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?

26 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

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