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?

50 Comments

  1. slopjong

    Today I had to wait nearly an hour until the the disk activity became normal again. Sometimes this happens up to two times a day.

    The laptop has 4 GB of RAM whereby less than 2 GB are assigned to the virtual machine. On the guest system I was only browsing through the internet today. Nothing special was done on the Windows host system, no resource-hungry applications were running. According to the official system requirements 2 GB are enough for the 64-bit version.

    I’ve applied the above tips myself but without much success. Windows is still doing its magic, I have no clue.

  2. slopjong

    Also some notes worth is the fact that the read and write speed are so extremely low for a sata disk which in normal operation should reach more than ten times of the speed measured whilst having the issue.

    I think it’s not the auto defrag because the auto defrag would continue when the virtual machine is paused but the problem disappears in this case.

    Swapping could be the cause but the task manager says that there’s no swap file being used.

  3. slopjong

    Finally I installed Linux natively on the laptop and got rid of Windows. Maybe the VirtualBox disk with a dynamic size was the cause but as of now I’m no longer virtualizing the main system. Hopefully there won’t be trouble with Windows once it has been installed in VirtualBox.

  4. matthew

    my computer uses 100% of disk just sitting there doing nothing please help

  5. slopjong

    I was struggling with Windows 8 myself and finally I had to uninstall it to get rid of that problem because everything I tried just didn’t work. If you really expect help from others you should post at least your process list and maybe also what hardware you use.

  6. mandar

    my system process is showing too many disk usage…
    also my cpu usage goes too (20%-22%)much what can i do??
    pls ans..
    i’m worried

  7. jon

    i found this happened when i had my Power Plan set to “Balanced”

    I set it to “High Performance” and that fixed it immediately.

  8. I also have same problem , Disk uses 100

  9. David

    I have the same problem. So bad for a home machine I moved to Mac and gave up on Windows as now a bad joke. I reinstalled Win 8 on it and gave it to 10 year old and now she complains that she cant even play games with it. I may have to install Win 7 again from scratch.

  10. Thomas

    every time i start my computer i have to wait a few minutes for the disk usage to go from 100 slowly down is there a way to fix this? or is this normal?

  11. slopjong

    I’m no longer using Windows, I’ve fully migrated to Linux and I can’t say if that’s normal or not. You should monitor your process list, maybe you’ll find the cause. Or post them here so that others can help you.

  12. Thomas

    i think its normal cause it usauly take stime for windows to start up anyways after a few minutes it usually never happens again unless i restart my computer

  13. ramin

    hey guy’s i got the same problem when i put my power plan on powersaving
    no problem in other power plan!!!!
    WTF????????
    what do i need to do with this sh****?

  14. kindly who hv 100% disk useg perob. dont use internet explore for internet serfing.use firefox,
    hope this soulution is working,
    and dont LOL on my English he he he he .
    Thanks :D

  15. Edg4ras

    I had 100% disk usage issue on my ThinkPad T61 after upgrading to Windows 8.1. Switching my Power Plan to “Balanced” fixed it immediately.
    Strangely enough notebook was running perfectly fine on “High Performance” Power Plan in Windows 8 before the update to 8.1.

  16. Elson

    I don’t know how I can post pictures. The highest usage size for my disk at present is 0.3MB/s for a music player and Google Chrome. Yet the disk usage is at 100% and I get constant hangs and lags. The music pauses with it. I haven’t had this kind of problems before, it surfaced only recently. I’m on a Win8 system, Dell touch screen PC. High Performance.

  17. fedon

    I have the same issue… i have win 8 greek x64 and in the task manager looks that an app named (if i translate it right) reception services with many sub applications take over 70% or more from the disk (from time to time,keeps falling to 0 and again 70%) but takes over a 4,3 percent constantly on memory (that may seem correct) pls let me know if i can do sth for that….it is a system app i know but maybe it runs some unneeded procedures…

    http://prntscr.com/23x34v sorry for not translating..i will if you think it is necessary

  18. JustAUser

    I have the same 100% disk problem with Windows 8.1 Pro (and also 8 Pro) in my Thinkpad workstation W530. Sometimes the machine becomes too slow and I have to restart it. I tried to switch the power plan to High Performance which temporarily reduced the disk usage to 0%. I’m not sure if that has been fixed permanently but I have been already settled to move to Ubuntu.

  19. slopjong

    @JustAUser, if you used to use Ubuntu years ago try the live version first before installing it. Things have changed in the meantime and you might feel uncomfortable with it nowadays.

    I don’t like to recommend a specific Linux distribution since every use has other preferences. Though I’d say that you should also give LinuxMint a whirl.

  20. Fer

    I had the same problem and when I deactivated Windows Defender it reduced from 100 to 20 which is pretty good.

  21. I just found out disabling your live tiles (on the start screen thing) even if you only have 5 brings down the usage

  22. Emma kennedy

    When i load up my windows 8 laptop the screen comes on but it sas at the bottom disk updates may take longer that an hour i was running for about 8 hrs and nothing happened

  23. J Mint

    I had the same problem with Windows 8.1. I simply changed my power plan to high performance and disabled Windows Search indexing in the control panel.
    Right now I am running VirtualBox, Intellij, Chrome and Photoshop and my disk usage is only 5-10%. A big improvement on the 100% disk usage for Chrome alone.

  24. 47

    a friend of mine has had they s a win 8 pc for a while now but for some reason recently nit has slowed right down

    a had a look at it with teamviewer and it seemed the “systems” process was jumping eradicly from 2/3% disk ussgae to to 99% any suggestions on what might be causing this?

  25. Sandra

    Just commenting in case this can help anyone else, for my disc utilisation has been refusing to drop below 100% the last few days. While none of the above tips helped, another website suggested i run CCleaner (a free software) as the problem could be with the registry. So i analysed the registry with the program and found that there were many useless files running around (fragments that were trying to run parts of programs I uninstalled). After cleaning the registry, my Disc utilisation immediately dropped down to fluctuating between 0 and 10%. I recommend anyone having problems to try it, and even if it doesnt fix the problem, the registry will be happier for it.

  26. Thomas Maher

    if you type in run sysconfig i think its called go to services check hide all microsoft services and uncheck in the list anything that has regediter or something that you do not know what it came from or research it first then disable if it is nothing you need

  27. Alex Ruben

    Problems with high disk activity on new Windows kernels (Vista, 7, 8) can usually be solved by disabling the SuperFetch system service. You can access it via the run command – just type services.msc and set it to disabled.

  28. Juliusz

    Non helped, tried disk check, stoping net.exe,chkdsk.exe,switching wifi off, changing virtual memory to custom ram,ccleaner,spy bot, 360 antivirus and alot of different tricks including all from above comments etc, my laptop is still running slow, works better in safe mode, but it lags in normal mode and it still shows 100% disk usage…. no idea what that could be, when trying refreshing its asking me for windows dvd because of missing files.. ill try to insert the dvd as soon as I will find it and then try refreshing.

  29. Rf

    Holy crap!!!! I am running VM Ware and have been seeing high disk utilization. Simply removing the indexing on the Virtual Machines folder sent it from 99% active time on that disk down to close to 0!!!

  30. Thomas Maher

    i think i have a solution with the 100% disk activity all the time. I noticed when defragmenting my HD to where it only takes short time to do a defrag the disk activity went down from 100% to whatever seems to be running much better now even though windows said it was 0% fragmented to begin with i wanted to see what would happen as it took awhile for me and i kept repeating it once it was finbished did it like 5 times it seemed to work plus restarted my computer a few times during it

  31. I keep on finding this thread when I revisit the issue, so posting a solution.

    Culprit in my case is Background Intelligent Transfer Service. BITS is responsible for transferring data during network idle time. Notably Windows Update uses it. It seems it causes disk spin even when it’s not downloading anything.

    Killing it

    -Open task manager, switch to services, find BITS note PID
    -Open command line (as admin?), run
    taskkill /F /PID {pid}
    where {pid} is the PID of the BITS task

    Disable BITS in the services panel – Charms : Search : View Local Services –> loctae Background Intelligent Transfer Service, set to Manual or Disable

    Note that BITS is a bit like a weed. Kill it, and eventually you’ll see that it restarted itself again. I think I’ve just seen it re-activate itself in the services (even after setting it to manual, I re-checked after and it had returned to Automatic/delayed).

    Friggin zombies.

  32. Henry

    Well I had my problems with this 100% disk activity and never know what was the cause and it affects everything I did on my laptop, then somehow my ‘steam’ was having a problem then I tried to reinstall it but the next time I turn it on, the screen won’t show up, just my mouse cursor is showing up… I can’t do anything with my laptop… can anybody give a solution? cause recovery mode doesn’t help at all…

    sorry 4 the bad language

  33. Tayyeb Ali

    Open up Run and type in “services.msc” scroll down and find SuperFetch, right click and set it to disabled. Also disable Windows Search. Also try defragmenting your drives. Hope that works.

  34. Tayyeb Ali

    Mine still fluctuates randomly but only to 50 percent. Still have to defragmentt my drives

  35. tomrz_1

    hope this is in the right place. I think I solved the problem. At least in my case.
    It drove me crazy on both Win 7 & 8. HDD and CPU constantly at 50-100% activity with no seemingly straight forward reason. the solution (for me anyway) was simply to disable Readyboost. At first it did work to speed up my system but after awhile it made it bog down to a crawl. Online/offline , on desktop or in games everything was slow and drive activity was ridiculous even at idle. After turning off ReadyBoost everything went back to normal almost immediately. BTW to turn it off just right-click on the drive you use for readyboost and select Properties, then ReadyBoost tab, then select Do not use this device. Hope this helps

  36. SpyderTheSir

    I found a solution that worked for me and thought you might be interested. I didn’t want to lose Superfetch and Indexing so I did a bit more digging.

    Try setting your power plan to High Performance, this resolved it for me.

  37. Vladimir

    My laptop dell satellite A300 started restarting by itself. I installed win8. Kept happening, changed the paste on the proc, clened the ram sticks, reinserted and cleaned virtually every component and i still get restarts. It happens when i log into windows and go in the desktop. From what i could see, the disk usage was a solid 100% and seconds after, it restarts.
    The only thing that works is to booot it in safe mode. Any ideeas on how i should tackle this?

  38. @Vladimir – sounds like you know your way around your hardware… my HW knowledge is scant but here’s my idea…

    Your issue probably isn’t related to the 100% disk usage discussed on this thread/post – during boot up I would be fairly expectant of high disk i/o for the first minute or so. Have you tried the various suggestions above?

    Just to rule out something, have you tried booting into a different OS such as Linux? You should be able to make a bootable USB key for Linux Mint MATE and boot into that – no need to install it (the “live system” or demo mode so to speak doesn’t touch your hard drive), just work with it for a few minutes to see if the system forces a reboot whilst using it. If it does reboot, you can rule out a Windows behaviour as being the key problem. If it doesn’t reboot you can rule out a hardware-specific issue, at least temporarily. Might be combination.

    Also have you checked the power supply is the right voltage and amperage for your laptop? Does it run differently off battery?

  39. Chandra

    Its not a serious problem but for me its critical.
    I don’t know what’s going on with my laptop.
    I’ve a problem. Everything,s great for
    Just one problem, only while playing audio or video, the hard disk activity reaches 100% and then the whole laptop freezes (HD short clips, I mean songs, but there is no problem in movies, just high definition video songs and audio tracks)

    And somehow after pausing the player (vlc player), the system becomes normal functioning instantly.

    In short, just problem in playing medias (audio and video). No any short videos plays well. Movies are fine.

    Also, there is no problem in device drivers. Audio and video drivers are fully updated with compatible and latest drivers.(internal audio and graphics, ATI mobility radeon hd 5400 series)
    Also the defragmenting is fine using tune up utilities 2013.

    My laptop is,
    Dell inspiron n4030
    2.53Ghz, 2gb ram, 1gb graphics memory.

    Windows 8 enterprise,64x

    Please share if anyone have something about this.

    Sorry for poor language

  40. Owen

    For what it’s worth, my experience is that this only occurs with traditional platter drives, and then only on the system drive. My ultrabook running 8.1 Pro on an SSD as well as my home-built desktop with an SSD system drive do not have this problem. My work desktop, work laptop, and wife’s laptop all have either a platter or hybrid drive. All of them have the 100% disk usage issue. My home-built desktop was experiencing this inconvenience when it had a hybrid system drive. Switching to SSD has eliminated the issue in that machine. I refuse to put money into work’s systems, so I just take a break when it decides to max out disk usage.

    Has anyone else noticed this to be true?

  41. @Owen – hard-coded preference of modern tech over older tech … that nearly sounds conspiratory! :-p

    Just to be sure – are you saying you didn’t notice a performance hit after switching to SSD, or did you monitor the disk usage over a significant period to see if high I/O occurred? You probably wouldn’t notice any performance hit with SSDs even if there were heavy I/O occurring…

  42. Owen

    @taikedz — Conspiracies for all!

    I’m saying that on my machines with SSDs, disk usage is commensurate with I/O.

    With platter drives, my disk usage can read 100% while I/O is in the KB/s range. This results in a perceived system hang as avg response time creeps into seconds instead of milliseconds. When the high disk usage is expected such as installing a program or downloading large files over broadband, it doesn’t touch 100% with I/O in the MB/s spectrum. Also, there is no perceived hang during this time.

  43. Aaron

    I disabled Onedrive (technically enabled Prevent OneDrive) and changed my update settings so I choose when to download and when to install and it helped a lot… also, Windows 8.1 automatically generates the wrong sized virtual RAM or page file, I can’t remember, but aren’t they basically just different names for the same thing?… it was auto only giving me a few hundred MB, so I moved it up to 4GB and it fixed it…

  44. jagged

    the problem isnt windows 8 or amd or nvidia or the hard disk its self…. it is simply 2 instances that run in the background.

    go to [services.msc] in [run] program, and and disable the following on windows 8 and windows 8.1 systems:

    superfetcher
    windows search

    the top one causes this problem and windows search is unneeded if u dont use the metro search frequently and in my opinion doesnt need to be running in the background at all times…

    it is probably noteworthy to mention that i had 100% disk usage and 50%+ ram usage before i did this.. now my ram has dropped to 20% and disk to 3%

  45. jagged

    btw i forgot to tell you how to disable services…

    you [right click] the [service] you want to change and choose [properties] then [disable] then restart pc for the changes.

    on another note linux is a great alternative but i am forced to go with windows because it offers diversity. and people who work on them generally dont have the option as well

  46. Owen

    @jagged, Both of those services are enabled on my machine with an SSD and it doesn’t have high disk usage. Also, I use the Win+S search constantly, so this is not a valid fix for my purposes.

    As an aside: After going to many meetups and working for several high level developers, my next laptop will be an MBP with Win8.1 in Parallels. This machine is simply too prevalent for it to be an anomaly.

  47. Emmanuel

    Hi,
    I have a HP Pavilion 6180us with 10gb ram and A 480gb SSD drive. I installed Linux Mint 15 and it couldn’t update so I removed it and put in Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon which I removed To try out the MATE version. I began to notice some slight lag and sometimes when I boot it would not detect boot device so I decided to remove the Linux but now My Windows which used to boot in 3 secs takes more than 10 secs to boot and every application windows comes up like a slowed-down-fade-effect. I ran chkdsk but no problem. Ran S.M.A.R.T test also okay but then I noticed that The hard drive Was showing 71% active time which I suspect is the reason for the very slow performance. This is a SSD drive and am really worried because its expensive and getting a new one is not an option. Can Anyone help?

  48. Alex The B

    Hi I just built a custom computer this month and it has been running great up until now. I am using windows 8. Just Yesterday I noticed that anytime I have an application open my disk usage goes to 100%. This has extremely slowed down all my games and internet. Turning down my graphics helps a little but it still is bad and it used to run them on high with no issues. MY CPU is never above 40% so I doubt its that? I have already refreshed and completely uninstalled and re installed windows to no avail? Help?

  49. Alex The B

    Hi I just built a custom computer this month and it has been running great up until now. I am using windows 8. Just Yesterday I noticed that anytime I have an application open my disk usage goes to 100%. This has extremely slowed down all my games and internet. Turning down my graphics helps a little but it still is bad and it used to run them on high with no issues. MY CPU is never above 40% so I doubt its that? I have already refreshed and completely uninstalled and re installed windows to no avail? Help?

  50. TKOP

    So, I’ve been having this disk usage error for a while but just recently it kind of “changed”. Several months ago after I performed a Windows update my C: drive usage would hit 100% and stay there for about 5 mins or so every time I started the PC (it’s a custom built PC). Mostly I ignored this since it only occurred on start-up and I always used the hibernate function instead of shutting down the PC.
    BUT after a recent RAM and storage upgrade I had some Windows trouble-shooting, which involved some failed Windows re-installs and chkdsk-commands, and after that my C: drive hits 100% every time I try and open Google Chrome, even happens if I close Chrome and re-opens it. But this doesn’t happen when I run other applications, only when I open Chrome.

    This is what I’ve tried so far:
    - Un-install and re-install Chrome (even this was a challenge)
    - Using service.msc to deactivate Superfetch, Windows Search, Windows Update and BITS
    - Moved system managed Pagefile system to another drive leaving a 1gig Pagefile on the C: drive
    - Installing this Intel update – https://downloadcenter.intel.com/Detail_Desc.aspx?lang=eng&amp%3bchangeLang=true&DwnldId=20775
    - Running in High Performance mode
    - Refreshing the PC but I was told I had some missing files although I’d already inserted the disk

    I don’t know if a hardware list would help but here it is:
    OS – Windows 8.1
    CPU – i7 4770K at stock
    MOBO – Asrock Z87 Extreme4
    GPU – GIGABYTE GTX 770 4gigs
    RAM – 32gigs Kingston HyperX Beast 2400MHz
    SSD (OS) – 120gigs Kingston HyperX 3K
    HDD – 2TB WD Red
    SSHD 1 – 2TB Seagate
    SSHD 2 – 2TB Seagate

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