Dell Dimension L500 is extremely slow

  tallboy 12:34 05 Jul 2009
Locked

My wife has a 2001 Dell L500CX which is extremely slow.

Aware that the PC was doing (in my view) excessive disk accessing I set about trying to restore some resemblance of speed. So far I have tried the following to restore 'normal service':

1. Increased RAM from 192MB (64+128) to the maximum allowable for this elderly PC - 512MB (2 x 256MB). If anything, this made matters worse! On checking the BIOS, this only reports 2 x 128MB. When the PC is startup, instead of wizzing through the memory check, the PC ticks over at a snails pace! The BIOS uses Flash memory, so I guess it could be upgraded. Do I need to go to Dell for this or are there third-party supplies (such as Award) who offer upgrades for Dell BIOS?

2. Set the Virtual Memory for all partitions to an initial size of 768MB and a max of 1024MB - which should be right for the 512MB RAM, once I can get access to all of it.

3. Used DriverMax to update all the drivers on the PC. These all seemed to load OK, but have not increased the speed of the PC. In addition, when I went to access the Device Manager Advanced Tab for the IDE drives (to check that they had not switched to PIO mode) it is no longer there! How do I get it back again? The General tabs for both the Primary & Secondary IDE drives say that the device is working normally - but no sign of the Advanced tab.

4. De-fragged the hard drives and the registry.

5. Cleaned the registry (several times) using Advanced System Care

6. Limit the start-up Programs to Kaspersky Internet Security, Advanced System Care and Messenger. (Even then, updating Kaspersky daily seems to take for ever, whereas on my Mesh 1.3GHz Athlon, it's completed in a couple of minutes)

I have now run out of ideas! If anyone can suggest what is likely to be the cause of the slow speed (and inability of the BIOS to register all 512MB of RAM) and how to fix these problems, I would be delighted to hear from you.

  lotvic 14:46 05 Jul 2009

I would replace the motherboard cmos battery (the round silver one cr2032)

Drivers and Downloads click here= you may have to adjust the Search Criteria

Don't know if you have the manual but is worth a look -
manual click here

System Setup about halfway down page click here
In Table 6. Primary IDE Master Submenu Options

PIO Mode Determines the method of moving data to and from the EIDE drive. Options include PIO modes 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. The PIO modes can improve the performance of a hard-disk drive. (The higher the PIO number, the faster the transfer; most newer drives support PIO 4.) For the optimum transfer mode, set Type to Auto.

Ultra DMA Sets the Ultra DMA mode for the drive. Options are Disabled (default), Mode 0, Mode 1, Mode 2, Mode 3, or Mode 4.

  tallboy 20:26 05 Jul 2009

Many thanks for the quick reply lotvic. I'll get a new CR2032 battery and replace the current one - I don't think it has ever been changed.

I see from the Dell Drivers page that they (Dell) only give you the option of downloading post-Win98 drivers for either Windows ME or Windows 2000. I replaced the Windows 98 OS with Windows XP about 2 years ago. Will the Win 2000 drivers be a better match than those identified by a third-party search and replace application such as DriverMax or DriverScanner?

I'll check the BIOS for any reference to Ultra DMA mode. Certainly that was the preferred disk data transfer method last time I looked at the Advanced tab (before it disappeared!) If I recall correctly, it was showing Ultra DMA Mode 2. I wouldn't have thought that updating any of the drivers would have changed the BIOS - but may be they did (or a failing battery)

  woodchip 20:30 05 Jul 2009

If you upgraded the PC to XP from Win98 you do well to put 98 back on as the OS

  woodchip 20:33 05 Jul 2009

Why not try a LINUX Live CD no need to load it to the Hard Drive. You could see how fast it runs with that. click here

  lotvic 20:36 05 Jul 2009

On the face of it I would think that you'd be okay with the drivers you've now got rather than old ones.

Try the battery replace first and DMA Mode for HDD hopefully that will sort it.

Also does it need a defrag and general tidy of data?
ccleaner etc.
Skidzy has some good advice on this thread click here Safe and Clean Computers 2

  tallboy 20:57 05 Jul 2009

Thanks for the further suggestions woodchip & lotvic. I would be interested to hear why you suggest going back to Win 98 woodchip, given that MS no longer support it. (Incidentally, if I run it in Safe Mode, it appears to run at a reasonable speed. Does this indicate where the trouble might be?)

I'll try the Linux s/w to see how it runs with that. Can Linux run any Windows programs written for Win 98 upwards?

I defragged the 'C' drive earlier today and the other partitions came up as not needing defragging. I also ran ccleaner to tidy up the registry - all to no avail.

I'll take a look at the Skidzy thread to see if that throws up some suggestions I can try.

  woodchip 22:34 05 Jul 2009

Nothing wrong with 98 I use it onn my main computer Dual booted with XP home, but 98se is used more than my others. other than XP home laptop I use downstairs

  tallboy 14:52 08 Jul 2009

I checked the CR2032 cmos battery and that's fine. (3.03volts.)

The memory I installed turned out to be for a slightly different Dell model, which is probably why the BIOS was registering it as 2 x 128MB. I am now awaiting two replacemnet DIMMs from the supplier.

I managed to invoke Ultra DMA Mode 4 via the BIOS settings, but interestingly, Interestingly, I still do not get an 'Advanced' tab under the System Hardware settings in the Control Panel. Turning on Ultra DMA Mode seems to have helped somewhat.

I also noticed that the devices.exe process was taking 90% of the processing power when the only application running was the AV update. What does it do? How can I prevent it grabbing so much CPU time? I stopped it manually, which speeded up the AV update. It didn't seem to affect anything else.

Anything else to try?

  brundle 14:59 08 Jul 2009

Devices.exe appears to be part of DriverMax.

  tallboy 15:30 08 Jul 2009

Thanks for the note brundle. Now that I have downloaded & installed all the updates (using DriverMax) I can probably remove it. (Or at least make it inactive.) That should fee-up some CPU cycles.

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