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Dell Laptop Slow / Lagging / Delayed Keyboard Response

09/03/07

Permalink 12:50:33 am by guy, Categories: Windows

I recently bought a Dell Laptop to replace my old HP desktop. I did so very reluctantly, because I really prefer the full power of a desktop, but I wanted to be able to use the computer around the house instead of just my little office upstairs. Anyway, I bought an Inspiron 1705 and was initially incredibly disappointed with it’s performance. I have 2gig of RAM and a decent dual core processor, tons more powerful than my old desktop, but it was sluggish and seemed to pause for seconds at a time. The main symptom was that I would be typing, but it was as if my typing was faster than the computer could keep up with. Trust me, I am not even a good typist. It was as if all input would halt for 1 or 2 seconds at a time and then suddenly catch up.

I could go on and on about it, but I think I’ll skip to the chase. As usual, I was able to diagnose and fix the problem using the amazing and free utilities from SysInternals which is actually now part of Microsoft. If you are a sysadmin and you don’t have these tools then you probably NEED to, there is a good reason that Microsoft purchased this stuff. His tools are tools that Microsoft SHOULD have provided.

I checked CPU and Disk access using Process Explorer and found next to nothing going on. 1% cpu and no significant disk access.

My experience told me that this machine was fine but that there was a driver, service, or other process causing some kind of resource block. Honestly, I didn’t know the mechanism, I just knew it had to be a process. I figured I could reluctantly try the trial and error method and disable services and autostart processes until things started to work properly, but then I thought of a SysInternals utility that I recently had tried called DebugView. Using this utility you can view any debug output generated by any application (including Windows itself) running on your system. Very useful, especially for developers. On a whim I ran it and immediately found output that correlated with a process called the PCMService.exe. This is the output:


If you look at the output you will see several entries referring to this application. None of them are particularly scary looking or even indicate a problem, but I did recognize them as being associated with the Dell MediaDirect application that Dell installs on some laptops. I believe that it is what allows you to use the little multimedia buttons that I don’t use. This is just the kind of software, tightly integrated with hardware that might cause a problem like this. While this wasn’t really evidence since there was no evidence of an actual error occuring I decided to disable it and see what happened. How do you think I went about that? Yes, a SysInternals tool. AutoRuns. See partial output below highlighting the process in question. Autoruns is a tool that shows all the different processes that autostart on your system. It knows all the little places in the registry where autostart processes are kicked off and give you a list and the ability to disable any one of them. You simply uncheck the process that you don’t want to auto start.

I unchecked it, rebooted, and the problem immediately went away.

I hope this saves someone else having this problem.

UPDATE 12/28/2007:
I found another blog where someone else had a similar problem, they came to a conclusion that it had to do with Outlook Address book size. He found that as the contacts list grew the typing symptom got worse and worse. His initial conclusion was incorrect, but he followed up (in the comments section) with the same conclusion that I did, but with additional info from Dell. Apparently it has to do with the “Instant Office” module of the Media Direct tool. If you disable the instant Office function the problem should go away. The alternate solution is the same as mine, disable the PCMService.

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I'm a generalist, at least if I'm honest. In my job I am primarily a developer, but also a sysadmin, and (as little as possible) technical support. I know a little about a lot of things, a lot about some things, and everything about nothing. Here I will post random learnings...

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