Reader Needs Help With New Dell System Running Slowly

Hi, everybody. I did this once before when a reader had an HP system he had just bought that was running slow. The response was great and we were able to get the user up and running with a big boost in performance. Paul now needs our help so please post any helpful hints you may have.

Hi Ron,

Last week I purchased a DELL Inspiron 6400. The spec is:

  • Core 2 Duo T5600 (1.83GHz, 667MHz FSB 2MB L2)
  • 1024Mb (2×512) 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM
  • 120Gb Hard Drive (only 15Gb free now)
  • 256Mb NVIDIA Ge Force Go 7300 Turbo Cache
  • Vista Home Premium.

I am very disappointed with the performance of this machine, it often freezes or runs very slowly when switching between applications, the 3D switching option in Vista usually takes ages to come up. I am running Office 2007 – Word, Excel, Outlook, and also use Mozilla Firefox and Adobe Photoshop regularly, not all at the same time but two or three together.

Also Vista is sometimes incredibly slow. To bring up things like the control panel, the icons appear one by one, also sometimes when I’m looking through a document folder the icons again appear slowly as this annoying task bar ticks slowly across! Is there any way to get rid of that thing? Same thing when I open my computer icon – very slow indeed.

My Vista performance index is given as 3.1, due to the graphics card, and the other things are between 3.5-4.1. I have taken off a lot of the crap that came with the computer, like McAfee, and installed avast anti-virus instead (works well); I stopped lots of the programs that were running on start-up with autoruns.

I was wondering what you would recommend to get this machine running better, as I’m sure it should be able to. It cost £600 ($1188), which is quite a lot more than the cheapest out there so i thought I would get pretty good performance. I could by 2×1Gb 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM from Crucial for £58 which I am prepared to do if you think it would help significantly, and from this post it seems 2Gb is optimal. Do you think the RAM is probably the biggest issue, or the graphics card which has 128Mb shared and 128Mb designated memory? Will increasing the RAM help the graphics card in the 128Mb that are shared with RAM? Also, will getting 667MHz RAM make a big difference compared to 533Mhz? Finally, do you think having only 15Gb free on the hard drive is a problem?

Sorry for the long post but I’m really lost on this and would really appreciate your help.

Regards,

Paul

Hi Paul,

My first thought is to definitely kick up the RAM to 2G. Vista is a resource hog and running programs such as Office and Photoshop should perform better as well. I would venture a guess you are running out of physical memory and your system is then disk swapping, which will slow any system to a crawl.

It also seems you have a lot of stuff on the hard disk. The more stuff you have, the slower the performance will be. That’s just life. You may wish to consider transferring some of your treasures over to CD or DVD to free up some space. But this is purely a judgment call.

553 vs 667 won’t make that much difference, IMO.

Hopefully some of the other readers will have some ideas as well. Hope this helps.

Comments welcome, as always.

(Side note – it may take a while to get the comments posted. My wife and I are flying to CT on Friday morning and hopefully by Friday evening will be enjoying some of that great New England lobster and shrimp!)

[tags]dell, system, reader, help, slow performance, [/tags]

Article Written by

I have been writing for LockerGnome since relocating to Missouri seven years ago, where I continue to be a technology enthusiast who enjoys playing with the newest and latest gadgets.

  • marc klink

    Things I would do, in order: Move to 2GB memory immediately. Check what the rpm of the drive you have is, and the cache on it. Decide if it is 5400 rpm, do you want to sacrifice battery life for a faster drive? If so get a 7200 rpm drive with 8MB cache, since you seem to have lots of stuff to carry, get one of the new 160GB or 200GB drives, which leaves you some breathing room [My rule of thumb has always been when you NEED to occupy more than 50% of the drive, it's time to get a new, bigger one.] Put the 120GB you now have in a 2.5″ enclosure, which you can plug in at any time you need to [usb powered]. If possible turn off the turbo cache feature in the BIOS, allotting 256 MB memory permanently to video. Install Vista on the new drive, and set a permanent 2GB swapfile. [See the control panel system applet to do this], get a good defrag program [Auslogics is free, and good] and use it religiously.

    Beyond that, remember that a laptop will always be slower [with the same speed CPU] than a desktop. Anything you can do to mitigate this helps, such as turning off the power saving features in BIOS, if you need speed more than battery longevity.

  • http://none Joey

    Ron & Paul,

    I will bet that the problem is with the nVidia driver. I have almost the same system, though an HP/AMD/6100 series Vcard (almost the same drivers as well), and have found that nVidia has not gotten the Vista drivers right as of yet. {It reminds me of the old days when we first went from WinNT4 to Win2k to WinXP — yes, I’ve been around awhile. } My system currently flashes, locks-up, freezes, slowly draws icons & graphics, …; and it took a new widg…, oops, I mean gadget called Multi Meter to accurately show me that it is not a RAM or Processor (either core) issue {not to mention that Events Viewer did not log an error upon crashing (or other issues mentioned above). Being a heavy Office 2007, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, & Firefox user — this situation does not bode well at all. Also, the latest driver from nVidia did not help my situation at all (in fact it got worse & had to reinstall — roll-back didn’t work). I guess we will just have to wait till nVidia gets it right (as we did for Win2k & WinXP). I know this news doesn’t help much, but I hope it relieves some of your stress about it.

    Joey
    MCSE & IT Instructor

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

    Hi Marc,
    Thanks for the reply.
    Ron

  • http://www.dell.com Marco@Dell

    Hi Paul,

    Congratulations on your new system purchase! I will start by saying I do not work in Dell tech support, but I do have some suggestions that you may find helpful.

    First: Ron’s suggestion about upgrading to 2GB of RAM is probably your best bet especially when using a TurboCache graphics card. I upgraded from a Vista machine running 1GB to 2GB and it made a significant difference. You probably wont “feel” much from 533MHz to 667MHz, but there is a slight improvement there as well. If the price is not too much more from 533MHz memory to 667MHz I would recommend upgrading to the 667MHz.

    Next: Windows Vista has a really neat feature that allows you to use a USB memory stick as a sort of “cache” memory. Just plug a USB memory stick into the USB port and Vista will ask you if you want to enable this feature. Doing this will increase load times for your applications.

    As for your 15GB free hard drive space, this should not be a problem “yet” but it will be as you get closer to filling it up completely as Vista will not have space to use the page file when your system memory is maxed out resulting in decreased performance. Try to leave at least the 15GB or more free and defragment your hard drive frequently (Start->Programs->Accessories->System Tools->Disk Defragmenter).

    Now a few other tips: Anytime you have a new operating system it takes some time for it to begin to adapt to your usage. You’ve had it for a week so you’re probably in the clear but it may be good to leave the system on without using it for a few hours for the OS to perform its background tasks and optimizations. Open each application you will be using at least once so that they open faster next time you use them.
    Update Vista with the latest patches and drivers using Windows Update (http://update.microsoft.com/windowsupdate/v6/default.aspx?ln=en-us). Do this several times until you have all updates.
    Your Dell component drivers should be fairly current, but check back frequently on http://support.dell.com for driver updates.

    Lastly: You can disable some of the visual features of Vista to increase performance. For example you can disable the Windows Sidebar by right clicking on the sidebar and selecting the “close sidebar” option. You may also choose which visual elements you would like to disable or select the “adjust for best performance” option that can be found by right clicking on My Computer, select Properties, then Advanced system settings, then Performance settings. Perhaps not the best option since the Vista interface is one of the coolest things about it but it may help.

    I hope some of this helps. Best of luck!
    -Marco

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

    Hi Joey,
    Interesting. Thanks for letting us know about the NVidia problem.
    Thanks again, Ron

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

    Hi Marco,
    Thanks for dropping by and sharing your experience as well. It is good to see a Dell rep. adding to the conversation and helping Paul with his problem.
    Ron .

  • http://direct2dell.com/ Marco@Dell

    Happy to help. I’ll try to check back to see how everything goes with Paul’s issue.

    Oh and sorry for the long post before…lots to consider ;-)

    -Marco

  • http://fractalbeanstalk.blogspot.com/ Tim Hodkinson

    Paul, my advice is to just take it back to the place you bought it and get your money back. Then you can spend your time shopping for a laptop that works instead of trying to fix, what to me is, a defective system. If you bought a TV, or a car, or a can opener, and it had problems like this wouldn’t you return it?

    I can see adding ram or making other upgrades to increase performance, but I think this system is just a bad design to start with. If a brand new computer can be fixed, then it’s broken.

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

    Hi,
    Thanks for the comments.
    Ron

  • http://livecdlist.com SeniorFixer

    The FREE fix:
    install Mepis Linux, http://www.mepis.org on 10Gb of that drive, or in another installed drive.

    Moderate cost: get XP

    most cost: increase RAM to the 2GB minimum needed to even try to run that bloated resource HOG, Vista! Still, will run about 20% S L O W E R than XP!

    I wager that Linux runs upto 50X faster in most processes, per all the benchmark testing in the press, since 1999! Minimum reported was 5X faster Linux, in PC Gamer shootout testing in Quake III.

  • Wayne Whitfield

    Hey Marco,
    Mike is that you.
    I agree with Tim. No way would I stand for a new machine I paid that much $ for to be defective. Mike, I mean Marco, gave upgrading advice on a brand new mahine and For $1188 you shouldn’t have to do that. You should TRY to return it. Good luck with that. I think your nitemare is just beginning.
    Cut and run!

  • Paul Austin

    Hi Ron,

    Firstly thanks to everyone who replied to my post, its great to get help from people to know what there talking about. I have decided I will order the extra RAM and move to 2Gb, that seems to be the consensus opinion. I’ll let you know once the outcome. I will also wait with baited breath for a new video driver from nVidia, as it seems that could be a problem there, thanks Joey.

    I had a little play around with Vista and changing to Windows Vista Basic instead of aero made a huge difference in performance, which is a shame because I like the look of aero! Anyway maybe once I have 2Gb of RAM it will run at an acceptable performance level. I tried out a 2Gb memory stick using Ready Boost and saw some improvement, thanks for that tip Marco, that gives me optimism for the new RAM.

    I have also read Outlook 2007 may have some problems with some of the dell software, anyone know anything about this? apparently it can cause some system crashes with the DELL Media direct add in!!

    I don’t really want to buy another hard drive, so I will take Rons advice and move some stuff onto DVD, to try and keep at least 15Gb free. Also thanks Mark for suggesting Auslogics , i will use it regularly. Mark you also said a laptop will never run a quickly as a desktop with the same spec but I am finding my laptop performance to be less than my 3 year old Compay Presario desktop:-

    AMD Athlon64 3200+,
    512Mb RAM,
    160Gb Hard Disk 7200rpm (10Gb free),
    nVidia GeForce 5200 128Mb.
    Win XP

    I would have thought the new laptop system would be much faster, what do you guys think? An example of the new system being much slower is to rip a CD in iTunes, the old system did it at x20 speed the new one only x4 speed, maybe this is to do with the CD drive speed I don’t know. Also I checked the speed of the hard disk in the new laptop (suggested by Mark) and it is only 5400rpm, compared to my old desktop which is 7200rpm, would this make a big difference for opening things like the control panel and my computer, which were virtually instant on the old machine but take a while on the new laptop with Vista?

    I’M Showing my ignorance here, how can I get into the BIOS to change the power saving features suggested by Mark to increase performance. And if its possible, how would I disable the turbocache feature on the graphics card, and what advantage would this have?

    Sorry for another long post, would definitely appreciate your thoughts on the new versus old systems,

    Cheers,

    Paul

    PS.

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

    Hi Paul,
    I’m glad some of the suggestions are working for you. I am sure there will be more to come. If Ready Boost did help than it seems likely that more RAM would help as well.

    BIOS – I don’t have a Dell but try hitting the DEL key during boot. Also the startup splash screen may also note what key or keys to hit to enter the BIOS also.

    Also a slower HD speed will have a hit on performance but the biggest culprit may just be Vista.

    I’d get more RAM – just my 2 cents.

    Ron

  • Don Naphen

    Ron; Paul’s comparison as to speed between his 3 yr old desktop and his new laptop is NOT really fair! One would need the same specs in both systems to make an honest evaluation. It’s like taking a 3 yr old Corvette and racing it against a brand new VW Beatle! LOL.

    Seriously, I found on my sons new Gateway laptop that it was loaded with so much junk that I just reformatted the hd, did a clean reinstall of the Vista Home Premium OS and only had to locate one driver for his wireless module. I then installed what HE wanted, such as my trusty Office XP Pro (Corporate Edition – no product activation! ) and a few other programs, including Acronis for the image backup.

    One might also consider disabling the built-in Windows backup option, as this hogs huge amounts of resources, and can quickly fill a hd. Actually, anything “auto anything” should be disabled, as multiple pgms running in the background can cause things to bog down to a crawl.

    Just my thoughts Ron/Paul. Oh, the trial versions of the various bundled software are usually bogus, and can aggrevate the hell out of anyone with pop-ups and nag screens constantly “reminding” one to purchase the full version. Symantec and “the other one” are notorious for this behavior. AVG (free version) does an excellent, non-intrusive job of protecting the pc, along with a router such as the ZoneAlarm Z100G. Its built-in hardware firewall is top-notch.

    Don

  • http://direct2dell.com/ Marco@Dell

    Paul,

    F2 to enter the BIOS

    I’m not aware of a problem with Media Direct and Outlook 2007, but I dont have Media Direct on my system. I’ll see if I can find anything on that and let you know.

    Hang in there, remember upgrading from Windows 98 to XP…it took some time to work out compatability but XP turned out to be very stable. We’ll all be running Vista at some point unless you prefer Linux so might as well start working with it now in my opinion.

    -Marco

    p.s. Wayne, no this isnt Mike?? Just Marco…

  • Xiphos

    My fiance got a Inspiron 1520 for free with a contract, but it seems to be downgraded……the disk drive drivers are bust too, I can’t find the firmware ANYWARE, and this is slow……my only added question to this is…..If I did do a complete system re-format, then what dell stuff would I have to put on???

    I can find the wireless card driver easily, the only thing that concerns me is that we dont have a mouse, so would we have to anything about the touch-mouse???

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Matt

    p.s. Sorry for being slightly off topic……but the re-formatting part could help this topic.

  • Xiphos

    oh yea…..one thing I forgot……the copy of Vista we have is “issued” by Dell……so will that be modified to have junk on it when you re-format, or even something as annoying as ignoring dell software on the re-format???

    Matt

    p.s. sorry for the double posting.

  • Rafi

    bougth a Dell XPS LAPTOP SPEC: ware

    Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor T7700 2.40GHz (4MB L2 Cache,800MHz FSB)
    320GB SATA HARD DRIVE
    4098MB 667MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM (2×2048)
    Fixed Internal 8X DVD+/-RW Drive including software
    512MB Graphics : Dual 256MB NVIDIA® GeForce® Go 8700M GT graphics with NVIDIA SLI Technology
    Ageia PhysXProcessing Unit Card

    Integrated audio SoundBlaster® compatible voice and music sound card
    Internal Bluetooth Module
    Intel Wireless MINI CARD card
    Dell Remote Control and noise isolating headphones
    17.0″ Ultra Sharp Widescreen WUXGA (1920×1200) TFT Display with TrueLife with 2.0MP Web camera
    9 Cell, 80Whr Lithium Ion Primary Battery

    Iam very disappoined with the performance of this machine the spec, is hi but the machine is slow why is that ,dell subpport has tryed to hlep but waste time. May be the Vista software or the dell programs its take time for any program to work. can,u hlep please ..

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone
  • Pingback: HP Computer With Vista Ultimate Running Slow ~ The Blade by Ron Schenone, MVP

  • http://twitter.com/harpreet06 Harpreet Bassan

    look at the reviews for both and compare them. they are both about even but the gtx 590 is a better card just because of its low noise levels. performance depends on what resolution you are playing on and the drivers. the HD6990 doesnt have the best drivers atm but AMD could fix that. the gtx 590 is better at lower resolutions, both are even at 1920×1200 with the HD6990 winning at 2560×1600.

  • Anonymous

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  • Anonymous

    As someone on Episode 128 of a video podcast after taking the audio version to Video I initially struggled to get the right mix  of words to convey the thought while still keeping an engaging video show.  I now put out both Audio and Video versions of the show and it seems I have two camps forming. some that like the video and some that like the audio.