What the heck is grinding my hard drive?
November 23, 2005 11:33 PM   Subscribe

Is there any Windows XP utility that will tell me what program is accessing my hard drive?

My Dell Latitude D600 as recently started grinding the hard drive **constantly** for periods of 10-30 minutes, for no apparent reason whatsoever. I have plenty of RAM- 512 MB- which is rarely more than half used- so not a result of virtual memory. I have recently upgraded Firefox to 1.5, and I also recently updated Windows Defender (aka Microsoft Anti-spyware) to Beta 2. I tried disabling Windows Defender, but… gee, thanks to Sony’s recent DRM shenanigans, Microsoft won’t let you totally disable it any more because of fear of root kits.
I have run spyware scans, trendmicro housecall, NAV, HijackThis!, you name it… nothing is showing up as resource intensive. Furthermore, when I cntl-alt-delete, process manager doesn’t show any unusual CPU activity during the HD access (which is really, really heavy for 20+ minutes at a time)
I am asking- is there any way to tell which app is accessing the HD? What I am envisioning is something that shows a list of apps, and what the bandwidth is to and from the hard drive

This is a Dell Latitude, D600, 1.59 Gig/ 512 MB of RAM, Windows XP SP2, 4 gigabytes free on HD.
Also (this may not be related whatsoever) the Windows Key (between CNTL and ALT on the keyboard) has recently stopped functioning. Control-escape still works though
posted by crazyray to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Best answer: SysInternals has some File and Disk Utilities. Probably Filemon or Diskmon will do what you want.
posted by sbutler at 11:38 PM on November 23, 2005

Also, I don't know what's causing your trashing but if it's the OS then the utilities might not show anything.

For example, HFS+ (the MacOS file system) has a feature called "adaptive hot file clustering". Basically, frequently used files are defragmented on the fly. When my disk gets close to full (~8GB out of 74GB) I notice it spends more time thrashing and I blame it on the optimization features like hot file clustering. Windows and NTFS might be doing something similar.
posted by sbutler at 11:51 PM on November 23, 2005

This doesn't answer the specific question, but are you doing anything with Java? (JavaScript doesn't count) For some reason the JVM grinds the shit out of the hard drive periodically, even when it doesn't have much to do.
posted by moift at 12:02 AM on November 24, 2005

Best answer: Trying to find a more helpful answer, I came across this thread asking for exactly the same thing. There are a few suggestions of possible culprits and a link to some software that looks promising but I can't get to download correctly. I can access the page though, so hopefully you'll have more luck.
posted by moift at 12:14 AM on November 24, 2005

That sysinternals drive monitor tool is the best tool I can think of to see exactly what happening on your drive in realtime. You'll know if it's an app. And it might be in these days of eighteen bazillion little apps running. Otherwise, it well maybe be your virtual mem paging file(s). Try changing those—best would be to have none on all drives except one, which is defragmented, and then see what happens. I used to always have a seperate partition for my virtual mem. I don't know why I stopped doing that. And I now trust Windows much more than I used to to control the virtual mem and drive caching. Anyway, use those sysinternal tools. Both the drive monitoring tool and the proccess monitoring tool. (The latter can replace the Win task manager.)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:45 AM on November 24, 2005

I just noticed that you only have 512M RAM on your laptop. XP will be going to the paging files quite a bit with 512M. Having the win key stop working is strange.

If this activity is as regular as you say, then that drive monitoring tool should be very useful.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:47 AM on November 24, 2005

Indexing could be on, too.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:48 AM on November 24, 2005

You should be able to use Task Manager to see what's doing tons of read/writes as well.

Right-click a blank area on the task bar and choose Task Manager. Choose the Processes tab, then View->Select Columns from the menu. Check off "I/O Reads" and "I/O Writes", click OK, then sort the list by one of these columns.

On my Win2k box right now, Norton Antivirus has done about 10x more I/O reads than any other application.
posted by chuma at 7:12 AM on November 24, 2005

Best answer: The easiest way is using the Windows Task Manager. The fields you need to look at are:
CPU, Mem Usage, Page Faults, VM Size, I/O Read Bytes, I/O Write Bytes, I/O Other Bytes
posted by Sharcho at 7:22 AM on November 24, 2005

One of the monitors (Disk Activity) in Desktop Sidebar will tell you how much of your disk accss bandwidth you are using, and will list the processes in order of operations per second. So if one thing is really chewing up your disk, it will be at the top of the list.
posted by Who_Am_I at 8:34 AM on November 24, 2005

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