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Disclaimer

All the tips/hints/fixes/other information posted here are at your own risk. Some of the steps here could result in damage to your computer. For example, using a Windows registry editor like RegEdit could result in unintended serious changes that may be difficult or impossible to reverse. Backups are always encouraged.

12 October 2007

Working Around a Slow Laptop Hard Drive

As the owner of a Lenovo x41 tablet with a frustratingly slow 4200 rpm hard drive, the computing experience can be disappointing. Here are some tips, including maybe one or two that aren't obvious, to effectively workaround a slow laptop hard drive like mine. [Note: the links below are to how-to's for each step.]

  1. Max out your RAM-- this makes the biggest difference, and if you do so it is safer to...
  2. Disable the paging file-- this is a big disk operation that may not even be necessary for you
  3. Store frequently created files on a separate partition of your hard drive: Temp files [Control Panel-System-Advanced-Environment Variables], Mozilla Cache, Temporary Internet Files, Java Cache [Java Control Panel], Downloads folder, print spool folder-- this helps to keep your main partition defragmented, which is even better for...
  4. Smart Defragging by Layout.ini
  5. Remove software that does background I/O activity or monitoring (resident antivirus, antispyware, network scanning), if you can get away with it. (See this post for a security solution.)
  6. Disable the Indexing Service (this could probably go first!) [in services.msc]
  7. Disable Last Access timestamping of files
  8. Take advantage of your PC Card slot by getting the Delkin Cardbus UDMA CompactFlash adapter (Manufacturer Page / Amazon Product Page) and a UDMA CF card. My laptop's hard drive has a transfer rate of about 14 MB/sec, but a CF card in UDMA mode can sustain 40-45 MB/sec and far shorter access times.


More on using a UDMA CF card:

The 40 MB/sec transfer rate is impressive, but some aspects of the technology make it seem slow for frequent read/write operations. Storing a paging file or cache on it, for two examples, might not work very well. However, I have found the following do work well when put on a UDMA CF card:
  • Microsoft Outlook .OST file
  • Desktop Search Index (e.g. Copernic)
  • Firefox (not the profile(s), though)
  • Adobe Reader
    [You need a direct download so that you can specify the installation directory.]
  • Pidgin with GTK runtime (again, profile should probably be kept on your hard drive)
  • Other frequently used applications would probably also work well
This is just my casual observation, but indexes seem to perform well from a fast flash drive, but caches do not necessarily. Applications will start quickly from flash, since the reading is fast.

3 comments:

  1. Hi, I saw your post on this page:
    http://ask.metafilter.com/72639/Using-a-UDMA-CF-card-and-a-UDMA-Cardbus-CF-card-adapter-how-can-I-test-transfer-speed

    you obtained speeds of over 40MB/s using your Delkin adapter. I have had problems getting the same speeds with my SanDisk Extreme IV card and the Delkin 32-bit UDMA adapter. I was wondering was your CF card being detected as a SCSI drive or as an ATA drive? You can tell by finding the entry in Device Manager. My card is being recognised as SCSI and I think this might be my problem (ie no UDMA available)

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  2. The "UDMA" never showed up in the Device Manager; it was also recognized at SCSI. The CF card had UDMA on the label and the transfer speed was as promised, but I didn't have an option to enable UDMA in Windows.

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  3. Pierre Atmadjian (from France)December 26, 2008 at 2:27 PM

    Hi,
    first of all, as I'm a French guy, sorry for my English. Well, here's my own experience.

    I got a Delkin Devices adapter, labeled DDCFCARBUS-AD BAK on device and DDCFCARDBUS2-AD on package. It is not black but silver colored. An american guy mentionned same reference for his own adapter in a product comment on Amazon.com. When I received it from USA, I believed it was a fake because of these strange reference differences on product and package and because of silver color. But tests made me sure I had got a genuine Cardbus 32 UDMA CF adapter from Delkin Devices!

    For my tests, I used a Kingston Ultimate 2 CF card, 4GB size and 266X speed,which is certified to be UDMA 3, 4 and 5 modes compatible. I did not take particular cautions to put the adapter to the test: my old laptop Dell Latitude D510 (Pentium-M 1,73GHz with 2GB RAM) was running 92 processes. Antivirus, firewall and Web proxy were up, along with Outlook, IE and much more applications, using 1400MB of 2039MB RAM. Sometimes my CPU was working at 100%, because of periodic Exchange synchronisation or IE surfing during the tests!

    With this adapter / CF card combination, using HD Tach 3.0 utility, I got these results:
    Random access: 0,4ms
    CPU utilization: 6% (+/-2%)
    Average read: 40,7MB/s (very constant, contrary to a fixed disk)
    Burst speed: 45,3MB/s

    Measured read speed is in accordance with 266X speed specification given by Kingston.

    Furthermore, I did these writing speed tests, transfering data files from laptop internal disk to CF card. Results are here:
    3090MB (2 huge files): 150s (20,6 MB/s)
    484MB (5 big files): 18s (26,9 MB/s)
    681MB (210 files of any size, distributed in 12 folders with 3 levels of depth) : 47s (14,5 MB/s)

    Please, keep in mind that I used my laptop during tests, having sometimes 100% CPU load and concurrent hard disk access (for email collect, Exchange synchronization and Web pages refresh). So these performances could be optimized but it is important for me to have realistic measures for a usual situation.

    My card is also recognized as SCSI device and this might just be a false Windows OS interpretation or a false information given by Delkin Cardbus 32 UDMA driver (made by Workbit Corp.). Linux driver implementations for this adapter mention Cardbus IDE support (Delkin/ASKA/Workbit) and reference to "NinjaPATA-32 Delkin Cardbus UDMA" although logs can report SCSI usage for "direct access ATA" to CF memory.

    What definitely make me sure that UDMA is enabled on my adapter and CF card are these three points:
    - first, performance is not reduced by CPU usage (0% or 100% nearly give same results, what is confirmed by HD Tach measures).
    - also, measured writing speed is over maximum given for PIO mode 5 in CompactFlash 2.0 specification which is 20MB/s. PIO mode 5 is ATA transfer mode used for CF cards plugged in standard PC Card 16 bits adapters. I checked it for mine with Windows device manager.
    - finally, driver I installed is UTATAR.SYS and not HSCA32.SYS: Delkin Devices Web site indicates the first one for use with UDMA adapter and the second one for use with non UDMA adapter.

    Well, I wish all this could help.

    Best regards from France and happy new year to everyone!

    ReplyDelete