Symptoms

Windows 7 laptop is suddenly responding very slowly. For example, clicking on the sound icon in the system tray takes about 5 seconds to display the volume control. Interestingly, it only lags about 80% of the time. One in five attempts to bring up the volume control results in it displaying immediately.

Volume control is just an example. Similarly, opening Notepad takes 3-5 seconds instead of being almost instantaneous. Opening Calculator also takes 3-5 seconds. Typically, these operations are near-instantaneous.

What's Interesting

Opening Windows Explorer by pressing Win+E still loads Windows Explorer almost instantly.

Operations that don't involve a lot of OS interaction, work just fine. For example, typing into Notepad or using Calculator work just fine.

What's Unusual

The Windows Task Manager does not show high CPU utilization while waiting for simple tasks to complete, such as loading the volume control.

More Details

Until a few days ago, the system worked perfectly. There is very little installed on the computer (about 15 applications outside of Windows itself).

So what changed since a few days ago? Two things: There was an update to Evernote, and I connected a Motorola Android smartphone for the first time.

What I've Tried

  1. Ran two anti-virus scanners and scanned everything - nothing found
  2. Ran Spybot - Search and Destroy - nothing found
  3. Ran Autoruns by Sysinternals - nothing unusual found
  4. Ensured there is no bloatware installed.
  5. Verified that CPU utilization is at 0-5% when the system is idle.

Question

What's next in the process of diagnosing this issue and resolving it?

  • A fresh installation. Try a different hard drive(so fresh install and fresh drive), and/Try installing windows on a new partition of the smae hard drive(so fresh windows same drive) – barlop Jul 24 at 19:21
  • Most of the times, when I experienced unexplained delays in applications responding to my actions, it was caused by a storage device that was about to fail. A device that has lots of errors, when it's being read, will cause Windows to wait for it to respond to its last requests. When I experienced faults like this, the machine would work most of the time, then out of the blue decide it would take an hour to bring up the task manager. – Ramhound Jul 24 at 19:47
  • @Ramhound Thanks. Besides looking at SMART values, any other way to verify drive integrity? – RockPaperLizard Jul 24 at 19:56
  • 1
    I'm on windows 10, in the same boat as you @RockPaperLizard – Nick Jul 25 at 3:05
  • @Nick Maybe we can figure this out by seeing what's in common. What Anti-Virus is running on that machine? Is Evernote installed? Any new Android devices connected to it recently? – RockPaperLizard Jul 25 at 3:45

You mention two antivirus scanners - are you sure that you are running exactly one? I once had two scanners running at once and it made the notebook so unusable it required a format.

Does opening other applications take longer then usual as well? My bet is on something abusing your hard-drive - maybe Evernote is indexing something? Or Windows has some indexes? Checking what is using the drive is explained in another SuperUser answer.

As for explorer starting instantly - that's explained by the fact that explorer is part of the Windows shell - without the process there would be no start bar or desktop icons.

  • One AV is installed, and the other is on-demand. – RockPaperLizard Jul 25 at 19:16
  • @RockPaperLizard well, what about stuff using hard-drive? Especially if you have an HDD. Also does the system freeze when loading stuff? – Jan Dorniak Jul 26 at 1:05

next step is drivers verification, from here see Consider this an absolute must - manually updating your drivers.

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