Aleksandar's computer workshop
Let's see what Aleksandar was fixing today.
My findings, tips & tricks related to computers, internet, programming and other stuff I was working with.

How to enable AHCI mode after installing Windows

February 20, 2009 21:01 by Aleksandar

AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) is present on newer Intel chipsets such as 975X (ICH7), P965 (ICH8), and P35 (ICH9). AHCI mode is enabled in the BIOS and 3 settings are commonly available: IDE, AHCI, and RAID. The last two (AHCI and RAID) require a driver floppy and the F6 method when installing Windows XP otherwise the hard disks won't be detected.

AHCI mode brings 3 main advantages:
Supports NCQ (Native Command Queuing) allowing SATA drives to accept more than one command at a time and dynamically reorder the commands for maximum efficiency.
Supports hot plugging of devices
Supports staggered spin ups of multiple hard drives at boot time

However, in the real world the performance difference isn't huge.

The problem is that if you installed Windows in IDE mode (i.e. you didn't use F6 and supply a driver disk), then simply changing the BIOS setting to AHCI mode and rebooting will cause Windows to fail and will require a repair install. Most people have been advising to reinstall Windows if you want AHCI enabled.

Here you will find the sollution :

http://forums.pcper.com/showthread.php?t=444831

Copy of the article is here (5.07 kb)


Slow computer, High CPU utilization, the stuttering DVD drive or the lame hard disk?

September 28, 2008 21:36 by Aleksandar

Do you experience: 

  • Suddenly very slow computer
  • Constant high CPU utilization during file transfer
  • Lame hard disk performance
  • The stuttering DVD drive
  • Choppy DVD playback
  • Your drive is always in PIO mode and you can’t set it to UDMA mode

If you have one of these problems most probably your drive has switches from UDMA to PIO mode.

What does it mean?

DMA is an abbreviation for Direct Memory Access, an access method for external devices where the data transfer is not done by the central processor, but by a small special processor called DMA controller. It uses a procedure called cycle stealing, where the central processor memory access cycles are delayed for very short times to intersperse DMA controller memory access cycles. Some newer, faster DMA modes are called UDMA (Ultra DMA).

The alternative, slow and inefficient data transfer mode is called PIO, Programmed Input-Output, where the central processor transfers data byte for byte or word for word. This requires many processor commands for each data word and therefore causes a high and unwanted processor load.

Solution is here:
1) Download the file from here: http://winhlp.com/tools/resetdma.vbs

2) Despite any warnings click on the [Open] or [Execute] buttons as required to execute the file resetdma.vbs. If you fear to download the file, you can use the manual method instead (see link below). Or you could download, save, and inspect the program with an editor like the Windows Notepad. It is a script text file.

3) If the program found any ATA channel to reset, reboot your computer and test all drives.

4) If the problem is still not solved, set the offending channel to PIO manually, reboot your computer, set the channel back to DMA, and reboot again.

5) Please report your results here http://winhlp.com/node/97.

For more technical background or menual method visit this site:
http://winhlp.com/node/10


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Categories: Hardware | Windows
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LCD Monitor test

February 29, 2008 22:11 by Aleksandar
Got new LCD? Well, go to this site and test how does it work and good it is (or not)
http://www.lagom.nl/lcd-test/

Quote from site:
It is hard to select a good LCD screen based on the specifications such as
viewing angle and contrast, since different manufacturers have different
opinions on how to measure these. I made these test patterns in order to check
out a few monitors in the shops before I purchased one. You can check the images
on this webpage or put them on a usb stick and try them in the computer store
like I did. If you are already stuck with your monitor, you can use this page to
adjust its contrast and brightness settings, or to show off how good (or bad)
your monitor is compared to those of your friends. With these test images are
much more revealing regarding monitor shortcomings than ordinary photographs and you can judge the monitor quality by eye.

 


Golden performance tuning tip for SQL Server high CPU usage

February 29, 2008 21:19 by Aleksandar
I was busy today with one SQL server 2000. Problem was constant 100% CPU usage for long period several hours.

In normal situation customers schedules data for processing with maximum of 500-700k records in queue table with maximum CPU usage of 25-30%. Today queue went above 1M records. SQL server is hosted on dedicated high end class piece of hardware, with previous hardware and software performance tweaks. Good resource http://www.sql-server-performance.com/tips/all_main.aspx

Recently we have changed some part of the code so I decided to check what went wrong.

One thing I have noticed is many active connection (above 500). It was normal behavior, clients were busy today ;-).

I turned on the performance monitor which already has performance counter profile for monitoring which includes following:
  • Pages/sec
  • % Disk Time
  • Current Disk Queue Lenght
  • Disk Reads/sec
  • Disk Writes/sec
  • % Processor time
  • Batch Requests/sec
  • SQL Compilations/sec
  • SQL Re-Compilations/sec
  • Context Switches/sec

All values were in normal ranges except % Processor time (98-100) and Context Switches/sec (>8000).

I have checked general hardware health, RAID, HDD fragmentation, memory usage etc.. but everything was just fine.

Then I got idea to turn on Fiber mode (also called Lightweight pooling) for test, how it will react but I could recall that this option was tested before and that we had all kind of problems with SQL server. One of the problems was that sometimes SQL server did not wanted to start at all! Last thing you could see in SQL Server Log is this line:

"Recovery is checkpointing database ...."

After turning off the fiber mode SQL server would start properly.

Here is very nice article about SQL Server fiber mode:


http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa175385(SQL.80).aspx

Ken Henderson explains the effects that SQL Server fiber mode coupled with the User Mode Scheduler can have on your system, and what to consider carefully before enabling fiber mode

He's conclusion is:

Fiber mode was intended for niche situations in which a scalability ceiling is
hit due to UMS workers spending significant amounts of time switching between
thread contexts, or switching the CPU into kernel mode and back again. Unless
you have encountered this yourself, and have already tuned the system as much as
possible using more obvious (and safer) techniques, I recommend that you stay
away from fiber mode and focus your tuning efforts on other things. If you run
into a situation where you feel strongly you need fiber mode, it's probably
worth a call into Microsoft Product Support Services to confirm your diagnosis.
Better to get a second opinion than to break your server in subtle and
pernicious ways with little hope of determining how or why, and with no likely
improvement in overall performance.

So fiber mode was not an option. Hardware was working properly, but all 4 CPU's were still on 100% usage.

Then I turned on SQL Profiler. After 1h of data collection I had enough material to work with.

After running "Index Tuning Wizard" several times I got the results. 2 new indexes on one table should improve performance up to 77%!

CPU usage dropped from 98-100% to 3-5%. After 1/2h queue was reduced for almost 200k records!

My golden tip would be:

When you want to boost performance of your SQL server first thing to check are indexes!