Mysterious Windows Vista hang explained

Depressing post from Windows tech guru Mark Russinovich on The Case of the Delayed Windows Vista File Open Dialogs. In Windows Vista, whenever you use the File – Open dialog to browse your documents folder, the system attempts to display your full user name in a breadcrumb trail. In certain cases, this causes a delay of “between 5 to 15 seconds”, during which time your app will hang. The bad scenario is this:

  • Your computer is joined to a Windows domain
  • Your computer is attached to a network
  • The attached network does not provide a route to your domain controller

Example: your laptop is connected to a hotel wi-fi access point, and you don’t have a VPN open. Not uncommon.

Why depressing?

It’s depressing because this kind of thing is a poor user experience. It’s not only the hang; it’s that Windows provides no clue as to why you are waiting. If you are tech-savvy, you can even go into Task Manager, view the processes, and observe that nothing is busy; System Idle Process has 90% + of the CPU time. If you are really tech-savvy, you do what Russinovich did, but it’s not trivial to do so.

It’s depressing because Windows is trading the user’s time for the sake of prettification. Do you care whether the File – Open dialog has your full name in its address bar? No, you just want to open a document. But you do care that the app you are working with has hung, especially if the boss is looking over your shoulder and asking to see the figures in that Excel spreadsheet you are trying to open.

It’s depressing because it’s not a new problem. The detail is new, but I’ve noticed similar hangs in Windows before, in cases such as when you have a mapped drive letter to a location that is not available, or a share that no longer exists. Perhaps some of these are sorted in Vista, but this is just a new twist on an old issue.

The good news: maybe with Russinovich on board things like this will get fixed. But as he notes, not until Vista SP1 at the earliest.

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2 comments to Mysterious Windows Vista hang explained

  • Carolyn

    “prettification” or “pettification”?

    I’ve had Vista in a brand new beefy system for a week, and while there are some nice features, overall the experience has been an exercise in forbearance.

    Attempting to take control of my own experience is nigh on impossible. I suppose I will have to face the fact that Microsoft is intent on dumbing down the system to bolster their ability to control everything the user has access to.

  • Yuhong Bao

    ““prettification” or “pettification”?”
    prettification
    “Attempting to take control of my own experience is nigh on impossible. I suppose I will have to face the fact that Microsoft is intent on dumbing down the system to bolster their ability to control everything the user has access to.”
    That is a separate matter not discussed here.
    “If you are really tech-savvy, you do what Russinovich did, but it’s not trivial to do so.”
    But you don’t actually have to use WinDbg to do what Russinovich did. You can use Process Explorer to do the same thing. You setup symbols correctly (I recommend using the MS symbol server), then look in the threads tab of the properties of a process. You will get a list of threads, select a thread and click Stack to get a stack just like the one you get when you use WinDbg.