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Diagnosing client performance problems: Consider upgrades

Hardware and software upgrades -- or lack there of -- may be causing your Windows desktops to run slowly.

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Look for recent hardware and software upgrades
If the client is still not performing up to par, look for any hardware and software changes.

The first thing you should look at is antivirus software. It has to be intrusive to catch those nasty viruses, so such software has the highest probability of affecting the system and is a common cause of performance problems, hangs and crashes.

Some things to consider:

  • Is an upgrade or a better antivirus product available? Typically, the antivirus process will be the biggest consumer of CPU, memory or both, and some products are much worse than others.
  • See if the antivirus updates occur when the user complains about performance. If so, reschedule the updates. You can set them for the wee hours of the morning, and if the computer is shut off, the update will run once the computer is back online. This could also cause an intermittent performance snag as viewed by the user.
  • Make sure to keep an eye out for new versions, driver updates, hotfixes and advisories from your antivirus vendor.

Other types of software follow similar rules.

When figuring out performance problems, compare the applications installed on the troubled client to those on a problem-free client. Look at different versions, Windows updates, service packs, etc. Updates should be tested before being put in production.

You also need to watch for user-installed applications and hardware, especially USB drives. Maybe the performance hit comes when an iPod is plugged in and iTunes is updating. If you haven’t already, lock down desktops.

Many problems can come from the network -- increased traffic, malfunctioning network hardware, a change in network configuration or some network card in a computer going crazy. To deal with these glitches, set up network traces for client networking troubles. Identifying client performance troubles can be time-consuming, but by following these steps, you may be able to solve the problems without having to call a support vendor.

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Gary Olsen is a systems software engineer in Global Solutions Engineering at Hewlett-Packard. He authored Windows 2000: Active Directory Design and Deployment and co-authored Windows Server 2003 on HP ProLiant Servers. Olsen is a Microsoft MVP for Directory Services and formerly for Windows File Systems. 

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