Your computer is hanging. Same old Windows, right? Except you’re using a brand new Windows 8.x or Windows 10 device; you’ve only had it a few days. So just what is going on?
Investigating, you discover that your system drive is running at 100%. Surely this can’t be, right? Sadly, it is. The latest versions of Windows have a problem with the drives being overworked, which slows down the operating system. This issue affects both hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs).
Several fixes are available for this, depending upon what exactly is causing the problem.
We’ve also made this guide available in video form, if you’d rather watch:
Slow Performance? Check Your Disk Usage
This performance issue is most obvious when attempting to use Search (Windows key + Q) to find a file or program, and anything else that requires the drive to do some work (perhaps copying and pasting a group of files).
To establish whether it is a problem that is affecting you, when your computer next slows down press Ctrl+Alt+Del and select Task Manager.
(Alternatively, right-click the Taskbar and select Task Manager.) Note that this may take some time to open with the drive being slow.
On the first tab, Processes, look for the Disk column. If you’re having problems with drive performance, this should be at 100%, and colored red to indicate whether you have a problem or not.
Once you’ve established that there is a problem, you have several options available. Check the following steps one at a time, checking the disk usage in the Task Manager after each. Note that even if you find a solution, a Windows Update could reset the changes you’ve made. Bookmarking this page will help you find it in future to run through the fixes again.
1. Check Your Anti-Virus Software
As with any such performance issue, the first thing to do is confirm that your computer hasn’t been infected with malware. Your security software should be able to deal with this, whether it’s a free app or a paid suite. At the very least, tools such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware should be able to scan your system drive and detect any problems, although with a heavy load on your drive already this may take a while.
If threats are found, use the software’s recommendations to discard them, and reboot, before checking your drive performance further. Hopefully, you’ve resolved the issue; if not, then malware wasn’t to blame, so read on.
2. Disable Windows Search for Improved Disk Performance
The next thing to check is whether the problem has to do with Windows Search.
A bug in Windows 8 and 10 results in a sort of “search loop” that causes an increased load on the system drive.
To stop this and prevent it from happening during your current session (until Windows is rebooted) open the Command Prompt (the quickest way is by right-clicking the Start button and selecting Command Prompt (Admin)) and enter the following:
net.exe stop "Windows search"
To permanently disable Windows Search or Indexing, press Windows key + R, enter services.msc, and hit Enter. In the Services window that opens find the Windows Search entry and double-click it to open the Windows Search Properties window. Under Startup type, select Disabled. Here you can click Stop to abort the service. Click OK to save your changes.
You can also control which folders Windows Search indexes, which we’ve demonstrated previously.
A few moments after disabling Windows Search, your Windows 8.x or Windows 10 performance should improve considerably. If not, move on…
3. Disable Superfetch Service
For some reason, the superfetch service has been identified as a potential cause of these disk performance issues in Windows 8.x and Windows 10.
To deal with this, open another Command Prompt (or if you’ve still got the earlier box open, use that) and enter:
net.exe stop superfetch
Again, wait a few moments to check whether this has had any effect on your computer’s performance. You should also run Check Disk in a Command Prompt:
chkdsk.exe /f /r
You’ll be informed that your PC must be rebooted for Check Disk to complete, so make sure you have closed all of your applications first.
If this doesn’t work, it is likely that you’re experiencing an iteration of this issue that is frustrating to realize, but simple to resolve.
4. Could It Be Flash?
We’ve already discussed at length why Flash should be consigned to history. It is, quite frankly, one of the most vulnerable aspects of modern computing, an attack vector that just keeps on giving. It also seems to be one of the most common culprits for the maxed out, 100% hard disk usage in Windows 10 and the earlier Windows 8.x, if you’re using the Google Chrome browser.
How you fix this depends on which version of Chrome you’re using. In older versions prior to Chrome 57, go to the address bar and enter:
A new settings-style screen will display a list of installed plugins. If you have Adobe Flash installed for viewing videos (BBC iPlayer requires Flash on desktop browsers, for instance, as do many other video streaming services, as well as browser games) then you will see it listed as Adobe Flash Player here.
Click the Disable button; the Adobe Flash Player entry will be grayed out. Wait a few moments and then check your Task Manager. Performance issues related to your system drive should be resolved. Try restarting the Chrome browser if this is still an issue.
However, as Chrome updates silently, and without your involvement, this may not work. If you’re using Chrome 57 or later, the steps for disabling Flash differ.
Open Menu > Settings > Show advanced settings and find the section marked Privacy. Here, click on Content settings and find Flash. You’ll see three options — select the third, Block sites from running Flash, then Done. Restart the browser, and check your HDD performance.
If this doesn’t alleviate the issue, you might want to change that setting. We recommend the middle option, Ask first before allowing sites to run Flash.
5. Is Skype Eating Disk Resources?
Another widely-used application could also be causing your 100% HDD usage: Skype.
To find out — and disable its OTT resource requirement, begin by checking that the software is not running. You can do this by looking in the Task Manager, or checking the System Tray, the area on your desktop around the clock. If Skype is running here, right-click the icon and select Quit.
Next, press Windows key + R and go paste this address into the box: C:\Program Files (x86)\Skype\Phone\ and click OK. Here you will find the Skype.exe file — right-click this, and select Properties. Go to the Security tab, and click Edit. Next, select ALL APPLICATION PACKAGES, then put a check next to Write in the Allow column.
Finish off by clicking Apply, then OK. Head back to the Task Manager to see the change. You may also want to replace Skype.
No difference? Keep reading…
6. Resolve PCI-Express Firmware Bug
Some drivers don’t run quite as they should in Windows 10. One that has been discovered to be causing 100% HDD use is the StorAHCI.sys driver, which has a firmware bug. StorAHCI.sys intended for storage devices connected to the PC or laptop motherboard via Advanced Host Controller Interface PCI-Express.
If you’ve made it this far with no success, this could be the problem. Open the Device Manager (use Windows 10 search, or right-click This PC in Windows Explorer, then Properties > Device Manager) and expand IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers. If an AHCI Controller entry is listed, double-click, then open the Driver tab and select Driver Details. Is the driver listed as C:\Windows\system32\DRIVERS\storahci.sys? If so, you could be affected by this bug. Close the driver details box and switch to the Details tab, selecting Device instance path from the drop-down menu. Where the Value is listed, right-click, and select Copy. Launch your text editor (like Notepad) and Paste the contents in.
Next, press Windows key + R and type regedit, followed by the OK button. Navigate to this address:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Enum\PCI\ and use the pasted string above to open the correct AHCI Controller, followed by the random number. Here, expand Device Parameters\Interrupt Management\MessageSignaledInterruptProperties and you should see MSISupported listed in the right-hand pane. Double-click this, then change the Value data: to 0. Click OK to confirm, and follow the instructions to restart Windows.
7. Disable Diagnostic Tracking in Windows 10
Finally, it’s worth considering the impact of diagnostic tracking in Windows 10. A feature that you might have otherwise disabled for privacy reasons, it has been blamed for 100% HDD use on many PCs.
When it comes to reducing your hard disk drive usage, it’s quicker to bypass the usual Windows 10 privacy setting and simply disable the DiagTrack service. If this is the source of your 100% HDD use in Task Manager, you can stop the service and prevent it from launching via Command Prompt.
Right-click Start and select Command Prompt (Admin), then input these commands to disable and stop DiagTrack:
sc config "DiagTrack" start= disabled sc stop "DiagTrack"
In addition, you might also head to Settings > System > Notification & actions and disable Get tips, tricks and suggestions as you use Windows. Doing so has been shown to improve things.
8. Windows Update Can Cause High Disk Usage
As well as affecting changes you make to your PC when fixing the 100% disk use problem, Windows Update can also be a cause.
This usually only happens when Windows Update has a problem (which is typically due to a particular file refusing to download). You have two options here:
- Leave your computer alone — shut all of your open applications and wait. Eventually, the files will download, but depending on how Windows Update is scheduled on your computer, it may require a reboot.
- Shutdown your computer — once you’ve done that, restart and wait for Windows Update to resolve the problem.
Once the update has finished downloading, it’s wise to run it as soon as possible. Remember to check any previous fixes for 100% disk usage before proceeding; as noted above, Windows Update can reverse these fixes.
9. Reset Your Virtual Memory
Virtual memory is a combination of RAM and hard disk space and can be responsible for overuse of your HDD. If there isn’t enough RAM to perform a task, the HDD is used to supplement the RAM. Data moved to the HDD is then returned to RAM when required.
If you’ve made it this far and you’ve yet to solve the 100% disk usage issue, it could be worth resetting your virtual memory.
Open the System screen with Windows+Break/Pause, then Advanced System Settings on the left. In the resulting box, select the Advanced tab, then under Performance click Settings. Here you’ll find another Advanced tab, which has a section labeled Virtual memory. Click Change and clear the checkbox for Automatically manage paging file size for all drives.
Staying on this screen, select your Windows drive (usually C:) and then Custom size. Here, add an Initial size and a Maximum size; note both of these are measured in MB rather than GB. These numbers can be confusing, so with the first value, rely on the recommended option. For the maximum value, aim for a figure no more than 1.5 times your system RAM. For instance, a computer with 4 GB of RAM should have no more than 6.5 GB (6144 MB).
With the values input, click Set, then OK to continue. You now need to clear the temporary files that have been used in the previous virtual memory allocation. Do this by opening the Run box (Windows + R) then entering “temp”. When the temp directory opens, select all files (Ctrl + A) and tap Delete on your keyboard.
10. Activate High Performance Mode
One final thing to try is altering your Windows power settings. Standard power modes are more prone to the 100% disk usage bug, but switching to high performance often overcomes the problem. The downside, of course, is that your computer will use more power. Thanks to modern processor design this shouldn’t be a massive issue. However, notebooks and desktop replacement laptops may take a particular hit on battery life.
To change to high performance, open the Power & sleep screen with Windows + X, then Additional power settings. Select High performance, then OK. If this isn’t an option, you’ll need to Create a power plan, then choose High performance. Give the plan a name, tweak any personal settings you need (such as screen brightness) then select it as a power plan to use.
In a moment or two, the 100% disk usage issue should drop down to less than 10%.
Disk Usage Should Rarely Be 100%
Put simply, there is little reason for your disk load to be anything close to 100%, certainly not under normal usage. A slow computer is one with a problem, and if you cannot fix it by disabling a browser plugin, stopping services, or running your antivirus software, then the problem may well be hardware related.
Perhaps your drive is getting old; it may be defective, or the cables may need replacing. Alternatively, there is a chance that the problem is connected to the Windows defrag tool. If your computer is attempting to defrag your drive, but your HDD is actually an SSD, then serious problems can occur. Deal with this by opening the Task Scheduler (Windows key + Q, enter task scheduler) and disable any scheduled disk defrag tasks.
Is the 100% disk usage issue slowing down your Windows 8.x or Windows 10 computer? Have any of these fixes resolved the problem? Tell me in the comments, let’s see if we can get it fixed.
And did you know Windows is wasting your internet bandwidth? Find out how to fix that too!