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I am running a fresh install of Windows XP SP3 with a very minimal set of applications installed, but even so, my computer often bogs down to a crawl while it is furiously accessing the hard drive, lighting the disk activity light solid for a minute or more.

The problem is the worst directly after startup / logon, but it sometimes also happens when the computer has been sitting idle at the desktop screen saver for a long time and is "woken up" to launch an application. Since this is a fresh Windows installation and I haven't noticed any other suspicious behavior or seen any unexpected network activity in my router logs, I am fairly confident that it is not a malware / virus causing the problem.

The Task Manager is not effective for troubleshooting in this case because either the computer will be too unresponsive to actually get the Task Manager open when the disk light is solidly lit, or other times, the list of processes will show that nothing is using more than 2 or 3 percent CPU time, even though the computer is practically frozen up.

Are there any good tools out there (preferably free) that could help pinpoint the offending process(es)? Something similar to the Resource and Performance Monitor on Windows 7 might do the trick.

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possible duplicate of hard drive activity by program? –  Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Dec 23 '11 at 19:46

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

With task manager you can view which processes are doing the most I/O.

Go to the View menu -> Select Columns...

Tick off I/O Read Bytes and I/O Write Bytes

These should help you identify the offending process.

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Thanks! I can't believe I never noticed the column menu before...d'oh! –  Tim Lara Aug 13 '10 at 5:23
    
@Tim Lara - If you ever need more than task manager can do, see the tools at Sysinternals.com –  Joe Internet Aug 13 '10 at 8:12
    
If you use SysInternals' Process Explorer (technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653), you can add columns 'I/O Delta Read Bytes' and 'I/O Delta Write Bytes' to get a quick overview of processes hogging your hard drive. –  tjeerdhans Feb 8 '12 at 13:12

You're about to the joys of SysInternals (sysinternals.com will redirect to an MS site). Start with filemon, regmon, procmon, and tcpview, and take it from there.

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Check out this useful utility to tell you what is going on.

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Greetings Tim, welcome to SuperUser. We try to avoid link-only answers here. Could you edit your answer to include a little information about the utility? Who makes it, what it does, etc. –  Jonathan Garber Feb 15 '13 at 16:57

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