How to make your Intel Pentium-D computer ultra-fast :-)

{zalman} The Intel Pentium-D 2.8 GHz (Intel i945P) computer, sitting proudly on my deskOr A Story about How my Intel Pentium-D Computer Became Ultra-Fast… again* :-)

…So here I am, sitting in the office yesterday, sipping at my coffee peacefully and thinking about doing some boring PC optimisation work – defragmentation, disk cleanup, etc.

Lately I noticed, that my computer is acting strange from time to time – slows down, opens applications with much more delay than usual; the whole Windows was feeling somehow slowish, but not in the way it slows down after too much work performed since first install (besides, I installed this Windows XP Professional SP2 myself not a long ago, and that wasn’t an option).

The Zalman CNPS9500 LED installed on the CPU and motherboardYou should know that this is rather powerful configuration I am using at my workplace, and the PC is not more than half a year old (it was assembled in May 2006, as far as I remember). Inside the case is running a fast and cold dual-core Intel Pentium-D processor (D-820), clocked at 2.8 GHz (14 x 200 MHz, 2 x 1 MB L2 cache, 800 MHz FSB), kept cool by the Zalman CNPS9500 LED cooler (all 100% copper heatsink with optimised design, special heatpipes, 0.2mm ultra-slim copper fins, ultra quiet CNPS 92mm opaque fan with blue LEDs, and adjustable fan speed controller (Fan Mate 2) for the control of the fan speed).

The Zalman CNPS9500 LED - close look at the silent fan The Zalman fan can be automatically controlled via the BIOS (based on current CPU load and temperature), or manually, using the provided Fan Mate 2 controller. To imagine that this cooling solution could not be suffient to remove the heat from the rather cold Pentium-D processor would be absurd, and I never thought of that, when pondering upon the slowness issue I was faced lately with.

The Intel CPU is complemented with a Gigabyte GA-8I945P-G-RH motherboard (based on the Intel i945P chipset), with 1 GB DDR-II 667MHz memory installed (V-Data 2 x 512 MB, running in dual channel mode), Gigabyte GV-NX66L 128DP nVidia GeForce 6600LE PCI-E video adapter, harddisk Seagate 250 GB SATA (7’200 rpm/16 MB L2 cache), and LG HL-DT-ST DVDRAM GSA-H10A DVD+/-R/RW DL writer, all of this in sturdy and functional Chieftec BG-02B-B-SL case with 350W Chieftec power supply. The monitor is LG L1750SQ (17″ LCD 1280×1024, with 8 ms response time).

(I am describing all of these technical details so you can get the whole funny picture better – we have a fast new machine with lots of RAM and CPU power inside… which is much slower lately. Why? Read on:-)

The Zalman CNPS9500 LED - when rotating, it's look is really fascinatingWhile the defragmentation was running, I opened the PC case to blow away some (possibly) accumulated dust around the fans during the last month or two. While doing this, I noticed that the Zalman’s LED light is rather dim, which was strange, because the faster the fan spins, the brighter the light is – and the computer at this moment was rather busy.

I looked at the back of the case, where the Zalman’s Fan Mate 2 controller was attached, and imagine my astonishment, when I discovered that the small control knob was turned all the way clockwise, which means the fan was set to the minimum possible rotation speed!

(It sounds a bit illogical, but this is how the Zalman controller works, turning the control knob left will increase the speed of the fan and turning it right will reduce it. No way to know why’s that.)

So, what happened?

Probably, at some point somehow I have turned this control knob by accident in the wrong direction, which has led to the manual limit of the Zalman’s fan speed (the fan is quiet and almost inaudible at all speeds, so I couldn’t notice this). BIOS was controlling the speed of the fan, but the Fan Mate‘s setting limited the maximum rotation speed at very low range, thus limiting heat dissipation from the core of the CPU.

In its turn, this has led the intelligent Intel processor to reduce its own speed and power to prevent damage to the CPU’s core from over-heating (I think, this is described using the term thermal throttling). This explains the slowness of the PC lately and its apparent tendency to be not-so-responsive when subject to intensive multi-tasking and higher load.

Just to be sure, I immediately re-booted the PC and entered the BIOS, then turned the knob of the Fan Mate all the way counter-clockwise, while watching the ‘PC Health’ screen. The BIOS reported increase in the speed of the CPU fan! So I was right!

Then I closed the computer case and started Windows again.

Imagine my (although much anticipated) satisfaction, when I discovered that everything was OK now – after a few minutes work with the OS and various programs, my earlier conclusion was confirmed – the one and only reason my PC was so slow lately, is the fact that one tiny knob on a small Zalman controller was turned all the way clockwise, instead of the opposite!

Every application was starting again lightning-fast, as before, even the most-resourse-consuming ones (like Macromedia Fireworks) and I was able again to do multitasking without any noticeable delay in my work with the programs.

I was at the same time relieved (that I have discovered the reason for this serious problem with my PC) and angry with myself that I didn’t check this possible solution first!

And it’s like I have been given a new, much faster computer, without paying a single dollar:-)

I have rather good experience with computers – I have assembled all of my previous computers myself, except for the first one I owned (an HP Vectra Pentium 90 MHz/32 MB SD-RAM/1.1 GB SCSI HDD) – and I consider myself pretty advanced Windows user. On occasion I can troubleshoot a broad set of problems with PC and Windows, ranging from missing drivers and corrupted Windows OS, which needs to be re-installed, to improperly configured hardware and software and saving of your POP3 archived mail from Mozilla Thunderbird, on a computer which won’t boot into Windows anymore.

And now – a small controller turned clockwise, instead of counter-clockwise (such a tiny detail!) – has lead to a more than 50% loss in the performance of my Pentium-D based PC, a problem which I was unable to resolve for a long time!

As people say, all’s well that ends well. Now back to my work on my ultra-fast computer :D

Conclusion and moral of story:

(Because all stories must have a conclusion, right? And because you didn’t think I’ll stop my flow of words now?;-)

When this post was almost finished, and I was ready to push the Publish button in my WordPress blog, I discovered that one of the images I have used to illustrate my story (they were all taken last May, when the PC was built) is slightly misplaced. I opened the HTML source, fixed its position and didn’t notice that a have made a slight mistake somewhere probably – misplaced or unclosed a tag. After saving the draft for the last time, I was stunned – 9/10th of my text was suddenly gone – irrevocably, completely gone, missing! My text, almost everything, was gone, because of this mistake – maybe WordPress’s intelligent built-in editor has “fixed” my mistake by erasing most of the html code, or maybe I simply deleted the code myself, I don’t know.

There was no Back button, no turning back. Nothing.

I had to re-write almost everything, if I wanted to share this story with you.

So… Here’s the moral of the story. No matter how experienced you may be, don’t underestimate small details – there’s no such thing as small detail – because even the smallest “detail” could ruin your work, put your computer into flames, start a war between two tribes or change the future. Or, if we could cite Queen Galadriel here from John Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, when she told Frodo in Lothlorien: “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”, just substitute “person” with “detail” and you’ve got it:-)

Now, after all of these wise words, I am really ready to hit the Publish button… but with extreme caution, I promise :-)


smallprint: (*) First you must make your computer ultra-slow for this method to work :-)))


Comments to “How to make your Intel Pentium-D computer ultra-fast :-)”:

  1. Assenoff Says:

    Once I had some embarrassing experience – astonishing start failure (having in mind I know computers to e certain degree). I lost hours of testing!

    In the end, finally, the moral was: a machine works better if it is plugged into the power …

    BTW, nice equipment :) I guess next planned upgrades are RAM, then video?

  2. Michel Says:

    Your story is good, too :-D

    Yep, the equipment is not bad… But concerning the upgrades, I don’t believe this will happen. After all, this is an office workstation. You don’t need the fastest video card on earth to do your HTML/CSS coding & graphic design work, right? :-) And RAM – maybe, but not now, after 1-2 years:)

    I think my home computer has bigger chances for upgrade than my office one;-)

  3. ashok srivastava Says:

    We gave a google search and found your interesting article.
    In fact, we need to simulate a slower computer !
    Can we control RAM or make computer slow (application in 7.1, .NET 2003) by any means? that is without touchig hardware !! Our hardware people are refusing us to adjust the fan swithc, otherwise your article is a good solution for us !!!
    Thanks !

  4. Michel Says:

    Hi, Ashok,

    I’ve never heard of a software way to make a computer to simulate slower speed.

    You can try another thing — you will not damage hardware if you adjust your CPU clock to be lower than its default one. For example, if you have an Intel CPU which runs @ 2.6 GHz (13 x 200 MHz), you can try to make the bus speed lower (166 or 133 instead of 200 MHz) and thus the CPU will run at slower speed (for example, @ 133 MHz it will run ~ 1.73 GHz — 13×133 MHz = 1729).

    As for a computer to become very slow if you reduce CPU fan speed — this might be a bit risky. Intel CPUs have a feature, called Thermal Throttling — if the core of the CPU achieves a certain temperature, then, to prevent damage due to heat, the CPU starts to insert the so-called ’empty’ cycles in-between the ‘real’ ones (the ones that do actual computing work). The ’empty’ cycles help the CPU lower its temperature, but this makes the computer much slower and unstable.

    So, my suggestion for you would be to try to downclock the CPU, to simulate a slower computer. Downlocking is safe.

    Or maybe there are software simulators (like a virtual machine, programmed to use much less CPU time and less RAM) but I do not have experience with that…

    Cheers, my $ 0.02:)

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