Egg timer always there

  Ian in Northampton 11:42 07 Jan 2012

This has started to bug me out of all proportion to what it should...

Just about whatever I'm doing, the 'egg timer' is almost always appearing, sometimes for several seconds, sometimes just for one, as you would expect it to be if the system was waiting, with some application using a large amount of CPU and/or memory.

Yet: I've checked in Task Manager and there is nothing untoward: it's all normal, with the System Idle Process invariably taking more than 95% of the CPU cycles. I've looked at the CPU usage history graph and, while, as you might expect, there are occasional usage spikes, these don't coincide with the hour glass timer appearing.

I'd say performance wasn't affected - certainly not noticeably - so it's an annoyance rather than a problem. I was just wondering if anyone had any thoughts (short, of course, of a fresh install...)

  Ian in Northampton 14:11 07 Jan 2012

Thank Buteman. Sorry, I should perhaps have made it clearer. This is, so far as I can make out, nothing to do with online. It's when I'm running Outlook, or Word, or Money, or Excel - and yes, Chrome is generally there too. But the hourglass pops up over all those applications.

  iscanut 14:56 07 Jan 2012

Is your hard disk badly fragmented or nearing full capacity ?

  Ian in Northampton 15:52 07 Jan 2012

Iscanut: interesting - I hadn't thought of that. The drive is far from full - it has 82% free space - but Disk Defragmenter shows total fragmentation as 26% and file fragmentation as 52%, and recommends I defrag it. The pagefile is intact, however. It can't do any harm to try. I'll report back.

  Ian in Northampton 10:56 08 Jan 2012

Unfortunately, Iscanut, that wasn't the problem... :-( Good thought though. Anyone have any other ideas?

  Ian in Northampton 13:44 08 Jan 2012

Thanks for your interest guys. In fact, it turns out that the egg timer is present as described even when I have no applications open at all. The only thing that appears to occasionally grab the processor is a hard disk monitoring tool I use that just shows me when there's disk activity (because I have no disk activity light on the front of the case).

What's strange is that this is anew phenomenon - yet I'm not aware opf having changed anything.

To answer your specific questions: I'm using Office 2003, and haven't downloaded any updates since I installed it. But, as I said - everything's been fine till now.

Les: yes, mostly my System Idle is at 98% or more, and rarely below 95%. Just very occasionally, it seems to dip in response to activity from the hard disk monitor.

Hmmm - all very strange...

Buteman: as I said - this is happening even when there are no applications open, so I don't think Office is the culprit.

  Ian in Northampton 15:52 08 Jan 2012

Les: thanks again.

  1. Windows XP Professional, SP2, Pentiun 4 2.*GHz, 2GB memory
  2. No, I've always run the hard disk utility - I'm pretty certain it's not that.
  3. I'll certainly take a look at Process Explorer.
  4. My MSCONFIG startup is pretty much optimised: I'm fairly certain there's nothing running at startup that isn't essential. There are 22 items ticked to run at startup, and I'm happy that I need what's there - even the peripheral things like warning when printer ink runs low.

A couple of things I've noticed:

  1. There are three instances of Chrome running, yet only one tab is open. While they claim to be using 0 CPU cycles (pretty much) they're also occupying close to 300MB of memory. I may look further into that.

  2. Something that seems to coincide with the egg timer appearing is when HPNetworkCommunicator appears near the top of the process list...

[Five Minutes Later]

I Googled HPNetworkCommunicator, and I think I've found the problem. A couple of months back, I got an HP wireless printer/scanner. However, a few days ago, a cartridge ran out and, pending me getting a new one, I unhooked the HP and reinstalled my old Epson printer. From what I can make out from a couple of forums, there is a problem with the HP 'poller' starting and stopping when it can't find the printer it's looking for - and consuming CPU cycles that cause the exact same symptoms I've been experiencing. It's weird, because it doesn't show up on Task Manager as suddenly consuming a lot of CPU - but that seems to be what it's doing. The explanation seems to be that it's the starting up of the process that causes the 'egg timer' to appear.

See here:

I'm going to mark this as resolved, wait for my replacement cartridge to arrive, get the HP hooked up again and see if that solves the problem.

In the meantime: many thanks all for your interest and help.

  Snrub 02:40 09 Jan 2012

There is a little known lightweight program called 'Prism Hud' freebie on which shows ontop layer of screen what is occurring on your computer at anytime. Download and run it. This would give you an understanding of what is running. A good diagnostic starting point. It indicates cpu, memory, hard disk volume, faults etc. I use this as a starting point and then get into the detail by running Process Explorer if it is program related.

  Snrub 09:42 09 Jan 2012

Prism HUD (head up display) helps a lot and can either be run at start up which is very useful to show when programs start up and the demands on system eg cpu, memory etc. It can be toggled on or off if it starts to interfer with viewing of screen. I normally have it disabled on start up but have a start up icon in the task bar which I click on if the computer starts to run slowly to help as a start point diagnostic to identify what may be causing a problem. Others complain it doesn't do much but for me it's a little gem.

  Ian in Northampton 18:20 09 Jan 2012

Thanks again guys.

Buteman: yes, you're probably right re 22 - but, prior to the current problem, performance was more than acceptable, and I tend to operate on the "If it ain't broke..." principle.

And: if replacing the cartridge and getting the printer back online doesn't fix the problem, I'll definitely take a look at those potential fixes. It makes me laugh, though - those people getting all bent out of shape about HP's support.

Snrub: thanks for the lead re Prsim HUD. I may well take a look at that A man can't have too many diagnostic tools... :-)

Chronus: your pun didn't go un-noticed by me...

  wee eddie 20:32 09 Jan 2012

Just a thought. Could this be M$'s Indexing Tool at work, many of us disable it.

If I was you I would also do a "Very" thorough overhaul of my Anti/Virus/Malware set-up

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