How to make your laptop 10 times faster
For a while now I’ve been struggling with the performance of my laptop. Over time it starts to run slowly videos play really badly and anything that is CPU bound just takes ages. Anyone thats seen my demos recently might have seen some erratic behaviour. I put it all down to the bloat of stuff installed on my machine. So I started to go from scratch.
I purchased an SSD to eliminate the hard disk and installed windows 7.
Everything went well and all installed from a FusionIO memory card in 10 minutes whilst on the train.
Running the windows performance measuring thing I got some good numbers 5.3, 5.3, 5.4, 5.4 and 7.8 (its a good SSD). So I thought all was good. I started to install other software such as office and some of the drivers, as the video was bad I though I might have a duff driver installed.
One thing I used to test the performance was SuperPi. This is a handy utility that just calculates Pi to specific number of digits. What I found was that this was taking longer now, and worse it was taking twice as long as it did on my old laptop. Not good.
I put this down to the drivers and did a system restore. That took an age but eventually succeeded. (Quite impressed with that).
However after doing a system restore SuperPi was still not good and whats more running the windows performance thing resulted in the CPU and memory scores dropping to 4.3. Something is wrong.
I decide to look at CPU and so started up the resource monitor and when running superPi I got something like this
Note the blue line in this picture, this is the measure of maximum frequency. Whats that you may ask, well its the % of the Maximum frequency that the processors are running at. If you have 3GHz processors running at 50% its the equivalent of a 1.5GHz processor (not good). Under normal operating with power management on the % should go up and down to match demand to save processing power. Which is great. However what seemed to be happening was that the % would drop even though the processor was being hammered. Go figure.
At times it went down to 8% when the CPU was being hammered. No wonder things took a long time.
So I then started thinking about power management. I stuck the power management on full power, which has a min processor state of 100%. Still the % of maximum dropped. I rebooted and checked in the BIOS and nothing. I was stumped.
Something was throttling the CPU. I dig some searching and hit upon a post mentioning throttling and CPU temperature and then started putting 2 and 2 together.
This laptop had been running very hot for a while now to the extent that after a reboot sometimes the laptop would blue screen saying the Kernel had been shut down due to CPU temperatures.
I therefore started the process of contacting HP support. I was sure that something had gone wrong with the temperature control, the fan, the processor, something.
After speaking to many people including one person that said
“blow into the fan slot, what does that do ?”
“run a huge app and tell me what it does ?”
Was this person for real. I do wish there was an option on support numbers for “I am an IT person please don’t put me through to a muppet”.
Finally I got them to agree to the processor and board being replaced.
The lady came out on Friday last week and replaced the motherboard and processor. Interestingly she noted that the heat sink compound on the processor on the motherboard was messy and she also had to chip the old compound off the graphics heat sink it was so thick.
The laptop now runs beautifully, its cold, its fast and a joy to use.
I have no idea what component had a problem but if I was a betting man I would put money on the graphics processor heat sink not doing its job and so overheating causing the CPU to overheat and thus all the problems. The GPU is core to most things and interestingly I had seen huge Kernel times when running task manager and one of the things that uses Kernel time is the graphics drivers. If the GPU was cooked then that would have caused a problem.
Below is a screen shot of what happens now. You will see on the right is a graph that indicates CPU usage, where the maximum % goes to ~ 100% when needed and back down again afterwards. Something else I used as CPUIDZ that gives you the % as a frequency, I did find that resource monitor gave me a more accurate figure
The lesson learnt is to understand what your laptop should do and why it isn’t doing what it should. Power management is a good thing on a laptop but its not just power management that controls processor speeds on most servers you will find they shutdown if the processors get too hot.