Windows Wedged

by John Sequeira

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My Windows install: going, going

Last week, my desktop's Windows install cracked up, and started pegging
both CPUs when certain programs were launched. Task Manager reported that System was responsible for the entire load, which is not, as they say, actionable intelligence.

I tried a variety of
things to fix it, including

  • shutting down every service possible
  • clearing out my start-up folder
  • bleeding the cooling system, something that needed doing for about a month grrrr
  • downloading Startup Control Panel
    - a utility that allows you to selectively disable programs that aren't
    services and aren't in your Start Up folder that manage to startup
    anyway. I didn't have any spyware on the machine, but I still found lots of seldom-used programs to disable. The increase in boot time has made this really big win.

    Nothing worked. I booted up with Knoppix to make sure this wasn't a hardware issue, no issues. [Aside: If you haven't heard about Knoppix, you should really check it out - it has helped me everytime I've had to do any sort of system recovery, and the learning curve is exceptionally shallow]

    I didn't want to go through the routine of uninstalling all my applications one by one, preferring instead to just reinstall the Windows directory and my apps from a cleanish state, but I took a gamble and removed some VPN clients leftover from past
    engagements. I figured their security voodoo had the highest probablity
    of messing things up. and suddenly things were running fine. Actually,
    things were running much faster. The systray junk which I seldom
    used bogged me down more than I realized. Morale of the story: I'm
    going to be dropping something in the Startup Control Panel's tip jar.
    Although not crucial to getting my system back on track, both the Startup Control Panel and Knoppix are tools I'm very grateful for.

    Knoppix Footnote:

    I always learn something new when messing around with Knoppix. Last time, it was how to access firewire hard drives. This time, I discovered the toram
    Knoppix cheatcode, which loads the entire Knoppix CD into RAM at boot
    time. I'm used to Knoppix being slightly annoying as the CDROM whirs
    away when you launch an app. and this cheatcode makes for a night-and-day experience with Knoppix. toram is also highly recommended if you're
    going to do real work with a livecd system, or when demoing for
    prospective Linux users.


    2004-04-29 06:54:47
    QoS driver
    I had a similar problem with some VPN clients when using certain types of network connections. After some investigation, I discovered that the Network QoS driver (in the same panel where your network adapter and TCP/IP settings are defined) has some pretty severe and unintended interactions with certain VPN clients under certain circumstances. Fortunately, you can just remove this driver with no generally ascertainable side-effects (I don't think versions of Windows prior to XP even had it). It was really odd because I had been running with this configuration for months with no problems... Then one day, exactly as you describe. I work with a lot of others who have the exact same configuration, and I am the only one to have experienced the problem.

    Anyway, you've gotten rid of the VPN drivers, but if you ever need to put them back, I would disable the QoS service.