My computer is showing the same symptoms, right out of the blue, for the past couple of days. I have XP64 on one 320GB SATA 3.0 drive and 7 on another same drive, and a third 500GB drive for storage. I installed the latest NVidia chipset drivers
on the XP because I was having intermittant crashes in PowerDirector 7 video editing software. I also installed the latest Radeon drivers and something else I can't recall at the moment. Installation was a little troublesome and unorthodox, and I was thinking it might be a mistake to install Nvidia's set, but the driver
set from my mobo company is two years old. Everything was working fine for a couple of days, then I start the computer and it takes forever to boot. The slowdown occurs whether I boot to XP64 or 7. The only connection between the two is the 7 boot sector on the XP drive. I reinstalled the original mobo company chipset drivers but nothing improved. It is even super slow loading Safe mode. I am wondering if this is some coincidental hardware problem. The computer starts to boot, and the boot progress indicator moves along with a steady hard drive light. Then, I think about when it goes from boot to login sequence, the hard drive light suddenly starts pulsing, a long pulse for about a second, then 3 or 4 little blips over 2 or 3 seconds, then a long pulse, changing like that continuously, for the remainder of the time the computer is on. After that, the login graphic slowly appears, sometimes fading in too slowly to watch (kind of like watching dawn brighten as the sun rises). Eventually, the Windows desktop appears and I can actually run programs from the desktop icons pretty well, but the response time of the Taskbar can be measured in minutes. Windows 7 never even gets that far, or I just have not had the patience to wait the hour it would take to boot up. CAD brings of the Task Manager in a short enough time. Total Commander lets me access the drive, but when I try to change drives it locks up. Add/Remove programs comes up but never populates. CPU usage is 0% pulsing to about 2% every few seconds, normal. Page memory usage is about 500MB out of 8GB, below normal but not indicating any problem. It is almost as if the system clock is running 1000x slower for the Explorer.exe than it is for the rest of the computer. I do not have an explanation.
Running speed tests on the SATA drives in XP using the tester in Device Manager (Port 0 and 1 one one controller and port 0 on the other) the drive speeds vary greatly. One test can show 150MB/s or 12MB or 24MB or 0MB (those seem to be the same plateau all the time.) Max speed achievable appears to be random. Whatever is causing this problem, it affects SATA drive speed, and Explorer.exe running speed.
Right now I've booted into an Ubuntu 9.04 CD to be able to copy files off the XP drive onto an external drive. This is proceeding rather normally, so apparently the problem is not hardware related as far as the ATA DVD drive and USB drive is concerned. I'll probably end up completely rebuilding the XP64. I have already used the XP install disk to use FixMBR and FixBoot, so the 7 drive is no longer accessible. I'm not going to bother with than, any more. That this problem did not happen immediately after any software update is the kicker. It just started happening for no immediate reason. Also it appeared to damage my AVG firewall, which I was able to reinstall (on the XP--the 7 I didn't bother to try to boot into at all after it became so slow.)
If Ubuntu worked perfectly with all my hardware, I would be through with Windows permanently.
Asus M2N-E mobo NVidia nforce 570 Ultra
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3000 3.1GHz AM2
Antec 750W PS, Antec 1080 tower case
Hitachi Deskstar SATA 3.0 320GB x 2, 500GB
Geil EVOONE DDR2 2GB x 4 800MHz CAS5
Sapphire Radeon HD4850 1GB OC PCI-Ex16
Hauppauge HD1800 TV card PCI-Ex1
no name USB port card PCI
Lite-On DVD ROM ATA master
Asus DVD RAM ATA slave
LG Flattron 22" LCD