Causes of "Windows rot"

Discussion in 'other software & services' started by Gullible Jones, Apr 23, 2012.

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  1. Start with a fresh Windows XP install. Boot time is maybe 30 seconds, and Internet Explorer launches instantly.

    Now install a bunch of software on it, and an antivirus. From time to time, replace one piece of software with another. Fill the hard drive about halfway full with personal data. Install all the various updates that Windows won't be secure without. Keep it running for a year or so...

    Eventually (in my experience) you'll have a Windows XP install that boots in 80 seconds, and takes 20 seconds and lots of hard disk grinding to launch Internet Explorer. Apparently this is popularly known as "Windows rot."

    There are several things I know from personal experience are not the cause, or not necessarily involved:
    - The indexing service
    - Too many temp files
    - Accumulated junk in the registry
    - Filesystem fragmentation
    - Registry and pagefile fragmentation
    - Physical hard drive problems
    - Preinstalled OEM software
    - Third-party autoruns and services
    - Malware

    Generally it seems that the OS should by rights be snappy, but is nonetheless outperformed by Knoppix on a live CD. Everything checks out as okay, but Windows remains demonstrably and measurably slower than it should be.

    Does anyone here know what factors are actually involved in this problem? Assuming that it exists universally, and is not a function of some exotic driver issues on certain hardware, or something like that?
     
  2. BlitzenZeus

    BlitzenZeus Security Expert

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    Lets look at this another way, the user(s), and the software they run.

    So you have some 3rd party utilities/drivers, and likely common things like anti-malware software. These can be factors. You might notice some degradation off the start after loading the programs you're going to use all the time, more common with some anti-malware software. Some common software like flash, and other things might have running applications when you're not running the main application, many of these are not necessary. On older hardware they can be more disruptive to the cpu than on newer hardware, but also older hardware might struggle more with newer version of current software, like 3rd party browsers.

    I have personally come across software like games which installed copy protection rootkits, they behave just like malware, use the same techiques as malware, and have even caused severe system instability/crashing/bsod when they conflicted with hardware/drivers. This is/was a real problem, and why I boycotted pc games for the most part years ago. Just by installing a game you bought, or even it's demo it's copy protection malware rootkit can make your system not work properly. Another point to bring up is the Sony audio cd rootkit for those who left their autoplay enabled, it would install without user permission, but it took microsoft years to give the average user controls to turn it off without powertools/registry tweaks.

    Next defragmentation isn't really an issue anymore unless the scheduled tasks to defrag your disks have been turned off, however it is known that defragmentation of files on ssd drives can lead to their early death due to their nature.

    Don't believe all the crap about the registry cleaning, the registry cleaners are snake oil for the most part, and rarely make any real improvement. They can also cause problems to the extent of making the operating system, and programs crash by deleting/changing things they are not supposed to.

    I've never seen indexing cause any severe slowdowns at all.

    The only time I've encountered problems with temp files is when people run out of space, and the ever so rare limit of how many files can be in a directory after it hasn't been cleaned in a long time.

    I only reinstall when I have to, my current install of Windows is years old, I don't load my system with crap. I used to run a batch file to clean my temp folders, however if I remember I'll run the disk clean up once in a while. I leave the weekly scheduled enabled, but edited it to monthly.

    I build my own computers, but those with package systems definitely might come across some crap running that doesn't need to be. They need to decrapify their system.

    I've also seen newer drivers conflict with older software, to bring up an older program a somewhat popular 3rd party software firewall had issues with newer nic drivers. This software was no longer supported yet it ran on a currently supported operating system, and the companies who wrote these drivers didn't make any real attempt to fix the problem. I've also seen where gpu acceleration in software caused other running software to crash as it's interaction corrupted the memory on the video card, for example you had to disable gpu acceleration in flash to prevent the problem from happening. I've seen gpu acceleration even cause the hardware to lock up with the most recent video drivers.

    What is condensed in to windows rot is mostly a myth, and other problems, including ID10T errors.
     
  3. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

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    Windows rot is a myth in my experience. I've had machines installed with xp in 2005 boot just as quickly in 2012, 15 seconds. Software does not deteriorate over time, but people add bloat and then blame the software.
    Mrk
     
  4. tgell

    tgell Registered Member

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    I agree with this 100%. I removed .NET from a computer. Used multiple registry cleaners to clean out thousands of entries that were left behind. Compressed the registry and had absolutely no improvement in boot times. And, I believe doing multiple registry cleanings may actually slow things down.
     
  5. whitedragon551

    whitedragon551 Registered Member

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    I agree as well. Ive got 3 production PC's that have XP on them and all of them are just as fast as the day they were setup.
     
  6. zfactor

    zfactor Registered Member

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    agreed its not the os or programs at all that degrade.. it the user installing all kinds of junk
     
  7. Page42

    Page42 Registered Member

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    It seems to me entirely possible that with older motherboard limitations on RAM and newer programs requiring greater resources, performance slowdowns could likely occur. But I mostly agree that it is the installation of all the extra software that is ultimately causing speed loss.
     
  8. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

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    FWIW, i have witnessed 'Windows Rot' with XP.

    W7 seems to be immune to that.
     
  9. xxJackxx

    xxJackxx Registered Member

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    This. I never noticed it with Vista either.
     
  10. I do not think "Windows rot" is a myth, as I've seen it in action on the computers of several people I know. The symptoms seem to be pretty uniform: physical RAM usage by the System process grows ridiculously, boot and shutdown times become very long, and applications take a while to launch, with much disk activity.

    The main thing, from what I've seen, is that the origin of the sluggishness remains extremely non-obvious. If I had to take a half-baked guess, I'd say it might involve the distribution of shared library files around the hard drive; perhaps, as the system is updated and software installed and removed, perhaps DLLs get (physically) relocated less and less optimally, resulting in more disk use when Windows has to load these libraries. But I don't think that would explain the increase in physical RAM usage.

    OTOH... There are currently two Windows computers in my household, and neither is showing any sign of "rot" despite having fairly old Windows installations. But neither of these computers is used for anything remotely risky. So maybe it is a question of how well the computer is maintained... Not sure. Anyway I'd personally hesitate to call the phenomenon mythical.

    (Though perhaps "rot" isn't a good term for it, since it evokes the definitely-mythical concept of "bit rot.")

    Re Vista and 7, they do seem not to get this kind of gradual slowdown in my experience. Though in a lot of cases you wouldn't know with Vista; OEMs had a habit for a while of putting Vista on machines that were seriously underpowered for it.
     
  11. BlitzenZeus

    BlitzenZeus Security Expert

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    You apparently didn't read all the replies. Hardware gets old, software uses more resources, and some software will load more resident programs, otherwise seem slower when compared to newer computers running the same software with more resources. A four year old computer will seem slower than a newer computer running the same software, and when you go farther to load it down with tons of crap it just compounds the problem.

    It is a myth, but even as operating systems evolve they need more memory. to do the same tasks. They used to sell XP systems with 128MB of ram, and you know very well that's unrealistic to run most software with these days. Besides if it wasn't for Microsoft extending the support for XP it would already have no support, and many old xp systems simply just cannot really handle the newer software well with their limited resources.

    A computer is not a microwave as much as people treat it as such, it is not an appliance, most computers will not be useful after five years except for basic uses. Look at the old p4 systems, they can't play hd videos well at all. Core 2 systems can play hd videos, but their days of gaming are gone except at very low settings, if at all. A newer iX system can run anything the consumer needs currently, and all this time the memory limitations have been increased. Depending on the software, all some people might need is two to four GB of ram, and those trying to run the same software on a system with 512MB or less of ram will find it frequently more unresponsive when it's forced to use the hdd for physical memory.

    There's many other things that change along with processor speed, and the amount of ram, buses get faster all around. They seem "sluggish" compared to newer computers.

    Then some people buy computers when they are bargain basement, last generation, and expect them to last just as long when the reality is they will be the first to show signs of being antiquated. As long as a person only browses the web a little, and watches a few videos it might not be a problem for them, however the Wally-World special isn't priced for pure performance, it's to recover as much profit as they can from the last gen hardware before it's antiquated anymore than it already is.
     
  12. Victek

    Victek Registered Member

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    The Windows OS needs to be maintained. Whether we call it "rot" or something else there is an ongoing accumulation of temp files, browser cache, System Restore points, Hotfix Uninstallers (XP), leftovers from application uninstalls, file fragmentation, all the auto-starting application stubs like Adobe Reader, Quicktime, etc. The OS does not maintain itself and it doesn't address the way third party applications load the system with self-serving rubbish. If nothing is done the system gets slower and slower. It may seem like a mystery to those who don't know anything about what's happening under the hood, but for those who do system performance can be kept high.
     
  13. zfactor

    zfactor Registered Member

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    windows 7 will get just as bad when the user installs all kinds of junk and bloatware. in some cases worse than xp did...and agreed also windows needs to be maintained and need to be cleaned out once in a while especially from browser cache and junk like that, but i see EVERY day people call me and want their computer to run fast again and it currently takes 20min just to start up and when i go look at it they have 150+programs installed many of which are garbage and or resource hogging junk. i just did a computer where you could only see about 2" of the actual page on ie because they had so many toolbars and one of their requests was "DONT TOUCH MY TOOLBARS" this is the type of person at times i would rather sometimes pass on because no matter what i do ill get a call in a week saying its slooooooowwww again then i take a look and they reinstalled everything that was the cause of the problem even after i explained not to...including the maybe 5 or 6 av's they had before because they think they are better protected that way. imo no such thing as rot.
     
  14. Night_Raven

    Night_Raven Registered Member

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    Excuse me, what?! Preinstalled OEM applications, third-party software and malware are not factors?! Of course they are factors!! They are the biggest factors! It's like saying that additional toolbars wouldn't slow down Internet Explorer's launch time.
    You try to run start any version of Windows that also has numerous 3rd-party autoruns, services and drivers (especially if the latter two are badly written) and you'll notice some pretty damn different load times.
    And malware? Have you actually seen a heavily infected system try to load?
     
  15. BlitzenZeus

    BlitzenZeus Security Expert

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    Crapware is crapware, most of it tends to be just taking space on the disk, however some of it is resident programs, toolbars, etc. Some people miss how some programs try to install 3rd party referral software like toolbars, or even other programs even when the options were made available to them. Some are forced packages, but those are more rare.

    The majority of malware is through user intervention, as in they have to run, or elevate the software. Those who always run as an admin, and think some anti-malware program will always protect them are part of the problem. The smaller portion of malware is from exploiting software like common browser plugins like java, etc, and even then if it's restricted to a user account it still can't get out most of the time unless user intervention is used. I find it's more common for somebody to download a popular program from the wrong site so it has an extra payload, or they are intentionally running warez/cracks. I won't run java as it's rarely used, but the java blackhole exploit was big recently even effecting osx users who might have previously thought they were immune from malware.

    In cases of malware I refuse to further trust the system, and will suggest a clean install. If you're going to be entering passwords, and other information on this system you need to be able to trust the system is clean. I haven't had to deal with any malware for a very long time on my own systems, the last time I was when I had to continually clean my floppy disks which were used in the school computer lab which frequently had mbr virii that needed to be cleaned.
     
  16. zfactor

    zfactor Registered Member

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    one of the first things MANY of my clients do with a system from dell or hp etc is bring it in for a clean install to get rid of all the crap they come with pre installed.
     
  17. Looks like I'm going to have to eat my words... Sorry for being so pigheaded, BlitzenZeus.

    The short of it: if you seem to be experiencing "Windows rot," try rebooting your computer in Safe Mode *with networking*. Chances are, unless it's badly infected, it will be snappy; even if it's sluggish after a normal boot or in Safe Mode without networking. This won't help you fix the sluggishness, but in most cases it should demonstrate that it's not a problem with Windows itself.

    Live and learn, I guess...
     
  18. xxJackxx

    xxJackxx Registered Member

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    I don't think you should. I have seen this happen on Windows 95 through Windows XP. It does not seem to happen on Vista or 7. Yes, there are factors beyond the OS (updates, software installations and removals, etc.) that contribute to the problem but older version of Windows are far more likely to experience slowdown over time. Whether or not we can blame the OS it is apparent that something has changed since Vista that has preventing it from happening. I'm sure the subject could be debated all day but in the end if you want it to stop run Windows 7.
     
  19. Nebulus

    Nebulus Registered Member

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    Windows rot might be a myth, but the situation described is very real. The logic dictates that adding more and more software/bloat would begin to increase the boot time (especially when the software is started at boot time, like AV, FW, etc.). But the real question here is: After uninstalling all software/bloat from a slow booting Windows, would it return to the initial boot time? From personal experience, I have to say that sometimes the answer is: "No".
     
  20. moontan

    moontan Registered Member

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    not only have i seen this on XP like i said previously but on Win 95/98 as well.
    of course, something like that is pretty much impossible to prove.

    i kept my system clean and tidy as much as i could but after a few months you could tell the difference right away after reformatting and re-installing Windows.
     
  21. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

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    Adding software does not change boot time if that software does not include services or startup scripts. For example, you can install 2gb of matlab, it won't change your system one bit. But add java, and it might add an extra half second to your desktop startup.

    Removing said programs might work or not - but it's often the unorderly cleanup procedure rather than an inherent fault in the os itself. Code is deterministic. There's nothing that makes 10 lines of non-buggy code run differently one time from another, from the purely point a to point b perspective.

    Mrk
     
  22. trismegistos

    trismegistos Registered Member

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    To speed boot up times and to speed up Windows overall, just trim down those services at start up by disabling unneeded services and other autorun start up items. Much of the slowdown is caused by AV's. I also disable pagefile. If the software installed don't have services (consequently have drivers that load) at start up nor autorun startups, that will not contribute to the slowdown. Codes don't degrade. Fragmentation might cause a little slow down but that is not rotting.

    Cleaning with Ccleaner will help much more than registry optimizers.

    Edit: Oops! Fragmentation instead of Defragmentation.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2012
  23. DOSawaits

    DOSawaits Registered Member

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    I think most "rot" users encounter is primarily from (crap/soft)-ware that fiddles with your services during install or operation, and doesn't give a s*** to restore things properly when you finally take the right step to uninstall them. otoh, Windows very own System Restore is the ideal tool to screw up pretty much all that is still working, except for when all you did after it did its last snapshot was writing a love-letter to your mother-in-law, saved on your desktop, but only if your used the bare notepad for that.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2012
  24. The first and the second paragraph there contradict each other, I think...

    Honestly I don't see how cleaning temp files would help though, unless it was just a question of the drive being nearly full. Temporary folders are not included in PATH; as far as I know, Windows isn't continuously checking them for changes, or doing anything with them that should result in serious hard drive activity.

    (OTOH Microsoft claims that removing temporary files will improve performance. Hype, or based on superior knowledge of Windows internals?)

    As for registry cleaners, I'm pretty sure they don't do... anything, really. And I doubt the Windows registry can get big enough or fragmented enough to pose serious problems during normal desktop use (or any sane use of Windows).
     
  25. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

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    If you treat temp folders are scratch spaces, then whatever programs need to access those folders will probably need to retrieve full directories attributes, and the more items there are, the slower the query will be. That can explain what Microsoft say.
    Mrk
     
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