31
Jul
07

A devastating truth about retail computers

Recently my neighbors came to me with performance problems on their new notebook computer.  I told them I would be happy to look at their computer and resolve the poor performance (figuring it was loaded with ’special’ software from the manufacture and spyware).  What I found was quite disturbing to me.

I powered up the computer and was pretty happy with the boot time.  I was at the login screen (XP Home) in under a minute.  Then I clicked on a username.  After 12 minutes the desktop had not completely loaded, and preloaded software was popping up everywhere.  I proceeded to kill unnecessary apps and removing them from the startup routine.

After we were in business I started disk management to defragment the hard drive.  To my amazement the disk was zero percent fragmented (I almost fell off my chair).  I then downloaded and installed a reputable spyware removal tool and updated the definitions.  After an hour of the scan, and only getting through about one third of the scan I stopped it and noticed that the only items found were not spyware, tracking cookies, trojans, or adware, but were MRU items (gee, do people open documents on their computer?  Of course, that’s what ALL of these items were).  I cleaned up the MRU items and reboot the computer.

An almost identical boot process followed, including the 12 minutes to start the user session.  Thinking I was crazy, I reboot and choose the other username that was on the machine.  Another 12 minutes later (and a snifter of brandy) I started looking at the little sticker on the wrist rest and became angry.  1.7GHz Intel CPU, 80 GB Hard drive, 256MB Memory and a 64MB video card.  It doesn’t sound that bad…HOWEVER, remember this is a notebook computer that I have spent already two to three hours on which after looking closer only has 192MB of memory after the video card takes it’s 64MB.  With all of the apps that started the physical memory that was ‘available’ was right around 24MB…the memory used was around 400MB.  This poor computer (and consumer) was paging ALL of the memory.  The page file recommended size was 213, and was automatically resized to 527 (wow).

I am amazed that computers are available with this little memory considering what Microsoft has put out for an Operating System.  Not to mention the fact that the video card was consuming one fourth of the system memory.  Most users that have a notebook don’t care about the video functionality; they care about portability…especially if they only buy a computer with 256 MB memory.

My temporary resolution was to change the video card down to 32Mb, which is much more responsive, but still incredibly slow.  Hopefully they will heed my advice and drop in a 1GB module for a mere $45.

Paul


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