Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Make your PC run at full speed again
If you're happy with the speed of your computer, just ignore this article, for the rest, read on. For several weeks or even months my notebook PC seemed to run really slow, I mean slower than the usual slow. First thought was that the hard drive was running full and there were too many programs installed. That was true, but this wasn't the reason why the PC was running slow.

By coinicidence, I found out the clock speed of the CPU was constantly running at 1.1Ghz, even when there was heavy computing going on. That couldn't be right since the Intel Core i7 M 620 CPU had a max speed of 2.6Ghz under heavy load..

I tried playing around with the various power settings in the windows control panel (Maximum power, Balanced or even Power saving) but the clock speed remained permanently unchanged at it''s low level no matter what task is being performed on the Windows operating system. After none of these worked, I started looking for software updates.

All Windows patches were up to date so I started looking updates from the manufacturer of the system, in this case 'Lenovo'. These were found through Lenovo's own system update software. After downloading and installing a number of power and system driver updates and rebooting the PC, the cpu's clock speed (you can find this out with CPU-Z) seemed to go back to normal, ie clocking down when the PC was idling and going at full speed when needed (Intel named this SpeedStep -ing).

This new found glory was short lived however, since after a short while the system immediately and completely shut off without any kind of warning, twice. After this episode the CPU went back to it's slowest clock speed and stayed there. Back to square one. I guess the reason for the system shutdown was the cpu was running too hot (over 80 degrees Celsius), thus shutting itself off automatically when reaching a certain temperature, to prevent any damage to the cpu.

So I opened the notebook keyboard to reveal the CPU fan and dusted it off using a small brush. Ideally you would have compressed air in a can such as from 'Dust-off' to get rid of the dust (do this outside though, not like me in the kitchen, who knows what kind of chemicals are in the computer's dust), unfortunately in the country I'm in, it practically isn't available.

Actually to clean it properly you'd have to take off the fan and properly clean the part where CPU and heat-sink come together and apply new thermal compund. I just dusted it off however and put a cheap USB notebook cooler under the PC to help dissipate the hot air.

Now that the CPU was running cooler again. I did a system restore to a previous time before the complete shut off from before. This still hasn't changed the clock speed though. I then proceeded to disable SpeedStep under power settings of the BIOS (press either 'del', F10, F2 or F1 when you turn on the PC).

Sure enough, the clock speed now runs at it's maximum of 2.6Ghz without slowing down even when idling. I reinstalled the manufacturer's updates (since the system restore wiped them off) and looked and found a newer BIOS firmware in form of a bootable ISO file which needs to be burned on to a CD. I tried to make a bootable USB drive instead with Rufus (the reliable USB formatting utility) but that didn't work. I haven't used a CD-R in years so had to buy one at the local supermarket first.

After booting from the freshly baked CD (using ImgBurn - the Ultimate Image Burner, freeware), I followed the screen instructions (keep your system powered at all times, ensure your battery is fully charged and don't interrupt the BIOS upgrade unless you want a new paper weight) rebooted into BIOS and put all settings to default, restarted the computer, set the Windows power settings to 'Balanced' and low and behold, SpeedStep was now adapting the CPU's clock speed to the computer's work load again.

No comments: