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Troubleshoot 100% Disk Usage in Windows 10

I recently wrote about troubleshooting Windows 10 freezing issues, and in this post I will go over how to fix another fairly common problem, namely disk usage constantly showing 100%. I noticed that this condition is especially true for laptops.

Typically, disk usage increases or approaches 100% within a few seconds or even a few minutes, but should then drop to something more reasonable (usually less than 10%). If you constantly see very high disk usage, it means that something else is not quite right.

To get started, you can check your disk usage by opening Task Manager in Windows 10. You can right-click the Start button and select Task Manager or press CTRL + SHIFT + ESC. If you see only a small list of applications, click on “More” at the bottom.

On the main Processes tab, you’ll see a quick overview of CPU, memory, disk and network usage. For me, if I am not doing something on the computer, the disk usage is usually around 0. In a bad case, you will see something like below where disk usage is 100% or very close to it.

In some cases, you may only see one process causing high disk usage, but in other cases, the process causing the spike may change.

Now let’s talk about how to determine the cause of the problem and find a solution. In some cases the solution is simple, in others it is a little more complicated. Before we get to them, here’s what you shouldn’t do.

Don’t try these solutions

On the internet I came across a whole bunch of solutions that I just didn’t like because they might cause more problems later. Try not to do any of the following:

  1. Disable BITS – Windows requires your PC to be updated, and this will not help disable it.
  2. Disable BITS service. Windows Search or Superfetch. Again, these are core Windows services and you shouldn’t turn them off.
  3. Change the paging file: leave it alone for Windows to manage the paging file. Don’t try custom values.
  4. Disable Windows Defender – Except method 6, do not disable Windows Defender.

First method – firmware upgrade for solid state drives

If you have a solid state drive installed on your computer and you are having problems using the disk, the problem is most likely a firmware issue. Solid state drives are fast, and unless you have any program that constantly accesses the disk, it should never really be 100% longer than a few seconds.

Here are a couple of links to SSD firmware updates for some of the major brands: Crucial, Samsung, Kingston, Intel, OWC

The second method – perform a clean boot

If you’ve never done a clean boot before, now is the time to learn how. A clean boot primarily loads Windows with the fewest drivers and launchers. A clean boot can help you determine if the problem is caused by Windows itself or a third-party program installed in Windows.

Microsoft has a great article on how to do a clean boot. I recommend giving it a try because it usually fixes many other problems as well. It will take a little time, but it’s worth it. Just take a few hours off the weekend to get some work done.

If you find that everything boots fine on a clean boot, slowly enable each launcher one by one until you determine which program is causing the slowdown. Then you can uninstall it or disable it. To start, always start by disabling any third-party antivirus / antivirus programs, as these programs can tend to constantly access the disk.

On online forums, I’ve heard many people complain that Skype has caused a spike in disk usage. So try uninstalling Skype and see if that works.

Method 3 – upgrade memory (RAM)

Another thing you want to check is to find out how much RAM you have installed on your computer. Since Windows 10 can run on older devices, I’ve seen many install it on older desktops and laptops. This is fine, but you need to make sure the machine has enough RAM, i.e. at least 4 GB.

You can also open Task Manager and click on Performance and then Memory.

As you can see, I have 16 GB of memory and about 6 GB is occupied. This means that if your computer has 4 GB of RAM, all memory will be exhausted. Anything that does not fit in memory is uploaded to the hard drive. Thus, Windows will use your hard drive as a temporary storage device.

If you have a lot of data that needs to be written to disk, it will dramatically increase your disk usage and slow down your computer. If you notice that the line in this graph is close to the top edge, it means that you probably need to upgrade your computer’s RAM.

Method 4 – Use the High Performance Power Plan

Some computers have smart hard drives and will try to turn off the power or change the RPM to conserve power. One example is Western Digital green / blue hard drives. Sounds like a great feature, but I don’t think it really works well in practice.

To avoid this issue, go to Power Options and select High Performance Power Plan. Alternatively, click Change Plan Settings, then expand Turn Off Hard Drive After and set the minutes to 0.

This ensures that the hard drive does not turn off and go into a low power state, which can cause problems with using the drive.

Fifth method – disable MSI mode

This solution is more obscure and probably won’t help most people, but it is worth mentioning because Microsoft specifically stated that this is a problem in Windows 10. Basically, it has something to do with AHCI, a technical jargon you don’t. need to know.

When you have this problem, disk usage will show 100%, but when you sort the column, there isn’t any particular program or process that shows high disk usage. You can read the Microsoft Knowledge Base article here and try to fix it.

Method 6 – Disable Windows Defender with 3rd Party AV

By default, Windows Defender should be disabled if a third-party antivirus is installed on your system. However, in some cases this does not happen, and running two anti-virus programs at the same time can cause excessive disk usage and a host of other problems.

To check if Windows Defender is disabled or not, click Start, then Settings, Update & Security, and then Windows Defender. Make sure real-time protection and cloud protection are turned off.

Again, you should ONLY do this if you have a third-party antivirus installed on your system.

Method 7 – disable Windows notifications

This solution is widespread on the internet, but I’m not sure if it actually works or not. I believe this applies to some versions of Windows 10. It doesn’t hurt to disable it anyway, so I’m going to mention it.

Basically, you turn off Windows extra notifications, which are mostly ads. Go to Settings, then click System and then Notifications & Actions. Just turn off getting tips, tricks, and suggestions when using Windows.

It’s worth noting that all your regular notifications will work fine, you just won’t see Microsoft’s useless ones.

Method 8 – Check the hard drive for errors

If none of the above works, then you may indeed have a hard drive problem. There are several ways to check the health of your hard drive, which I wrote about earlier.

Check your disk and system files

Check your hard drive for errors

In many cases, the problem is fixed by correcting errors on the disk. In other cases, it was necessary to replace the disc.

Hopefully one of the above solutions will work for you. The last option is to perform a clean install of Windows 10, which will fix the problem for anyone with malware installed on the system and who may not be aware of it. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment. Enjoy!

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