Long context switches on old notebook

Due to the fact that my mainboard's PCIe slot is broken (and I'm currently waiting for Zen) I'm using my old notebook again. It runs decently fast when gaming (as fast as it can be expected), but every time it has to do some kind of context swtich (alt-tabbing while gaming for instance) I have to wait a while before I'm able to use it again. It often takes long enough for FX being classified as "not responding" by the OS.

I was wondering if something might be wrong with it's hardware and/or RAM, which is why I downloaded CrystalDiskInfo - it claims the harddrive is in good health - and I'm doing Windows' chdsk check right now. Is this sufficent for checking a drive's health or do you know anything else?

Afterwards, I'm going to check my RAM with Memtest86. But then again, this will only report if my RAM is working properly, not how well (read: fast) it performs compared to when it was new.

Is there anything else you can think of? I wouldn't mind purchasing a new HDD(SDD) or RAM if it helps, but since I'm not sure what's causing the problem I don't intend to experiement by buying new hardware either^^

RAM performance shouldn't degrade, and Memtest does report memory speed.
My guess is that you don't have enough RAM. Under Windows, if you use more than (I think) 75% of RAM Windows starts to offload pages to HDD, and when you context-switch, these inactive pages become active again and first need to be copied to RAM.


can you give us the output of

free -h

when your under heavy load like during gaming and context switches take a while

I have 4GiB and this also happens when only 50% are used, but then again Windows is RAM hungry (I'm using Windows 7)

@Dje4321: I think Windows doesn't have "free -h", but I'll post my memory usage when gaming tomorrow. (That being said, I don't think Deus Ex: Revision can be considered as heavy load for an i7 @1,66GHz with a 4870).

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thought it was linux there for a second

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I kept an eye on Window's resource monitor today ( @Dje4321 Window's free -h ^^) and it seems that even whenever I alt-tab out of the game, I had (according to the graph) around 80-90% memory load, thus confirming your claim. Furthermore, after the context switch my disk's "Disk Queue Length" is at maximum for a while. As soon as it hits zero, the notebook becomes usable again. I've also noticed that when the task manager reports average memory load (let's say 50%), but the actual free memory (reported in the resource manager) is rather low, which means I have around 50% memory in use and 49% in standby, the notebook is reacts slow too.

Therefore I think I 4GiB RAM might not be enough, just like @max1220 suspected.

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yep out of ram.

the high disk load is coming from the windows page file

If 2x4GiB are reasonble priced somewhere, I'll propably get them.

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So, is there anything I need to be careful about, or should I be able to buy any RAM module as long as it is SO-DIMM DDR3?

These modules for example look really cheap - and it's even 16GiB of RAM:

On the other hand I could grab two of those and upgrade my old mac (mid 2010) as well.

what is the laptop?

certain laptops are really picky about what ram you use

It's an old Alienware m17x r2.

(Discovered there are DDR3L and DDR3, with the former being usable by Ivy Bridge and it's predecessors, therefore I need DDR3)

So, I was able to get my hands on two 4GiB DDR3 RAM modules for free; pc seems more responsive now. (Altough I believe a SSD wouldn't hurt either :D )