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Egg on my face - Update re. Tearing my hair out again ! DVD problem

shermans
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Egg on my face - Update re. Tearing my hair out again ! DVD problem

I watch DVDs often on my laptop perfectly satisfactorilly - until recently, that is.  I have Windows XP and use WinDVD software.  But lately, 30 minutes into a DVD, after playing perfectly normally, the DVD starts to slow right up until it freezes almost completely.  The trouble is that it seems to consume all the processing power while it is doing it, and I cannot even view Task Manager to see what the problem is !
At first, I suspected the DVD player.  So I copied a decrypted video from the hard drive of my desktop computer onto the laptop.  It worked fine.  So that seemed to confirm a DVD player hardware fault.
So I decrypted another DVD on the desktop computer, and saved it directly this time on the laptop hard drive using the LAN instead of using the desktop hard drive as storage.  The freezing started all over again - which means that it cannot be the DVD player hardware after all !  The original DVD was in the desktop computer DVD player, where it plays perfectly normally.
So what is going on ?  I am not a techie but it suggests some sort of buffering problem.  Does anyone have any suggestions ?  
18 REPLIES
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Re: Tearing m hair out again ! DVD problem

The first thing to check is the state of the laptop hard drive
How big is it
How much spare capacity is there
What are the settings for the swap file
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Re: Tearing m hair out again ! DVD problem

What happens if you watch a BBC iPlayer programme for an hour ?, does it grind to a halt ?
shermans
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Re: Tearing m hair out again ! DVD problem

Hi OldJim
Ah, I think I can see where this might be going !  When I first bought the laptop, I partitioned the hard disk into a C:System drive and a DCheesyata drive.  I have regretted that ever since but undoing the partitions would mean a re-build, I fear.  I have always partitioned my hard disks to separate business subjects but as I am now retired, there is no need to do so any more - and I am not sure that it really had any advantage over separating subjects by using folders and a 'subst' assignment., but there you are !
Back to the question.  My laptop is about five years old and so has a tiny hard drive by today's standards - only 56 GB.  It is divided into a C: drive of 20 GB and a D:drive of 36 GB.  The problem is that Windows XP has expanded exponentially since I first installed it, and I only have 1 GB of free space left for Windows / Programmes.  The D: drive, where I keep my data, is all copied from my desktop and only has 8 GB free space available - the data is less important, because it is all copied from my desktop computer, which is the primary data source.  It is all backed up onto DVD, so deleting data files from the laptop would not be a problem.
The Virtual Memory is shown as 2300 MB on the C: drive, which I don't understand as there is only supposed to be 1 GB free space ! 
I really ought to try to consolidate the two partitions into one, but I do not know how to do so without having to re-install Windows XP.  But I suspect that you are going to tell me that I need more disc space and that it is a DVD buffering problem.
I have never used iPlayer, so cannot answer the question until I try to download something and view it.  But that's difficult at present because I am abroad on holiday and don't return until next week - hence the need to watch DVDs on the laptop !
TVM.
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Re: Tearing m hair out again ! DVD problem

My theory is that the laptop is overheating, possibly due to accumulated dust or slowing fan, when doing sustained CPU and graphics tasks.
I have a desktop PC that I use for watching iPlayer, currently the is CPU running at 41'C and the machine has been switched on since before Christmas, however if I watch an iPlayer program for more than about 50 minutes then the temperature rises to about 65'C - at which point I have a temperature warning flagged on my desktop screen.  This is only really a problem for me on hot summer days when the ambient temperature causes the peak temperature to rise higher.
One of the safety mechanisms built into modern computers, particularly laptops, is that if the CPU temperature gets too hot, then the CPU clock speed is throttled back in an attempt to reduce the amount of work it is doing per second - and therefore should self cool in an attempt to avoid damage.  The effect of this, when under a continuous CPU intensive load (such as watching video), is that the effective percentage CPU used (in "Task Manager") goes up, because it is still trying to do the same amount of work but is effectively becoming a slower and slower speed processor.  Hence, the multi-tasking starts falling apart and video buffering becomes inevitable - until it has cooled down.
If you are on holiday, maybe the change in ambient temperature is enough to make this effect noticeable.

Regarding your hard drive - which while not great is more than enough to at least watch DVDs on XP.
A few ideas (in no particular order) -
1) Use Windows "Check disc" to verify disk integrity, then "Disk Cleanup" to remove unused files, then "Defragment" to get some speed back.
2) Use something like "PartitionMagic" to adjust your partition sizes, i.e. lose a couple of GB from D:\ and expand C:\ into the new space.
3) If it was mine, when you get home, buy the fastest 120GB 2.5" drive that will fit, then use either PartitionMagic or Clonezilla to copy your current drive to the new one, and then once fitted change both partitions to say 60GB.
4) Use Windows "Disk Cleanup" and select the option to compress old files.

Happy holiday  Wink
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Re: Tearing m hair out again ! DVD problem

In addition I suggest checking DMA mode is still enabled on the drives. DVD playback shouldn't be too CPU intensive, even for an older computer, but it is a lot of I/O. If DMA mode is not enabled, then reading the data from the disk or DVD drive consumes a lot more CPU time.
VileReynard
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Re: Tearing m hair out again ! DVD problem

Make sure your laptop is on a hard surface, possibly raised on blocks to allow a good airflow for your fan.  Cheesy

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Re: Tearing m hair out again ! DVD problem

Quote from: shermans
The Virtual Memory is shown as 2300 MB on the C: drive, which I don't understand as there is only supposed to be 1 GB free space ! 

Virtual Memory is a file called pagefile.sys, normally located in the root of the C: drive.  It's a hidden/system file (I forget which) and it would be counted as part of the used space.  With a bit of fiddling it is possible to relocate this file to your D: drive, which might make sense given the lack of space on C: 
Community Veteran
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Re: Tearing m hair out again ! DVD problem

If you do 'ReedRichards' suggestion of moving the SWAP file to the D:\ drive, make sure you repeatedly defragment D:\ first - in order for the new SWAP file to be created in the largest contiguous free space - for best performance.
shermans
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Re: Tearing m hair out again ! DVD problem

Smiley What great guys you are - I have just watched "The English Patient" again successfully on the laptop - still do not really understand the film, though; the plot is very confusing.
Firstly, I removed some files on the C: system drive.  I also stopped Google Desktop for the time being, as it was consuming a lot of space, and also stopped hibernation, as the hibernation file takes up 1.7 Gb.  Then I did the same for the D: Data drive and tried to re-allocate the pagefile.sys to the D: drive where there is more space.  I tuned WiFi off and then stopped Zone Alarm and the anti-virus (the English Patient is on a licenced CD).
I checked the DMA also.
And finally, I raised the laptop at the four corners to ensure a good airflow.
And it worked !
The trouble is that of course it could have been any of those things or possibly even a combination of them.  The over-heating is a distinct possibility as the fan sometimes speeds up for no obvious reason which  indicates it is getting hot.  I think that when I get home, I had better investigate further by opening it up to look at the fan.
Ideally I would temporarily like to re-direct the pagefile.sys to the D: drive where there is plenty of space but I am not having any success.  Using Device Manager, I have tried to highlight the D: drive and give it a fixed minimum of 1.5 Gb and a fixed maximum of 3.0 Gb and then clicked on "Set".  But when I re-boot, it seems still to be pointing at the C; drive.  Or perhaps I am misunderstanding that, because actually it looks as if it might be combining the virtual memory of the C: drive with the D: drive.  Is that how it works ?  Does it use both at once ?
I would in fact prefer to remove the D; drive altogether and consolidate it with the C: drive.  The D: drive is an Extended Partition of the C: drive.  If I deleted the D: partition, obviously I will lose all my data in the D: partition.  No problem as all recoverable from DVDs which I have with me.  
But will it automatically increase the size of the C; drive by the same amount ?  Or do I have to re-size the C: drive myself (I just cannot remember) ?
And will the files on the C: drive remain intact or am I in danger of losing them also, as they are of course the operating system and programme files.  Dilemma ?
Thanks again for all your suggestions. Smiley
VileReynard
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Re: Tearing m hair out again ! DVD problem

Kind of!
If you delete the partition containing the 'D' drive, then the 'C' drive will be unaffected and continue to work.
You would have to extend the partition into the space previously occupied by the 'D' drive.
Using a Linux program on a bootable CD you could do this, but be aware that it is a time consuming activity (several hours).
If you have any entries in your Windows registry which point to an object in your 'D' drive, the relevant program will probably fail.
This is just one of the many failings of having a monolithic registry...

I would leave your drives alone

BTW Does Zone Alarm serve any real purpose?

shermans
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Re: Tearing m hair out again ! DVD problem

Embarrassed I have egg on my face !
I think that I may have found the problem.  If so, I am embarrassed because I have been so stupid.  It may not be the cause, but it seems the most likely culprit :
Having thought that I had resolved the problem, I was confidently watching "The English Patient" again to see if I could make more sense of it.  To my dismay, after about an hour, the DVD started to play up again, despite having a good flow of air around it and having now plenty of space on both drives, after extensive fiddling !  As usual, it eventually all froze and so I closed it down and started up again.  It was no better, so I gave up.  I re-booted yet again and started doing some emails, when I got a Windows warning that I should change the battery, which I did.
By that time, the laptop had had plenty of time to cool down, although it never seemed unduly hot and the fan had not been running at high speed.  So out of idle curiosity, I tried the DVD again.  It worked and ran peacefully on to the end.  And then it suddenly dawned on me as I was trying to think what more I could do to sort the problem out - I was running on battery, the battery was low in power and, the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that every time this has happened, I have been using battery power !  When I thought that I had cured the problem several days ago, both batteries were flat and I had been running on mains power !
Now I cannot be sure, but I think that every time that the laptop has functioned properly it has indeed been on mains power, and every time that it has played up, it has been on battery power.  Also, it has always only happened well into a DVD, and whenever I have managed to get it going again, it has lasted only for short durations.  It all frankly points to low battery and not to the more dramatic technical problems we had all naturally focussed on.  Only time will tell and I will try it again tonight.
So thanks again to all who tried to help.  I have learnt a lot as usual with your help, and I have improved my system management as a result.
Oh, and by the way, I now understand the plot of "The English Patient" at last !  Embarrassed Smiley
MJN
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Re: Egg on my face - Update re. Tearing my hair out again ! DVD problem

Nice one Shermans. This is a classic case of Occam's Razor and a reminder to us all to fully explore the simplest possible causes before seeking those more complex...  Wink
Mathew
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Re: Egg on my face - Update re. Tearing my hair out again ! DVD problem

Quote

Doh  Roll eyes

What a relief !  Cheesy
shermans
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Re: Egg on my face - Update re. Tearing my hair out again ! DVD problem

Despite my conclusion that the laptop kept freezing due to it running on batteries, it was not long before it started to happen again when running on mains power.  Eventually I downloaded some freeware which shows the heat of the processor.  (http://openhardwaremonitor.org/downloads) Playing a DVD, it was often running at 90 degrees celsius !  So overheating was clearly the real culprit.
I summoned up the courage to take it apart.  I concluded that I had nothing to lose, because I would have to buy a new laptop if I did nothing and if  I made a hash of it, I would have to do the same.
I was very careful and methodical.  I downloaded a copy of the HP manual which showed how to take it apart step-by-step - an excellent document which I did not expect the manufacturer to release to the general public.  I also watched a Youtube video 
>
  about taking the very same model apart for the very same reason.
More than 50 screws and hundreds of parts later, my suspicions were proved correct - the laptop had got like the hoover when the bag needs emptying !  Quite disgusting.  I removed the fan from the processor, cleaned everything very thoroughly and bought some heat-transfer paste from Maplins for £1.99 and some Loctite.  I then slowly put it all back together again.  To my astonishment, I did not have any screws left over !
When I fired it up, it all worked.  I tried a DVD and the temperature stayed at 38 degrees; the highest it reached was under 50.  And of course, so far it has not frozen again.
It was a job well-done but perhaps not one for the faint-hearted.  However, I did discover that the HP manual went a little over the top.  I was instructed to remove the display and all the connections thereto which I did.  But I think that was unnecessary, in fact, as the fan would have been removeable without going to those lengths.  I probably did not even have to remove the keyboard, but I did what I was told.  I also rigged up an anti-static wrist strap with wire and sellotape to keep it in contact with my skin, with the other end attached to the radiator.  That may not have necessary either, as the guy on Youtube was not wearing one.
I wonder how many other laptops get thrown out when they are actually just over-heating and relatively easy to repair ?
Smiley