Troubleshoot 100% Disk Usage in Windows 10
In this post, I wrote about troubleshooting Windows 10 freezing issues. I will be talking about troubleshooting another fairly common issue i.e., disk usage showing 100% all the time. I have noticed that this condition is especially true on laptops.
The disk usage will go up to or close to 100% for a few seconds or even for a couple of minutes normally. Then should settle down to something more reasonable usually under 10%. Consistently if you see a very high disk usage means there is something else going on that is not quite right.
You can check your disk usage by opening up the Task Manager in Windows 10 to start. You can either press CTRL + SHIFT + ESC or you can right-tap on the Start button and select Task Manager. Tab on More details at the bottom if you just see a small list of apps.
You’ll see a quick overview of the Memory, CPU, Disk and Network utilization on the main Processes tab. For me, the disk usage is normally right around 0. You’ll see something like below where disk usage is 100% or very close to it in a bad case.
You might see just one process that is causing the high disk usage in some cases. But in other instances, the process that is causing the spike may change.
Now let’s talk about how we can determine what is causing the issue and then come up with a solution. The solution is easy and in others, it’s a bit trickier in some cases. Before we get into those, here’s what you shouldn’t do.
Don’t Try These Solutions
I came across a whole bunch of solutions on the web that just didn’t settle well with me because they can cause more problems later on. Try to avoid doing anything listed below:
- Disabling the BITS service: It’s required by Windows for your PC to be updated and it won’t help disabling it.
- Disabling Windows Search or Superfetch: Again these are core Windows services and you should not disable them.
- Modifying Page File: Don’t try custom values, you should leave it so that Windows manages the page file.
- Disabling Windows Defender: Don’t disable Defender, except for Method 6.
Method 1 – Upgrade Firmware for SSDs
It’s most likely a problem with the firmware if you have an SSD installed on your machine and are having the disk usage problem. SSDs are fast and it really should never be at 100% for more than a few seconds unless you have some program that is accessing the disk all the time.
Method 2 – Perform a Clean Boot
It’s time to learn if you have never performed a clean boot. Basically, a clean boot loads Windows with the fewest drivers and startup programs. A clean boot helps you determine whether the issue is being caused by Windows itself or by a third-party program installed on Windows.
Microsoft has a great article on how to perform a clean boot. I recommend trying it because is usually fixes a lot of other issues too. It’s a bit time-consuming. On concord, totally worth the effort. Just set aside a few hours on a weekend to get it done.
Slowly enable each startup program if you find that everything loads fine on a clean boot one by one until you determine which program is causing the slowdown. You can then disable it or uninstall it. Always start by disabling any third-party anti-virus/anti-malware program as those programs can have a tendency to access the disk all the time.
I’ve heard a lot of people complain in online forums that Skype was the cause of the disk usage spike. So try uninstalling Skype and see if that works.
Method 3 – Upgrade Memory (RAM)
How much RAM you have installed on your machine is the another thing you want to check. I have seen a lot of people install it on old laptops and desktops since Windows 10 can run on older devices. It is good, but you need to confirm that the machine has a decent amount of RAM, meaning nothing less than 4 GB.
You can also open Task Manager and tap on Performance and then tap on Memory.
I have 16 GB of memory and about 6 GB is in use as it is visible to you. This means if you have 4 GB of RAM on your computer, all the memory would be exhausted. Everything that can’t be fit into memory is paged to the hard disk. So basically Windows will use your hard disk as a temporary memory device.
It will cause your disk usage to spike if you have a lot of data that has to be written to disk and your computer to slow down. If you notice that the line in this graph is close to the top, then it means you probably need to upgrade the RAM on the computer.
Method 4 – Use High-Performance Power Plan
The hard drives are smart and will try to power down or change RPM to save power with some computers. One example is the green/blue Western Digital hard drives. It sounds such as a great feature. On concord, I don’t think it really works all the well in practice.
Go to Power Options and select the High-Performance power plan to avoid this problem. Additionally, tap on Change plan settings and then expand Turn off hard disk after. Set the minutes to 0.
This ensures that the hard disk does not power down or go into the low power state that can cause the disk usage problem.
Method 5 – Disable MSI Mode
This solution is more obscure and probably won’t help most people. On concord, it’s worth mentioning because Microsoft has specifically stated that this is an issue in Windows 10. It has basically something to do with AHCI, which is technical jargon you don’t need to know.
Disk Usage will show 100% when you have this issue. But when you sort the column, there isn’t any particular program or process that is showing high disk usage. You can read the Microsoft KB article here and attempt the fix.
Method 6 – Disable Windows Defender with 3rd Party AV
Windows Defender should disable itself if you have third-party anti-virus installed on your system by default. Nevertheless, this does not happen in some instances. It runs two anti-virus programs at the same time can cause excessive disk usages and a bunch of other problems.
To check if Windows Defender is disabled or not, tap on Start, then Settings, Update & Security. Then Windows Defender. Confirm Cloud-based Protection and Real-Time protection are turned Off.
Method 7 – Disable Windows Notifications
This solution has been widely distributed on the Internet. But I’m not sure whether it really works or not. I believe it does for certain versions of Windows 10. Anyway, it doesn’t really hurt to disable it. So that’s why I’m going to mention it.
You basically disable extra Windows notifications that are advertisements. Go to Settings, then tap on System, and then Notifications and Actions. Simply turn off the Get tips, tricks, and suggestions as you use Windows.
It’s worth noting that all your normal notifications that work just fine. You just won’t see any useless ones from Microsoft.
Method 8 – Check Hard Disk for Errors
If nothing above is working, actually then you could have a problem with your hard drive. There are several ways to check the health of your hard drive.
Repairing errors on the drive fixed the problem in many instances. In other examples, replacing the drive was necessary.
Hopefully, one of the above solutions works for you. One last resort option is to perform a clean install of Windows 10. That will fix the problem for anyone who happens to have malware installed on their systems and maybe don’t know it.
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