Extremely high disk activity with Windows 8 and how to fix it?

This article is showing the problem which many users encounter. The problem could be simply called Windows but what operating system is best is out of this article’s scope.

The problem

The problem here is a painful issue which happens with a high frequency to some users. With some magic Windows seems to do something in the background which leads to an extremely bad system performance caused by a high disk activity. Well, that’s what the first screenshot shows us.

Before we have a look at it, I should note that, on a company laptop and as an unexperienced Windows user (in the sense that I’m not able to rule this operating system), I’ve installed Linux in a virtual machine for the work related to development and system administration. Windows was pre-installed on this machine and because I needed certain Windows applications I decided to keep it to reduce the effort.

task_manager

As you have noticed, the screenshots in this article have been made with a German localized Windows setup. Datenträger means disk, Arbeitsspeicher is the RAM and Lesegeschwindigkeit and Schreibgeschwindigkeit are the read and write speed.

To precise the issue covered by this article, the high disk activity and the bad performance seem to appear when running VirtualBox. As soon as I’m pausing it, the system becomes fully responsible again. On the other hand, many other users report the same issue while performing normal office tasks.

task_manager2

What is causing this?

The following list will give you an idea of what could be the cause for your system. There seems to be no general solution for this kind of problem which, unfortunately, could frustrate you when none of these tips are working for you.

File Indexing

By default Windows regularly looks for new or removed files on your file system and writes the results to a database. This is called file indexing and is used for the Windows search which you use to find a file or an application.

If you don’t want or maybe also don’t need Windows updating the database every now and then, disable it in your control panel.

Power Plan

If your power plan is set to Balanced try to change it to High performance and observe your system. Maybe you see the result after a reboot.

Automatic Defragmentation

Yes, Windows 8 still has the same fragmentation flaws as older versions. This is based on the file system NTFS by its nature. Other operating systems such as Linux also have fragmentation but their well-designed file systems, e.g. ext3 or ext4, have a way better algorithm to avoid fragmentation as much as possible.

Automatic Windows Updates

In some cases the system got unresponsible when it got updated automatically. If you are having performance problems while it’s preparing or installing an update turn the automatic update off. It’s recommended anyway to update your system yourself as not every automatic update improves your system. A recent Windows update was faulty and could lead to a non-bootable computer. If you update manually you need to be disciplined, you have to read the update news and what changes are being applied.

What if nothing resolved the problem?

When you have applied all the above tips but you couldn’t resolve the problem, describe your exact situation in a comment. Tell us what you are doing exactly with your computer, are these office tasks or do you compile something? Are you running virtual machines? If so, what are their settings?

52 Comments

  1. tester

    folder options – de select index on system file reduces by 70%

  2. Chuck Cameron

    I am running win 8.1 on a laptop and was experiencing high hard disk activity (over 80% with nothing going on). After a lot of different solutions with no results, I started turning off any background process I could find. The one that worked was turning off the Lock Screen slide show. I got immediate good results. I then turned it back on but the high activity did not return. Don’t know why it worked. It is just one of those FM (Frigging Magic) things about windows.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>