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I have one XP sp3 workstation that has developed a problem. Please note that this workstation acts as a "file server," with three shares published.

Operating at the workstation in question, whenever one opens My Computer or a shortcut that directly accesses a local directory, there is a long pause (perhaps 10 seconds) between the time the window opens and the directory's contents appear. In the meanwhile, a flashlight icon swings back-and-forth.

I have seen this behavior before. In the past, it's an issue accessing a mass-storage device (say an external/usb hard drive or a memory card in an externally attached printer) or a mapped network location that has become unavailable.

In fact, here are all the things I have tried:

  1. Disconnected all hardware devices.
  2. Removed all mapped network drives.
  3. Manually turned off Non-MS services or killed processes.
  4. Uninstalled all printers and scanners.
  5. Turned off the WMI service. (Some users indicate that the WMI service can cause this problem.)
  6. Logged into a different local user account.
  7. Turned off sharing by disabling the Server and Computer Browser services. (I have not tried unpublishing the shares.)

I have put the workstation back to its original configuration after my tests.

I have discovered that the problem does not happen if the computer is rebooted into "Safe Mode w/ Networking," indicating the problem may be with a service or startup item. I had hoped that by manually stopping services and closing processes would help point to a culprit. That has not happened. It looks like working with msconfig is my Next Step.

The Googled-Consensus indicates that Explorer is either looking for something and timing out or looking for something and finding it, albeit 10 seconds later. In general, Explorer is looking for something.

I am hoping for suggestions on how I can determine what Explorer wants. Of course, any suggestions on how to narrow out and resolve the behavior is helpful!



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Go into the BIOS of the computer and disable the power saving options? Maybe the hard drive is being spun down into power save mode all the time?

You could go to the SYSINTERNALS site and use the File Monitor tool to figure out what happens when you try to browse. Of course, when you do that, turn off all services not related to the problem.

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I figured out the problem.

It turned out to be a combination of two issues:

  1. A mis-pointed "My Documents" directory.
  2. Windows Search Service.

  3. As I mentioned, this system is a "server." It wasn't always. Another workstation had been until it was recently retired. Well, the "My Documents" directory on the problematic server pointed at the server that no longer existed.

  4. I found if I disabled the Windows Search service, the problem would go away for most folders. However, any time Windows Search went to touch the mis-directed My Documents directory, it hung for a period of time.

Ultimately, the mis-directed My Documents was the big problem. Once that was resolved, I could restart all services (and Search) to no ill effect.

Thanks for the thoughts!

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Just a stab in the dark. Does it still happen if you "Use windows classic folders". (Tools>Folder Options: General Tab : Tasks : "Use windows classic folders".)

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Yes, the problem continues. Thanks for the idea, Bruce. – tcv Jan 4 '10 at 19:58

Some possible culprits:

  • Physical Disk error: Use HDtune, built in windows tools, or the tool of your choice to check for bad sectors.
  • Logical Disk error: Use built in windows tools to check for file system problems
  • Antivirus/Spyware: Check for Viruses and malware in general with multiple tools. AV (Your corporate AV if you have one, Avast if you don't) and Spybot Search & Destroy at the minimum. If you've ruled out the possibility of the disease test to see if the cure is worse (aka disable and/or uninstall the realtime antivirus).
  • Temporary files: Especially if you didn't let Sypbot take care of this for you when checking for malware, delete temp files in all the familiar places do this when booted in safe mode if that is what you have to do to work with files quickly:

Boot drive:\ (This requires knowing what is safe to delete from the root of your boot volume)
\Documents and settings\%user%\temp

  • Directory/File structure: Are you hitting or nearing the Maximum number of objects in the root directory, or in a subdirectory?
  • Disk subsystem performance: Is the drive just getting behind when multiple services are making requests at the same time? You want to know the disk queue length or pay attention to the drive activity light when the delay occurs.
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I have seen this behavior several times before, each with different causes.

With the most recent occasion, the culprit was an old version of MSN Messenger and it's "live spaces" integration with Windows Explorer.

If you end all explorer processes in Task Manager, and then start a new explorer.exe process does the problem persist?

I would echo the previous comment about using the sysinternals tools, including process monitor, process explorer and tcpview to diagnose the issue, since during a 15sec pause you have a long window to inspect what is going on. Good luck!

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