Solved Hard drive hard at work -> slow down issue

Troodon

Member
I have been experiencing this issue on a regular basis ever since I got my Vista desktop. Recently I upgraded to Windows 7 and the problem persists.

Every once in a while the hard drive starts working intensively and the computer becomes almost unresponsive. It stays like this for anywhere between 30 minutes and a couple hours. If I reboot the issue does not go away; the "process" continues until it completes at which moment the computer becomes normally responsive again.

I have tried to track down the culprit using both the Task Manager (Resource Monitor) and Process Explorer. It's not obvious what the process causing the slowdown is but it seems to run in a svchost.exe. I am quite sure that changes to very large files on the hard drive (hundreds on megabytes, gigabytes) trigger it. CPU usage is relatively low.

For diagnostic purposes I have disabled several tasks: antivirus/antimalware; defragmentation; system restore; prefetch; windows search; file indexing -- to no avail, the problem persists.

My theory so far is this: when files on the hard drive undergo changes, particularly large files, Windows runs some scheduled process at normal priority to reorganize the hard drive and/or compress or defragment files, irrespective of my settings. The larger the files, the more time it takes to complete and the longer system responsiveness is limited.

The annoyance is that during this time I cannot use the computer; I have to wait it out. As I mentioned, rebooting does not help. As a matter of fact, if I reboot then the shutdown and restart are extremely slow (can take 15-30 minutes each).

It drives me crazy. I was hoping that the upgrade to Windows 7 would fix the problem but it didn't. Any advice?
 
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ilikefree

Vista Guru
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ewyatt

Member
re: Hard drive hard at work -> slow down issue

Good luck with your disk activity! I have the same problem (as do most other Vista users) on my Vista. Strangely, my Win 7 system is quiet.

Regarding your problem, try (temporarily) deactivating your System Restore. This will get rid of all your Restore points, but that's OK for a while. If you see that your activity is much less, then that's your culprit. If not, activate System restore again and doublecheck to see if Indexing is on, or a scheduled defrag process. It could also be your antivirus program doing a daily scan and/or definition update. You can disable all these one at a time, then check for results.

If it STILL continues after all this, you may have the dreaded System Volume Information task running, and I doubt that there's anything you can do about that. But note: deactivating System Restore should have put it to rest, as stated above.

Write back!
 

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Troodon

Member
re: Hard drive hard at work -> slow down issue

@ewyatt: Thank you for your suggestions. As I mentioned, I have already disabled those processes, to no avail. Could you please provide more information on the System Volume Information task?
 
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My Computer

System One

  • Manufacturer/Model
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    AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+ 2.7 GHz
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Troodon

Member
re: Hard drive hard at work -> slow down issue

Interesting... As I have 4 GB or RAM on a Win7 32-bit system, I set the page file to 256 MB fixed size and moved it from partition C: to partition D: (there is no page file on C: now). The mysterious process that previously made my computer almost unresponsive was not triggered in the last few days despite my creating and deleting several very large files on C:

Update: So far so good. If this is confirmed in a week or so then I will tentatively conclude that the slowdown was due to the page file being processed somehow, perhaps being defragmented.

Update 2: Nope, that was not it.
 
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Troodon

Member
re: Hard drive hard at work -> slow down issue

Okay, after some additional digging I am going to try something new. The idea is that the slowdown is the result of a particular sequence of events:

- large files are edited, added to, or deleted from, the hard drive;
- after a while (<= 3 days) the Prefetch/Superfetch defragmenter kicks in, irrespective of the fact that the disk defragmenter service is disabled, as are any disk defragmenting tasks in the Task Scheduler;
- the slowdown is now apparent, even more if the anti-malware is on and set to monitor all file activity (particularly those large files carrying flagged as "downloaded from the internet");
- rebooting the computer does not fix the problem as it results in the boot time defragmenter detecting hard drive fragmentation (due to the previous process being interrupted);
- system responsiveness is restored upon completion of boot time defragmentation.

So, I disabled both boot time and prefetch defragmentation (via the service and registry). I left the scheduled disk defrag on though. Now I cross my fingers and wait...
 

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    500 GB

Shadowjk

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Troodon

Member
re: Hard drive hard at work -> slow down issue

Is your Harddrive Fragmented?
It should not be, disk defrag is scheduled to run nightly at 1:00 am. Thank you for your suggestion.

Can anyone confirm that disk defragmentation is/can be triggered in several different ways on Vista/7? So far I got:

1. Automatically, as per Task Scheduler (or My Computer, right-click on hard drive, Properties, Tools, Defragmentation, Defragment Now..., Schedule etc.);

2. Automatically, at boot time as per registry keys HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Dfrg\BootOptimizeFunction\Enable and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\OptimalLayout\EnableAutoLayout;

3. Automatically, every 3rd day, by the Superfetch (formerly Prefetch) service as per registry keys HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\MemoryManagement\PrefetchParameters\EnableSuperfetch and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\MemoryManagement\PrefetchParameters\EnablePrefetch;

4. Manually.

Also, do #2 and #3 require that the Disk Defragmenter service be enabled? To me, it doesn't look like this is a requirement.

Thanks.
 
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My Computer

System One

  • Manufacturer/Model
    HP Pavilion
    CPU
    AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+ 2.7 GHz
    Memory
    4 GB
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Lorien

Account Suspended
re: Hard drive hard at work -> slow down issue

Hi Troodon,

Well, technically you're mostly right about the various ways to defragment (though some of your comments only apply to W7 (I assume as I don't have W7 to check) and not Vista - for example, there is no Disk Defragmenter service in Vista - at least not in my 32-bit Vista Business SP2 version - so it obviously isn't required to run Disk Defragmenter in Vista, but I have no idea if the same holds true for W7 - you may want to post in www.sevenforums.com if your questions involve Windows 7 as this is a Vista forum and they will know more about W7). Also, using the registry is not the only way to turn on/off those functions (they are controlled by the programs which can be turned on or off without using regedit which is generally a safer way to do them). More on that follows.

The most common is to use Task Scheduler to adjust the various automated methods as follows: Use Task Scheduler To Tweak Automatic Disk Defragmentation In Windows 7/Vista.

I believe that by tweaking the task scheduler, you can modify the settings and triggers so that it will defragment at boot or at startup or at logon (or a variety of ways) as opposed to a specified schedule. These can, in some cases, be the settings for when it occurs in the event that it is for whatever reason unable to do so at the scheduled time. This can be done by creating a separate scheduled defragmentation task or by modifying the existing defragmentation task.

Of course, the Defragmentation Program can be modified to not run on a schedule: Turn off Automatic Defragmentation - Windows Vista - Disk Defragmenter. To be honest, I'm not quite sure exactly where this option makes the changes, but it should disable automatic defragmentation. I've been under the impression that disabling it here will prevent Superfetch/Prefetch from automatically running it either (as I do not run it on a schedule and it never runs at boot or ever except when I do so manually - and I use a different program anyway (Auslogics as noted in a prior post) - although Superfetch is enabled and functioning).

To disable Superfetch (if you want), here's the procedure that doesn't require a registry modification: What is Windows SuperFetch.

I'm not sure if this answered all your questions, but I hope it helped.

Good luck!
 

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Troodon

Member
re: Hard drive hard at work -> slow down issue

It looks good, fellas. Guess I finally nailed it. :cool:
 

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System One

  • Manufacturer/Model
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    500 GB

Lorien

Account Suspended
re: Hard drive hard at work -> slow down issue

Hi Troodon,

Excellent news! Well done! I hope we helped, but the important thing is that it has been nailed which I assume means the problem is gone.

I will request that this thread be marked solved.

Good luck and best wishes.
 

My Computer

System One

  • Manufacturer/Model
    Dell Inc. MP061 Inspiron E1705
    CPU
    2.00 gigahertz Intel Core 2 Duo 64 kilobyte primary memory
    Motherboard
    Board: Dell Inc. 0YD479 Bus Clock: 166 megahertz
    Memory
    2046 Megabytes Usable Installed Memory
    Graphics Card(s)
    ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 (Microsoft Corporation - WDDM) [Di
    Sound Card
    SigmaTel High Definition Audio CODEC
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Generic PnP Monitor (17.2"vis)
    Screen Resolution
    1920 x 1200 pixels
    Hard Drives
    Hitachi HTS541616J9SA00 [Hard drive] (160.04 GB) -- drive 0, s/n SB2411SJGLLRMB, rev SB4OC74P, SMART Status: Healthy
    Case
    Chassis Serial Number: 5YK95C1
    Mouse
    Logitech HID-compliant Cordless Mouse
    Keyboard
    Standard PS/2 Keyboard
    Internet Speed
    1958 Kbps download ; 754.8 Kbps upload
    Other Info
    Optiarc DVD+-RW AD-5540A ATA Device [CD-ROM drive]

    Dell AIO Printer A940

    Conexant HDA D110 MDC V.92 Modem

    6TO4 Adapter
    Broadcom 440x 10/100 Integrated Controller
    Broadcom 802.11n Network Adapter
    Microsoft ISATAP Adapter
    Teredo Tunneling Pseudo-Interface

    Router Linksys / WRT54G -01

Troodon

Member
As it turned out, that was not the end of the story. Some of the problems persisted. I found out much later that the firmware of my hard drive needed an upgrade, which was not obvious to handle as I had upgraded from Vista to Windows 7 and HP only provided the upgrade for Vista (which is funny as installing the hard drive firmware normally does not require Windows to run). After applying an even more recent version of the firmware provided by Seagate I have stopped experiencing the hard drive related performance issues. Thought some of you might want to know this.
 
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My Computer

System One

  • Manufacturer/Model
    HP Pavilion
    CPU
    AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+ 2.7 GHz
    Memory
    4 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    NVIDIA
    Hard Drives
    500 GB
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