Check Your IDE Transfer Mode To Make Your PC Faster

Guy McDowell 07-01-2009

ide transfer modeYou’ve done everything you can to get your computer back up to speed. You’ve used all the tools there are to save space, defrag, and get rid of junk.   You’ve done all you can but your computer still…..runs…dead……s-l-o-w.


The first thing I check on a slow computer is if it is running in PIO or DMA mode.

I hear you panic, “What the doodle is DMA mode? How do I check that? Oh Guy, don’t get too techy on us!!!”

Don’t sweat it. This procedure only takes about 3 minutes and is quick and painless. That’s why I check this first instead of running all the diagnostic and hard drive utilities. Plus, if this IS the problem, those utilities will take FOREVER to run and won’t solve the problem.

What Happened?

How does a Windows-based machine drop from the Direct Memory Access (DMA) modes (fast modes) to the Programmed Input/Output (PIO) mode (death warmed over)? Apparently, if Windows encounters six or more CRC or timeout errors, it will have a “hard drive attack” and slow the Secondary IDE settings to PIO mode.

Simply shutting down your computer by the power button can lead to this problem too. So, don’t do that anymore.


(NOTE: Hardware Engineer Types, I know this isn’t the most accurate explanation, but it’s the very basic overview that my Aunt Tessie can handle, OK?)

How Can I Fix It?

Now for the juicy part – how to fix it. You might have gathered that from the heading above. Good eye.

Go to the Device Manager (accessible via the Windows Control Panel, double-click the Systems Icon, click the Hardware tab, then the Device Manager button)

Expand the IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers entry.


Check Your IDE Transfer Mode To Make Your PC Faster device manager

Double-click on the first IDE Channel entry. This is where the problem seems to occur the most. If you don’t find it here, then check the other entries with the same method.

Click on the Advanced Settings tab and see if the Current Transfer Mode reads PIO Mode and the Transfer Mode reads DMA if available.

Check Your IDE Transfer Mode To Make Your PC Faster pio mode on primary ide


If it does, then set the Transfer Mode to PIO only. Click ‘OK’.

Check Your IDE Transfer Mode To Make Your PC Faster change to pio

Double-click on the first IDE Channel entry again, click on the Advanced Settings tab, and change the Transfer Mode from PIO only to DMA if available. Click ‘OK’.

Once more, double-click on the first IDE Channel entry and click on the Advanced Settings tab. Now the Current Transfer Mode should read something like Ultra DMA Mode 5. Click ‘OK’, restart your computer and see how it runs so much faster. Quick and painless, n’est pas?


Check Your IDE Transfer Mode To Make Your PC Faster ultradma mode

Wait, you’re still here? It happened again? You’ve been shutting down properly right? I see.

Well, there are some other possible contributing factors that can cause the hard drive to drop to PIO mode. At this point though, you may be best to take it to a qualified repair shop. Most of these problems will be hardware related. At least you didn’t waste 17.25 hours waiting for a defrag that wasn’t going to fix anything.

Have you had this problem before? Know of any other simple changes that can be made in the Device Manager that can help your computer? Let us know in the comments.

Picture Credit : Jaisey

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  1. LGFN
    March 16, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I don't see any IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers on my PC, only SCSI and RAID controllers.

    What does this mean?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. Guy McDowell
    January 28, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    You're welcome John! Glad it helped.

    I've seen this problem on a lot of the Dell's that were given away as part of a Telus Internet Service promotion in Canada. Needless to say, I have one of those Dell's.

    There is a way to go into the registry and reset the count, so this problem is less likely to resurface. I'll have to work on an article for that...

  3. John
    January 26, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Thanks alot. I have been dealing with this proble for awhile now.

  4. Usman
    January 11, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    I already had these settings on my computer :)

  5. David
    January 10, 2009 at 10:05 am

    I assume this is for XP. Does anyone know how this can be applied to Vista?

    • Guy McDowell
      January 11, 2009 at 4:37 pm

      I honestly don't know. I'm one of the camp that is waiting on Windows 7. Went to the Vista launch and avoided it since then. Just not for me.

  6. David
    January 10, 2009 at 10:04 am

    I assume this is for XP. Does anyone know how this works on Vista?

  7. projectautomatika
    January 8, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Used this tip a lot of times already. Very effective.

  8. Rarst
    January 8, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Happpens a lot with old optical drives. Sometimes Windows is locking to PIO really hard (changing in device manager not working) so then options are reinstalling controller drivers or messing with registry.

    That means no device on that channel. Nothing plugged in.

  9. Aibek
    January 8, 2009 at 11:06 am

    hey mate, thanks for the great tip!

    • Guy McDowell
      January 11, 2009 at 4:35 pm

      Hey Aibek, thanks for helping provide a site where I can have these tips published!

  10. Andrea Tavazzani
    January 8, 2009 at 4:19 am

    Another possibility is to force the UDMA mode from the BIOS instead the Auto provided by default settings (IDE configuration), i recently had the same problem and another trick is to remove the IDE device at all from the device manager and then restart, peripherals will be recognized, i was becoming crazy before discovering that the choppy performance of the HD was the PIO mode. Great Post. I think many people don't know this fact and is running into trouble. Greetings.

    • Guy McDowell
      January 11, 2009 at 4:35 pm

      Thank you Andrea! Yes, there are several ways to skin this cat for certain! I just went with what I can talk my average user through.

      People get a bit scared when deleting devices, so this method is a little more complex, but easier on the heart.

  11. Holler
    January 7, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Seems to work. My laptop is a little quicker now.

  12. Freddy Rivers
    January 7, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    We non-computer types are always being told that you should only make changes to the registry if you know what you're doing, which we don't. So before I wipe my hard disk clean, doctor, can you assure me there'll be no adverse side-effects? Thanks!

    • Guy McDowell
      January 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm

      This isn't really a registry fix. At worst, you restart your computer and the settings are reset to the highest possible for your particular drive.

  13. Ben Dover
    January 7, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Holy crap! People still use IDE?

  14. Gordon
    January 7, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    lol im going to try it now, thanks for telling us, and a little correction... it's "n'est-ce pas?" :P i speak french

    • francophile
      January 8, 2009 at 10:24 am

      It definitely works. Oh yeah...

      Vous êtes completement stupide

      • Guy McDowell
        January 11, 2009 at 4:30 pm

        That's not nice to call someone completely stupid.

        I don't think I've ever called a francophone stupid for their brand of franglais. Je n'est suis pas un francophone, je suis en franchophonie! :)

        • salz
          May 13, 2009 at 11:32 am

          After 3 hours, and having read almost everything I got about the problem I was experiencing, I came across your solution, and guess what, it worked. Thanks a lot

  15. Lee
    January 7, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    What happens if the Current Transfer Mode reads "Not Applicable"?

    • Andrea Tavazzani
      January 8, 2009 at 4:21 am

      No HD connected to that device.

  16. Paul Leclerc
    January 7, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    This happens on a regular basis for my laptop's DVD drive when I play CD or DVD's that are scratched.
    The best place to understand and fix this issue is to go to It includes a VBScript to check and change the settings. I've used it several times with great success.

    • USGuyInMTL
      January 10, 2009 at 9:56 pm

      I got here via Lifehacker and tried the Device Manager directions and they did not work. The VBScript at fixed it in a snap. Thanks for the link.

      • Guy McDowell
        January 11, 2009 at 4:32 pm

        Awesome, glad the script helped. As I've told people before, it's not exactly computer science, it's more like computer alchemy.