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Hard Drives running continuously at 100% utilization
Hard Drives running continuously at 100% utilization
04-06-2014 - 10:08 PM
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Why is my hard drive always running at 100% utilization, but the task manager is not showing enough processes that adds up? The problem started about 2 weeks ago after a Windows 8.1 security update was installed, my memory and hard drive started running at 100% utilization on my Alienware Aura PC - (Intel i7 CPU X 980 @ 3.33GHz 64-bit, 3GB of Ram, 2 x 1TB hard drives) causing poor performance. I thought it was a memory issue so I upgraded the RAM to 24.0GB and the memory issue was fixed. The hard drives passed all tests and I've completed a couple defrags, but I haven't found anything to resolve the issue.
(This post was last modified: 04-06-2014 10:12 PM by TomMcCray.)
RE: Hard Drives running continuously at 100% utilization
04-07-2014 - 04:42 PM
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Not actually a question, but instead a guide to solve a common issue in Windows 8 where the "System" process uses 100% of disk constantly, usually leading to slowdowns and hanging, also probably reducing the lifespan of your HDD. You can verify when it happens by checking task manager or perfomance monitor.

Last month, I've created a topic asking for a solution, however as I couldn't find none, I've reverted from Win 8 to Win 7. I've recently purchased a laptop with a Win 8 OEM copy pre-installed, and the issue showed its ugly head again. The HDD in the new laptop spins at 7200 RPM and has 16 MB of buffer, compared to 5400 RPM and 8 MB of buffer in the older laptop, so it doesn't mind whether it's a low-end HDD or not, it's an OS issue. Fortunately, I've found a solution.

It's simple: just disable paging file (virtual memory) in the partiton where Windows is installed. I tried raising/lowering the amount of virtual memory, but it didn't change anything, only switching it off solved the problem. In disk usage monitoring tab, under "System" process (PID=4), I've noticed that there was a large amount of reads and writes (several MB/s) on "pagefile.sys" ( which is the paging file itself), leading to 100% of disk usage. After disabling virtual memory and rebooting the OS, the issue is solved permanently. The disk usage now stays around 1-5% most of the time when idle, and no more slowdows or hangs. I'm sure my HDD is happier now.

The new laptop has 6 GB of RAM , and I kill unnecessary processes and services, thus I'm sure there's no need for virtual memory, even in the older one which has 4 GB. I've read somewhere that a bunch of Windows 8 process and services needs paging file feature enabled, even if you have plenty of RAM, but so far it doesn't seem to be true. Just disable virtual memory and reboot, bet it will solve this issue.
RE: Hard Drives running continuously at 100% utilization
04-07-2014 - 04:43 PM


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Hi ,
Now I am going to give the solution for this very common and yet frustrating problem.
but first i want to tell you why this happens. This problem happens only in windows 8 and 8.1. to make it faster, it uses a service called as superfetch, what it does is every now and then it optimizes you hard disk and keeps a detailed record of all the files you have in your harddisk(study about paging, frames, defragmentation, fragmentation if you want in depth details), thats why when you search anything your results are quicker when compared to other windows.This optimization results in 100% disk usage.

To solve this you need to perform following tasks.
1. increase your virtual memory(or page memory) to atleast 4gb , just google it.
2. disable automatic defragmentation
3. press windows+s search for "services", or control panel->view local services
3.1. look for "superfetch", right click properties, startup type make it disable, then go for recovery tab and make all "take no action"
3.2. Do the above same step for "windows search" instead of "superfetch"

By doing so this problem should end(atleast I think it will).
RE: Hard Drives running continuously at 100% utilization
04-07-2014 - 04:45 PM
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windows 8.x system process does a lot of data integrity checks in the background, it does this to repair and prevent certain types of issues that occur on your drive, these can take some time to complete and should be done as a idle time background process. I have looked at several system that were stuck at !00% disk use, each one had problems in the drive subsystems.
- drive disconnection and reconnecting over and over
- bad outdated firmware on SSD drive (drive was taking too long to complete its TRIM functions/garbage collection and windows resets the sata port after 30 seconds)
- Bad SATA port software drivers
- bad SATA port connection, wrong firmware setting in BIOS
- errors in disk cache in the electronics of the drive (often can be fixed by turning off lazy writes on the disk)
- corrupted files in the OS (run sfc.exe /scannow of detect isssue and repair)

In most systems if you see 100% disk usage you have a problem and it is not your pagefile that is causing it.
it can be caused by where the pagefile is located on the disk though., in those cases you disable the pagefile, reboot,
delete the pagefile, let the OS clean up the space then make a new page file and reboot. it is a lot faster to clean up a file system and
do data integrity checks on a lot fewer files.

overall better to fix the root cause of the issue than disabling the subsystem that are effected.

-Windows 8.x will do a lot of checks on a new drive, OEM don't properly format a drive these days, they just drop a image of the operating system on it. Windows 8.x will attempt to read and locate sectors on the drive, when it finds sectors that can be read but have read errors, it will attempt to read the data over and over to get a good copy and then relocate the data to another location on the disk. This process takes time and is started 5 mins after the system goes idle. For most people, use control panel power settings to high performances and just leave the machine on for a day or so it should just work itself out and the "problem" will go away.

-There are other things that can cause the same 100% disk use for example the system tries to guess what you want to do and will load programs into memory before you actually attempt to run them. Some files that are selected may not actually be currently loaded on your disk, they may be in the process of being downloaded or streamed. For example, you might have a game service that stores your games for you and lets you play a game while it downloads the rest of your games or parts of games in the background. If windows tries to prefetch these files into memory it will end up spinning waiting on the disk to provide the file, the disk is waiting on the network to provide the file, but the game service is loading the file very slowly in the background so it does not tie up your network bandwidth or CPU.

-there are also bugs with corrupted file systems that are pretty easy to fix with a chkdsk /f /r

- there some malware that now hide in the file system file streams
I would think that some virus scanners and malwarebytes should find these and remove them.

- I have seen issues where a the search index searches your hard drive and builds a database index
but the drive is corrupted and the search ends up having a loop so it never gets to the end of the file search,
it just keeps building a bigger and bigger index until all of your hard drive space is used up.
(just run chkdsk /f /r and delete the search index to fix)

- for most people, the problem just goes away after a few day, except on laptops that go to sleep fast.
it might take 8 hours of real time to scan and fix a disk with errors, more for a large disk. On a laptop
that goes to sleep in 15 mins after idle the OS will have only 10min to work on the task on each wake cycle.

if you really want to see what your system is doing you should get a copy of the tool rammap64.exe this is a tool written by a company called sysinternals. Microsoft bought the company and has the tools for free on its website http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysin...bb84206...

You can download the file and see all the files that are open on your system. you will be surprised what is getting preloaded into memory for you. I am looking at my list now and I see programs I have not run for almost a year and they are being preloaded. The system cache manager just fills the unused ram with what it thinks I might want to run. if one of these files were located on a disk with disk errors, it would take a lot of time to load the file into memory as the system attempts to read the disk over and over each time I boot.
even if I never requested the file to be run, the disk might queued up and running full speed because of this process. it is not really a bug in the cache manager that the disk has errors and causes the disk to spin at 100%, it is disk problem that has not crashed your system yet.

There can also be other problems that will slow a disk. Errors in the electronics, bugs in the chipset drivers, even a bad cable connection. thermal expansion/contraction on a cable connection can make and break a connection several times a second causing a drive to disconnect and auto reconnect several times a second. This really can cause your drive to slow down but it still works until the drive gets disconnected for 30 seconds then you get a logged error.

The same thermal contraction can cause circuits to fail. (brittle solder joints crack and lift off the circuit board)

I have looked into 100% disk usage on solid state drives and they have all been firmware related.
The operation of solid state drives really depends on having proper time to run their clean up routines. They really suffer on laptops that try to save their power. The drives have to run their garbage collection routines and their TRIM functions. When these get blocked because firmware bugs or lack of idle time while the machine is on the drive kind of gets wedged up to the point it can not function correctly. Often you just need to power on the machine and boot into BIOS and leave the machine alone overnight. The SSD will start its firmware internal garbage collection and can move bad blocks around and do its various repairs.
SSD have very limited ability to write to the drive. Figure 2000 writes to a block and that block is dead. It really does not take long to do that amount of writes. Just look at the amount of temp files being written by a browser like chrome to get a idea.

anyway, maybe what I said will give you a idea what the problem is.
(This post was last modified: 04-07-2014 04:51 PM by win8.)

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