Archive for April, 2010


Why does my new laptop have such crappy performance?

As an onsite computer repair service †we get asked this question all the time and it’s right up there with “which is the best laptop?”.† Performance is usually equated to expenditure, i.e. the more you spend the better performance, but we get to see all the laptops out on the field and this rule doesn’t seem to always apply in the mainstrean. We seen a new†gaming-level laptop with 4GB DDR2 800MHz RAM†that†struggled to†play a SIMS game. We re-configured the memory, utilized ReadyBoost with a suitable USB adaptor, and changed the CPU power settings in the BIOS before the game ran smoothly.

Some laptops are preconfigured with ‘low’ CPU settings in the BIOS rather than ‘dynamic’ to preserve battery life, but this trade-off can†impact performance because the CPU is set to always run at low power. A change here can result in a change to performance when you need it, at the cost of battery life for mobile users.

Other more general†issues affecting performance, and what you can do about them, are:

  • bloated antivirus programs – find AV programs with a small footprint such as Avira or ESET.† Most of the big name AV programs reduce performance by up to 20%.
  • upgrade to 4GB RAM on 32bit systems
  • in MSCONFIG carefully turn off programs you don’t need at startup, such as Adobe Reader, Messenger, itunes, etc.
  • find out what those proprietary (manufacturer) system or printer programs actually do which†launch at startup. Are they really needed?

In the Intel Core duo and i-series range, and with Windows 7, paying less does not always mean inferior performance†in the cost-to-performance rule or ratio, and a ¬†little tweaking can make a big difference to overall performance.


Managing laptop temperature

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Here in Australia summer temperatures can reach into the high 30’s and low 40’s (C) and as the ambient temperature climbs so does the temp of the hard disk. So it’s a concern when the running temp of a laptop is 50+ when the outside temp is only 25 degrees. We would expect the temp of the disk to rise to critical levels on a 35+ degree day.

Apart from the tangible heat you can feel with the palm of your hand or on your lap, many laptops have no early warning about overheating. Heat is something that must be managed otherwise:

  • your laptop could¬†spontaneously shutdown or restart
  • your hard disk could¬†die
  • raises the risk of data loss and file table corruption
  • you could lose access to the master file table and your data permanently

Active Hard Disk Monitor is a free tool to monitor the temp of your drives. After downloading and  installing a temp monitor icon is loaded into the system tray and a mousover will reveal the current temperature. Temp is read from the S.M.A.R.T interface on the drive and may need to be activated in the bios.

If the temp is 50+ you are in the warning area and would be advised to buy a laptop cooler. One of our preferences is the Zalman NC-2000 with very quiet dual centrifugal fans, which may reduce your temp by a critical 5 degrees and bring it into a safe working temp.


Low battery and wake-on-lan safety check

If you are experiencing low battery life on your Windows 7 powered laptop a good place to start looking for reasons is component hardware set to wake-on-LAN.  If your laptop is waking by itself after going off to sleep this could be draining your battery. Also, if the laptop is forced to wake by a hardware component or task the laptop could become very hot in a confined space like a bag, especially if that bag is inside hand luggage in the overhead locker!

The steps to check your wake-on-LAN settings are:

  • start menu, type “cmd” (without quotes)
  • right click cmd to run as administrator (Windows 7)
  • in the command prompt type “powercfg -devicequery wake_armed
  • when we query the power configuration settings we will see any devices set to wake prompts
  • if one of the devices is a network or wireless network adaptor navigate to (start >r) to open a run box
  • type in “devmgmt.msc” to list your¬†network adaptors
  • right click, choose properties, choose power management
  • adjust your wake on LAN settings.