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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  • semo - Sunday, January 17, 2010 - link

    i think i have a similar issue with a studio 1557. i can't get the i7 to work at its rated 1.6GHz freq. it stays at 900MHz even with 1 to 8 instances of cpu burn in running (and speed step enabled or disabled).

    that's what we get for feeling confident about today's technology and living on the edge. And this DDR 3 compatibility issue sounds scary (hope it doesn't affect laptops too)
  • AstroGuardian - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    That serves you right for buying that Dell crap.

    Just a little joke mate, no hard feelings. I support your effort in making the issue public and forcing Dell to take action and deliver what you payed for.

    Thumbs up!
  • SlyNine - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    The computer could be perfect too, thats the really crappy thing about all this.

    It just needed a bigger PSU, under battery power it runs at full speed.
  • ezero - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    On the 2nd system you said "How anyone can keep track of which modules run well on which motherboards at this point in time is a mystery."

    You can easily track which modules runs well by checking the motherboard's Qualified Vendor List for memory modules.

    For example, the P7P55D's list can be found at"> and clicking on the Memory Support List tab.
  • Bertus - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    My experience with the QVL is different. I have an Asus Formula Rampage board with the latest bios, and I have bought that board to try and run a (amongst others) memory overclock on. All the memory that was on the QVL that was certified for better-than-normal memory timings and frequencies was either only obtainable in Asia or end-of-life. The QVL was never updated since.

    After trying several sets of matched pair memory modules from OCZ (Reaper) and Kingston, the results were:
    - post only with 1 module inserted
    - would not post with 2 modules, not even with DDR2-800 standard settings

    I gave up and bought a pair of standard DDR2-800 value edition. Works just fine.

    Bottom line is: QVL is not always helpful.
  • mackintire - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Installed the latest BIOS update, tweaked the memory as recommended, ran memtest. Booted up and everything is great.

    Granted with BIOS 903 I had a couple memory related issues.
  • camylarde - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    seconding that Reply
  • Peroxyde - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    Emily's computer issues could be fixed without even opening the case. Install Linux, start with Ubuntu, it is easier to begin with. Emily is computer savvy. She will figure out how to use Linux in no time. At least my daughter did.

    Once Linux installed, the computer will be blazing fast, no antivirus, no anti spyware needed. You will ever again do any cleaning of crap and bloatware. After a while, you will realize that your own machines need more care than Emily's computer, then may be you will consider yourself also switching to Linux.
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    If he wanted to make sure his daughter never used the computer again for anything, installing Linux on it would be a good way to accomplish that goal.

    "Slightly more computer savvy than the average teenage girl" does not translate into "enthusiast PC user with an interest in *nix OSes."
  • cfaalm - Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - link

    I'll agree we can forego opening the case. Why do we want to saddle up Emily with Linux? I have an Ubuntu install on one of our old laptops and I like it, but XP is OK. I'll agree that w7 > XP. It also depends on you budget and situation. Some stuff that I use won't work on w7-64 and I'd hate to upgrade to w7-32.

    When my PC messes up (it seldom does without my own stupidity involved) I restore an activated XPSP3 up to a certain date with no software, just OS, mobo and graphics driver. That's still the best way do deal with a real mess.

    Next step is installing my software again: a good way to select what you really need. The only downside is that I don't know how to save settings and preferences for every app before the reinstall, some have UIs for that, others don't. Templates are not to be stored on C:

    All it takes is some preparation. Store your apps in a convenient manner and place e.g. bunch of .iso-files on an external USB drive.

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