This is a problem I've seen described in many places:

  • Super User (here, here, here and so on)
  • Microsoft support forums (here, here...)
  • The Lenovo forums have some users complaining about this too (here).
  • Tom's Hardware (I'll spare you the links due to ads)

Unfortunately, none of the solutions there have worked.

In short: even with only system processes running, directly from a boot, the hard drive usage goes to 100% and remains like that for an excessive amount of time. By that I mean, roughly 30 minutes before it drops back to 0%, and then any usage (eg: opening chrome) sends it back up to 100% for a long time.

The amount of data being read from/written to the disk is minuscule (usually under a couple hundred kb/s), with enormous latency, usually upwards of 5000ms.

During this time, the computer is entirely unusable. Going back to the classic desktop can take minutes. Trying to launch (not actually launching, but just typing the name of a program to launch) can take minutes. Even booting and shutting down can take 5-10 minutes.

Resource Monitor and Task Manager Full size image here

About the computer: It's virtually new. Bought <6 months ago and only used as a gaming PC. The only applications I've installed are VLC & Chrome, along with Steam and several games. 8gb RAM, 1TB HDD (750GB free), Windows 8 came pre-installed.

I have tried almost everything suggested in the various forums and links above:

  • superfetch is disabled
  • I've done a clean boot
  • I've disabled hibernation support
  • The virtual memory is set to 8000mb initial size and 16000mb maximum size
  • I've disabled all startup processes and all non-microsoft services
  • The power management is set to high performance
  • The DVD drive is disabled (wtf I know, but I'm desperate here and someone said it helped)
  • chkdsk has been run and found no errors
  • The computer is up to date with Windows Updates

This just started happening about a month ago, where it would be very slow for < 1 minute and then would work fine. And then in the last week, just using the computer at all has become impossible. Prior to this, the computer would boot and be ready to go in about 10-15 seconds.

Perhaps frighteningly, I can actually hear the hard drive 'clicking' somewhat when the system shows the hard drive at 100%.

Does anyone have any ideas for me?

Update: I've booted onto a LiveCD version of Ubuntu. Here, browsing around the hard drive in Nautilus is snappy, but it's not really running under the same conditions, I suppose. Overall, it's very fast though. I ran a full S.M.A.R.T. scan which brought these results. I don't really know how to read these, so some help here would be really nice.

  • 1 Read Error Rate: Normalized: 100, Worst: 100, Threshold: 51, Value: 818
  • 2 Throughput Performance: Normalized: 52, Worst: 52, Threshold: 0, Value: N/A
  • 5 Reallocated Sector Count: Normalized: 252, Worst: 252, Threshold: 10, Value: 0 sectors
  • 7 Seek Error Rate: Normalized: 252, Worst: 252, Threshold: 51, Value: 0
  • 200 Write Error Rate: Normalized: 100, Worst: 100, Threshold: 0, Value: 3953
  • 225 Load/Unload Cycle Count: Normalize: 98, Worst: 98, Threshold: 0, Value: 28705

This is the result from a Read-only benchmark:

Read-only benchmark


I eventually gave up and sent it back to Lenovo. Their assessment was that the hard drive was defective and there was apparently "something" wrong with the OS too. The machine was just returned with a new HDD.

  • Boot into SafeMode F8,does it still happen? You still have STEAM running, can you at least disable that? Use AutoRuns (technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb963902.aspx) to disable applications/Services and to check for funny stuff. BE careful with AutoRuns. And you have stuff running from the SYSVOL, sometimes virus's run from there
    – Logman
    Sep 24, 2013 at 22:09
  • Steam isn't set to run on boot, and I even uninstalled its client service. Looking at the process monitor, the only running programs are those from Microsoft, Intel and Realtek.
    – nickf
    Sep 24, 2013 at 22:12
  • I just tried safe mode, and it's exactly the same.
    – nickf
    Sep 24, 2013 at 22:25
  • I expect you didn't install "Microsoft Security Essentials" because the internal "Microsoft Defender" replaces (MsMpEng.exe) this (and 2 virusscanners is bad) but did you try disabling "Microsoft Defender"? (Sorry, didn't check all the links, if it was already suggested)
    – Rik
    Sep 24, 2013 at 22:25
  • 5
    BTW the fact that chkdsk didn't find any errors says only that your filesystem is ok (and in case of surface scan that the drive is readable). It says nothing about the health of the drive. Especially in case of clicking (if this is not caused by the reading 100% of the drive) i would check the drive with a utility that can determine the health of the drive.
    – Rik
    Sep 24, 2013 at 22:32

6 Answers 6


It sounds like an issue I have seen on multiple systems in the past/recent present.

The key things that I see here are the clicking noise, in addition to the enormous latency.

From what I can "Smell" it seems like the heads on the drive are sticking, or have come loose.

CHKDSK is a great tool that can be used to check for bad sectors and errors with the platters on the drive, but if the drive reads the information consistently, no matter how slow it is getting the information, as far as CHKDSK is concerned, your drive is still good.

Sounds like a bad hard drive to me.

I would take another drive, run CloneZilla or Ghost, and see how fast it runs after that.

  • Thanks for the ideas. I've added more information to the original question, that might help?
    – nickf
    Sep 28, 2013 at 16:56
  • That does shed some more light on things, Thanks! Can you boot up the Live Ubuntu and run the read/Write Benchmark?
    – Clint
    Sep 30, 2013 at 2:04
  • Taking a look at your new information, It looks like the majority of the disk usage is from MsMsEng.exe (Microsoft Security Essentials) Try Shutting that down/Uninstalling and let me know how it goes
    – Clint
    Sep 30, 2013 at 2:24
  • He does not have Microsoft Security Essentials (as he said in the comments). But MsMpEng.exe is for "Windows Defender" in Windows 8. I already suggested turning it off (i don't know if he did) but here are some instructions on turning it off in Windows 8.
    – Rik
    Sep 30, 2013 at 13:28
  • 1
    CHKDSK is NOT a great tool for this purpose. It will do irrepairable damage to the logical structure of your filesystem if it cannot read occupied sectors. The first step when you suspect bad HD areas is to use a sector scanning tool that either a) works the drive hard so that the SMART subsystem can detect and reallocate flaky sectors (CHKDSK does this moderately), and then b) keeps attempting to reconstruct the data from a real bad (but still allocated) sector by statistical analysis of its read attempts before allowing SMART to reallocate it. Then you can let CHKDSK do its thing.
    – Jan Doggen
    Sep 10, 2016 at 18:59

It sounds similar to a problem I'm having with my Windows 8.1 machine. I have similar symptoms. I have tracked the problem down to the "Network List Service". It seems to generate 4 x 2Gb files in the c:\Windows\System32\Networklist\Icons folder. I think the files are supposed to be icons. Check if you have 4 x 2Gb files named something ending _16.bin, _24.bin, _32.bin and _48.bin. Every reboot these files are deleted and then recreated on my machine which causes the 100% disk usage and inability to use the machine for 15-20 minutes. Once all 4 files have been recreated my machine starts working...but that takes 15-20 minutes. I'm afraid I have not found a solution yet but I wonder if you have the same problem.

  • And we all wonder why Windows needs so much drivespace ;)
    – Rik
    Sep 24, 2013 at 22:51
  • My PC at home (Windows 8) has the disk usage for about 10 minutes after boot problem. I'll check this folder when I get home. My 8.1 machine at work has the folder and some icon files but none of them are larger than 10k bytes in side.
    – Mark Allen
    Sep 25, 2013 at 0:07
  • No, my files at home are tiny too.
    – Mark Allen
    Sep 25, 2013 at 16:52
  • These files are all less than 10kb on my system. Thanks for the idea, though.
    – nickf
    Sep 28, 2013 at 17:17

I have similar issue, see my question for details: Samsung laptop slowed down. I have spent days googling for a solution (some links: xperf, performance, tiworker). One good hint was to clean up the windows registry with CC cleaner. My computer has plenty of RAM, but it looked like low RAM computer swapping all the time. So I decided to turn the virtual memory off. And it helped!

When I start the computer I still have to wait five minutes before it becomes usable. But once everything is running the hard drive is not 100% utilized all the time. There are peaks when it is low and when it is high. Though I started to face low memory warnings though page cache hold 3 GB of RAM. So I turned the virtual memory on and 100% HDD utilization was back. I turned the virtual machine off and it disappeared. It seems that Windows 8.x 64 bit virtual memory sucks.


I would like the share HAPPILY THAT I HAVE CHANCED UPON A POTENTIAL SOLUTION to this problem. That is optimizing the registry !. While installing a Bluetooth device driver I got a 183 error and while searching the solution suggested was to clean up registry. When I analysed the registry, I was amazed to notice that it was rather like a junk yard (3000 bad entries) than a vital storage necessary to run a complex OS & its apps. It means that many of the applications that we install and uninstall, including those from Microsoft (like Silverlight) leave some debris that affect the performance of the registry, it seems.

I used the CCleaner discussed in the link http://pcsupport.about.com/od/toolsofthetrade/tp/free-registry-cleaner-programs.htm. Take a back up of the registry using the Export menu in the 'RegEdit' program before running the cleaner.

After this, the random spikes in disk usage is almost not there since the last 6 days. Others may please try this and share your experience.

  1. The spike in the disk usage and consequent lock up of the PC for 4-5 minutes has been happening as randomly as just clicking on a tab of the IE or opening a small PDF or even moving the mouse. Simply there was no pattern at all. I have tried disabling the Antimalware executable, disabling search indexing, increasing the virtual memory, upgrading to Win 8.1, removing all unwanted software, disconnecting network, etc. None of these have helped.

  2. In two instances the disk usage definitely spikes even now. (a) If the auto update is on (I have kept it off now), (b) if the Windows has been idle for quite some time. In the later instance it appears that the MSMPENG.exe takes over and starts scanning the machine for virus / malware. To test this, start the Task manager (TM) window and switch of the monitor while the machine is on. Immediately you can seen that the red light glows indicating the spike in HDD use. When you switch the monitor on you can see the result in the TM.

  3. Many times under the Processes in the TM, the System (ntoskrnl.exe) or one of the Service Host (Svhost.exe) processes show high Disk Usage while in Details tab one can see that the I/O read of the MSMPENG or IE or some other process goes up. It makes me think that the issue is inherent in the internals of the OS and it is time Microsoft looks deeper into this.

  4. I am not quite sure why cleaning the registry would resolve this issue but that is breakthrough I have seen after struggling with this for over 10 months.


Normally it appears when we enable the indexing accidentally. A bar which comes up while we are searching in explorer.

Just disable Super Fetch and Windows Search.

Run services.msc Disable

Super fetch

Windows Search

Then Disk usage will go back to less than 10%. Hope this will work.


This is a simple fix. Increase the virtual memory paging file size from the normal 4.5 or whatever it is to 7000 +. I'm currently running 10000/15000. Under System properties, Advanced, Performance Settings, Advanced, Change Virtual memory to custom and put in a custom number whatever your system will tolerate. Windows 8.1 seems to eat up virtual memory.

  • 1
    The question is about Windows 8 and I do not believe this could help on a system with 8 GB of RAM and almost no additional applications running. Dec 4, 2013 at 19:56

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