almost better than my pc and it's blazing fast. Go put a cup of Debian or even Ubuntu if you want it to never get slow as hell. Hell even windows 7 runs fine on it.

    BTW I have a qx6700 oc'd at 3.6 ghz, I have no idea why you guys can't oc that qx6850 more. Mine is intel's first quadcore. Though it's a thermalright ultra 120x with 2 110cfm on it.
  • Calin - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Debian or Ubuntu is not compatible with all the software his daughter was using ("anything she might think she will like")

    Overclocking everything will make the system at most twice as fast. This is great when moving from 20 fps in a game to 40 fps, but it's no good when moving from an application start time of 40 seconds to an application start time of 20 seconds.
    Even more, most of the performance problems I imagine it was having were related to frequent disk accesses, and overclocking will do nothing for this.
  • leexgx - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    its the disk subsystem that takes the bashing under Vista some HDDs handle it well most do not (find Hitachi HDDs work well under High random access loads), disabling Superfetch can fix the issue at boot as superfetch does not care about I/O priorty under vista (that was fixed under win7), system restore not that i recommend to turn that off but that can help some times Reply
  • leexgx - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    the permanent fix is an SSD for Vista due to its heavy disk loads ultimately Reply

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