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Old 05-06-2008, 01:38 PM   #1
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Weird things happening with my computer - help!

A couple of months ago, I picked up a low end laptop, an Acer with a 1.86 GHz processor and 1 gig RAM, running Vista Home Basic. Got it on sale really cheap, and figured that even if it lasts me a year or so, I'll be happy. For the most part, it's exceeded my expectations regarding speed and such.

For about a month now, I've had a series of weird things happening. I'm no computer expert by any means, but I I know my way around the basic stuff and can usually do okay troubleshooting by googling problems. This, I don't even know where to begin to look.

The first thing that started happening is, a few days after a Windows update, my touchpad started freezing. The only thing I could do is Ctr-Alt-Del, and then restart the computer by tabbing. Upon restart, it would work fine. (not sure if this is related at all, but the very first time this happened, I attempted to go back to the previous restore, before the windows update, and I couldn't, I got an error.) This happened maybe every 5 - 7 days. Then, a new wrinkle was added to the mix: the computer would restart fine, but when I reopened Firefox and clicked on Restore Session, the tabs that I had opened previously would take forever to reload, maybe 20 or 30 minutes to reload 5 web pages. During this time, MSN worked fine, but any new webpages I opened would also take forever. Also, while this was happening, everything showed that my wireless internet was connected fine. I quickly learned that in order to get the internet to open web pages in a normal manner, the only thing I could do is wait it out, wait for all the pages that were up to reload. Once this was done, I had to reboot the computer again via the start menu, and then the webpages would load at a normal, fast pace.

Then, a couple of weeks later, it stopped being my touchpad that froze, and instead it was always Firefox that froze first, and then the rest of the applications. When this happened, I normally couldn't shut down the computer through the start menu, I'd have to do a hard boot. Once the computer restarted, I'd have the same problems with the internet crawling till the pages that were up loaded, and I rebooted again via the start menu.

The last time that Firefox froze, I had to do a hard boot, but fortunately that time, the internet worked fine right off the bat, everything loaded quickly the first time. That was several days ago. Just now, the touchpad froze again, requiring me to Ctr-Alt-Del and reboot, but again, the internet loaded fine the first time.

What the hell is going on? Are all of these problems related? Is it software or hardware-related? I have no idea. I've tried to google, but any search terms I can think of using are very vague (eg: slow internet on reboot) and nothing that comes up seems to fit the problems I'm having.
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Old 05-06-2008, 02:21 PM   #2
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Hmm...alot of different things could be happening..

first thing I'd do is get a decent virus program like avg. also a 'cleaner' program like ccleaner.

that said, I also wouldn't use vista, personally. If I'm not mistaken your laptop is probably at the bare minimum for what Vista runs well on

As for the touchpad, check that the driver is the most recent update from the manufacturer, and if not update it.

the firefox thing, I have had this happen to me once or twice. Do you have the latest revision? I think it helps that...also, I've found that using the restore session thing is not so great, personally I don't see the use of it as typically I can remember where I was on the net if I had to shut down prematurely, so I just go back there. I think the restore session thing brings up stuff from the cache, and if the cache is getting maxed out, it would take while to load (another good reason to use cccleaner regularly). I'd start a new session myself as the new page request will force firefox to check to see if there's a newer version of the page out there for you...and clear out your private data regularly either via the firefox menu or the ccleaner.

also, because you are using a laptop, i would recommend disabling the firefox prefetching function. a description how to do that here: http://www.technipages.com/disable-t...h-setting.html


good luck, Im sure others will have ideas too!
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Old 05-06-2008, 02:42 PM   #3
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Thanks for the suggestions, Gabe.

For virus protection, I use Avast, now. It was recommended to me by my computer guy, who gave me a stern talking to for using Norton. The one thing I miss about Norton is that on my desktop, I used to be able to fix just about anything by running Norton Utilities. I'm not really familiar with ccleaner - will that perform some of the functions that Norton Utilities used to?

I'm *pretty* sure the touchpad driver is up to date, but will check on that.

As for speed or whatever, when these problems aren't happening, the computer actually performs beautifully, much better than I expected it to for the price. My daughter has a Core 2 Duo, 2 gig RAM laptop, and there's not really much difference while doing things online. Certainly not enough to justify hers costing more than double what mine cost. Unless there's some weird confluence of events that happen every so often that causes my memory to max out, causing the freezing.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure that I have the most recent Firefox, too. I think I have it set for automatic updates.

Thanks again.
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Old 05-06-2008, 09:03 PM   #4
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After using Vista for several months, I recommend to everyone to get at least 2GB RAM standard for running Vista.

If it's 1GB total, is that a single module or two 512MBs? If things start to slow down and freeze after time, I would wonder if the RAM is bad or going bad, or if one module is bad.

My computer came with XP and ran fine for almost 6 months. After I upgraded to Vista Business, it would blue screen or not boot up. Turned out one of the two RAM modules was bad. XP never needed that much RAM so it was not affected.
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Old 05-06-2008, 09:04 PM   #5
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Oh how big is your page file? I think it should be 1.5 times as much as your RAM. I've seen slowness issues if the page file is too big or too small.
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Old 05-06-2008, 09:19 PM   #6
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Originally posted by VintagePunk
Thanks for the suggestions, Gabe.

For virus protection, I use Avast, now. It was recommended to me by my computer guy, who gave me a stern talking to for using Norton. The one thing I miss about Norton is that on my desktop, I used to be able to fix just about anything by running Norton Utilities. I'm not really familiar with ccleaner - will that perform some of the functions that Norton Utilities used to?
hey np, I'm no expert but have picked up a few things learning the hard way...my first computer was a vic 20, so that dates me somewhat

http://www.ccleaner.com/ thats ccleaner. it cleans up deleted files (because, as you know, the windows delete doesn't reallllly delete anything) and it cleans other temp memory areas that can slow you down. it also has a registry cleaner / fixer and an easy way to see whats being started on your computer on bootup (and to remove unwanted stuff if you like)

im not familiar with avast. but for any virus protection to be any good, it has to keep up with the hackers, and that's a daily job. good thing about avg is you get daily virus definition file updates, so you stay current

Lies makes a very good point too about the paging file, although if your harddrive is big enough you can safely go 2 - 2.5 times the size of your RAM on the page file and it'll help a bit. also make sure it's set to a specified size and not 'let windows choose' or a range of 0 to the size you pick. the min and max size values should be the same number. ie min 2500 mb and max 2500 mb.

and yep, check the RAM. there are a few freeware utilities out there to do RAM tests, I know for my p4 pentium had a utiility that monitored the RAM and the temp and voltages of the cpu. might want to check it out..

hope you get it figured out!
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Old 05-07-2008, 05:35 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by Liesje
After using Vista for several months, I recommend to everyone to get at least 2GB RAM standard for running Vista.

If it's 1GB total, is that a single module or two 512MBs? If things start to slow down and freeze after time, I would wonder if the RAM is bad or going bad, or if one module is bad.

My computer came with XP and ran fine for almost 6 months. After I upgraded to Vista Business, it would blue screen or not boot up. Turned out one of the two RAM modules was bad. XP never needed that much RAM so it was not affected.
It's two 512s. I just tested it using Windows Memory Diagnostic, and it said the RAM is fine.

I'm going to work my way through your and Gabe's suggestions.

One thing I was wondering about - can either of you recommend a good Spyware app? I've used AdAware for years now, but I went to download.com looking for it and read the reviews, and people claim that the new version is very bloated and slows down your system. The other popular ones seem to have cons too, according to the reviews.

Have either of you ever used Windows Defender? Is that a good all around utility to have?

I'm a little paranoid about using something like ccleaner, that I may delete something vital. Also, I'm not entirely sure how this works, but what I'm most concerned with is having my log-in and password info for various sites deleted from my computer. Is there anything I should uncheck from an app like ccleaner to avoid this?


As for the paging issue, here's what it says on Windows Help:

If you receive warnings that your virtual memory is low, you'll need to increase the minimum size of your paging file. Windows sets the initial minimum size of the paging file at the amount of random access memory (RAM) installed on your computer plus 300 megabytes (MB), and the maximum size at 3 times the amount of RAM installed on your computer. If you see warnings at these recommended levels, then increase the minimum and maximum sizes.

I've never had a message on this computer saying that virtual memory was too low, although it used to happen on my old desktop all the time.

Anyway, this is what it's currently set at:

C: System managed
D: None

Total Paging file size for all drives:

Minimum: 16 MB
Recommended: 1519 MB
Currently allocated: 1313

So, should I change it even though I've had no virtual memory low messages, and if so, what should I change the minimums and maximums to, and should I change it just for C:? Do I need to change D: as well?

So many questions, I know. Thanks in advance.
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Old 05-08-2008, 08:21 AM   #8
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I would not use CCleaner, I've never used anything like that on any of my computers, or ever installed another app to remove something else.

These days, you do not need an adware/spyware app, your anti-virus should do that for you. I use Symantec (corporate version), but Nod32 is good.
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Old 05-08-2008, 10:17 AM   #9
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I have to disagree here, it's standard practice to do thorough cleaning and registry fixing in order to keep your computer safe, and since Windows doesn't do it properly, a third party utility is recommended. Of course everyone has their own comfort level.

CCleaner is perfectly safe and is one of the more recommended utilities out there for ensuring that your system is kept running clean and problem free. I know at least 20-30 people personally using it on Default with no problems. It will, on Default, wipe out your temp internet files, your cookies, your surf history, and your stored internet passwords (like for Interference, for instance). If that bothers you, then you can tweak it very simply. I have mine tweaked a bit to remember my usernames, but not my passwords. Yes, alot of people like the convenience of not having to type in their passwords, but it is not safe at all to have your passwords for websites stored. If your system somehow becomes compromised, passwords are the first target.

Using anything Windows to remove apps or clean your computer is really not doing much for you. For instance, delete doesn't really delete the file entirely, and the Remove Applications windows program doesn't fully remove software from your computer. Over time, your computer gets bloated and starts to slow down. That's where ccleaner comes in.

As far as Ad-Aware is concerned, I too feel it has become bloated. What I do now is I use AVG for all my 'active' virus and spyware protection and only fire up Ad-Aware every once in a while to do a sweep (you can set it to not run on default start of your system). Honestly, the major products like Norton, Symantec and the like are mainly crap. They are the targets of the virus makers and are usually several days behind in getting updates as to new viruses out.

I still have the original Windows Anti-Spyware installed for if I ever want to do a scan to see if by some weird stroke craziness AVG and Ad-Aware are not reporting properly, but I haven't used it in a good long while. Defender I have not used, I don't trust Windows products to be honest.

PAGING FILE:

Ok, Windows help is somewhat correct here. The issue for you will likely not be too low virtual memory, but the time and resources that it takes Windows to manage and swap the memory requests (a common issue on slightly underpowered laptops). Therefore, it's best to set it to one set value (ie not a min to max) which basically forces Windows to 'set aside' that memory at start-up and it's always there for you. And you want to make sure it's on the same physical hard drive as your operating system, ie C. That's not to be confused with virtual drives, some people have a C, D, E etc all on one physical hard disk. I've seen some, if they have C and D drive on one disk, set their paging file to run on D, but I don't see any real point of that unless the space left on C is not enough to hold a paging file size of 2.5 times the size of your RAM.

Here's my recommendation:

in the Virtual Memory section, choose "Custom Size". You only have one paging file. If you set it to run on C, that's fine, or you can set it to run on D *ONLY* if you only have one actual hard disk installed on your computer. Set "initial size" to 2500 mb, and "maximum size" to 2500 mb.

One final thing that I forgot to mention earlier. Unless you've been doing it regularly, you should probably defragment your drives. Go to Computer Management and under Storage you'll see Disk Defragmenter. Good idea to do this every once in a while.

At any rate, like I mentioned everyone has their own comfort level. Part of what I know is from my formal education and most is from dealing with techies over the years who's lives will end if they experience even the slightest downtime or slowness in their system. So I tend to watch what they are up to and for the past few years it has served me well
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Old 05-08-2008, 07:28 PM   #10
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Originally posted by Liesje


These days, you do not need an adware/spyware app, your anti-virus should do that for you. I use Symantec (corporate version), but Nod32 is good.
I've heard good things about Nod32 from some friends and stuff, just figured I should throw that out there.
I don't currently use it myself tho.


And heh, VP, did I tell you about the long sighs and scolding I got from Boy when I told him I still had Norton awhile back?


Also, I agree about Ad-aware. It just doesn't seem as good as it used to be. (my untechy assessment).
Currently I'm running AVG and Spy-bot S&D, they seem to get the job done.

I've no clue on how they are on system resources or anything like that, I just trust the opinions of my far more computer nerdy friends.
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Old 05-08-2008, 07:34 PM   #11
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I've had NOD32 for the last year, and just renewed it for this computer and my other older one. Removed Norton and associated files. Waiting to see if I can tell the difference on the other one. And they don't just "renew" your file, you remove the old one and get a new one (special rate from my computer place). Just installed it today, and I asked if I had to set a time/schedule for it to run scans. This new version is constantly working in the background and I don't have to run anything. It does it all on its own they told me. I did run a scan on the other computer since it was changing from Norton to NOD32. My other computer would have weird issues of running slow & stuff. Time will tell if things have improved without it.

just my
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Old 05-08-2008, 07:38 PM   #12
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I heard rumours that when you get NOD32 you also get some sort of tech access package?

Aka, you get free access to (reliable) tech support for like a year???

It was unclear whether it was from where-ever they got the program, or if it was inherently offered with the program itself.
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Old 05-08-2008, 07:42 PM   #13
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I dunno

If I have a problem, I call my trusty friends at the computer store. They are the ones that recommended NOD32 to me last year. I trust them
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Old 05-08-2008, 09:14 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by gvox
I have to disagree here, it's standard practice to do thorough cleaning and registry fixing in order to keep your computer safe, and since Windows doesn't do it properly, a third party utility is recommended. Of course everyone has their own comfort level.
I don't think it's quite "standard practice". I am a computer technician and no one in my dept. uses these third party apps, nor do I use them on any of the computers I service every day. I do clear out that kind of stuff on my own (temp files, old log files, cookies and cache...) and run disk cleanups and defrags (well, Vista defrags itself apparently), when I feel like it though. The third party apps won't hurt the computer, but they aren't necessary or standard. Extra stuff here and there in the registry isn't going to actually slow down the computer. CCleaner removes things that don't need to be removed/don't matter anyway and leaves things behind. It can be helpful for people that know what they're doing, but I get computers across my desk every day that have so much extra unnecssary stuff on it it's getting ridiculous.

Our recommendations - turn on Windows update, use only ONE reputable program for anti-virus and spyware that runs a real time scan and updates itself at least once a week, don't use more than one firewall (I just use the Windows Firewall since my comps are all behind other routers), clear private data in your browser often.

I do agree it's not safe to be storing cleartext passwords and personal info locally.
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Old 05-08-2008, 10:12 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Liesje


I don't think it's quite "standard practice". I am a computer technician and no one in my dept. uses these third party apps, nor do I use them on any of the computers I service every day. I do clear out that kind of stuff on my own (temp files, old log files, cookies and cache...) and run disk cleanups and defrags (well, Vista defrags itself apparently), when I feel like it though. The third party apps won't hurt the computer, but they aren't necessary or standard. Extra stuff here and there in the registry isn't going to actually slow down the computer.
We may have to agree to disagree here I've helped plenty of techs who didn't necessarily know all the tricks, and you had mentioned some uncertainty about paging files and other things so I wasn't sure where you were coming from. I understand for someone who is used to doing cleanups manually ccleaner may not be necessary for them. However VP doesn't sound like she works as a computer tech so a one stop app like it will do good things for her. It's much quicker and safer for the average computer user to use something like ccleaner than to go poking around in folders deleting things they may not know alot about.

Alot of tech departments won't use third party apps for more reasons than just that they don't think they are necessary. When I was a network admin on NT server systems some years ago we had strict controls on what we could use because of licensing agreements and other non-technical reasons. ie it wasn't that the apps weren't useful or even necessary, it was that the powers that be (usually the ones with the least of a clue lol) didn't want us messing with the status quo.


Fact is, Windows does not uninstall programs properly, and it doesn't delete stuff properly. Cleaning the registry is necessary. Leaving behind old registry entries and settings does in fact cause problems longer term. That's pretty widely accepted. So unless you know to do this stuff manually, a little freeware app like ccleaner is great

Anways, just trying to help!

EDIT: VP, one more tip, if you use Outlook for email, turn off the Preview Pane.
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