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I have an HP Pro 3000 SFF running Window 8.1 Update 1 & Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. It uses an Intel G45s Chipset, a Hitachi HDS721050CLA362 500 GB harddrive, an Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 processor, and has 4 GB (now 8 GB) of installed RAM. [More machine specs in the left column here, HDD benchmark info here.]

I notice that anytime my machine has disk activity, the entire system draaaaags. I'll open Task Manager during this process, and I see that my CPU usually sits around 20% - 30% usage, with RAM usually about 30% - 40% usage, but the disk activity slams to the ceiling until the system becomes more responsive. After the disk activity dies down, performance is great again.

I bought this computer used (please no comments on this :D), and received the machine with a blank HDD. I installed Windows 8.1 right away, and I've noticed this problem since day 1.

So, this doesn't appear to be a processor or RAM issue, since it doesn't take a heavy weight application to spawn a seemingly extreme amount of disk activity.

I'm looking into purchasing a new HDD, since I've had only mediocre experience with SSDs. In your experience is it likely that a newer hard drive will remedy this disk activity issue?

Thank you for your time.

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The hard disk (according to the URL) is 7200rpm with 16MB cache. I'm wondering if the disk mode in BIOS isn't AHCI. Second (and this I've not seen with Windows 8) is if the OP uninstalls the SATA/disk controller drivers in Device Manager -> Restarts (so it re-installs the drivers) and sees if this makes a difference. –  Big Chris Jul 1 '14 at 11:50
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BIOS setting. Boot your computer and get ready to repeatedly press whichever "F" key gets to your BIOS -> On one of the screens you will find some disk controls that will mention about "IDE/Compatibility", "AHCI" or "RAID". Choose "AHCI". -> Save the settings -> Reboot. If you boot to Windows -> log on -> Windows will install some new device drivers (this is the AHCI functionality on your hard disk controller). -> Check your performance if it's any better than what you're currently experiencing. –  Big Chris Jul 1 '14 at 12:04
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@spryno724: Have you tried manually running chkdsk and the disk defragmenter? Also, if you click Open Resource Monitor from the Task Manager, what process is showing as accessing the disk? –  James Jul 21 '14 at 10:42
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@spryno724: It might be worth trying Safe Mode to help check if it is being caused by a software problem. –  James Jul 23 '14 at 10:29
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WHen you installed windows to you make sure to get the correct chipset and other drivers from HP's website. Stock windows drivers will often get the system up and running, but may not use the hardware to it's full efficiency. I notice every time I build a new system. –  Tyson Jul 28 '14 at 0:47

4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted
+50

Before you blame your disk drive you should look at the amount of ram you have.

In a healthy computer with lot's of ram a significant amount of it will be dedicated to a disk cache (thus preventing re-read's of data). Likewise in a "slow" computer, the disk will be devoted to swapping memory to disk or will need to do significant re-read's of data to load applications from disk to memory.

Some things you can try are to repeatedly close and open your web browser. Or close your web browser switch to some other applications, then come back to the original app.

If you find that you are still loading slowly, your computer is at least partially afflicted by a lack of ram. In general more ram is good, and right now 8GB is a good amount (although 4GB should be OK).

That all being said, a 5400 RPM laptop disk can be very slow. The performance graphs you have look to be about right on, and don't indicate anything problematic. If you do go for a good SSD, even if you need to swap to disk occasionally, things should all seem and feel much faster.

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First thing I would check is the Hard Drive's health. (NOTE: if you have a bad drive defragmenting it before checking the SMART status can essentially shred your data). Go to http://www.smartmontools.org/ and download the windows version. Then open a CMD prompt and check the SMART status.

C:\Program Files\smartmontools\bin\

smartctl -a /dev/sda/

If you see a poor health status - you found your issue. Replace the drive.


If the status is good:

Move on to other troubleshooting. Since Ubuntu and Windows are experiencing the issue - drivers are not at fault. Check the BIOS for AHCI mode - yes you can change this after the OS is installed. If the drive is in IDE mode things will crawl regardless of drivers installed.

You will find the setting under Advanced in the BIOS computer setup menu.

HP PRO 300 SFF BIOS Settings

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I'll have to check the drive health this evening. I have already checked, and know that the BIOS is configured to use AHCI mode. –  Oliver Spryn Jul 21 '14 at 17:07
    
I ran a chkdsk, defragmenter, BIOS HDD health check, and all came back good and unfragmented. My defragmenter runs automatically every week. Any further ideas? –  Oliver Spryn Jul 23 '14 at 10:18
    
The odd thing is that you are experiencing this in Linux as well. That has me looking at the hardware itself. Maybe swap the sata cable and sata port. - Also check the disk speed in windows by going to DeviceManager opening the properties of your controller and run a speed test on port 0. Compare this with gnome-disks in Ubuntu. Differences? –  jharrell Jul 23 '14 at 16:22
    
Have you ever heard of cases where the chipset was the bottleneck? The HDD is stock, from what I know, so it isn't like an overperforming HDD was coupled with an underperforming chipset. –  Oliver Spryn Jul 23 '14 at 16:52

Seems your HDD is Old and Slow try to get a better one also, HDD actually self-die over time, so a Core2Duo Laptop might be used a lot, and also, laptop Drops/similarities may cause a severe HDD damage.

see Victoria HDD to Check HDD Health, this is a Low-Level tool, so careful some when you use it

The other thing i actually had on my Windows 8.1 Update 1 is that Superfetch service was over-killing my HDD to 100% most of the time

you can turn off that service by Running the following command in a Command prompt, you can open a command prompt by press Windows + X and then Clicking on Command Prompt (Admin) , running without administrator permissions won't work :

net stop superfetch

This service starts everytime on boot, so if you got the problem fixed, you might wanna disable it permanently, open:

services.msc

And look up for Superfetch > Right Click > Properties > and set to Disabled

By the way this service is for ReadyBoost, and if you use ReadyBoost, you must NOT Disabled/Stop it!

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Check your background disk-intensive activities (file sharing/serving, disk indexing - especially image collections indexing) to avoid excessive load on the disk subsystem; possibly, do a through malware scan to see if it is some little pest running and bogging down your disk performances.

Check your disk SMART statistics to check if it is healthy - regardless performances, it is a good practice every now and then to preserve your data.

Go for SSD for system, software, swap (only if you plan to run memory intensive applications, otherwise modern machines' RAM is more than enough to avoid using swap at all), and for the data you access more often - i.e. working directories - but stay for HDD for the bulk of the data as SSD are not yet nearly competitive in terms of pricing per GB.

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