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Word 2007 files take forever to open in Vista (was: Will an SSD help?)

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#1
JorgeA

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Hello,

In my line of work I deal with some fairly hefty (4MB, 13MB) MS Word files featuring a mix of text and graphical elements, and I've noticed that they can take a loooong time to load before I can start working on them. Yesterday, as a test, I opened a 13,746KB file and started a stopwatch. Three minutes and 20 seconds of thumb-twiddling later, the file finally finished loading.

It doesn't seem to matter what other programs I do or don't have running at the same time. Therefore I'm thinking that maybe if I put these files on a solid state drive, I could load (and save) them faster and no longer need to sit around waiting or finding something else to do in the meantime.

FWIW, I use Vista Home Premium x64, and my PC (a factory-spec HP a6512p) has 4GB of RAM and a Pentium Dual E2200 CPU. I also use ReadyBoost (it does seem generally to speed things up for me). Needless to say, I don't have any USB 3.0 ports.

My research indicates that Vista doesn't support the TRIM command that helps to keep SSDs running faster for longer. But then I would only be using the SSD to store Word files, so it would take a long time to fill it to the point where performance would start getting affected. (And many SSD manufacturers have their own software to clean out their drives.) The most important question is: Is installing an SSD likely to significantly speed up loading and saving my Word files?

Thanks for any insights or information you might have on this!

--JorgeA


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#2
dencorso

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If money is not a problem, you should go for a Fusion ioDrive. If it's somewhat of a problem, a RAID array of 6 class 10 SDHC cards will do nice. But usually both are too expensive as solutions. For normal mortals, A 4 GiB Gigabyte i-Ram is the best solution money can buy. But you'd have to load it the files at the start of a working day and backup them to safer media at the end of the day, just to keep on the safe side. All going well, the files keep there all right, so you just need to backup at the end of the day, each day, to keep safe, but the files are still in the i-RAM when you start next day, so there's no need to reload them. I'm a quite satisfied user of i-Ram, although I use it just for the pagefile, most of the time. Read much more about it and details about the exotic media I've mentioned above in this thread elsewhere (posts #38-49... it was sort of a thread hijack, :blushing: as you can see).


Or you could go the ramdisk way: a 256 or even 512 MiB ramdisk could be easily created from your existing RAM, would impact little on the performance of your Vista system and is surely faster than any of the above mentioned hardware, except, perhaps, the Fusion ioDrive.

#3
engmod

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I would try a defrag first. As you have the timings already, it is an ideal time to try.

Cheers
Derek

#4
CoffeeFiend

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I would definitely NOT buy one based on the info we have so far.

I opened a 13,746KB file and started a stopwatch. Three minutes and 20 seconds

That suggests the drive is NOT your bottleneck. If it was just loading slow from disk, here you'd be talking about 68 kilobytes per second which beyond ridiculously low -- we had FAR better performance on drives that are over a decade old. Even crappy old floppy drives are faster than that. In fact, I've written a totally trivial C# app that checks how fast I can load a 15MB file (well, whatever file you happen to name file.ext) into a byte array, just to see how long it could really take:
DateTime before = DateTime.Now;
byte[] buff = File.ReadAllBytes("file.ext");
DateTime after = DateTime.Now;
TimeSpan ts = after - before;
Console.WriteLine(ts.TotalMilliseconds);
It doesn't get much simpler than that... The result on a 15MB file (on the first run)? 150ms or so is the absolute max I've seen. Even on a slower drive it wouldn't be much higher than that. So I can't see file I/O accounting for more than perhaps a second or so of that 3 minute 20 second delay, unless there is something wrong with your I/O subsystem at some level (malware? misbehaving driver? security suite slowing disk access a lot? -- although all these would make the computer really sluggish as a whole).

Long story short, buying a SSD may potentially reduce that second or less worth of I/O latency, but as is it won't really help with the rest of that 3 min 20 sec you're waiting.

Something else must be causing this. Such very large office documents tend to be fairly complex, but it's not like it should peg your CPU to 100% for over 3 minutes. Perhaps it's an antivirus (or malware-related app) that's causing the delay. Or office checking if someone else on the network has it open already (this can take forever sometimes). Hard to guess.
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#5
JorgeA

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If money is not a problem, you should go for a Fusion ioDrive. If it's somewhat of a problem, a RAID array of 6 class 10 SDHC cards will do nice. But usually both are too expensive as solutions. For normal mortals, A 4 GiB Gigabyte i-Ram is the best solution money can buy. But you'd have to load it the files at the start of a working day and backup them to safer media at the end of the day, just to keep on the safe side. All going well, the files keep there all right, so you just need to backup at the end of the day, each day, to keep safe, but the files are still in the i-RAM when you start next day, so there's no need to reload them. I'm a quite satisfied user of i-Ram, although I use it just for the pagefile, most of the time. Read much more about it and details about the exotic media I've mentioned above in this thread elsewhere (posts #38-49... it was sort of a thread hijack, :blushing: as you can see).


Or you could go the ramdisk way: a 256 or even 512 MiB ramdisk could be easily created from your existing RAM, would impact little on the performance of your Vista system and is surely faster than any of the above mentioned hardware, except, perhaps, the Fusion ioDrive.

dencorso,

You gave me a lot to chew on! :) I'll look into these various possibilities.

Hmm, I haven't used a RAMdisk since the good old days of DOS. I thought the whole concept had died a natural death with the advent of big RAM capacities and OS's able to utilize them. How about that.

--JorgeA

#6
JorgeA

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I would try a defrag first. As you have the timings already, it is an ideal time to try.

Cheers
Derek

Derek,

Thanks for the idea, I hadn't thought of that.

Norton 360 claims that my disk is just 1% fragmented, though, so assuming that N360 is accurate then that shouldn't be the source of the problem. Assuming...

--JorgeA

#7
dencorso

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The whole thread at Boot-Land I pointed you to is dedicated to just one of the many ramdisks available: Gavotte's... Ramdisks both as a concept and as actual software are alive and kicking. Here's still more to chew on: Ramdisk Benchmarks.

That said, I think CoffeeFiend is right on-the-mark: probably your problem goes well beyond using a fast storage device. The delay you reported seems to indicate a lot of processing going on. You should investigate it further. However, since setting a ramdisk can be done for free, it might help comparing what happens on opening some of these files from your current HDD and from a ramdrive, which is way faster, to establish whether the speed of the storage device actually does bear on it (and if so, how much) or not.

#8
JorgeA

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CoffeeFiend,

Thanks a bunch for the diagnostic.

The thought of malware did cross my mind. However, I regularly run my PC through (1) Norton Internet Security, (2) Windows Defender, (3) Spybot Search & Destroy, and (4) Eset NOD Online Scanner, plus (5) the MS Malware Removal Tool. We know that no single security application is perfect, but it would have to be a heckuva malware program to get past all five of these.

Of these, Norton and Spybot are resident. We can imagine that they'd slow things down, but when nothing else but them is running my CPU Meter hovers between 01% and 25% or thereabouts -- hardly enough to account for the slow loading speed. And Norton hasn't been set to scan Office files as they're opened. When I opened the test file tonight again, CPU usage topped out at about 74%, and more often was bouncing around the 25% mark even as the file was loading.

Regarding a network -- I do have my PCs on a home network, but I don't have a server and file sharing is not enabled on this computer. Still... is there a way to find out whether Word is spending time checking to see if another computer is using the file? If it helps, I notice that for that 501-page file it starts off very slowly, loading some 3 pages at a time like molasses, till it gets to a certain point (near the halfway mark) and then it starts adding pages quickly.

What else could affect load time? Could the number of open IE windows have a bearing on it? (I'm groping for other possible culprits.)

Anyway, it sounds like getting an SSD wouldn't cut down noticeably on file loading time even in the best of cases. (You may have saved me a bundle of dough here, thank you!) So what's all the rage about regarding SSDs?

--JorgeA

#9
CoffeeFiend

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Sounds like it's not malware or virus/spyware/malware-scanner apps then.

is there a way to find out whether Word is spending time checking to see if another computer is using the file?

You can peek at the bottom, it should say so in the status bar.

What else could affect load time?

A network printer perhaps. Lots of them have misbehaving drivers too (I've seen several that made Photoshop crash instantly when creating new documents...) You could try to change your default printer to something else temporarily, just to see if that fixes it.

I would also try to open word in safe mode (using /a) then opening the document (file>open or using its icon) to see if that changes anything. if the delay persists, then we also know it's not due to word itself (the app or related "extensions") loading slow but rather the document loading slowly.

I don't think I've ever come across a word document that was this big though so I'm not totally sure what kind of performance to expect then (depending on the document complexity of course)...
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#10
dencorso

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If all other hypotheses can be safely discounted, then let's go back to the faster storage device idea. I'd say create a Restore Point, then install the Free Version of VSuite Ramdisk. It's the faster one available. Set it to 512 GiB. Then copy your test file to it and do a test. Compare the full load times, an let's see what happens. It doesn't hurt to try. And if it actually solves your problem you might even consider upgrading to the paid version, which is even faster, because it has a Direct I/O mode, although it may not be worth, perhaps, paying for it. I bet the free version will be enough, already. But let's see.

Edit: I overlooked the fact that you use a 64-bit OS. This means you have to use the paid for version of VSuite Ramdisk. However it's 15-day free trial, so you can test it all right. Now, if you want a free Ramdisk, there is the Dataram or the Gavotte. And both are good enough, too. However, the former is easier to set up. Then again, the VSuite is twice as fast, at least, because it can use Direct I/O.

#11
JorgeA

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CoffeeFiend,

O.K., we can rule out a network printer. I'm not using printer sharing on the network.

I'll try opening the file in Safe Mode tomorrow. Late last night I cleaned out the Registry with CCleaner (it removed 113 broken entries), and the load time went down to 2:47. Still not great, but better.

Thanks for the idea.

--JorgeA

#12
puntoMX

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I actually wondered if this was on a clean installed windows but I know now it's not, so, would it be better to reinstall all your software first (please leave Norton out on your fresh install) and see what that does?

#13
JorgeA

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dencorso,

Thanks for the tip. I downloaded the Professional Version trial and installed it, then copied the Word file to it and opened it in Word. Load time was 3:03.

Out of curiosity, I then closed the file, went back into the hard disk, and opened the original copy of the file from there, again in Word. Load time: 3:03. :w00t:

Amazingly, the RAM disk seems to have made, literally, no difference!

--JorgeA

#14
JorgeA

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I actually wondered if this was on a clean installed windows but I know now it's not, so, would it be better to reinstall all your software first (please leave Norton out on your fresh install) and see what that does?

puntoMX,

Hola, ¿qué tal? :hello: Good to hear from you again.

But man, that would be a radical measure!

Would you want to leave Norton out permanently, or only for the duration of the test?

--JorgeA

#15
dencorso

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Amazingly, the RAM disk seems to have made, literally, no difference!

Let's validate the test first: download Crystal DiskMark and benchmark both your HDD and then the ramdisk (screenshots welcome! :D ). The difference must be huge. If so, then really the bottle-neck is not loading the file, but processing it. It just may be that word really needs all that time to assemble the document from the way it's stored in the file. :}

PuntoMX abominates Symantec Norton products, but he may have a point there. However I see no need for a reinstall, at this point. Tell me, please, how many Symantec products, Norton or Corporate, do you have in your setup, and which products are they.

#16
puntoMX

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No, I don't hate Norton products but there are "better" options as Norton products seem a bit overactive, but that's just my 0.02. I'll just sit back and watch the show (in a good way ;)).

JorgeA, I see you got your "Mexican" Spanish (Slang) learned. It's just seven years of Mexico for me but I do miss the Netherlands from time to time. :lol:

Now, I'm just going to lurk around here if you guys don't mind, always nice to see what the club brings. :D

#17
dencorso

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@PuntoMX: Sorry if I came out harsh! :blushing: No offense was intended. :yes: Please do keep around, things are getting "curiouser and curiouser" just at this point.

#18
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And Norton hasn't been set to scan Office files as they're opened.

I also suspect Norton. Try to exit Norton totally (or disable all protection) as Norton might still want to "protect" you against the evil office file even though you told it not to. Safe mode without Norton should also work.

Just my 0.02 ZAR (which isn't worth much, I know)

Edited by BlouBul, 28 September 2010 - 01:07 AM.

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dencorso

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OK. Here's why I said I don't think it's necessary to do a clean install, to test whether Norton has a hand on it. Symantec provides anyone for free the Norton Removal Tool, which does a pretty thorough job. However it removes all Norton products from the machine at once. So the downside it to have to reinstall all Norton products one wants back, after the testing, all over again. For one or two products only (and that's why I asked how many), that's feasible, and much less work that a reinstall from scratch. Now, to make clear what I think about Symantec products, it's like this: I *love* Norton Ghost 2003; I like a pretty lean install of Norton System Works 2003 up to 2005. I think all later products from this line are very much bloated... and I abhor the Norton Antivirus, which I've always seen as a big system hog. Then again, I like a tweaked installation of AVG (the paid-for AntiVirus, not the Internet Security), but it seems I'm almost alone in liking it, these days...

#20
JorgeA

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dencorso,

I downloaded and installed Crystal DiskMark, and ran the tests as you suggested. I'm attaching the screenshots. Let me know what you think.

I use Norton 360, and its various functions are pretty well integated into my computer: Safe Search for IE, AntiSpam for Outlook, firewall and AV are resident. I also have Online Backup. Therefore I really would prefer to leave N360 alone and wait a few minutes for a Word file to load, than to uninstall and reinstall (and re-register) it. The PITA factor just isn't worth it.

The CPU Meter normally hovers between 4 and 8 percent, with occasional spikes, when N360 is running. It's not really an intolerable drain on my resources. The earlier version that I had on my Win98 PC really was a resource hog, though.

--JorgeA

Attached Files


Edited by JorgeA, 28 September 2010 - 11:16 AM.


#21
JorgeA

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BlouBul,

Thanks for pitching in!

I disabled Norton Antivirus and opened the same file in Word off the RAMdisk. Load time was 2:59, compared to 3:05 when I did the same thing before disabling the AV.

Next thing to try will be doing it in Safe Mode, as you and CoffeeFiend have suggested.

Just my 0.02 ZAR (which isn't worth much, I know)

LOL

--JorgeA

#22
BlouBul

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Have you ever tried opening the file on another computer (with a different AV) to compare the opening times?
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#23
JorgeA

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Have you ever tried opening the file on another computer (with a different AV) to compare the opening times?

BlouBul,

That's an interesting idea.

Trouble is, my other modern computer (a laptop) has Norton 360 on it, too. I also have MS Word on three other PCs, but they are a Windows 98, a Windows 98SE, and a Windows for Workgroups 3.11. I'd be surprised if the opening times on those systems could be compared usefully to this machine.

--JorgeA

#24
dencorso

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Thanks! 1850% faster sequencial read and a lot more in the random read! Wow!
So it's valdated, all right! :yes:
Hence, it's official: storage device speed doesn't influence your issue at all!
And that answers your original question: No. An SSD won't help at all.

The PITA factor just isn't worth it.

I was suspecting you'd feel that way. So would I, were I in your position, too.

You might now invoke the CPU Meter, send it to the tray, open word with no document, then use the file/open menu to select your big word document, and monitor the total CPU usage during the 3 min it takes to load. Or you might not send it to the tray, find the line for WINWORD.EXE in the "Windows Task Manager" Process view, and follow the actual CPU usage of Word, during the loading. That should tell us how much of a CPU drain loading this big document is, in fact. And doing it both ways should tell us whether it's Word or other processes that are doing most of the processing.

As for trying to open your big document in the Win 98SE machine, that should be an interesting experiment, too. It's sure worth trying.

#25
JorgeA

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dencorso,

I just tried the procedure you described. I opened Task Manager to monitor the running processes (CPU usage is shown across the bottom).

The maximum CPU usage by Word at any given point as it loaded that file from the RAMdisk was 50%, and the highest total CPU usage reading was 60%. Most of the time both values were much lower. There does seem to be plenty of slack there.

I'll copy the file to the Win98SE notebook tonight and see what happens.

Thanks for following up.

--JorgeA

P.S. A faintly related question: If having a RAMdisk doesn't speed up the loading of a big file, then where is the benefit of using a RAMdisk? Back in the times of DOS and floppy disks I would put my WordStar files on a RAM drive, and it made a huge difference when scrolling up and down large documents.




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