Slow Vista SP1 file copies: no fix yet!

After my post about slow file copies with Windows Vista SP1, some of you offered potential fixes and asked for an update once the problem was resolved.  I have been taking a crack at this problem every so often without going into all-out, throw-down problem-solving mode since the prospect of spending hours ripping up my main PC for a fix that may or may not be possible with current OS and driver revisions doesn’t seem especially inviting.

Anyhow, I made another run at the problem again today.  Here’s a brief recap for you.

The problem is intermittently (very) slow network access, disconnect messages, and intermittent failed copies of large files from a Vista x64 SP1 machine with a Realtek RTL8168B/8111B GigE PCIe NIC to a Windows XP SP2 x86 machine.  The problems occur not just in Windows Explorer, but also when I’m saving files with another program, like Firefox downloads or the like.  The target machine serves files to any other system on my network (both XP and pre-SP1 Vista systems) quickly and with zero problems.

These problems started with the installation of Vista SP1.  So far, I’ve tried the following measures, with no improvement:

-Updating to RealTek’s latest NIC and audio drivers available today

-Enabling jumbo frames with (4K max) manually on both machines

-Manually configuring both NICs for full-duplex gigabit operation

-Setting “netsh interface tcp set global autotuninglevel=highlyrestricted”

-Setting “netsh interface tcp set global autotuninglevel=disabled”

-Accessing the remote system via a mapped drive or a UNC share (happens both ways)

-Disabling my (Avast) antivirus’s real-time file scanning and network AV protection modules during a file copy

-Disabling UAC

None of these changes have even moved the needle.  The problems are bad enough that everyday use of this machine in our networked environment is a trial.  I suppose the next steps may involve hardware changes, such as a discrete NIC.  I’d really prefer not to make such a change for an obvious software problem (this all worked fine before the installation of Vista SP1), but there may not be another option here.  I’ve tried pretty much everything suggested in this MS knowledgebase article, with the exception of using robocopy, since resorting to a CLI-based file copy utility isn’t a fix; it’s a kludgy workaround (and its presence in the KB article suggests this problem must be somewhat intractable).

Sooooo…  no good news to report, although I supposed I’ve learned a lot about what doesn’t help.  Whee.

Comments closed
    • odizzido
    • 12 years ago

    I dont have slow file copies, but I do have a problem where it claims it’s out of space with 3-4gigs left on my drive.

    The problem is with vista’s built-in FTP client. I try to copy 10 or so video files all around 200mb. I have enough space for them all, but after the 2nd or 3rd video, it stops copying with an out of space error. I can copy the files one at a time to get them all, just not all at once. No problems at all with XP.

    Basic functions in vista don’t work. It’s really pathetic.

    • NeXus^
    • 12 years ago

    I’ve made my own custom SP2 for Vista, here’s how I installed it:

    1. Format hard drive containing Vista.
    2. Install Windows XP.
    3. Performance problems solved!


      • Shining Arcanine
      • 12 years ago

      That is what I recommend as well. Windows XP is the best upgrade Microsoft has ever produced.

      If Scott would like a newer upgrade, he could try Ubuntu Linux.

    • TechNut
    • 12 years ago

    Do you have any multimedia applications running in the background that hook the audio driver?

    Have you tried upgrading your Windows file server to Windows 2008? It runs a lot better with Vista clients than Windows 2003 does.

    Have you tried manually assigning the IRQ associated to the NIC in the BIOS? ACPI allows IRQ redirection, however, the board physically is still wired to those ancient 16 XT IRQ’s. This can cause all sorts of problems. I still force the IRQ’s. My network card is not stable with my USB 2.0 controllers on the same physical IRQ.

    I regularly get 15 MB/s+ on my Vista SP1 client to my Windows 2008 server running in VMWare ESX. 15MB/s is pretty good. My iSCSI is about the same to the Linux iSCSI VMWare guest I have too.

    My XP clients are only 100meg, so, they max out the connection.

    What did have a marked improvement for me when using SMB (aka Windows) shares, was turning off the SMB differencing engine. The Vista client compares files block by block between the server and the client. Conversely, it saves network bandwidth, but it slows the transfer on big files, since it’s inspecting the back end at the same time. It is even crappy on new files. There’s a registry tweak you can apply to fix it. I did it a while back. A Google search should find it. It would affect you in all applications that use Windows mapped drives.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 12 years ago

    Didn’t MS hold off on distributing SP1 because it would interfere with certain drivers? Maybe your onboard NIC is affected, which would require ANOTHER driver update or a discrete card?

    • oldDummy
    • 12 years ago

    SP1 increased my transfer speed ~2 X the pre-SP1 level.
    My connection does cut out now and then however.
    It is annoying.
    Good Luck

    • n00b1e
    • 12 years ago


    Are there any warning and/or error events logged in the event log when those problems occur?

    Also, have you tried rolling back the NIC driver to pre-SP1?

    • Fighterpilot
    • 12 years ago

    Is this problem restricted to your 64bit system?
    I frequently do large file transfers in the range of 4 – 20GB and generally record a transfer rate of between 67-75MB/sec.( Roughly similar to XPSP2)
    I haven’t experienced any of the problems you have described,neither have others who I have quizzed about it(6 people alone today).

    • Dposcorp
    • 12 years ago

    If I may add a few suggestions.
    I know you can solve this and probably thought of these ideas, but just in case.

    Without touching any hardware at all, try this.

    1)Reboot both machines and time (with a watch) a large (4GB, Linux ISO maybe) single file transfer to target.
    Do the same with a bunch of smaller (4GB total) files.

    2)Reboot both machines, and this time, boot the Vista machine to a live Ultimate Boot CD. Repeat the above file transfer tests.

    3)Reboot both machines, and this time, boot the Vista machine to a live Linux CD. Repeat the above file transfer tests.

    This should yield some answers, as all 3 tests should be doable in around 20 minutes or so.

    After that, try a net Cat5 cable and/or NIC card.

    If that fails to identify a problem, then I would try a spare machine, maybe with a Intel Nic, with a fresh Install of Vista and see if that matters.

    Its not as exciting as a CPU/GPU review, and you wont have to repeat the tests 3 times to get a average result, but it might be neat to trouble shoot to find the answer to share with us.

      • Damage
      • 12 years ago

      Not sure what you’re getting at with the boot CDs. The problem is well known and quite obvious. The fix is not.

        • Krogoth
        • 12 years ago

        Dposcrop is suggesting to use LiveCDs to see if the problem is consistent through different OS. I would recommend doing this. The best part that it does not involve playing around with partitions and master boot record.

        If the problems persist. It is safe to say that the problem is purely hardware. First try different cabling and if that does not solve it. Then grab a discrete gigabit NIC.

          • Dposcorp
          • 12 years ago

          Krogoth is correct. Although the problem is most likely with Vista and/or SP1, the boot cd stuff can give us greater data to compare using various a couple of different Operating systems. I havent had a Vista file transfer problem yet, or I would do it myself.

          If nothing else, it might make a neat little article, and also produce more graphs 🙂

            • zgirl
            • 12 years ago

            somethings you haven’t mentioned which I think have been touched upon is first eliminating the physical layer. Try a different Ethernet cable along with a different port in the switch. I know, I know, but stranger things have happened.

            Also try booting to an alternate OS on the same cable and switch. Attempt to eliminate the possibilities of anything else before we say it is the OS for sure.

            One other thing to try is set the duplexing on the card and/or port to 100 full rather then auto. Rare but I’ve seen it resolve things.

            Plus it will help just to make sure that it isn’t something with the network that is causing some oddity with the OS. Resulting in it bugging out like this.

            Sorry wasn’t relpying to #17 I must have clicked the wrong thing and not caught it.

            • sativa
            • 12 years ago

            i agree — eliminating the physical layer as a suspect is critical.

        • tu2thepoo
        • 12 years ago

        It’s well-documented in pre-SP1 systems; the knowledgebase article itself states that it should be fixed post-SP1. I haven’t encountered the issue on my own setup (Vista SP1 to a WinXP SP2 fileserver), or when my classmates have brought their own Vista systems to my place. None of use are running the x64 version, though.

        I hate to sound pedantic, but the network problem might have been something that was just coincident with the SP1 installation. Have you already tried just uninstalling SP1? If it’s the sole cause that should be a fairly quick way to find out.

    • Krogoth
    • 12 years ago

    There is some strange voodoo going on there.

    I got the same integrated Realtek NIC solution on my DFI 975X motherboard. SP1 has actually improved gigabit ethernet performance for my rig.

    I never had to resort to the known tweaks.

    I think it is time to look at the physical level. It may be sheer coincidence that when you patch to SP1. The CAT5e cable started to go flaky on you. It could also be the gigabit switch going bad on you.

    This assumes that the NIC’s current performance is consistent on whatever OS you throw it on the same system and cabling.

      • DrDillyBar
      • 12 years ago

      What are your results with a known good crossover cable between these boxes (if possible)?

        • Krogoth
        • 12 years ago

        I don’t have a CAT5e or greater crossover cable at the moment.

    • Madman
    • 12 years ago

    I will admit that Vista is one of the things that gets on my nerves just way to often, but since I have to live with it now, I have managed to learn few tricks how you can trace down the problem and come to conclusion that it’s broken OS fault and you can do nothing about it anyway.

    First I would recommend you to check what is happening with the PC while you have a file copy in progress, and Vista is doing anything but the copying task.

    How much RAM is consumed, how much CPU, is it way above idle state? What happens with HDD?

    If it’s CPU, how the load is distributed between kernel and user mode programs? If it’s HDD, which process does the most I/O.

    You can try this handy tool to get better info than task manager can provide you -> §[<<]§ If the CPU load is mostly because of kernel you might want to run a kernrate to get more info on where exactly is all the crunching going on. Here is a good troubleshooting example -> §[<<]§ If it's not CPU then there might be a problem with blocking threads, but in that case it will require way more research and setup, so I'd recommend you to try these things out first.

    • IntelMole
    • 12 years ago

    Is your network Vista capable? 🙂

      • Madman
      • 12 years ago

      Is Vista computer compatible?

    • Convert
    • 12 years ago

    Clearly it’s time to buy a new system. 🙂

    Do you have a discrete network card handy? Could throw it in just to see if it helps.

      • CB5000
      • 12 years ago

      Discrete Network card is a good idea. I had an onboard NIC at one point and it worked very intermittently. I thought all this time it was the settings on Vista, but apparently for me it was the onboard network card…. and it was realtek too.

        • Convert
        • 12 years ago

        In Damage’s case I think the onboard nic is fine hardware wise, I just don’t think it is really kosher with Vista.

        To me out of everything that has been suggested and what has already been tried, 10 minutes to throw in another NIC probably would have been the quickest and easiest fix, obviously not the most economical. Even if Vista is to blame.

    • ChronoReverse
    • 12 years ago

    I suppose a clean install isn’t an option?

    • eitje
    • 12 years ago

    XP SP3?

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