Windows Explored

Everyday Windows Desktop Support, Advanced Troubleshooting & Other OS Tidbits

Posts Tagged ‘Hardware’

SSDs, Windows 7 & Lackluster Boot Performance

Posted by William Diaz on March 2, 2012

I came across a Technet blog recently that described an issue where boot performance on newly imaged workstations with Windows 7 and Solid State Drives was inhibited because the Windows System Assessment Tool was disabled in the image. As a result, WinSAT did not detect the presence of the SSD and treated the drive as a normal hard disk (one with platters). This turned out being a big find because our future Windows 7 also had WinSAT disabled. Read about it here: Windows 7, Solid State Drives and Why A WinSAT Score Matters.

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What Does File Contention Look Like?

Posted by William Diaz on December 20, 2011

Every now and then someone calls in and complains about terrible performance. Often times, the tech handling the call will try to recover performance by killing CPU intensive processes or closing unused applications1, especially those with large memory footprints2. More often than not, though, the issue can be described as file contention, a condition where performance is “penalized” because the disk cannot keep up with file IO demand.

In the example here, an unexpected virus scan kicks off in the background (these are usually scheduled to run after hours), and examining the two most common aspects of system activity, processor and memory, the workstation is well within the envelop of what is considered acceptable and the technician is left scratching his head as he tries to gauge why the system is so slow even though memory usage is minimal and CPU usage averages about 15%. I advise him to start Performance Monitor (perfmon) and connect some remote performance counters, mainly disk counters like read and write time, but most importantly average and current disk queue length:
Read the rest of this entry »

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Your Hard Disk is Failing

Posted by William Diaz on October 5, 2011

Sometimes a BSOD is not a sign of a software issue but instead points to a hardware problem and might help explain the symptoms of bad system performance. That was the case recently when a user complained that she was having troubles trying to logon. The workstation was amazingly slow (can slow be amazing?) and then blue-screened on her randomly. My co-worker was handling this but he happens to sit right next to me and I jumped in when I heard the words “blue screen”. I unkindly interjected with “Lets get a minidump.” While he chatted her up, I went about getting her IP, connected via the UNC, went into C:\Windows\Minidump and grabbed the last two mini dumps for that day.

Minidumps excite me. To understand why, you need to have come across a great amount of support calls that usually end up trumping first tier technical support. Often times, these issues are too vague to narrow down if you don’t know how to handle a BSOD, and the incident remains open longer than it needs because it can’t be explained or reproduced immediately. The mini dump provides a means to sometimes quickly resolve what might otherwise become an unexplained system problem.

Minidumps are small, too. Between 64 and 256KB, they only record the smallest set of useful information that could help identify why the system stopped unexpectedly so there would be no problem copying from over a WAN. Once copied over to my workstation, I opened with WinDbg, clicked the !analyze -v  hyper command. Both dumps produced identical results: Read the rest of this entry »

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CRC & Bad Blocks

Posted by William Diaz on December 3, 2010

Its actually refreshing when I come across a problem that does not always manifest itself as  GUI error in Windows, or even a software problem for that matter. If, when trying to boot into Window, it fails to load in a timely manner or not load at all, try starting in SafeMode (F8). You should being able to see which system files are being loaded and, in cases where the file system and hard disk where it resides are having problems. you may get lucky (well, lucky in the sense that you can decipher what may be happening). For example, in the case of a laptop I was asked to diagnose it would hang at : “Loaded: \Windows\System32\drivers\crcdisk.sys
Read the rest of this entry »

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Back(space)up A Moment

Posted by William Diaz on August 19, 2010

This is rather mundane, but an issue that another technician was unable to resolve required my assistance. The problem was that at random times while the user was typing in any Office application, the Save As dialog box would suddenly open. We also established that he was not using any special keyboard, such as the ones that turn various common commands into a single button or key-stroke paradise or 3rd party kb management software. Nope, just a plain-jane standard usb kb.

Working remote and with nothing to go on, I decide to open Process Monitor.

OK, I’m kidding.

Actually, I asked the user to compose a message while I watched. He was a fast typist but I soon noticed a trend, the Save As would open when he was correcting a typo using the backspace key. The question then became how do you invoke the Save As dialog box from keyboard? F12. Backspace happens to be right under F12 on most standard keyboards. The proximity of the Backspace key to the F12 was probably causing some debris or other electrical quirkiness against the F12 key, too, making it act as if it was being depressed each time Backspace was.

The solution, in case you haven’t caught on by now, was to replace keyboard.

Not all my encounters are this exciting.

And, yes, I just had to take a picture:

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The Case of the Missing Windows CD\DVD Drive

Posted by William Diaz on August 17, 2010

In a large organization, this can actually be quite common. Many a floor support tech has been dispatched to try to correct by physically checking or replacing the drive. The symptom is that the CD\DVD drive letter is missing in Windows. In the vast majority of cases, this is a software issue and can be resolved remotely, without the need for someone to open the system. The cause is the result of class filters becoming corrupted or modified in some way, usually because of a badly written or incompatible driver, firmware update, or after installing CD\DVD burning software.

To correct the issue, navigate to this location in the Windows registry: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}. Delete the upperfilter and lowerfilters strings and reboot. Read the rest of this entry »

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Identifying Unknown Hardware

Posted by William Diaz on July 4, 2010

To see missing drivers for any hardware component just open the System Information utility from Start > Run and type msinfo32. You can also do this remotely with any computer within your network by using the View > Remote Computer option.

Expand the Components heading in the navigation tree and select Problem Devices: Read the rest of this entry »

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