A few years ago I bought a Dell XPS desktop. It was on sale I thought a good deal, so I picked it up. It had a traditional hard drive (not an SSD) and onboard video. I had anticipated upgrading the desktop over time…. and in fact I did.

Dell XPS Model

The model of my Dell XPS is the 8900 series. The specs:

  • i7 Intel Processor
  • 16GB Ram
  • 1 Terabyte Hard Drive
  • Onboard Nvidia graphics card

I thought with this build, the main performance hurdle would be the graphics card… As it turned out, this wasn’t the case.

The Performance Problem

I had a performance problem with this Dell. Just using any of the UI in windows (clicking the Win10 start button), or clicking on settings or task manager the Dell would hang for a few seconds.

It got so bad that if I opened Word, or even some basic text pad like app, as I typed words, there would be a pause, then after 3 seconds or so the text would catch up. This would cycle every 20 seconds or so.

I was so pissed off with this Dell.

HOWEVER, when I loaded a game, it ran fine (except it was obviously limited by the graphics card.) So once a program was loaded in memory, and had little hard drive hit… it was fine. That was a key to the solution.

What I Tried

I read up on this over the year and half that I owned it. I thought it was a Windows 10 specific problem. So I tried the following:

  • I turned off the superfetch service
  • I modified the virtual memory to be a min. of 16000 (1000 x ram) and a max of 32000 (2 x min)
  • Upgraded the Graphics Card to a mid-range ATI

Still no luck and I just lived with it… actually I just avoided using the computer. The new graphics card allowed me to play games fine, but almost any other type of application would just die in performance hell.

I couldn’t even use Ableton Suite (music creation application), as it just would have these lag cycles. Every 30 seconds or so it was hanging for 2-3 seconds. Same with Word, and most every other software… Even IDE’s, so no writing of code!

Recommendations

I was often told to upgrade the HD to a SSD. While that would fix the problem probably, the issue I was having was unreal. It was mind blowing. There’s no way a regular hard drive should be this slow or bad.

Diagnosing Further

I pulled up the Task Manager and reviewed the performance tabs. The CPU and Memory were fine. It was the Hard Drive that was 100% tasked. That hard drive was getting hit with 100% spikes every min or so, when I was loading applications.

In fact it would take about 5m after logging into windows, before the hard drive would stop spiking to 100%.

I pulled up the details of the tasks hitting the hard drive… sorting by Total reads and writes, I saw various processes fly by. Repeatedly was the process for Windows Defender. Other processes were the Dell Support app.

Solution

I began silencing all the processes hitting the hard disk during the spikes. Win10 has a feature that you can one-click a process (in the Hard Disk performance monitor) to search for it online. This gave background on what each process was.

I disabled all the non essential processes hitting the hard drive. Several tasks stood out as problems:

  • Dell Support services
  • sedsvc (Windows Remediation)

I forget the name of the Dell Support task/service. By disabling it, I got less hits to the Hard Drive.

Sedsvc is a Windows “feature” that tries to keep your system up to date. The problem for me was this “feature” was kicking off ALL the time and doing too many reads to the Hard Drive. This was a major bottleneck. If you disable this, you won’t get the windows upgrade notifications – so you’ll have to check for updates manually.

I also uninstalled various Nvidia drivers and applications as I was no longer using the onboard video – and I noticed it was running in memory.

Once I removed the culprit tasks/services from running, Windows behaved normally – like an ACTUAL computer. No longer did it feel I was using a 486!

How To Diagnose

You need to see if your performance issues are related to the hard drive.

  • Launch task manager
  • Go to the performance tab
  • There, scroll down to the Hard Drive section and watch the hard drive graph as you use various apps

If you see hard drive spikes and 100% usage… you may have the problem I had.

  • Monitor the tasks coming up in the hard drive performance window
  • Research each task that is hitting the hard drive a lot
  • Look for tasks that you haven’t called (not the app you’re loading)
  • Click the Internet Search option for the tasks and see what they are
  • Load the Services manager (Run window -> services.msc -> hit enter)
  • Find the services that were slowing you down – right-click and go to properties….
  • From the properties of the service, set it to be disabled. Now when you relaunch windows it will not load this service.

The tasks and services bogging down your system may differ from my own. By finding and disabling any service or task that is hitting the hard drive too much, or causing too many 100% spikes, you’ll soon resolve the problem.

You could upgrade to an SSD, but if you don’t resolve this you’ll carry the problems over to the SSD… the SSD is faster, but you still don’t need to hit the disk each time you type a few words in a text editor. Fix these issues before upgrading hardware.

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